First look inside Channel 4's new national headquarters in Leeds

It’s been shrouded in scaffolding for most of the last decade but now we can take a first look inside the landmark Majestic building as it transforms into Channel 4’s new national headquarters.

By Lizzie Murphy
Friday, 17th January 2020, 5:20 pm
Updated Monday, 20th January 2020, 10:15 am

The windows are being put in and as property agents hail the ‘Channel 4 effect’ on interest for the rest of the office space, it’s almost time for the Majestic to regain its dominant position on the corner of City Square.

The £40m seven-storey office block, which was originally a cinema and more recently a nightclub, is due to be completed in May, after which the fit-out of Channel 4's top three floors will begin.

Speaking to the YEP during a tour of the building, architect Mark Redfern said he was keen for Majestic’s design to pay homage to the building’s past whilst looking forward to its future.

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The triple height entrance of Majestic

“A lot of the designs have a backstory to them,” he said.

Nods to its origins as a cinema and dance hall in the 1920s include a screen in the triple height foyer, which will frame the office activity behind.

Palm Court, an original circular light-well, is being recreated with a glass dome top at the back of the building, which is being constructed by Sir Robert McAlpine.

Meanwhile bronze spindles which wrap around the windows at the top of Majestic and are designed to stop the building from overheating, were designed to gradually open up, like the opening of a stage curtain onto the square.

How Majestic will look once it's completed in May

Mr Redfern, from DLA Design in Leeds, said: “Reinterpretation is a big theme of this scheme. We’re not feverishly trying to restore everything. It’s about looking at what features it had and how do we reinterpret it and give it a new lease of life.”

The Majestic first opened as a 2,400-seat cinema back in 1922, and has been redesigned and reconfigured to create 66,000 sq ft of office accommodation across seven floors.

The building, which has also been used as a bingo hall and nightclub over the years, has been empty for 14 years and was gutted by a huge fire in 2014.

A challenge for the design team was to create as much light as possible in the Grade II-listed building - reversing how the building was designed as a cinema.

The scaffolding outside Majestic

Mr Redfern added: ”We’ve had to change the building to let light in but we’ve only done it in key areas. We’ve not been destructive. We’ve only taken out elements that lend themselves to letting in light.”

Large windows at either side of the main entrance, where the old cinema billboards would have been, are to be installed next month.

Meanwhile, Palm Court’s glass dome top will flood the stairwell with natural light.

Mr Redfern said: “When this is finished, we want to be able to come round the corner in City Square and say: ‘Wow’.”

Eddy Bryan, graduate engineer for Sir Robert McAlpine looking at the construction progress to date.

He added: “The icing on the cake was when Channel 4 announced it was moving in. The synergy of it being an old cinema and then Channel 4 moving in means the building’s almost come full circle.”

The broadcaster confirmed its move to Majestic at the end of last year.

The deal with Channel 4 leaves four floors remaining, from 8,000 sq ft to a total of 39,000 sq ft of workspace to be let.

Property agents JLL and Knight Frank, acting on behalf of developer the Rushbond Group, said there was a spike in interest for the four remaining floors of Majestic following the announcement.

Richard Thornton, director at JLL, said companies in the technology, media and telecoms sector were keen to take small amounts of space in the building. “We got a lot of enquiries early doors but now I think companies are waiting for Channel Four to move in before presenting themselves again,” he said.

Eamon Fox, partner at Knight Frank, added there had been a lot of interest from companies across various sectors, including financial services, wanting smaller spaces and they remain open to all enquiries. “The answer’s yes to everyone at the moment,” he said.

Palm Court lightwell in Majestic
Construction of the glass dome at the top of the lightwell in Majestic