Eagle Mill, Phase 1.

Architecturally sensitive adaptive re-use and restoration of Scotland's oldest jute Mill to form a community focussed, mixed use development. 

Project – Eagle Mill Phase 1. Major historic adaptive re-use

Client – Eagle Mill Capital Ltd.

Contract Value – circa £3.5m

Description

The Eagle Mills were, and still are, an important part of Dundee’s history and cultural heritage. When we were initially approached by a long standing client of ours to look at the site, we were already aware of the mill’s significance, being at the heart of Dundee’s jute heritage for a century and a half.


Further research showed that the structure was built in 1864 to house the pattern shop for Baxter Brothers Foundry where Baxters’ own machinery and structural work was manufactured. The building also has a Category B Listing, which includes a number of internal features as well as the primary Victoria Street façade. 

At its height the Baxter family business employed 5,000 people in Dundee. Sir David Baxter, who steered the company through its heyday, built tenements to house employees and, with his sisters, gifted 36 acres of “pleasure ground”, now Baxter Park, to the city.Unfortunately after the decline of the Jute industry in the 1970’s the building had lain vacant for decades, with the fabric beginning to fall into serious disrepair.

 

The Eagle Mills were then placed on the Buildings at Risk Register. We were involved in the project from the initial feasibility stage, working with the client to establish different options for its redevelopment. Key to the project was establishing viable future uses for the building to enable its restoration and protection for the future – whilst remaining economically viable for the developer. All of the design team and the client were keen that the project had a mix of future uses, all of which would help the buildings integrate fully into the local community. We felt that this was key to the ongoing success of the project and the safeguarding of an important historic asset.  

 

From the outset of this project we were keen to take the lightest touch as possible, to retain as much of existing buildings heritage and character as physically feasible whilst meeting current Building Standards regulations.The scheme comprises a mixed use adaptive-reuse of 34 residential apartments, a nursery school, bakery and coffee shop and a new fabrication unit to house a long-term industrial tenant. After looking through design options for residential accommodation we found that the existing structural grid and bay divisions, combined with the high ceilings and large windows could provide excellent characterful and high-quality homes, without the need for excessively extensive structural or remodelling works to the historic structure.

 

Other key moves included the formation of a new link vennel from Brown Constable Street to a new garden following the demolition of the northern section of the site, while restoring key elements such as the Victoria Street façade.The light touch approach was continued with the primary frontage remaining largely unaltered with the addition only of conservation windows to replace original roof lights in line with photovoltaic panels – analogous to horizontal strip rooflights traditionally used in mill architecture. We were able to design innovative mezzanine type ‘loft’ style apartments on the top floor level, each with its own distinctive character and original mill features retained.

 

As part of the project we worked in tandem with Dundee City Council’s Public Art officer, to generate a ‘historic garden’ for residents of both the mill and visitors to the area. We came up with a strategy to curate many of the found elements within the structure in this area, to provide a historical reading of the site.   At the end of 2018 the project was awarded full Planning Permission, with the Planners commenting that our proposals would successfully ‘preserve the character and setting’ of the former industrial complex. With the departure of the Tayside Plumbing entity to the south East of the site, we are excited to now be working with the client on the initial stages of phase 2 of the development.

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