Over 60 people attended Bradford Civic Society’s debate on the role of “brutalism” in the city centre, with a particular focus on the 1974 High Point building on Westgate.
The debate – entitled “Save High Point / Raze High Point” took place at Assembly Bradford, and was chaired by Dr George Sheeran, an author on Bradford’s architectural history and honorary visiting fellow at the University of Bradford.
The debating panel was made up of Guardian journalist Sir Simon Jenkins, Catherine Croft, Director of the 20th Century Society, Vijay Taheem, Bradford architect and senior lecturer at the University of Huddersfield’s School of Art Design and architecture and Jordi Campo Bria, originally from Barcelona and who has been with Bradford-based Yeme architects.
As reported in the Bradford Telegraph and Argus, Sir Simon Jenkins argued that the imposing building, on Westgate, should be demolished, while the others on the panel argued in its favour.
Sir Simon described the brutalist style of High Point as “F – You” architecture, created by architects who were rebelling against previous generations. He said: “Those architects would never live in these buildings, or go near them, but to them it was a highly political statement to the world. Something has to be done with it. Most brutalist buildings are very difficult to re-use. You need someone very rich to look after it, otherwise it will stay there as a ruin.”
However, Catherine Croft said High Point was an important part of Bradford’s post war history, and should not be erased from the city’s skyline. She said: “There are lots of fabulous Victorian buildings in Bradford, but there are some great modern buildings that we need to preserve too. They show how cities have evolved. By trying to erase the legacy of brutalism you are simplifying the history of a city.”
Bradford architect Vijay Taheem said: “People regret that a lot of historic buildings in Bradford have been demolished. Would we be making the same mistakes by demolishing this building? By erasing something we might find unattractive now we might be taking something away from future generations.”
When one audience member suggested the people of Bradford find a way to take ownership of the building and bring it back to life, Jordi Campo Bria said: “You could say that for a lot of buildings. Which would you do first? Do you choose High Point before Cannon Mills? Or Whetley Mills?”
A vote was held at the end of the debate, with the audience voting to “save” High Point.
Bradford Civic Society has passed many of the debate’s main discussion points onto Bradford Council’s Portfolio Holder for Regeneration and intends to engage in discussions with the council, the building’s owner, and other partners about potential meanwhile uses for the building, as well as creative animation of its exterior.
We would like to thank all our panelists and speakers for an excellent and informative event, and we are also grateful to Assembly Bradford for the use of their event space for the evening.