Duo Lead Refurbishment of Landmark Leeds Office Block They Built Thirty Years Ago

Two construction professionals from Willmott Dixon Interiors are leading the refurbishment of a landmark West Yorkshire office building they helped to construct more than 30 years ago.

Senior build manager, Brian Cole, and his colleague, build manager, Stephen Smith, were part of the original team that delivered Quarry House, a ten-storey building in Leeds city centre.

The pair are now spearheading Willmott Dixon Interiors’ CAT B fit-out and refurbishment of more than 90,000 sq ft of commercial office space at the building on Quarry Hill – the first time it has been refurbished since it officially opened in July 1993.

Former joiner, Brian Cole aged 54, moved to Yorkshire from South Wales in the late 1980s and was recruited by local firm, GF Joinery to work on the original Quarry House build. He has been based in the region ever since.

He said: “It was like stepping back in time when I re-entered the building, although I still couldn’t find my way around it! I was just starting out on my career when Quarry House was first built. I remember it being cold and the ground outside was boggy but it was one of the few construction sites where the facilities were good.

“At the time, Quarry House was one of the largest government buildings to have been built since the Second World War and was designed to entice people out of London. It had a really impressive main entrance, with lots of amenities.”

Quarry House provided new headquarters for a government ministry and cost £85 million to build – equivalent to c.£190 million today.

It housed 2,500 staff and boasted its own hairdressers, nursery and dentists, as well as a gymnasium and tranquil gardens. Visitors were greeted by a specially-woven water theme carpet in the foyer and could access facilities including a luxury swimming pool and bar.

Stephen Smith, a 65-year-old former roofer from Sheffield, describes the building as an “impressive place” and recalls its multi-levelled gardens. He also carried out maintenance work on the duplex housing estate that occupied the site prior to Quarry House – one of the first projects in his near 50-year career in construction.

“I worked on the original estate which was demolished in the 1980s. I didn’t realise quite what Quarry House was going to be used for at the time and I never got to see the finished article as we’d completed our part of the project before Brian arrived to work on the interiors.”

Willmott Dixon Interiors was appointed to fit-out and refurbish 64,583 sq ft of commercial office space on level two of Quarry House in 2018. The contractor delivered modern and collaborative work space on a single-level, large floor plate, providing office accommodation for 800 government employees.

It is currently working on two additional projects to upgrade c.12,000 sq ft of commercial office space on level eight of the building and a further c.14,000 sq ft on level seven.

Willmott Dixon Interiors’ project team has secured a national Considerate Constructors Scheme Award for the quality of its delivery and Brian Cole was recognised as a finalist at the CIOB Construction Manager of the Year Awards for his personal contribution.

Brian and Stephen have helped to deliver several of the biggest construction projects in Leeds in the last three decades, including Leeds Station, Trinity Shopping Centre, the Prudential Assurance Building and Leeds Magistrates Court.

The refurbishment of Quarry House will be Stephen’s last construction project, as he is set to retire in April 2023.

He said: “Leeds is a booming city and although Quarry House no longer dominates the skyline like it once did, it’s still an important building. This project has taken on added significance since the pandemic. It’s all about delivering a safe space for people to come back to work in, with a light, open and user friendly environment. It’s been a real privilege to come back here and have the opportunity to give the building a new lease of life that will hopefully last for another 30 years to come.”  

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