Concrete Elegance: Refurbishment and Renewal


Dundee House, Dundee
Lyle Chrystie, Reiach and Hall Architects

This is not an ordinary office building. It is the key civic facility in Dundee where Dundonians meet their council officers. It has to be easy and pleasant for visitors to use while also enhancing the business being carried out within. The architecture has to portray the civic confidence of the city, and building's civic importance and also act as an exemplar development.

The new building re-uses and reinvigorates a listed derelict industrial building, located in a slightly forgotten part of the city . The building contains approximately 900 staff and has a floor area of 12,500m2. An intricate web of corridors, light wells and glimpsed views dissolve gradually from dark intensity to panoramic lightness as one ascends through the building. The office spaces, subdivided and articulated by the massive concrete spine walls and the west facade ‘tower’ incisions, also aid this framework of shifting views.

The architects rejected simplistic energy-led formulae as panaceas for good architecture and insisted on the need for materials to convey a sense of longevity and real sustainability, using a palette of enduring materials: oak, brick, stone and concrete.

“This is an exemplary piece of modern civic architecture where the quality and craftsmanship of the brickwork adds a sense of dignity to the urban context. The building appears restrained, confident and powerfully imposing all at the same time.” The Brick Awards Judges in awarding the building the International Project Award.

The Hull History Centre, Hull
Andy Reader, Pringle Richards Sharratt Architects

The building is on the eastern edge of the city centre, a plot that was previously a car park and once the site of Hull's pre-war slums. It's now home to an extensive local archive and papers from notable figures such as anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce and pioneering aviator Amy Johnson. It also includes the city's Royal Charter as well as collections of local, regional and national importance, Hull's maritime history, and prominent figures in literature and drama.

The building has an exposed concrete frame with a high quality of architectural finish and which acts as a heat sink to moderate internal temperatures and assist in achieving the onerous environmental conditions needed for the archive. The covered arcade that runs along the side the main building has curved elegant glulam beams, an ETFE foil roof and a curved glazed façade to provides an impressive visual feature to the building.

"I'm blown away by this fantastic building that marries the old with the new so well, and I am heartened to see Hull taking such pride in its heritage. The Hull History Centre must be the envy of archivists everywhere, but I've been equally impressed by the way staff at the centre are making history exciting and accessible to people of all ages through the events and education sessions they run. Hull should be proud of this unique place." Dan Snow, historian and broadcaster.

Free to attend. Booking essential.