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Jenny Juritz discusses the benefits of reviving Velvet Mill, Bradford

Green Designs

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Green Designs

Minute Read

The Times Earth’s recent feature, ‘Rebuild or retrofit: the fight at the heart of architecture,’ highlights the importance of reviving buildings for the future. Hannah Skelley speaks with Jennifer Juritz of David Morley Architects with a focus on the retrofit of Velvet Mill, Bradford.

Tuesday June 6th, 2023

Across the Bradford skyline snakes a two-storey line of penthouses, designed to mirror the twists of a plait of woven silk. They sit atop Lister Mills, where silk and velvet were produced for more than 100 years. After its looms ground to a halt in 1990, the grade II listed structure was left to decay.

“It was vandalised, the windows were broken and the roof had caved in,” says Jennifer Juritz, head of environmental design at David Morley Architects. Other organisations refused to retrofit the Velvet Mill, and were leaning towards demolition, but Juritz saw its potential. “People assume it’s easier to demolish but repairs are always possible and we were keen to breathe a new purpose into this site,” she says.

By working with ARUP Engineering, in Leeds, the £16 million cost-effective process hinged on keeping and mending as much of the existing fabric of the building as possible, including any of the York stone flooring that hadn’t been stolen. Then Juritz set to work producing the pod penthouses, which accounted for 18 per cent of the overall spend, by sourcing materials from local communities to keep cost and carbon emissions down. Begun in 2006, it was finished in 2018.

“The semi-monocoque pods are made from highly insulated, ultra-light OSB (oriented strand board made of waste timber) frames on top of steel,  which was manufactured by a company in Hull.” The curved plywood ribs that form the penthouses were overlaid with modern zinc cladding.

“You could not build something that would provide this many generously sized flats in today’s world for this amount of money without using the design ingenuity to work with what you’ve got,” Juritz says.

The work emitted only half the carbon that a newbuild would have done. “Even now you wouldn’t find people who would build something with such scale and generosity. You get this lovely resource to mould into something new and, best of all, you get a sense of history that is irreplaceable.”

David Morley Architects has designed 500 projects, winning more than 100 awards, including at Lords Cricket Ground, Oxford University, the Royal Parks, and London’s Kings Cross

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