Sunday 20th June 2004 the Twentieth Century Society publishes a
list of very recent buildings it feels are threatened in some way.
Up there along with airports, cinemas, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre
in Stratford and Battersea Power Station is Huddersfield Market
Hall, the only building in Yorkshire to make the list.
Council is considering seven different options to redevelop the
area around the town's library and is asking for comments from the
public. Some of these options involve demolishing the Market Hall.
An architect and a local historian, both Huddersfield residents,
preset the case for and against keeping the Market Hall.
case FOR Huddersfield Market Hall
Adrian is an architect and senior lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan
University. He lives in Huddersfield.
is known for its Victorian architecture. It is less known for its
Georgian buildings, and its 20th century heritage doesn't get a
second glance. But the late 1960s saw the construction of perhaps
the finest building in town.
Nicolas Pevsner describes Huddersfield's grade one-listed railway
station as having "the best neoclassical station façade
in Europe", as a Huddersfield resident - and an architect -
I believe the Queensgate Market Hall is at least as significant.
combination of architecture, engineering and art, it was opened
on the 6th April 1970. It replaced an older, much-loved market hall,
and largely because of this, I suspect, it has never achieved the
recognition it deserves. The building celebrates the ancient roots
of commerce: local people coming together to buy and sell things
at reasonable prices. This is perhaps the very first reason we have
towns and cities and here, the market hall creates a truly magnificent
setting for this delightful, egalitarian activity.
the bustle of the market so demands the attention that it is easy
to miss its main architectural attraction: the serene, airy 'forest
canopy' that floats overhead.
roof acts as 'treetops' above the shoppers
main hall is a composition of 'trees' or 'mushrooms'. Each tree
has a concrete canopy, or shell, supported by a single central column,
which forms the 'trunk' of the tree. The concrete was poured into
timber 'moulds' or 'formwork' in situ, and allowed to set, to form
the canopies. Each canopy is a kind of twisted rectangle measuring
56 feet long by 31 feet wide. The shape of the shell is defined
as an asymmetric rectangular 'hyperbolic paraboloid', or 'hypar'
for short. There are 21 trees in all, twenty of which form a four
by five grid, or 'forest'. The shell canopies are set at different
levels to each other, and vertical strips of glazing cover the gaps
between the edges of the shells, effortlessly forming simple, high-level
natural light from this glazing spills across the underside of the
shells, revealing both the texture left by the formwork, and the
spectacular curved, twisted shape of the canopies. The shells, in
turn, diffuse the light and eliminate glare. The concrete is of
excellent quality, and has weathered very well. Standing in the
market hall is like being in a cathedral. It is breathtaking.
amazing structures are completely free-standing. They receive no
bracing from each other. Although there appears to be some steel
linking some of the corners of the 'treetops' together, a closer
look reveals that this is just electrical ducting. I don't think
concrete hypar shells have been used in this way anywhere else.
They are very likely to be unique.
is even more astonishing is the economy of these special shell structures.
They cantilever out from their column a staggering nine metres -
a normal beam in concrete or steel, cantilevering out as far as
this might be expected to be at least a metre deep. These shells
are as little as 75 millimetres thick!
natural and mechanical ventilation have been cleverly integrated
into the strip windows.The only interruptions to the surfaces of
the shells - the light fittings and fans - are both, I believe,
architects also integrated significant and vast works of art, both
inside the scheme and out. Inside the market hall there is a spectacular
welded steel mural, running most of the length of one of the interior
faces of the wall, some 50 metres long, with scenes of life, commerce,
bustle and movement. Outside,
on the main façade to Queensgate (the Huddersfield ring road)
there is a procession of nine very large, deeply carved and textured
terracotta panels, also on the theme of 'movement'. These
panels each measure over 5 metres square.
works, though different in character, are by Stratford-on-Avon artist
Fritz Steller of the Square One studio in Warwickshire. The form
and texture of these terracotta panels, and the free edges of the
concrete shells, apparently flying over head, offer the ring road
a façade of truly dramatic composition. The view of this
façade, as you drive around the town, is possibly even more
exciting at night, when the undersides of the shells are floodlit.
from themural inside the market reflecting life, comerce and
Harris, the architects, obviously worked very closely with the structural
engineers, Leonard and Partners, and Fritz Steller, to produce such
a well integrated design. Sir Alfred McAlpine, the contractor, executed
the design with considerable skill.
building is now 34-years-old. It has weathered extremely well. Of
course, it needs some care and maintenance. Yes, we must consider
the needs of today's users of the building. But this is no reason
to destroy such a work of art. It is a robust structure, very flexible
to change. Let's give it the TLC it deserves. We could, if Huddersfield
really wants a new market building, rehouse the market elsewhere
and find a new and different use for the hall. Perhaps a glorious
space for a gallery or exhibition? Or a light, airy covered street
or square like the hugely successful Victoria Quarter in Leeds?
wish to stand in the way of progress. By all means let's move forward
with new and exciting cultural and retail buildings for Huddersfield.
