Redeveloping an industrial heritage site for modern living

Brandon Yard

Location Bristol
Client Acorn Property
Awards Bristol Civic Society Design Award Winner 2021 / Bristol Property Awards 2019 Winner - Residential Development Award / RESI Awards 2018 Highly Commended - Development of the Year

A brief history

The site had been abandoned for nearly 40 years and contained the ruins of two Grade-II listed buildings, West Purifier House and Engine House.

AWW had previously designed and delivered sister project Purifier House and the Boathouse next door, making Brandon Yard the last piece of the regeneration jigsaw for this part of the city’s Floating Harbour.

Project vision

The aim was to breathe new life into the Grade II listed buildings and to create individual modern living spaces which encapsulate the industrial history of the site, which lies opposite the SS Great Britain.

What we achieved

This sensitive regeneration of the former gasworks site has delivered 58 one, two and three bedroom, stylish and sustainable apartments.

As well as ensuring the sympathetic restoration and conservation of the listed buildings, the project incorporates a new residential building and significant improvements to the surrounding public realm.

The works at Engine House include the retention of the chimney, a notable feature of the site. The impact of the lighter, more contemporary aesthetic enables the heritage buildings to stand out.

Delivering the design

We were selected for this project because of our experience in converting and renovating heritage industrial buildings and our design skills in creating attractive contemporary apartments.

The new apartment building, Retort House, enjoys generous areas of glazing facing onto the courtyard, harbour facing balconies, terraces and a sleek floating roof. The carefully selected materials of brick, stone, glass, zinc and aluminium provide a palette which complements the monumental quality of the old stonework.

Named after the magnificent circular windows, much of the external structure of Oculus House (the former West Purifier House) dates from the 19th century. AWW’s modern intervention of a long, glazed roof gallery offers dramatic contrast between lightness and strength.

The Engine House has been converted into two superb houses that conserve much of the original brickwork.


The historic buildings have had full replacement of double glazed windows and a significant depth of insulation to the walls, making them very energy efficient. The new build Retort House also has the benefit of enhanced U-values to the external walls, while photovoltaic panels are fitted to the flat roof.

User experience

The courtyard provides a social and recreational space for residents. The banding pattern is carried through into the distribution of hard and soft landscaping, with areas of planting providing structure, variety and texture. Benches for public use have been installed, providing places to sit and enjoy views across the Floating Harbour.

Adding value in the community

This project has created significant financial investment in the Bristol area. Through the Community Infrastructure Levy, the Brandon Yard scheme contributed £519,000. These payments will help fund infrastructure, facilities and services such as schools or transport improvements. An off-site affordable housing contribution of over £398,000 has also been made.

Within Brandon Yard, an attractive communal landscaped courtyard has been designed. This not only offers residents a place to relax, but also opens up the harbourside walkway, enhancing the area overall.

Overcoming challenges

The listed structures onsite today - Purifier House, Engine House and the Boundary Wall along Gasworks Lane and Lime Kiln Road - were constructed some 200 years ago in the early part of the 19th century. Having stood derelict for over 40 years, these buildings were in desperate need of rescuing from final dilapidation and collapse.

Working closely with design team members Architectural Stone, we were able to ensure the best possible solution was

implemented to protect and retain the original building. Samples of stones were brought to site and trial areas created to consider suitability within the historical fabric.

Additional constraints on the design included providing flood protection measures for the listed structures as well as the new build. This involved conducting extensive repairs and patching of the original stonework, restoring rather than replacing worn-out or damaged historical elements.


View across the Floating Harbour showing Retort House sitting comfortably alongside the restored historic buildings.

Historic Purifier building

The restored historic Purifier building is complete with new double glazed windows. The continuous dormer allows full utilisation of the roof space as well as affording spectacular views

“It is wonderful to witness the completed development of this neglected site and to see the new build Retort House sitting comfortably alongside the historic buildings. We are also proud that this fantastic regeneration has been recognised with a number of awards."

Philip Bevan, Director


View from landscaped courtyard of Oculus House, the restored historic Purifier building. Full utilisation of the roof space was made possible by the addition of the glazed gallery.


View from the resurfaced harbourside walkway, highlighting the use of the low boundary wall and the planting which maximises views both into and out of the courtyard.

“It’s good to see the area being regenerated. Construction works such as Brandon Yard can bring a real economic benefit to the city as well as helping new people and young people find jobs in the construction industry.”

Lord Mayor of Bristol, Councillor Cleo Lake


South and East elevations of the redeveloped historic Purifier building.

Site plan

Diagramatic site layout showing the juxtaposition of the new building, Retort House, alongside the existing building footprints. Adding a lower element to partially infill the gap between the two main elements helped shield the courtyard from the North and maximised the views to the harbourside

Massing view

3D sketch of the development showing the form and massing of the new Retort House amongst the historic buildings.