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St Leonards Place
New-build Retail Unit and Public Conveniences

  • Location

    York

  • Completion Date

    2015

  • Project Cost

    £250,000

The brief was to create a new retail unit on 40% of the site and 7 no. unisex public toilets on the other 60%.

The simple C-shaped building unites the whole site and makes efficient use of the limited space. We wanted to contrast the new building with the historic City Walls and Bootham Bar; both designated Scheduled Ancient Monuments.

The angled copper strips to the roof/walls ensure rainwater falls away from the historic fabric. The central areas of glazing abstractly resemble falling water, a play on the function of the building as a public convenience! Internally, a glass floor exposes a 2000-year-old Roman Wall previously covered for several decades. The interior fit-out was completed by the new independent café tenant.

The site lies within the York Historic Core Conservation Area and Strategic View 21 of the Minster. The key moves were to limit the height of the new building below the City Wall and to create an elegant roofscape as the building is viewed from above when people climb onto the City Wall.

The chocolate brown copper cladding, to the roof and walls, compliments the range of tones found in the limestone of the City Wall. The aim was to set a strong, continuous colour against the patchwork of stone blocks. Sandblasted glazing provides privacy within the toilet block and movement of shadows externally. At night, the glazed areas glow from within. The roof of the toilets is clear glass and frames a view of Bootham Bar above.

The site is within a prominent location considered to be significant to the historic character of York.

The challenge, as we interpreted it, was to create an architectural response that added a new layer to York’s history, that reflects the design thinking and technical/material capabilities of our time. The additional challenge was to work within ‘a small box of scheduled ancient monument’. The technical detailing had to ‘touch the medieval wall lightly’.