But if we are going to have landmark architecture, let's start by
recognising the landmarks we already have.
case AGAINST Huddersfield Market Hall
Lesley is a local historian and lifelong resident of Hudderfield,
keen on old buildings but not so keen on the improvements
from the 60s.
is an unlovely building. Very plain in appearance, architecturaly
unexciting. I am not fond of elderly, grubby and greying concrete
and its once-so-trendy black glass, initially tiny, is now dull
and shabby. Its lack of attractiveness is, for me, emphasised by
my memories of our glorious old Market Hall, and of the buildings
which formerly occupied this site including a wonderfully ornate
police station and our quaint old fire station, not to mention all
the elegant buildings of Ramsden Street.
the market entrances "dark" and uninviting?"
inside one of the dark, uninviting entrance tunnels and you feel
you are leaving the sun and light of day for a claustrophobic warren,
a mindless maze of stalls. You simply cannot get from A to B without
going via C - very frustrating if you are in a hurry! I should hate
to be in there if fire broke out. In addition, the atmoshere is
of a dark and dingy cavern. In summer it is umbearably hot and airless,
in winter it is cold and cheerless. Low ceilings combine with a
lack of natural light to make it the kind of place where you don't
want to linger, especially when the place is packed and you can
only pass along the narrow aisles with great difficulty.
are some great shops..."
is sad, because the one positive feature of the Market is that there
are some great shops in there! There are terrific bargains to be
had, the variety of the stalls is amazing, some of them sell goods
that take your breath away. A great shopping centre and potential
tourist attraction, if only...! If only, once in there, it was a
comfortable shopping environment.
time the stallholders were given a better deal in a building which
compliments and enhances the goods for sale, and entices people
spoke to a market trader who said he didn't think the Market
Hall was a bad thing but that Huddersfield could do with
a new one anyway...
US WHAT YOU THINK...
Andy Chua, Singapore
Huddersfield Market Hall should stay. It has since became a landmark for me. I looked forward for Market Hall, after my lectures at the uni. It's rich in culture and also it's friendly composition lures me evrytime. Architecturely had embraced itself for the small town in Huddersfield. The victorian architecture had allowed Huddersfield to stand out from other towns that I had been.
My favourite building would be the Huddersfield Train Station.
ken goulder-calgary canada
I haven't been there yet to see it! so it should not be demolished
Do you think Huddersfield Market Hall should be demolished?
What do you think about buildings that have gone up in West Yorkshire in the last 50 years?
I think the magority are ok.
What is your favourite West Yorkshire building?
Huddersfield trainstation or huddersfield library
Ross Cunliffe, Huddersfield
I think that the idea of moving the market elsewhere and turning the building into a kind of cultural square is an excellent idea. A combination of shops , cafes, restaurants and possible a feature celebrating the history of Huddersfield would be suitable. I don't live in Huddersfield anymore but I come back occasionally and this has allowed me to appreciate the change that has gradually happened in the last 4 years. It is starting to become a cosmopolitan place and something in keeping with this shift would be an excellent idea. So I would say a change in use would be best. Thank you.
Brett Blatchley, Jacksonville North Carolina, USA
I think the hypars and the way they are arranged are stunning. Perhaps the building could be updated to "brighten" it as some critics desire?
DICK HOLMAN HUDDERSFIELD
The trader, Christopher, has about the right idea. The lighting could be improved by rebuilding the stalls, with a mind to height & spread of the roofs. We need to keep the green space by the Library as well.
A new organisation, Huddersfield Gem, has just beeen launched to promote the market hall and it's future.
Contact details are available from Kirklees Information at Huddersfield Library.
Lesley Kipling seems to confuse the market hall with the drab shops and dismal arcades to the north of the market hall with the hall itself.
Huddersfield’s market hall is probably the finest 20th Century public building in Yorkshire.
If the visitors raise their eyes from the delights of the broken biscuits and bacon bits of the traders’ stalls I think they will understand.
The market hall is I believe unique. As Adrian Evans described, technically speaking it has a roof that is made up of 21 freestanding 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. These mushrooms allow light of from all directions and allow shelter from rain because the water sheds not from their perimeters but to the centre of each stalk.
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 Corbusiers’ masterpiece, his pilgrimage chapel at Ronchamp, France.
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.
It is built (at eye level at least) of quality materials at random stone, brick and ashlar.
It features some spectacular sculpture
So 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.
The problem with the fine market hall is the market! This oxymoron needs explanation. 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..
When it was built I understand a 200 seat restaurant was incorporated. This if it ever opened gave a fine view of the interior and a magnificent outdoor terrace high over Queensgate where now you could enjoy morning cafe latte under the cantilevering shelter of a freestanding asymmetrical hyperbolic paraboloid!
This 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.
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. This can be done by demolishing the absurd and unloved civic centre offices and building our 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 – our very own market hall with fashionable restaurant!
Visit the hall, enjoy the Steller sculptures, delight in the ceiling
Do you think Huddersfield Market Hall should be demolished?
What do you think about buildings that have gone up in West
Yorkshire in the last 50 years?
What is your favourite West Yorkshire building?
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