Leeds architect fulfils her towering ambition

A LEEDS architect fulfilled a lifelong ambition when her company won the contract to redesign the iconic Tower Works site.

The 48 million project is Bauman Lyons Architects' biggest to date and the groundbreaking scheme will set new standards not only in Leeds but across the country

It's a challenge those involved clearly relish.

Irena Bauman, director of Bauman Lyons, Chapeltown, said: "There are less than a handful of mixed-use, city centre, commercial projects in historic areas in the UK that have aimed for such a low impact on the environment whilst at the same time aspiring to be socially and economically sustainable."

She added: "I used to walk around there (Holbeck) looking at Tower Works and thought, 'the lucky architect who will be working on there', so I can't tell you how it feels to be working on something like this.

"It's a huge lifetime achievement for us. I'm very, very proud to be associated with it."

As reported in last week's YEP, developer ISIS Waterside Regeneration has left the project as difficult economic conditions mean it can't guarantee they can deliver.

But Irena said: "We had a great relationship with ISIS. We would love it if ISIS came back in 18 months time or whatever it takes."

She said landowner Yorkshire Forward, who are leading the project, was now looking into other options.

They could include ISIS teaming up with another developer or even a number of small, local developers tackling different parts of the site which she said would tie in well with the sustainability theme.

The scheme forms part of extensive plans to regenerate Holbeck Urban Village, which Irena feels 'emotionally attached' to after taking members of Leeds Architecture and Design Initiative round the area 14 years ago, highlighting its potential.

"Most people didn't know it existed and everyone was gobsmacked as it's such an amazing area," Irena said.

During the Industrial Revolution Holbeck's foundries and mills manufactured machinery, steam engines and cloth for companies across the world.

Tower Works was built as a factory by Colonel Thomas Harding and features three towers.

One is modelled on the Giotto tower in Florence, another the Lamberti tower in Verona, the third is thought to represent a Tuscan tower house. They are all listed, along with two other buildings on the site.

Far from being constrained by this the aim is to embrace and enhance the historic element of the site while contrasting it with ultra-modern additions.

The development will retain more of the original structure than it is obliged to and make a feature of the boundary walls.

The old Engine House will form a central hub to attract people on-site, with proposed uses including a micro-brewery for existing operators in the city to use, an Italian artisan bakery or a coffee grinding and roasting shop.

And there will be an area for small-scale food growing.

A long, thin building on Globe Road will be adapted to incubate around 16 new creative businesses in low-cost start-up units.

The 77,000 sq ft new-build on the west side will house larger creative firms and is likely to be the first part of the scheme to be built.

Despite creating numerous offices and around 135 homes, including three-bedroom units and townhouses, there will be no car park.

Instead there will be secure, covered parking spaces for more than 200 bicycles and an on-site car-share scheme.


Green roofs will encourage biodiversity as well as insulating properties and everything will be separated for recycling on site, aside from those items which can be exchanged with neighbours in the free swap-shop.

While making use of all the latest hi-tech eco-friendly gadgets the scheme will also hark back to tried and tested techniques.

Irena said thin buildings, closely spaced, will face east so they shouldn’t need lights on during the day, they will shade each other and old fashioned shutters will help keep them cool.

She said: “It’s back to very old principles... how to design for the climate.

“The narrow streets, narrow buildings and shutters, that’s what gives it character.

“It’s part European, part medieval, compact and full of surprises.”

The planning application has now been submitted to Leeds City Council.