Victoria Gate by Acme Architects / by Alex Upton

Victoria Gate Shopping Centre. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Victoria Gate Shopping Centre. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Location: 44 Victoria Gate, George Street, Leeds, LS2 7AU
Architect: Acme Architects
Developer: Hammerson

London architectural practice Acme have recently come to prominence with the completion of a number of notable schemes across the UK, picking up several awards in the process. One such award was the RIBA Yorkshire Building of the Year 2017 bestowed upon their Victoria Gate Shopping Centre in Leeds. Formally completed in 2016, with the odd bit of ongoing work still taking place externally, the building has become a notable landmark for the city.

Victoria Gate Arcade, Eastgate Road Elevation. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Victoria Gate Arcade, Eastgate Road Elevation. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Arriving in Leeds, weary and hungry, one early evening in late 2016 after working on several projects in Yorkshire i was greeted by a beautiful autumn sunset and a sky daubed with a wafer-thin layer of fluffy cloud. Realising this evanescent light would dissipate faster than i could satisfy my hunger i hastily ran back to my car to reunite with my camera. The following photographs, taken without a tripod, are what I managed to obtain during that brief moment.

Victoria Gate Facade. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Victoria Gate Facade. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Both internally and externally you are greeted by the kind of opulence and grandeur that wouldn't be out of place on a religious edifice of times past - it certainly doesn't conform to the mediocrity that is inherent in most shopping centres found around the United Kingdom. Acme say the the main body of the Victoria Gate shopping centre - the section cloaked in intricate panels of terracotta - was influenced by the Art Deco and Victorian buildings that sit adjacent to the site.

Victoria Gate John Lewis Department Store. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Victoria Gate John Lewis Department Store. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

The John Lewis department store is adorned with an etched, white concrete, diamond-latticed facade, who's geometries again appears to be befitting of a structure of religious origin. Would it be too simple to conclude, here is the new Mecca of the 21st Century, one to consumerism? Probably it would. 

The asymmetrically placed diamond glass panels intermittently punctuate the concrete strips allowing natural light to enter the store. The varying depth and textures of these surfaces allow a cascade of light and shadow to gently trace their topography, making for beautiful photographs.

Victoria Gate John Lewis Diamond Latticed Facade.Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Victoria Gate John Lewis Diamond Latticed Facade.Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

One thing that becomes immediately apparent when viewing the buildings is that the developer Hammerson has spared no expense when it comes to the buildings construction. The materials it employs, their intricacies and abundance can not have been cheap and its nice to see a scheme that hasn't fallen victim to devloper cutbacks.

Victoria Gate Lattice Roof Detail. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Victoria Gate Lattice Roof Detail. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Internally the architects maintain the grandeur found on the exterior - unfortunately due to the dimming light and lack of a tripod i was unable to photograph these areas. Designed to reference Leeds' historic shopping arcades the individual shops feature curving glass shopfronts and more high-quality detailing. Covering the arcade is a complex geometric roof formed of latticed steel and glass which allows natural light to illuminate the space below.

John Lewis Car Park Facade. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

John Lewis Car Park Facade. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Adjoining John Lewis is a car park draped in spiralling sheets of metal, which in the afternoon sun began to look aflame. It was with this vision of fire in mind that i was suddenly reminded of food sizzling in a frying pan and my increasing hunger which accompanied such images. Putting away my camera I eagerly went in search of food. I hope to return to the site at a later date and photograph the building as a whole rather than simply focusing on details, since on this visit I was hampered by the lack of a tripod and the utility works cluttering the surrounding area.

Victoria Gate is a wonderful scheme by Acme which is likely to propel the relatively small and hitherto somewhat inconspicuous practice to a level of prominence which will hopefully see them receive further high-profile commissions where they can again demonstrate their innovative approach to design and architecture. For image sales of the Victoria Gate shopping centre please contact Alex.