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Leeds Technical Textiles Innovation Centre and Urban Ribbon Park

Part 1 Project 2011
Ron Graham
Leeds Beckett University UK
This project draws on Leeds’ industrial and textile manufacturing heritage whilst responding to developments in its economy. It seeks to regenerate a derelict city-centre site that has been designated as an ad hoc parking site during the economic downturn, by weaving itself into the palimpsest of successive layers of transport and information pathways which have left the site and its historic viaduct to atrophy as a disconnected node. An elevated urban park acts as a spine to the planned Wellington Place commercial property development scheme and thus re-engages with the disused railway viaduct, whilst a high speed travellator accelerates commuters towards the city‘s railway station. It reinterprets the viaducts' stone arches using a cutting-edge technique, braiding plywood sheeting into parabolic structural arches.
The park leads to the Technical Textiles Innovation centre - an event space comprising exhibition hall, research and development centre, with business, education and tourist attraction facilities to generate an innovation ecosystem. Here, West Yorkshire’s textile manufacturing expertise and its cutting edge university science departments can become a world focus for the development of new technical textiles and their applications.
The exhibition space is enclosed beneath five arches that weave amongst those of the viaduct and are constructed using emerging 3d concrete printing techniques. The publicly accessible roof space is used to grow a genetically modified switchgrass which yields the polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) bioplastic polymer for the development of environmentally sound technical textiles products, and the remaining biomass is fermented into cellulosic ethanol to fuel a Combined Heat and Power unit, allowing the centre to be an energetically closed loop system.
The building is itself a weave-work: the parallel strands of programme in the arches act as notional 'weft' strands, through the continuous 'warp' of the circulation core. This weaves between the 'weft' strands providing horizontal circulation between adjacent arches and vertical circulation at three points, which echoes the three monolithic sandstone locomotive engine lifting towers which used to occupy the site, of which only one now remains. Thus, the scheme is both a structural and functional reinterpretation of the site's former incarnations in a technologically contemporary manner.

Ron Graham


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