leeds

Bridgewater Place: The Ugliest Building in Leeds

Let me begin by saying that I’m a huge fan of modern architecture. I absolutely love and adore the work of many current architects and engineers. I think it’s amazing how they’ve been able to overcome so many previously thought impossible problems and many of the results are simply incredible. Unfortunately, Bridgewater Place in Leeds is not one of them.

Leeds is without a doubt one of my most favorite cities in the world; mostly because it’s home. I love how the city is large enough to keep things interesting but small enough that I can walk from the train station to all of the popular locations I visit regularly. I even love how terrible the loop system is in Leeds because it’s something I enjoy complaining about. When it comes to the architecture, however, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. There are some buildings that are absolutely stunning and others are ugly as sin. Bridgewater Place is probably not the ugliest building I’ve ever seen but it’s by far the ugliest building in Leeds city center.

The Architects Behind This Monstrosity

The single most disappointing thing about Bridgewater Place is that the architects are a company called Aedas. The reason why this is so disappointing is that Aedas is an incredible company full of super-talented individuals. If you go onto their website which I highly recommend you do, you’ll notice a whole portfolio of stunning work and developments. They are an award-winning firm that has designed some absolute wonders. The works produced by people like Dr Andy Wen are astoundingly good. This is the same company that designed the Dubai Metro which is a work of practical art. How is it that a company like this could have designed something as ugly and terrible as Bridgewater Place? It’s simply mind-boggling to me and I can’t understand how this could have happened with Aedas on board. You know something is bad when the people who designed the building want to distance themselves from the project.

Aedas doesn’t even list it on their site.

Aedas doesn’t even list it on their site.

Bland, Boring and Awkward

The only notable thing about this building is that it’s the tallest thing in Leeds. This the primary reason why so many photographers take pictures of it. Maybe it’s a way to test their skills and see if they can somehow produce a decent image using Bridgewater Place building as the main subject. Whatever the case, it’s pretty difficult to photograph this building and make it look good. Almost every angle of this building looks bad and it’s mostly down to the huge ugly tower. This tower sticks out in all the wrong ways and it’s mostly due to the uninspired design and shape of the building. The outer facade looks like 60s architecture meets 90s council flats. The rectangular section that sits next to the tower looks like an afterthought; it’s as though they designed the tower and then realised they had more space to build on.

It seems completely out of place on the roads that lead up to it.

It seems completely out of place on the roads that lead up to it.

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Even when you’re looking at this building with a wider perspective it doesn’t really fit in with the city. Here’s the thing I don’t actually blame the architects for this building at all. I get the feeling they developed this building based on the specifications they were given and the owners wanted something that wasn’t too “exotic”. Unfortunately, they went too far in the other direction and ended up one of the ugliest modern buildings in Leeds city center.

Even when you really try to put some effort behind producing a good quality image of the building it just doesn’t work. This is mainly due to the fact that the tower of the building which is the most prominent feature looks pretty ugly.

The tower would look a little taller if they trimmed back the bushes and trees. What does that remind you of?

The tower would look a little taller if they trimmed back the bushes and trees. What does that remind you of?

Maybe I’m the problem and it’s simply the fact that I’m not good enough as a photographer to produce a great image of this building. I can accept that and I think that could be the case, however, if you do a search online I bet you won’t find a single image where this building looks good. The image you find may look interesting from an overall perspective but it’s not because of this abomination. Whats worse are the lights on this building at night. There are so many ugly buildings that light up at night time and they end up looking pretty good; not Bridgewater Place. This building is so ugly they should build another one exactly like it and demolish both of them.

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The green lights on this building make it look uglier at night than it does during the day. It looks like an oversized chemist, I mean for the love of God… why?

In my mind the only angle that works for this building is from the south side. When you’re shooting from this angle you can photograph it in such a way that you can avoid having the tower be the most prominent part of the image. This effectively makes the building look somewhat interesting. Of course, having one angle that works doesn’t do enough to redeem this building.

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Why This Is the Ugliest Building in Leeds

Although this is one of the ugliest buildings in Leeds city center, that’s not actually the worst part. Something can be ugly and still have character or have some redeeming features, unfortunately, this building doesn’t even have that. The wind tunnel effect that it creates in the surrounding areas has caused thousands of pounds worth of damage, several injuries and even death. People are quite literally being blown over due to the gale-force winds this building has caused.

I understand that the council has put measures in place to counter some of the issues and prevent winds from reaching critical levels around the area but that doesn’t bring back any lost lives. It’s unfortunate that someone had to die in order for the council to do anything about this issue and that’s simply not good enough. This building is not only the ugliest building in Leeds but it’s a statement of inaction, terrible design and it’s a blight on the city overall.

Architecture in Leeds city

It's no secret, Leeds city centre is one of my favourite places for photographing architecture. The city is in the middle of a development boom and it looks extremely promising. With places like Victoria Gate and Sovereign Square being developed in Leeds, the city is definitely starting to look and feel very modern. The glass and steel structures are really impacting the landscape and although some may disagree, I welcome it. 

Sovereign Square - Currently under development

From my experience the main reason why some may disagree with the new buildings in Leeds is because they feel it does not keep to the surroundings. Although this may be true, I believe architecture is about creating our own surroundings. Progress can be steeply reduced if we continue to try and serve the current as opposed to finding the new. 

Having said that I'm a big fan of the older buildings in Leeds too. I love the contrast between the old and new, in my mind it really adds to it. For instance if you take the Corn Exchange in Leeds, a building steeped in history and even faced being demolished once, still stands proud. The interior of the building is simply beautiful and now serves as a place for many independent retail stores. 

I think by far my favourite part of Leeds is right in the heart, City Square. Admittedly driving around this area is an absolute nightmare, with the horrible one way system and parking anywhere habitable is a complete pain. Aside from that mini rant the buildings are simply wow. I absolutely love how some of the buildings in Leeds transition from old to new so well. Some of my other favourites are of course the Civic Hall, The Parkinson Building and not forgetting Bridgewater Place. All in all I'm quite proud of the architecture in Leeds and really looking forward to the new developments. I honestly can't wait to photograph them all. 

City Square - Leeds