SOVEREIGN DESIGN HOUSE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF HUDDERSFIELD IS THE REDEVELOPMENT OF A GRADE II LISTED PURPOSE-BUILT BATH HOUSE, ORIGINALLY CONSTRUCTED IN 1955. THE DILAPIDATED BUILDING WAS PURCHASED BY THE UNIVERSITY AS PART OF CAMPUS EXPANSION PLANS, NOW CONVERTED INTO A UNIQUE LEARNING AND PRESENTATION, EXHIBITION AND GALLERY SPACE FOR STUDENTS.
AHR had significant history with the bath house, having originally designed the building in 1954. This unique perspective, enabled the refurbishment to go further in protecting, respecting and enhancing its historic Grade II-listed features, creating a contemporary and stimulating space that showcases why revisiting designs should not be a rarity.
The result for Sovereign Design House is an inspiring, renewed space. The building, once a cornerstone of its community, is now restored and is once again open to the public and utilised by the University of Huddersfield to showcase exciting student exhibitions to the local community.
The building has been modernised, whilst respecting and enhancing its historic features. Exposed brickwork and concrete floors express the building’s materiality, while the provision of accessible WCs on every floor and a lift system ensure all visitors are accommodated.
The gallery space is located in the bath house’s basement level, with some spaces having no windows. This provides an excellent display setting for audio-visual art displays and was a key requirement for the University, providing high-quality exhibition facilities.
The building was designated Grade II Listed in 2009 as a rare, if not unique, example of a purpose-built bath house for foundry workers.
One of the key challenges to overcome was the severely dilapidated state of the building which had been unoccupied for 10 years. The building was in a very poor state of repair, with water ingress, partially collapsed roof, vermin issues and general building vandalism internally and externally.
We worked to restore many of the building’s authentic properties, including its unique roof terrace and first-floor sun lounge to their original form and dimensions, with the use of local stone another distinguishing feature. Consequently, all stone was carefully removed, numbered and reinstalled in the exact order to retain the building’s heritage.
Our design maximises daylight and creates a spacious environment for staff and visitors.
Several original lockers and terrazzo shower screens/heads were incorporated in their original positions in the café, helping to create a unique and sympathetic space within the café space.
Respecting the building’s history, we also maximised efficiency, with the café naturally ventilated, automated windows operated via CO2, plus rain-activated sensors managing the building’s temperature via the BMS system.
Our design also provides connectivity with the surrounding campus, with extensive landscaping providing an access route to the AHR-designed Barbara Hepworth Building. We introduced wheelchair accessibility by incorporating a three-storey platform lift from basement to roof levels. This will maximise gallery visitors and commercial viability of the café.
The project was undertaken in the heart of a live university site and since completion, the project is proving popular with both students and academics as an intimate place to dine, socialise or visit the exhibitions.