Work is set to start shortly on the Albion Square development in Hull, with demolition of the landmark former BHS and Co-op building.
The plans for Albion Square, drawn up by Faulkner Brown Architects, aim to deliver a new mixed-use development and urban park in the city centre location. After a prolonged battle by local campaigners and heritage groups, it will incorporate both the giant Grade II listed ‘Three Ships’ mural, as well as two other smaller murals, all by artist Alan Boyson (1930 – 2018).
Boyson’s ‘Three Ships’ mural, also known as ‘Ships in the Sky’, is comprised of almost a million pieces of Italian glass on a 66ft by 64ft concrete screen, depicting three stylised trawlers spelling out Hull with their masts. Concerns about the presence of asbestos behind the tesserae tiles of the mural, had thwarted the original plans to carefully remove and reinstate the giant artwork on a new building. The council was subsequently pursuing a controversial strategy of demolition and a modern recreation, until the mural was dramatically listed by Historic England in November 2019, to the delight of campaigners.
The curving steel frame the mural is attached to will now be retained and kept in situ throughout the demolition, with both being incorporated into the new office and residential building being constructed immediately behind.
The less well known ‘Fish’ and ‘Geometric Sponge Print’ tile murals, located on the upper floors of the former department store, have also been saved and will be re-incorporated into the new scheme after restoration. New images released by the architects depict them displayed in prominent locations at ground level, in a covered arcade and an illuminated pedestrian tunnel.
The former co-operative store is located at 32-38 Jameson St in Hull and was built in 1961 to designs by Philip Andrews. While a retrofit and adaptation of these existing store buildings would have been preferable to demolition on environmental grounds, they were ultimately deemed of limited architectural merit and heritage value. C20 Society has therefore given its conditional support for the project, advising the council and developer to consult with specialist structural engineers and mosaic conservators, to ensure no damage to the mosaics is sustained during the building works, and that their restoration is to an exemplary standard.
C20 Caseworker Coco Whittaker said:
“Alan Boyson was a fantastic muralist and we’re delighted that these beautiful monuments to the city’s fishing industry will be saved and proudly placed on display within the new development. We’ve enjoyed working alongside the local Hull Heritage Action Group on this campaign and look forward to seeing these fantastic murals properly cared for and restored.”
While Niall Durney, associate partner at Faulkner Brown Architects, commented:
“Our design focuses on repairing the urban grain of this part of the city, by re-instating historic streetscapes and framing an important piece of public art. The new buildings are all centred around an urban park, allowing both residents and the wider city to enjoy accessible, natural green space.”