The wonder of the new. Modern architecture in Leicester – 1990 to the present day.


National Space Centre, City of Leicester


One of the new iconic modern building of Leicester, the ‘Rocket Tower’ of the NSC stands forty-two meters above the urban skyline and has become something of a local visitor attraction.

Now one of the United Kingdom’s most visited attractions, the centre is a haven for enthusiasts of science, astronomy and cosmology, with the only known Soyuz spacecraft in Western Europe on display.

Opened to the public in 2001 and designed by English architect Nicholas Grimshaw (who was also behind London’s Waterloo International Railway Station and the Eden Project in Cornwall), the NSC is definitely worth a visit for anyone interested in the great beyond. The ‘Rocket Tower’ was constructed using ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) manufactured by a specialist supplier, which is a type of plastic designed to resist corrosion and fluctuating temperatures.

The museum contains six main exhibitions, various visitor activities, a Digistar three dome cinema and planetarium and a gift shop and restaurant. The total cost of the building arrived at £52 million after the project (deriving from a partnership between Leicester University’s Space Research Centre and government agencies) was completed, with financial support from a Millennium Commission grant and various private sector sponsors.

Various space crew members have visited the centre since its opening, including Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Brian Duffy and Piers Sellers.

New Walk Centre

This was demolished; a new set of buildings is now under construction, in its place.

New Walk CentreThe administrative headquarters of Leicester City Council, the New Walk Centre has a total of 15 floors and a roof height of 55.00 meters.

The centre comprises of two buildings known as A-block and B-block, surrounding a central courtyard and parking area. Although not originally constructed to serve as a council building, a lack of tenant interest lead to the final takeover.

The building takes its name from The New Walk which was laid out in 1785 and was possibly the first of this type of pedestrian walkway in the country.

On 6th July 2012, The City Council announed that a decision had been made on future of city council HQ. All staff at the city council’s New Walk Centre will be moved out by December 2013 and the building will be demolished. City Mayor Peter Soulsby announced today that the condition of the buildings is such that they cannot be economically saved and the council has no choice but to demolish them. A decision on the location of the council’s new headquarters is still to be made, but the City Mayor said his preferred option was to have a smaller office built on the same site.”We are very aware of the impact our move could have on local businesses, and if possible I would like the councils main HQ to stay in this part of the city” he said. “The New Walk Centre site is owned by the council and would appear to be a good place to accommodate a smaller building, but further work needs to be done on this option” Mr Soulsby added.


The Walkers Stadium, City of Leicester

The home of Leicester City Football Club, The Walkers Stadium (now called the King Power Stadium) is the pride and joy of Leicester’s football community. Completed in just under 60 weeks, the stadium was designed by The Miller Partnership and constructed by Birse Stadia in 2002. The Foxes made the move from their historic home (since 1891) on Filbert Street to the banks of the River Soar following their relegation from the Premier League to the Championship. Their new 32, 500 seater stadium cost £37 million.



curve theatre

Standing at the heart of Leicester’s Cultural Quarter, Curve Theatre (originally known as the Performing Arts Centre) was opened in November 2008. The first project to be completed in the UK by the Uruguayan architect Rafael Vinoly, the Curve was designed in collaboration with Leicester City Council and the Leicester Theatre Trust, costing a total of £61 million.

Vinoly (of the internationally renowned Rafael Vinoly Architects) is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, an International Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects and also a member of the Japan Institute of Architects and the Sociedad Central de Arquiectos. His works include the Tokyo International Forum, The Kimmel Centre for the Performing Arts and the Carrasco International Airport.

Curve Theatre is a stunning display of modern design, most notable for its curved shape and continuous glass facade. Opening in the same year as The Highcross Centre, the building was a replacement for the aging Haymarket Theatre.

curve theatre interior

See our feature on the Cultural Quarter, also featuring CURVE.


The LCB Depot, Rutland Street, Leicester

the leicester creative business depot

Forged from the shell of the former 1970s Leicester City Bus Depot, the Leicester Creative Business Depot is one of the flag ship projects of the Cultural Quarter. Opened in July 2004, the £4.75 million Depot provides offices, studios and workspaces for creative businesses, meeting rooms and a licensed cafe open to the public. The building has received awards from RIBA for its design and architectural features, the work of Ash Sakula Architects.

The Depot comprises the main building which fronts on to Rutland Street and a second, purpose built block that stands across the rear courtyard; referred to as ‘B Block’, this building was in fact the birthplace of Arts in Leicestershire, when its parent – B2B Web Consultants, had a studio there.

There are communal kitchens on each floor for the use of the tenants and some floors include showers to encourage people who work there to cycle to work.

Unless you have lived in Leicester for a long time, you would not know that this gleaming, modern construction had once been a bus depot. Certain features still remain, like the huge metal door that once formed the entrance to the massive safe; it remains in place, in one of the corridors.

The rear glass curtain wall of the main block features artwork by Linda Schwab, called ‘Seed Garden’. Developed in response to the function of the building as a site for the ‘incubation’ of new creative industries; the designs are based on the development of a planted seed – Germination – Growth – Pollination – Fruition.

On the ground floor of ‘B Block’ there is a glass box containing a light sculpture formed from neon tubes that react to movement in the courtyard.

