Wryly entertaining architect Friedrich Ludewig is keen to differentiate Victoria Gate arcade from a shopping centre, explaining that 'an arcade is a street with a roof'. His firm Acme has just completed a new retail complex in Leeds – an apt location for such a project, as the city is known for its Victorian arcades.
Ludewig, who set up Acme in 2007 after having been associate director at the late, great Foreign Office Architects, has managed to pull off that rare feat in malls: uniformly pleasing shop facias. Each retailer’s shop sign – including Anthropologie and Ghost – comprises gold lettering on a black lacquered ribbon. The arcade feel is also strengthened by large brass pendant lights running the length of the ‘streets’, and a flooring of grey Chinese granite laid out herringbone style, in reference to Leeds’ heyday supplying wool to Savile Row tailors.
From the outside, this is no bland glass box but a bold piece of architecture. Victoria Gate sits on Eastgate, an Art Deco boulevard designed by Reginald Blomfield to mimic London’s Regent Street. Hence Acme’s relief-built brick and terracotta facade, and reconstituted stone palisades that rise to form a diagrid. Corten steel panels surround the bulges of the top floor, which houses restaurants.
John Lewis, Victoria Gate’s anchor tenant, has been looking to put down roots in Leeds for 28 years. The department store’s interior style (not designed by Acme) will be familiar to anyone who has been in any of its other branches.
Next door is Acme’s eye-catching multistorey carpark, which replaces a police station. Its facade comprises myriad straight and twisting aluminium fins, giving a nod to the arcade’s diagrid.