Case Study: Leeds’ Victoria Gate Shopping Arcade

The area’s weaving heritage is referenced into the herringbone granite floor at Leeds’ Victoria Gate shopping arcade.

Words by Clare Dowdy

ACME’S new shopping arcade Victoria Gate, in Leeds, has a striking floor in 13 shades of grey granite. The herringbone pattern was inspired by traditional cloth weaves synonymous with the city’s history of fabric trade.

Granite was chosen for its durability, stability in a tiled form, its suitability as a floor, and the range of colours and textures available. Price also came into it. ‘The budget for the flooring was limited and granite was one of the few choices we had that could still provide a good quality finish,’ says Friedrich Ludewig, who formed ACME in 2007, having been associate director at Foreign Office Architects. ‘Granite tends to be quite flat, with constant and fine texture and very little veins or figures. This is why it was important to use a strong pattern that made the floor feel more precious,' he adds.

The design is a combination of two simple and regular patterns: a regular-striped herringbone pattern alternating dark and light bands, and a fading gradient from dark grey (near the shop fronts) to light grey (to the centre of the arcade). ‘The overlay of these two simple patterns creates a more complex pattern while retaining a degree of order,’ says Ludewig, adding ‘we didn't use any particularly sophisticated software to create this.’

ACME selected 13 shades that differed enough from each other – without hues – but had consistent intervals between each individual shade. ‘We also needed to choose granite types that were consistent in their quality and appearance, within an acceptable range of variation, and ones that were available in the amounts that we needed,’ says Ludewig. These limitations led to a long selection process, involving a number of visits to quarries in Italy and China for quality inspections.

Marshalls’ Natural Stone Division sourced the granite from China, where a full-scale mock-up was dry-laid. This allowed ACME to make some changes to the granite types to ensure it could achieve the grading that it wanted.

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