AHF grant for former Bradford department store

The AHF is pleased to announce that it has awarded a Project Viability Grant of £5,000 to Freedom Studios Ltd. The grant will fund a viability study to investigate the reuse of a former high street department store in Bradford as a multi-use cultural hub.

Located on Sunbridge Road, Sunwin House is a Grade II listed former Co-operative Emporium. It was built in 1935-6 and was designed by WA Johnson of CWS for the City of Bradford Co-operative Society. The store was built in the International Modernist style and heavily influenced by the German architect Erich Mendelsohn, such as his design of the Sckoken store in Stuttgart (1928). This was an early and influential example of the open store principle, with lifts and stairs tucked around the edges of the shopping area and it also had the first escalators to be installed anywhere in a Co-op store. Its unaltered appearance, both externally and internally, is extremely rare.

The building has unfortunately stood empty for a decade, testament to the demise of various department stores and the shift in retail trends away from town and city high streets. Freedom Studios Ltd, a contemporary theatre company, has grasped the opportunity presented by this landmark building and brought together a partnership of other local organisations to investigate the building’s reuse. The proposals envisage the co-location of a number of significant cultural organisations in the building, offering training, accommodation, social and performance spaces all in one place.

Alex Chisholm, Co-Artistic Director of Freedom Studios commented: “We are thrilled that the AHF has shared our vision and belief in the future development of Sunwin House and its potential impact on Bradford. The partners [Freedom Studios, Impressions Gallery, BCB Radio, East Street Arts, and Yeme Architects] are passionate about bringing this iconic building back to life for Bradford, and the AHF has given us that vital first support to do so.”

Matthew McKeague, CEO of the AHF, recently visited the building and met some of the partners behind the project: “Sunwin House is an impressive building, which retains many of its original, high quality features. It represents the challenges facing many similar stores and shops - but equally an opportunity for the likes of Freedom Studios and its partners to reimagine what we want from these buildings and what we want our city and town centres to provide for us. This grant will help support the development of their exciting plans.”

Editor’s notes

1) The Architectural Heritage Fund is a registered charity, working since 1976 to promote the conservation and sustainable re-use of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas. We are the leading heritage social investor and the only specialist heritage lender operating in the UK. We provide advice, development grants and loans.

2) Funding for this project was generously provided under the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s ‘Community Enterprise through Heritage’ programme.

3) For press enquiries please contact Oliver Brodrick Ward, on 020 79250199 / oliver.brodrick-ward@ahfund.org.uk