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Posted on: 28/07/2016

A regular feature... there's an eclectic mix of the personal and the professional along with the occasional foray into the meanderings of my creative mind. Architecture this time and we're back in Leeds. The building is The Temple Works. It's a building with a chequered past and, currently, an uncertain future.

Widely accepted as on of the finest examples of a carved stone elevation throughout the whole region, Temple Works was designed by Joseph Bonomi, the younger, and built by the industrialist John Marshall between 1836 and 1840. Now a grade 1 listed building, the former Victorian flax mill made history as ‘the largest room in the world’ with sheep grazing on a sky-lit roof. The facade is modelled on the Temple of Horus at Edfu, Egypt and it is a work referred to in schools of architecture throughout the world, partly for its facade but largely for the unique and visionary engineering solution of the main mill floor.

Personally, whilst I love the facade, it’s how this building imposes on the local landscape that holds the greatest appeal. Each time I see it I wonder how many people who, on turning into Marshall Street are stunned, not so much by the grandeur of the architecture but more by its apparent incongruity to the place. It must certainly have been a point of wonder in Victorian Leeds.

Temple Works Leeds  Street view‚Äč

As I write this Temple Works is entering a new, exciting and hopefully a more certain period. Having recently been purchased by Burberry, the up-market clothing brand, the mill and the adjacent area is going to be re-developed. For my part, whatever form that re-development takes, I hope those involved manage to achieve that delicate balance between preservation, restoration and modernisation. There is an unenviable challenge here. There are bound to be critics whatever the outcome. I’d like to think it could be something radical and majestic, in equal measure. Perhaps something akin to the pyramid at The Louvre. As courageous as the original must have appeared when the factory was opened in June 1840, marked by a great Temperance Tea for the firm’s 2,600 workers.

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