The Leeds Look

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In Leeds, the growth of the financial and business services sector from the mid-1980s onwards resulted in a boom in office developments in the city centre. Many of the buildings constructed at this time are in the style known as the "Leeds Look", which is typified by the use of dark red brickwork and steeply pitched grey slate roofs. This style was intended to derive from Leeds’ Victorian heritage.[1]

At the time the city became "almost infamous"[2] for insisting that new schemes should interpret the style of its Victorian riverfront warehouses in this way. Dr Kevin Grady, the director of the Leeds Civic Trust, describes the Leeds Look as “an interim response in the 1980s for architecture that had a human scale and was pleasing on the eye following some of the mistakes of the 1960s and 70s.”[3]

Examples of major "Leeds Look" buildings[edit]


The style has suffered some criticism, with architectural critic Ken Powell saying that “this style has been imposed with monotonous thoroughness and a marked dearth of imagination”[4] and others describing it as a “bland reinterpretation of former warehouse style” [2]

Particular criticism has been levelled at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Wellington Street as being a “missed opportunity”[5] and “a bland exercise in facadism, complete with badly proportioned towers, archways and pediments, supposedly based upon earlier brick warehouses, architecture whose structural integrity it manages to both mimic and mock”.[2] However, Dr Grady describes the Magistrates Court building as the highlight of the style. “I am sure in the future the courts will be a listed building. It is visually interesting, if a little eccentric, and is much better than the other buildings in this style that are rather bland.”[3]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Leeds City Council (1988) “City Centre Developments” publicity brochure
  2. ^ a b c Smales L & Whitney D (1996), Inventing a better place: urban design in Leeds in the post war era
  3. ^ a b [Accessed 29 January 2010]
  4. ^ Powell K, (1989), The Offence of the Inoffensive, The Architects Journal, 189(18)
  5. ^ Thompson A, (1990), The Leeds Look, The Yorkshire Evening Post, October 24