Instead of tearing down Sheffield's massive and slum-like Park Hill housing project, developer Urban Splash, architects Hawkins/Brown and Studio Egret began renovating and regenerating it into a bright and cheerful new complex. Originally completed in 1961, the 32-acre estate project had 995 apartments and was hailed as a great post-war slum clearing development, but it was not as revolutionary as expected and fell into decline. Renovations, which began on the multi-block complex in 2008, will open up the apartments up for greater access to daylight and convert the ground floors to commercial and office space in an attempt to enliven the development.
Plans for Park Hill began in the 1940s when Sheffield was desperately in need of housing after the war, but construction did not commence until 1957 and was not completed until 1961. The project, which was designed by Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith, was praised for its modern building techniques, great space standards, an integrated district heating system, and its famous ʻstreets in the sky,ʼ which aimed to recreate the community spirit of traditional streets within a high rise development. The brutalist work was at first very popular, but over time people moved on and out and the development became dilapidated and run down.
Still, the project had good bones and in 1998, it became a listed building making it the largest listed structure in Europe and prime for redevelopment. Urban Splash took on the daunting task of transforming the modernist structure into one that would meet the sensibilities and ideals of the 21st century. The original project though was intelligently and efficiently designed featuring natural ventilation, a district heating system, a private balcony for each flat, south or west facing living spaces to take advantage of the sun and of course the innovative ‘streets in the sky’.
Currently only a portion of the renovation has been completed on the massive project and it is not expected to be complete until 2012 or 2013. Upgrades to the North Block building include replacing the brick work with colorful anodized aluminum panels, upgrading and refinishing some of the concrete, and adding more windows to both the north facades and to the ‘streets’ to increase daylighting. The bottom floors have been converted from flats into commercial and office space with the intent to invigorate the space and draw more people to the project, which is located directly to the east of the city center on a prominent hill. While some Sheffield residents admire the project for its architecture and original scheme, others think of it as an eyesore – hopefully, the regeneration will change their minds. Show flats are now available to the public for viewing and apartment sales began in October, but residents will not be able to move in until September of 2012.
Images ©Keith Collie, Daniel Hopkinson, Peter Bennet and Hawkins/Brown