York’s modern architecture focus of new book from tour guide inspired by 20th century


But for architect John Brooke Fieldhouse, it is the more modern – and often unsung – treasures of York’s skyline that provide the most intrigue.

And those pockets of modern architecture with their own stories to tell are now being marked with a new book designed to draw attention from residents and visitors alike.

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It’s the hodge-podge nature of York’s architecture which inspires Mr Brooke Fieldhouse, 70, himself a former pupil of Bootham School.

Mr Brooke Fieldhouse runs tours of the city centre where he also shows visitors the City Screen cinema, which is partially housed in the old Yorkshire Herald offices just off Coney Street, York’s main shopping thoroughfare.

“One age or era is joined to another by a kind of invisible glue. Buildings aren’t library books, you can’t put them on different shelves, they have to coexist,” he says.

“For instance if you stand in the north east part of the Museum Gardens you can see six different architectural eras and styles all at the same time.

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Key elements of the city centre which marry the old with the new include the Theatre Royal, which combines an 18th century auditorium with a modern foyer which opened in 2016 as part of a major refurbishment project.

Mr Brooke Fieldhouse runs tours of the city centre where he also shows visitors the City Screen cinema, which is partially housed in the old Yorkshire Herald offices just off Coney Street, York’s main shopping thoroughfare.

While he has been inspired by many of the great thinkers of design associated with York – including Lord Esher, whose report more than 50 years ago provided a blueprint for the heavily pedestrianised centre of today – Mr Brooke Fieldhouse is somewhat pessimistic about the future of the city’s landscape., particularly the impacts of climate change.

He says: “My book shows many examples of ‘intervention’ – basically adding to and taking away, with an emphasis on what folk now refer to as “repurposing”, but there are many other exciting ways forward on this.

“Many architects around the world are now addressing a need to dramatically reduce global warming. York has a tradition of conservation, preservation, and restoration. That alone isn’t good enough.

“It’s just not possible for a city to stay still, it either develops or it regresses, that’s it. Preserving in aspic isn’t on the menu.

“My greatest fear is that York will not only become somewhere one goes to discover the past, but becomes a place which has been consigned to the past, stuck, somewhere in the late twentieth century.”

Architecture York: Twentieth Century Plus is available now.



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