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||| Nine reasons to list Queensgate Market Hall |||
English Heritage says it is the best surviving example of a retail market from the 1960s and 70s, a key exemplar of a building type that is currently under particular threat.
It features a stunning roof structure based on 21 freestanding asymmetric hyperbolic paraboloid (hypar) shells designed to allow maximum light into the market.
The structure is probably completely unique, there is no other building in the world of the same type, certainly in the UK, if not the world, on two counts: because the hypar shells are freestanding; they do not connect to each other to receive structural 'bracing' and because they are asymmetric; every column is off centre, so the umbrella shells cantilever four feet further in one direction than in the other.
There are very few buildings in the UK that use any kind of concrete hypar shells. All the others are thought to be listed, none of them are as dramatic as the market hall.
From the outside, roof sections of differing heights cantilever or appear to fly above the structure. By setting the roof shells at different heights, light is brought into the building at high level, in a seemingly effortless manner.
Inside the roof structures are used to define spaces, to relate them, to bring the light in from the top so that you at one with the building itself.
Natural white concrete
In the market hall the underside of the hypar shells are made of exceptionally high quality concrete consisting of limestone aggregate in a white Portland cement patterned with the board marks of Canadian White Spruce that add to the dynamism of the asymmetric shells
Amazing dynamic glazing
To glaze the building new techniques had to be developed, to allow the windows to move. The designers say they have never been asked to glaze any other building where this method has been used. The techniques are more sophisticated than those used by renowned architect Sir Norman Foster in Renault factory in Swindon, known for its dynamic glazing and yet the Queensgate market is at least 12 years earlier.
The external Queensgate wall of the building is enhanced by the incorporation of an extraordinary series of ten massive ceramic murals entitled Articulation in Motion created by a distinctive émigré sculptor. The art is of the building and refers to the building form and use.
The Tile and Architectural Ceramics Society reported that although Articulation in Motion is a significant landmark in ceramic history, it was not followed by other similar sculptures. This is probably because of a combination of cost constraints, growing lack of enthusiasm on the part of architects for external decoration, and the sheer complexity of producing monumental ceramic works.
The internal metal sculpture on the north wall, Commerce is again a commentary on the building. It shows how the market place is at the centre of the economic activity of the district. It is by the same artist as the ceramics, Fritz Steller.
The restaurant is at first floor level, heavily glazed and reached via steps and used as market offices. It never opened and is rarely visited by the public but it is an exciting space to be in. It was admired for its views across the town and has a roof terrace that is a delightful space enjoyed by the few who have been there.
A synthesis of architecture, engineering and art
The building is the epitome of successful sixties design and quality. Using traditional materials like Elland Edge ashlar and sneck walling with materials used in a new way; buff brick, fireclay, terrazzo tiles and welded steel to give a contemporary style. Then the innovative use of pillars, reinforced concrete shells, aluminium curtain walling and suspended glazing are used to produce a wonderful space. All too often, engineering is just there to hold the building up, and artworks are plonked in front as an after thought. At Queensgate Market, the architecture, engineering and art are all closely integrated and work together seamlessly.
Home to a wonderful market
Queensgate market is one of the very best in the region. It has a terrific range of goods available under one roof; enough to rival any supermarket, and it deserves to have its important, spectacular and unique home recognised, respected and protected.