Red Tower, York

York Design Award

Red Tower is a small, two-storey historic structure, located on the west side of Foss Islands Road and terminates a section of the ancient city wall. Although parts date back to C.1490, much of the building is a Victorian rebuild. It is a designated Scheduled Ancient Monument and Grade 1 Listed Building. It is one of the most eye-catching structures on the City of York wall defences. The building was formerly used as an occasional store by the City Council who own the premises.

The Red Tower York CIC (a community orientated enterprise movement) leased the building with a view to providing a facility for local people, community user groups and visitors to the city.  The project involved fitting-out and refurbishment works which include a low-key refreshment facility on the ground floor and a flexible function space to the upper level for meetings and small exhibitions.

The design ethos was to provide a simple, reversible, contemporary fit-out, to show a clear, honest distinction between new intervention set against the building’s historic fabric. It was important that the new works had minimal impact on the existing structure. A key aspect of the design was the building’s risk from flooding (the Tower flooded to a height of 1.40m. in 2015). This influenced the choice of materials which needed to be robust, whilst still aesthetically appropriate for the internal fit-out.

To the ground floor, works included the provision of incoming services and a kitchen/preparation area where bespoke kitchen base units were designed so they could be wheeled out in the event of a flood alert. Elsewhere there is a wc facility, internal glazed screen/door and a high quality bespoke folded steel stair with timber treads providing access to the upper level to replace a timber ladder. To the first floor, roof insulation was installed between roof timbers (so the structure remains visible) and fabric sails were fitted to improve internal lighting and heating levels. Emission-free discrete, efficient radiant panels have been installed as the method for heating. Timber framed windows and the installation of heating and lighting has been provided throughout.

The Tower’s interiors were previously somewhat gloomy and sombre spaces due to the red brick walls, dark roof timbers and lack of natural light. The upgrading works, installation of heating and lighting and introduction of colour have dramatically lifted the building’s comfort levels and appearance, with the installation of up-lit fabric sails providing a much more dramatic upper floor space. The project has successfully brought a modest, yet important redundant building back into life for a range of community-based functions as well as providing enjoyment to visitors to the city walls.

The project has received a York Design Award for Public / Community benefit.

Architecture | Creative Conservation | Heritage

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