Lower Bristol Road, Bath

We were commissioned to look at the reuse of the Grade II former Bath Cabinet Makers building, situated off the Lower Bristol Road which is one of the main arterial routes in to Bath City centre. The existing building has been unoccupied for some time and is suffering from vandalism and neglect. The project sought to give the building a new lease of life and make full use of the flexible building plan which sees the inclusion of a Lidl food store in part of the building and a number of retail units in the remainder.

The proposed refurbishment of the BCM building will act as a catalyst for local
regeneration, whilst it will resurrect a vacant and tired building of historical importance. The refurbished shell will also act as a focus to the Lower Bristol Road, one of the main arterial routes in the city of Bath.

The single storey factory building built for Bath Cabinet Makers (BCM) as an extension to their early 20th Century multi-storey brick factory building (now demolished) commenced on site on 8 August 1966 and finished on 17 July 1967 (Industrial Architecture). Its architects were York, Rosenberg and Mardall (YRM) its structural engineer C J Pell and Partners, it M & E engineers Zisman Bowyer and Partners, and its contractors Stone and Company (Bristol) Ltd.

The building was designed effectively to provide a single open space of 5,295 sq.m (57,000 sq ft) with a footprint of 43.9x131m (144 x 430 ft). This rectangular flat roofed box fronts onto Bath’s Lower Bristol Road, one of the main western approaches to the City, separated by a strip of a few metres of grass, including a number of silver birch trees.

The YRM factory at Bath was widely reported in the construction press at the time, being featured in articles in the Architect’s Journal, Building, the Architectural Review, the Journal of Industrial Architecture and various overseas publications. An article in the Consulting Engineer of February 1967 describes the Bath Cabinet Makers Building as the first use of the Mero Space Frame in the United Kingdom.

The structural space frame involves a large number of relatively small components and acts effectively as a composite multi member truss in all directions at the same time. This gives it considerable strength since point loads upon it are spread across a large number of members, reducing the excessive local concentrations of stress. Space frames have the virtue that their large space to structure ratio creates plenty of room for services to be spread within their height.

The Mero firm still exists on an International basis, although nowadays they are known principally for their experience in designing and proving through computer analysis, elegant and light weight structures of bespoke design, they were, for instance, providers of the structural frame for the Eden Project in Cornwall.

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