Evolution Not Revolution

Marshall’s Mill is a significant and imposing seven storey red brick Victorian mill set in Leeds' creative quarter. The refurbishment works to the Mill adopted the five ways to well being to explore a different design approach. 


Leeds is the fourth largest city inEnglandwith reputedly the second largest financial and legal sector outside ofLondon.  It is a successful city.Leeds, like many core cities, benefitted from the previous government’s strategy of promoting quality, cohesive and holistic design through the work of the Regional Development Agency, Yorkshire Forward, and almost uniquely a civic architect, John Thorpe, and an urban design team within the council.  The skyline ofLeedshas developed over the last decade, but few of the large grand visions and master plans for the centre have materialised.

A successful regeneration area isHolbeckUrbanVillage.  The area is south ofLeedsrailway station, the river and the canal.  It was at the heart of the industrial city boasting factories foundries and mills.  Several buildings have survived from this period and the Round Foundry development is recognised as an exemplar of regeneration, mixing new buildings with refurbishment, creating offices, homes, restaurants and cafes. It isn’t surprising, therefore, that the area and buildings are popular with creative businesses and the original aspiration to create a creative quarter has all but materialised.

Marshall’s Mill is a significant and imposing seven storey red brick Victorian mill with a cast iron structure and towering chimney.  Built by John Marshall in 1791-2, it was less glamorous than its neighbour, Temple Works (a homage to the brilliance of the Egyptians) and it was a symbol of Marshall’s confidence that he was a pioneer of the industrial revolution creating a new world, an empire in a similar way to the Egyptians.  Both buildings were at the forefront of technology. Templeworks created (at that time) the world’s largest covered space, naturally lit from above with an ambient temperature sustained by an insulated green roof, rain water collection and under-floor heating. The adjacent Mill was built to weave the flax created in the works. Marshall’s Mill doesn’t exhibit the same exuberant narrative as the works but it too was a technical achievement in its day.  The brick and glass walls achieve a solid-to-opening ratio of 45%, with the outer skin supported on a cast iron structure.   This provides the Mill with a fantastic interior quality.  The narrow floors are flooded with light from all sides and the stone flag floors are supported by brick vaults.Marshall’s achievement is not immediately apparent as we expect post industrial buildings of this character to be of a certain quality but we must realize that this building was one of the first of a kind built decades before those that we are familiar with today.  BothMarshall’s Mill andTempleWorksare recognized by English Heritage for their historical importance.

The grade two listed Mill and its grounds sit on the opposite side ofMarshall Streetto the Round Foundry and were not part of the extensive regeneration investment made just after the Millennium.  The Mill was refurbished for commercial office use in the early nineties. The refurbishment works effectively sought to cover up the idiosyncrasies of the Mill, to sanitise its interior, and create an office space that, as much as possible, could emulate its Grade A new build counterparts in the centre of town.  With the benefit of ample parking and easy access to the centre, and transport, the Mill has been successful as an office destination, providing reasonably large spaces at cost effective rents.  This relative success meant that little needed to be done but this is a strategy that is reliant on there being a buoyant market and a demand for office space.

Figure 1. Marshall's Mill

Figure 2. A new approach to the Mill

Figure 3. Courtyard playground

Figure 4. Revealing History

Figure 5. The reception

Figure 7. Pop Up Cinema