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From our friend in York: When a Megazone dies

In the first of this month's series of dispatches from the beautiful and historic city of York, Daniel Benneworth-Gray turns his attention to a whitewashed box.

When I moved to York way back in the 1990s, this rather sorry-looking white shed was home to Megazone, a laser-tag type thing for the entertainment of teenage boys pumped full of Sunny Delight. It looked AMAZING. Of course, the universe being cruel, Megazone was closed shortly before I reached the required level of sugared-uppiness. And it's been that way ever since, a shell, a cruel reminder of frolics left unfrolicked. 

So why is it still standing, taking up a sizeable plot of land in the city centre? It turns out that it has a history that stretches back long before Megazone. Built in 1921, it was first used as a bus shed, but by 1931 it found its true calling: a factory for Airspeed aircraft (later absorbed by the de Havilland Aircraft Company). Perhaps it's because of this important pre-war manufacturing role that it's been saved from the wrecking ball for so long. 

Unfortunately it's not been treated with the same reverence as many of York's prettier historical buildings. It's unloved, crumbling, a patchwork of bricks and boards under a thousand layers of whitewash. It looks like it could fall down at any moment, but it's a stubborn old shed. Just a couple of years ago, it survived being torched, the flames merely adding another few lines to the story told by its craggy face.

And I love it. I never did get to shoot lasers at anyone, but that big hollow shack still holds so much promise. Twentieth century buildings like this don't fit neatly into the tourist trail narrative, but the Reynards Building deserves its place in York. One day soon perhaps it'll find a new use – maybe as a gallery or museum – before it succumbs to either of the twin horrors that usually befall industrial buildings in York: entropy or luxury apartmentisation. 

Reynards Building, Reynards Building, 17–21 Piccadilly, York. 

Keep up with Daniel via twitter and through his various writings here


Posted in Architecture, Daniel Benneworth-Gray, England, UK, York


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