His­toric York goes mod­ern and shows off its 21st cen­tury style

Best known for its his­toric land­marks, York is adding a layer of bold new ar­chi­tec­ture to its cityscape. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

DE­VEL­OP­ERS keen to push the bound­aries of de­sign used to roll their eyes and groan at the men­tion of York City Coun­cil, re­count­ing night­mar­ish deal­ings with plan­ning of­fi­cials who shunned any­thing that didn’t look safe.

That cau­tious ap­proach led to a sea of dull, unin­spired new-builds while ad­ven­tur­ous ar­chi­tects and builders took their busi­ness else­where.

“His­tor­i­cally the coun­cil had been con­ser­va­tive in its ap­proach to new de­vel­op­ment, but part of my role when I came here in 2009 was to make sure this is a mod­ern, for­ward look­ing city,” says David War­bur­ton, Head of De­sign, Con­ser­va­tion and Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment.

He adds that a re­port by ar­chi­tec­tural ur­ban­ist Pro­fes­sor Alan Simpson in 2010 helped to change an at­ti­tude that had al­ready started to soften.

The study, York City Beau­ti­ful, re­vealed that while the city dis­played a wealth of vis­i­ble ar­chi­tec­tural lay­ers, from Ro­man to Ge­or­gian, Ed­war­dian and be­yond, it lacked good ex­am­ples of 21st cen­tury de­sign.

“We were in dan­ger of los­ing a layer,” says David. “In terms of do­mes­tic ar­chi­tec­ture, there were lots of ‘any­where­ville’ houses, whereas what we look for now is qual­ity, craft and ar­chi­tec­tural di­ver­sity.”

The coun­cil dou­bled its ef­forts to em­brace moder­nity and were spurred on by pro­gres­sive for­mer Lord Mayor Janet Hop­ton, who founded the York De­sign Awards.

Some of the best con­tem­po­rary build­ings that burst into life fol­low­ing this fresh ap­proach fea­ture in a new pho­to­graphic ex­hi­bi­tion Beau­ti­fully Mod­ern York, which is part of the Royal In­sti­tute of Bri­tish Ar­chi­tects’ Love Ar­chi­tec­ture Fes­ti­val.

It in­cludes Moss Street Hous­ing by Bramhall Blenkharn and the Joseph Rown­tree Foun­da­tion’s Der­wen­thorpe de­vel­op­ment, along with a host of sen­sa­tional, one-off homes. Th­ese in­clude the AD++ house on Tren­tholme Drive with an ex­ten­sion by Cof­fey ar­chi­tects; Beech House in Up­per Pop­ple­ton by Mass Ar­chi­tects; a green oak ex­ten­sion to the 1920s Oak Cot­tage by Na­tive Ar­chi­tec­ture and Zero House in Clifton, de­signed by ar­chi­tects Mark Bramhall and Nick Midgely.

En­ergy-ef­fi­cient Zero was built in 2009 at the end of a street fea­tur­ing un­re­mark­able sub­ur­ban semis. It still stops traf­fic with its avant-garde shape, Siberian cladding and gull-wing roof. David War­bur­ton sees it as one of the defin­ing mo­ments in the city’s ar­chi­tec­tural his­tory.

He says: “Some peo­ple thought it should never have been built but it ad­hered to fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples of good de­sign and that was con­firmed when it won an award. The chair­man of judges, Robert Adam, said the op­por­tu­nity to make a state­ment should be at the heart of the plan­ning process. It’s also our job to make sure th­ese state­ments don’t com­pete with our most im­por­tant his­toric build­ings.”

The ex­hi­bi­tion, or­gan­ised by the York Ar­chi­tec­ture As­so­ci­a­tion, opened last night at City Screen, the build­ing that many be­lieve was a cat­a­lyst for more con­tem­po­rary de­sign.

Janet O’Neill, of O’Neil Town Plan­ning Con­sula­tants in York, says: “We feel that the real boost came in 2000 with the City Screen and Davy­gate schemes. Th­ese in­tro­duced ex­cit­ing and ex­tremely well-con­sid­ered de­vel­op­ments into very sen­si­tive his­toric lo­ca­tions. Their suc­cess led the way for other schemes like Moss Street hous­ing and Trin­ity Lane, along with the Ber­rick Saul and Ron Cooke Hub build­ings at the Univer­sity of York.”

Ar­chi­tect Ric Blenkharn be­lieves that the coun­cil’s long- held cau­tion may have been a back­lash against con­tro­ver­sial 1960s de­vel­op­ments like The Stonebow.

“City Screen marked a sig­nif­i­cant change and paved the way for some new ar­chi­tec­ture in the city. Other build­ings, such as the Early Mu­sic Cen­tre in 2003 by van Heyni­gen and Haward, were again seen as pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tions. Janet Hop­ton also helped. She could see the ben­e­fits of good de­sign in the re­gen­er­a­tion of the city.”

Beau­ti­fully Mod­ern York fea­tures pho­to­graphs of 11 properties that have all won awards.

“York is known for its her­itage build­ings but this about show­ing peo­ple that York also has good con­tem­po­rary de­sign, in­clud­ing lots of hid­den gems of do­mes­tic ar­chi­tec­ture,” says Lucy Mor­ris, of Na­tive Ar­chi­tec­ture.

But while the ex­hi­bi­tion marks the leap for­ward made by the city, there are con­cerns for the fu­ture. The coun­cil’s pro­posed Lo­cal Plan iden­ti­fies land where 20,000 new homes can be built over the next 20 years but there are con­cerns about the de­sign qual­ity.

Ric Blenkharn says: “Good con­tem­po­rary de­sign can and does make a pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion to the city and it can only be judged and en­cour­aged through the coun­cil. There must be both the sup­port and ex­per­tise within the plan­ning au­thor­ity to im­ple­ment it. One fear is that on­go­ing cuts within the au­thor­ity will have a se­ri­ous im­pact on this process.”

Only time will tell though David War­bur­ton says: “Der­wen­thorpe is a great ex­am­ple of new houses with high stan­dards of de­sign qual­ity that pro­vide space, light and flex­i­bil­ity.

“We’d like to see more well con­sid­ered schemes like that. We don’t want to see “any­where houses” We know we can do bet­ter than that.”

is at City Screen foyer, Coney Street, York, un­til June 30.

MAK­ING A STATE­MENT: The Zero House by Mark Bramhall and Nick Mid­g­ley for Mike and Erica Ham­mill. Bot­tom left to right: Moss Street Hous­ing by Bramhall Blenkharn; Beech House by Mass Ar­chi­tects and the AD++ house ex­ten­sion by Cof­fey Ar­chi­tects. Th­ese and other build­ings that have given York a mod­ern face will be cel­e­brated in an ex­hi­bi­tion at City Screen in York.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.