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‘Absurd OJEU’ sees Aedas replace Tim Ronalds on Bradford Odeon revamp

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Aedas has taken over from Tim Ronalds Architects on a scheme to revamp Bradford’s empty Odeon cinema

Tim Ronalds, the mastermind behind the rebirth of the Hackney Empire, began working seven years ago with local businessman Lee Craven on plans to transform the 1930s building into a 4,000-capacity music venue.

The practice subsequently helped Craven’s Bradford Live win the bid to overhaul the much-loved city centre landmark and later steered the project through planning in 2014. Then in 2017, it was announced that the NEC Group would become the operator for the new venue.

However, earlier this year, a tender notice was published calling for an architect to take forward the £15 million scheme and develop the designs from RIBA Stage 3 onwards. That contest was recently won by Aedas.

Speaking about Aedas’s appointment, Tim Ronalds said: ‘This was a wonderful project. We assembled a great team, invested a lot of time and money and worked for seven years helping to get it to the point when it would become a reality.

‘Just when all that was needed was in place – an operator, funding and support – we lost the project through an absurd OJEU process.’

The cinema was almost flattened 10 years ago to make way for a Carey Jones Architects-designed office development,

But that scheme was eventually abandoned and new ideas were sought for the building, which closed as a cinema in 2000.

Bradford Live plans to reinvent the site as an evening venue, hosting major touring live music and live entertainment shows.

In its tender notice brief, Bradford Live said it wanted to restore the main auditorium to its original size and shape. ‘The well-preserved ballroom and restaurant wing will be restored back to its original state,’ it said. ‘Other areas of the building will also, for the most part, be put back to their original forms. The entire building will be served by new acoustic, electrical, heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting and fire control systems.

’Due to programme constraints, delivery of RIBA Stage 2 design will be fulfilled in parallel with a set of current interim consultancy appointments, alongside the input and integration of the appointed operator. This parallel design process will in effect frame the foundation of the project, its key, primary and principal requirements as well as pre-app planning progression; suitably advanced enough for the engagement of those successfully to proceed immediately thereafter.’

Bradford Odeon was designed by William Illingworth and first opened in 1930 and occupies a prominent site on Godwin Street overlooking Arup’s £24.4 million City Park water feature.

The Renaissance-revival complex was one of the largest cinemas in the country when it opened but was converted into a bingo hall and three smaller cinemas in 1969 before closing at the turn of the millennium.

Craven and Aedas have been contacted for comment. 

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Oh dear. Bradford’s loss. They could have had something wonderful from Tim Ronalds. Instead they’ve opted for something mediocre - but perhaps they’re so dim they’ll never even realise what they’ve lost. Commiserations, Tim.

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  • Along with numerous other architects like Tim Ronalds, we too have had to re-apply to build out our 'own' projects because of the peculiarly British interpretation of the OJEU regulations. Sometimes we're successful, sometimes not but it is heartbreaking for us and not good for the project when the design continuity is broken. Better procurement guidance is desperately needed to show clients (and lawyers) they don't have to do it this way.

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