Xsquared Architects involvement at Willow Court

Willow Court - Journeys

Out of the shadows … of journalistic reporting

Xsquared Architects have been involved across two years with a substantial suite of works at Willow Court that are designed to conserve, restore, re-present and make ready for a new use the key heritage buildings at the heart of the Willow Court complex, including the Barracks building.  We noticed a piece in the August/September RACT magazine ‘Journeys’ that sadly overlooked this positive work at the site and penned the following letter to the editor to correct this oversight.  We are delighted to report that editor Paula Sward has agreed to revisit the site with us and prepare a new piece that can put a spotlight on the great work that has been carried out.  RACT members – look out for Paula’s follow up piece in ‘Journeys’ in the new year.

Here is the text of our original letter to Paula, edited to suit the format of this site:

Dear Paula, I was a bit shocked and disappointed with your review of Willow Court in the August/September edition of ‘Journeys’.  Your piece lacked balance and reflection on the works that a dedicated group of organisations, including Xsquared Architects, have provided over the last two years for the Derwent Valley Council to stabilise, maintain, restore, re-present and get ready for new use the most significant part of the site, comprising the Barracks building and the adjacent Bronte building.

I acknowledge that there remains much to be done at Willow Court more broadly, and that many buildings are in a sad state of decay, but the recent works at the Barracks and Bronte buildings give an indication, finally, after many years of stalled and ineffective efforts, of how good design and project management can deliver restoration, public presentation and the potential for a viable future commercial use.  Your article failed to reflect on this at all.

It may suit Mike Parr’s personal sensibility to focus his Dark Mofo event on some more dilapidated aspects of the site, but it is ignorant of Leigh Carmichael to suggest, hopelessly, that he doesn’t know what will become of the site, and negligent of Martyn Evans not to appraise him of what is happening, and, sadly, negligent of you not to cast your journalistic net a little wider to capture the recent positive news about the site.

The future of Willow Court is, in fact, nowhere near as bleak as they, and you, would suggest.  We have assisted the Council to prepare the Bronte building for a commercial use and it has been widely reported that the world-renowned Agrarian Kitchen will move into the building in the near future and run courses and a cafe/restaurant from it.  This will secure its short to medium term future and help to make the site more secure and accessible to the general and touring public, including RACT members.

One wing of the Barracks building has also been prepared for commercial or community use, so that the gradual re-occupation of the site can be rolled out going forward.  In tandem with this economic focus we, in tandem with landscape architects Inspiring Place, have re-presented the heart of the Willow Court site so that it is capable of taking its rightful place as a destination of heritage and tourism significance and has the built infrastructure to do so.

Yours sincerely, Peter Scott FRAIA, Director Xsquared Architects