9th November 2022

My Favourite Retrofit – Jen Oliver, from Rutland Mills to Tileyard North


AJ Retrofit Live, a new event from the Architects’ Journal celebrating and championing retrofit projects across the country, heads to London this month. As our team look ahead to the exciting line-up of speakers from across the Retrofit movement, we’re shining a light on some of our favourite re-use developments with our ‘My Favourite Retrofit’ campaign.

Our Structural Design Engineer, Jen Oliver, has chosen Rutland Mills, a complex of derelict Grade II listed mill buildings in Yorkshire, currently being transformed into a mixed-use 135,000 sqft creative industries and cultural hub, and the new home of Tileyard North.

A fascinating reuse project I have followed closely in recent years is the mixed-use regeneration of Rutland Mills. Originally textile mills, the Grade II listed complex is at the heart of Wakefield Waterfront. The overall vision of the retrofit is to transform the historic site into a vibrant cultural hotspot for creative and collaborative partnerships in music, film, TV, design and new media.

To create this space, six derelict buildings are undergoing sensitive repairs and interventions to ensure that their structure is safe for re-use. With this comes the modernisation of since-forgotten structures, to improve circulation and disabled access, reusing the nineteenth-century complex. Investment in the public realm will also mean that the external environment is as attractive as the internal.

With retrofit comes careful consideration, and unfortunately, not all parts of the mill complex could be viably reused. Three buildings need to be dismantled due to their condition or unsuitability for new use. As part of this, one section of the mill is proposed to be replaced by a new building. By expansively reusing, this new space will upgrade the mills.

One of the stand-out features of this project is the restoration of the remnants of an original brick chimney. The stand-alone structure is to be repaired and extended to replicate its original height. To design its new exposed steel structure, computational parametric structural analysis was carried out. Without this, refining the design would have been very difficult!

The project hopes to link Wakefield to London, with Rutland Mills set to house the Tileyard of the North. Tileyard London has done so much in championing and supporting independent artists and businesses by providing them with a space to work and display.

The works to bring this historic riverfront back to life are still undergoing. I can’t wait to see the finished redevelopment – a trip up to Wakefield will be a must!

My Favourite Retrofit – Jen Oliver, from Rutland Mills to Tileyard North