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Looking at the market from Queensgate Road

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||| We have a gem that is hidden from our view |||
Denis Kilcommons

A complete transcript of an article that appeared in the Huddersfield Daily Examiner Tuesday, August 19, 2003 p10
When it was suggested that Huddersfield Library may be demolished in a town centre make-over, people were quick to voice their opposition.

But no one defended the Market Hall and I was among those who took a pot-shot at this period piece from the 1960s.

Would anyone care if it was knocked down?

Old chum Chris Marsden would care. He claims it is one of the finest buildings in Huddersfield and compares it to Coventry Cathedral. While I was still laughing he took me on an architectural tour of the place.

And guess what? I have been converted.

Chris, an architectural scholar and a gentleman, says "It is probably a finer building than Huddersfield Railway Station and the parish church and is a match for the concert hall that forms part of Huddersfield Town Hall.

Wait, there is more.

"The market hall is I believe unique. Technically speaking it has a roof that is made up of 21 free-standing asymmetrical hyperbolic paraboloids. This means that to the observant visitor one experiences walking between the stalks and under the the parasols of mushrooms towering above you.

"From underneath these powerfully sculpted concrete mushrooms are decorated from the casting process. The wooden shuttering has left highly defined sympatehtic forms that are highly reminiscent of Le Corbusier's masterpiece, his pilgrimage chapel at Ronchamp, France.

"And when one gets to a position that allows a view of the ceiling one can see how the vaulting allows the market to carry on uninterrupted and see it how it matches Basil Spence's Coventry Cathedral for its impressive enclosure of volume and unobtrusive lighting."

Praise indeed.

At eye level the market hall is handsomely built of stone, brick and ashlar and features two huge contemporary installations, both of which are obscured. Inside at second storey level is a figurative frieze in black coated metal that is difficult to see because of the market stalls.

Outside, on the Queensgate elevation are nine huge ceramic panels that are proud of the wall and sculpted in high relief that are hidden by trees.

"Here we have building that is finer than London's South Bank complex or Tate Modern that folk are going gooey over; that was built without Arts Council, Lottery or sponsorship; a building that house the most proletarian of activities - a produce market here in Huddersfield.

"What I find most extraordinary is that a building of such importance was built in a northern mill town in the late 1960s and its glory continues to go unnoticed by both its users and aesthetes.


Chris has no doubt: the problem with the fine market hall is the market.

"Buildings with fine vaulting like our gothic cathedrals remain unobstructed by the vulgarity of merchandising but here we have a building of real quality that is hard to enjoy from inside because of the clutter of traders stalls."

So what is the answer?

"My modest proposal is that the market be given a bigger hall that has a better chance of meeting trader demand and attract more people to shop in the town. A site with good parking and near the bus and rail stations would seem appropriate such as that occupied by the civic centre offices. Demolish them build a new market hall and build new public servants offices on the old Holset car park.

"This would than allow the art gallery to burst out of the cramped top floor of the Library and blossom in the finest gallery space in the country.

"When it was built a 200-seat first floor restaurant was planned. If the hall became an art gallery the restaurant would be a perfect addition, with views over Queensgate.

"You could enjoy morning cafe latte under the cantilevering shelter of a freestanding asymmetrical hyperbolic paraboloid." Chris says

"The market hall could have been a star of the town, but is not the case. Instead we have a gem that is hidden from our view, run down yet tarted up with hanging baskets; a building that is pocked with drab notices in dissonance with the building and its modernity."
His idea is fascinating.

If the hall was transformed into an art gallery and its architecture allowed to breath, it could complement the grandeur of the Library opposite and both would bask in the open Piazza setting.

Is this worth consideration?
Queensgate Market ceiling

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Queensgate Market ceiling
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