YTL Arena Bristol A Retrofirst Solution   

The birthplace of Concorde is set to become a new live entertainment complex for Bristol.

By repurposing the Brabazon hangars into a 17,080-capacity arena, exhibition hall, food, drink and leisure space, Bristol’s aviation legacy will continue to live on through the YTL Arena Complex.

A campaign launched by Architects Journal called ‘Retrofirst’ urges developers to prioritise retrofit over demolition and rebuild. Retrofitting saves iconic buildings from demolition and reuses materials that typically produce high levels of carbon emissions in production, such as steel and cement. By preserving the Brabazon hangars, 18,600 tonnes of CO2 will be saved, along with the creation and transportation of 21,400m³ concrete and the manufacture, transport and assembly of 4000 tonnes of steel.

Managing Director of YTL Arena Complex, Andrew Billingham said: ’The complex will breathe new life into a historic space, preserving an important part of Bristol’s heritage for a new generation to enjoy and ensuring that our building is sustainable.’ 

Our designs to repurpose the Brabazon hangars were well received by members of a Bristol City Council planning committee, who approved our planning application on 4 March 2020.

Councillor Fabian Breckels said:

"This is a very Bristol solution to providing an arena because we're repurposing an existing building, we're preserving a bit of Bristol heritage and reusing it. Everyone else is just building arenas from scratch or replacing ones they already have. I think this is something we really need to embrace."

Some of Bristol’s most beloved buildings are great examples of how retrofitting can preserve and revive historic venues. The W. D. & H. O. Wills tobacco factory site on Raleigh Road was saved from demolition by the architect and former Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson. The Tobacco Factory is now a multi-use building which houses animation and performing arts school, loft-style apartments, a café bar, offices and a theatre.

Bristol City Council and Lab Architecture Studio restored and repurposed a two-storey, steel-framed structure on Prince’s Wharf into M Shed, a museum that celebrates the history of Bristol. The museum contains three large galleries, education rooms, a working train shed, space for volunteers and a new events and conferencing facility.

Bristol continues to embrace this style of development, with the team behind popular nightclub Motion announcing plans to repurpose a warehouse in Easton into a multi-use venue. The 4,000-capacity event space will host a mix of conferences, exhibitions and live music if granted planning approval from Bristol City Council. London’s Printworks has been cited as a source of inspiration for the plans, once the largest printing factory in Western Europe, now a 5,000-capacity space for international music events.