The Yorkshire Post building. Never has the Fourth Estate looked so housing estate.

Guest blog by Bill Moody

Slabs of orangey concrete eyebrow the pavement with stern paternal glare and thrusting stacks, one disguised as a clock, or maybe a ceefax page, point accusingly at the impartial sky. The Yorkshire Post building squats unlovely and brutal, a stellar example of architectural modernism which in its day may have shone but now is more brown dwarf than luminous.

When referring to the Fourth Estate, the press, Thomas Carlyle  thought it “more important far” than the other three Estates in Parliament. It should observe and report as a function of democracy and serve as a transparent medium for truth, I guess. The metaphors this building generates are far from that ideal. It appears closeted from the outside and the wonder is how any natural light penetrates. It is imposing, self important and hides it’s functions in a way that the Bradford Telegraph and Argus building doesn’t. The T&A’s glass walls reveal the printing presses and the suggestions of honesty are made implicit.

The building is part of an architectural idea known colloquially as Brutalism; the term anglicised from le Corbusier’s ‘beton brut’ or ‘raw concrete’. Other Brutalist moments of note in Leeds are the Merrion Centre, the Roger Stevens building, blogged about by Janey Dodge, and, before it was demolished, the International Pool.

Now the Yorkshire Post building is For Sale and in some reports probably due for demolition. Which is sad in a way, but what better end for a truly modernist building than demolition, to make way for the future? The Yorkshire Post building is on the site of the first woollen mill in Leeds and next door to the site of the long forgotten second railway station that Leeds once boasted. These two archetypes of the Industrial Revolution and modernism in its broader sense had to give way and now it is the turn of the next generation.

What must be remembered though is the people who worked in the building and the working lives played out there. I have never been inside or known any of these people so my thoughts are fairly uninformed. These few words can never do justice to the people and ideas associated with the Yorkshire Post or the nostalgia felt that another part of our recent heritage is being changed so radically. Le Corbusier noted: “Our world, like a charnel-house, is strewn with the detritus of dead epochs.” There are parts of Leeds which I associate with what has gone; the arcade so genteely sat upon by Harvey Nicks, the pawn shops and jewellers squashed by the St John’s Centre, and now, if it is to be demolished, the site of the Yorkshire Post building, unlovely but iconic.

The Yorkshire Post building is not alone. Several major modernist buildings have not been granted Grade II listings or have been pulled down in recent years. English Heritage has recommended listing several buildings but the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is refusing.  Love it or hate it, this is an important genre in historic architecture.  Under threat are Preston bus station, and Robin Hood Gardens in Poplar and many others. Already demolished are Trinity Square car park in Gateshead (seen in the movie, Get Carter), the Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth (voted Britain’s most hated building in a 2001 Radio 4 poll), and Milton Court part of the Barbican Centre, London

As a footnote, I can add that for a building which has never struck me as having a sense of humour, it was Prince Charles, that hater of carbuncles, who performed the opening ceremony. I wonder if his views on ‘modern’ architecture were formed on that opening day. I wonder if in this video he was seething about the shapes, perhaps ‘more offensive than rubble’ he saw before him. The video, for reasons we cannot know, is silent, so any guess is a good one.

Bill Moody has been living and working in Leeds since 1979. He runs an English and Maths tuition centre and has been a teacher for over 20 years. For someone who said he would never own a suit or have a bank account, it appears he has sold out rather frightfully.



  1. Knock it down, please!! Horrible looking building and one of the first things visitors see when they’re entering the city centre. In its place should be something leisure/entertainment (not a cinema!!) for families.

  2. Yes it needs some love, but fundamentally, what an interesting building. In years to come we would be proud of this as a last remaining example of a period of architecture that wont be built again. How fantastic if the city could continue to boast a varied mix of architecture in the city, spanning back hundreds of years, each standing for something different. It wasn’t long ago calls were being made to have the victorian architecture pulled down to replace with something ‘new’. Not sure the ‘new’ we are building today will all be so revered in 50 years as we might hope.

  3. I think a lot people don’t like this building because of the dull grey/brown external appearance. What if the building was re-rendered in white (or even bright colours) and well lit?
    I think the building has a very interesting form and has the potential to be “re-born” for the 21st Century. So long as internally it can be re-worked for a new use.
    I wouldn’t say it is a great example of Brutalism (unlike the Roger Stevens building) and so wouldn’t fight to save it purely based on that. But in an age when budgets are tight why knock it down to build a new “average” looking building that in 25 years will be ready to be knocked down again.
    That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is knocked down and used as a “temporary” car park for the next 10 years!!

  4. As a former inmate I must say that I’ve felt no sense of loss or regret moving into the our new building.

    Working in the IT department in the bowels of the building it was entirely possible during the winter months to arrive at work in the dark and leave in the dark Monday to Friday.

    Whilst not having windows meant conversations about the weather were mostly(thankfully) meaningless and brief, it did also become a bit of a drag.

    Coupled with the obligatory air-con that meant my office could fluctuate in temperature from 18c to 30c during the working day its hard to shed a tear.

    Writing this under the blue sky and watching the clear waters of the Leeds/Liverpool canal drift by, I can honestly say the sooner it is removed from the Leeds skyline the better.

    As long as it isn’t replaced with a dreadful Leeds redbrick homage that is all to present or a ‘Noddy goes to toy town’ magistrates court type building I’ll be happy.

  5. How will we ever know the temperature in Leeds if they knock it down?!

    Definitely more in favour of a re-vamp.

    1. It’s tough not to fall into the trap of a polarised opinion. Sometimes I eat Marmite but sometimes I think ‘war food no way’; it’s not always love and hate, sometimes it’s what works best. Would love to see this building used well and presented well. A revamp would be excellent.

    1. Thanks for the personal view! What’s been so great about this building is that it won’t leave you alone; it challenges and confronts. It’s impossible to ignore perhaps like a good reporter. It would be a real shame if it did get demolished rather than repurposed.

Comments are closed.