The interior design reflects the styling with piping and ductwork being visible, rather than hidden behind false ceilings.

The LCD Depot web site.


The Phoenix Digital Media Centre

phoenix digital media centre

The Phoenix Film and Digital Media Centre is one of the flagship projects of Leicester’s Cultural Quarter.

Opened in November 2009, the £21.5 million complex, the building houses a film and digital media centre, 22 workspaces, seven office studios and 63 apartments.

Designed by award-winning architects Marsh Grochowski, the project was developed by a partnership between Blueprint developers, Leicester City Council, De Montfort University,

The building includes two cinemas, a cafe bar, meetings rooms and is operated by the Leicester Arts Centre Limited, a registered charity with financial support from Leicester City Council, EM Media and De Montfort University.

Phoenix Square website |


Colton Square

colton square office block

Described at the cornerstone of the new Business Centre, Colton Square combines new build with a re-development of the old Charles Street Police Station. Phase 1 was completed in May 2007 with phase 2 being completed in September 2008.

Developed by international property group Goodman, Two Colton Square saw the restoration and development of the 1932 police station which was a Grade II listed building. The four story building provides office accommodation over four floors.

The Leicester Mercury Building

leicester mercury building

The offices of the Leicester Mercury underwent extensive external transformation at a cost of £12.5 million.


The Highcross Shopping Centre

highcross shopping centre

The development of the £350 million Highcross Shopping Centre saw the construction of another iconic building project in the city centre which was opened in September 2008.

The project saw the extension and re-development of The Shires shopping centre which was opened in 1991.

part of the high cross centre

Highcross now contains over 120 shops, including large stores such as John Lewis, Debenhams and House of Frazer, as well as many other ‘high street’ chains.

The more recent develop included the construction of Cinema De Lux, the only multiplex in the city. The stainless steel cladding of the cinema and the patterned curtain walling of the John Lewis building are now key features of the Leicester built environment. The patterns on the glass are of fabric designs that reflect Leicester’s past as a textile city.

cinema de lux at highcross

The complex includes many cafes and restaurants and at one end there is a development of 120 flats, tacked on to the multi-story car park.

interior of high cross shopping centre

When demolishing the old St. Margaret’s baths and digging for the foundations of the John Lewis store in 2004 and 2005, archaeologists from Leicester University revealed a medieval graveyard and the remains of one of Leicester’s ‘lost churches’, St Peters, which was ‘ dismantled in 1573 to provide building materials for the nearby Free Grammar School.’

There was a cross, a monument surmounted by a cross, near to this location, as early as 1278, and it is from this that the name is derived. This marked the centre of the medieval town just as the Clock Tower is seen as the pivotal landmark of the modern city. This would have been at the intersection of Highcross Street and the High Street.

Highcross entry in Wikipedia | Excavations at St. Margarets | History and Archeology at High Cross | The history of the High Cross with pictures

Sanvey Gate Apartments, City of Leicester

apartment block at sanvey gate

Situated on the edge of the city centre, Burgess House, part of the apartments complex in Sanvey Gate, illustrate how the city has been regenerated. Known as the ‘Leicester Square Development’ this project saw the demolition of disused commercial and industrial buildings and the construction of volume flats for students and young urban dwellers.

Like many of the new city housing developments, the site caters for car owners, having on-site parking spaces.

On the same site is Sanvey Mill, converted from a former Mill building. The area in this locality was subject to a development that remarked disused and obsolete industrial buildings.

Following the commence of work on the site, excavations by Leicester University in July 2004 – September 2005, stretches of the Roman and mediaeval town were uncovered. Some of defences of the town were discovered and dates back to the second century A.D. Remains of the Roman wall were ‘robbed’ by masons in the middle ages. Sanvey Gate formed part of the medieval wall of Leicester town, which probably followed the line of the original Roman wall.

Excavations at Sanvey Gate |

Riverside Apartments

riverside apartments next to the West Bridge

These apartments, next to the West Bridge, overlook the Grand Union Canal. They were built on land that had become derelict and now offer luxury waterside apartments.

Westbridge Wharf

westbridge wharf

Situated near to the Riverside Apartments is the Westbridge Wharf Development.

The building offers luxury serviced apartments. The construction of these waterside blocks has rejuvenated run down areas close to the city centre.

Some have argued that there is now an over-supply of such property relative to market conditions.


the hugh aston building

The Hugh Aston Building, De Montfort University

The £35 million building, opened in 2010, houses the University’s faculty of Business and Law. The new building incorporates many energy efficient features.

Its design maximises natural daylight and ventilation and the possibility of utilising a heat recovery system based on ground source heating and cooling powered by bedrock temperatures below ground is being investigated. Energy efficient construction materials will also be used that can absorb heat, saving energy in the process.

The new building has transformed the entrance to the city campus. After releasing the 14th Century Magazine Gateway from four lanes of traffic, an attractive tree-lined square has being created. ‘Magazine Square’ is a landscaped meeting place for students, staff, and the general public which acts as gateway between the city and campus.

The building’s namesake, Hugh Aston , died in November 1558 and was a leading figure of his generation, serving at different times as Coroner, Mayor and MP for the borough of Leicester, as well as being one of the foremost early Tudor composers.

hugh aston building

See also:  History of Art Education in Leicester.