Thorp Precast – Victoria Gate Arcade & JLP Department Store

Project Details


Project - The Victoria Gate Arcade and John Lewis Partnership Department Store Development
Sector - Retail
Architect - Thorpe Precast
Technology - Precast Concrete

Project Overview 

The Victoria Gate Arcade and John Lewis Partnership Department Store Development in Leeds is one of the most distinctive Architectural precast concrete masonry facades seen anywhere in the UK. It was achieved with a refreshing approach to specification and procurement – based on a 'horses for courses' selection process. The Client and Main Contractor quickly identified the respective strengths of two British Precast member companies, and channelled their energy and skill sets towards delivering two very different precast cladding packages for the same Project. Both of equal importance to the other, in the context of the overall Development.

Thorp were appointed by McAlpine for their expertise in precast brickwork cladding to carry out all the ornate precast brickwork, terracotta and recon stone façade panels featured on the new Victoria Gate Arcade, whilst Techcrete were hand-picked for the elaborate reconstituted stone precast concrete cladding panel for the new John Lewis Partnership Department Store.

The purpose of the Project was to create a whole new shopping experience in the centre of Leeds, linking the old Victorian Quarter via a high quality shopping arcade leading to the entrance of the new flagship department store and car park for John Lewis Partnership. The 6000 M2 brick façade pattern features six different width pleats, each having a 250mm overall projection, by way of a modern reference to Leeds rich Victorian past for corbelled and highly decorative brickwork. The North Block features white recon stone columns with an acid-etched finish at ground floor level with brick-faced panels above and white recon pier infills. The South Block, in contrast has black recon stone columns with a polished finish at ground floor level, with brick-faced panels above. Most of the cladding panels were designed by Thorp with an emphasis on stacking the panels meaning only restraint was taken off the primary structural frame, with all the dead loads transferred directly into the foundations. Continued investment made by Thorp in BIM technology played a fundamental role in helping create the complex angular 3D panels in brick, terracotta, and recon stone panels. A range of other potential cladding solutions were considered by the Design Team, including traditional handset brickwork, numerous brick slip systems, even bricklaying robots at one point, before precast emerged as everyone's preferred option. The benefits of quality in a factory controlled environment, accuracy, factory pointing, finishing, speed of construction, Programme, no external scaffolding, no wet trades, cost certainty, were all perceived advantages that managed to quickly win everyone over.

On site installation of almost 550 panels was completed by Thorp in March 2016. The biggest challenge was in managing the site logistics, with the vast majority of the panels having to be installed using a 120 tonne mobile cranes. Another key issues that Thorp faced was sourcing appropriate brick material. With most brick manufacturers only willing to guarantee one stretcher face and one good header, Thorp needed to find suppliers willing to guarantee all faces, in particular the exposed projecting brick on bed faces. The extruded method of manufacture used to produce these bricks allowed Thorp to develop a special positive key for casting purposes, specifically designed to minimise any cutting and make full use of each individual brick unit, producing two suitably keyed snap headers, with barely any waste.