Martin Spring’s article (21 January, pages 22-23) celebrated the erection of a student hall of residence that was a “chequerboard rebuke to drab suburban Leeds”.
This building may win architectural applause and grab favour with the young for its wacky and individual appearance, but surely the architectural debate is whether it gels aesthetically with the wider and more ambitious architectural landscaping of the area as a whole and its textile industry heritage.
Unfortunately the article omitted any mention of the bigger picture – a seven-year regeneration programme in an inner city area that sits directly across the river from the landmark Royal Armouries museum and the revitalised waterfront. The East Bank Regeneration Team, under the umbrella organisation Re’new, has successfully steered the £50m programme for the East Bank of Leeds which, far from being a dreary area requiring “lively” design, has been pinpointed by developers as one of the places to be in Leeds – indeed the private sector has committed £300m to the development of offices and apartments in the immediate future.
This extensive redevelopment and new-build programme includes a partnership with regeneration specialist Urban Splash, renowned for its ingenious and spectacular refurbishment and design. It will be renewing the remaining council flats described in Building’s article.
What is uncommon to the regeneration process is that all the developers are engaged in a partnership approach to ensure connectivity and sympathetic development that will boost the area and reflect community views wherever possible.
With such expansive development in the pipeline and with mixed reactions from local residents to the “loud, exuberant and rhythmic as any rock band” high-rise design, the jury must still be out on the student accommodation’s aesthetic contribution to the overall East Bank landscape.
This particular little bit of England has changed many times over the years, from open grazing land in medieval times, to the back-to-back filthy terraces of the early 19th century, to what is now a mix of about 900 homes and 200 businesses, five minutes walk away from Leeds’ thriving city centre.
Perhaps as development progresses, Martin Spring would take up an invitation to revisit Leeds’ East Bank for a reassessment of the architectural merits of the 21st-century area.
Anne Sherriff, project director, Re’new, Leeds