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Reimaging a brutalist classic

Nick Myall
Wednesday 25 Jul 2018

The regeneration of the Grade II listed Park Hill estate in the UK continues as Sheffield City Council grants permission for Phase 3 of the redevelopment by specialist student accommodation developer Alumno

For many years the Park Hill high-rise council estate in Sheffield, UK, divided opinion. Many saw it as an ugly rundown eyesore while others thought it as a brutalist gem. It was typical of several brutalist concrete structures that were threatened with the ‘wrecking ball’, with some calling for preservation and others calling for demolition. It was built between 1957 and 1961, and thankfully in 1998 was given Grade II listed building status. Now following a period of decline, the estate is being renovated by developers Urban Splash. The renovation was one of the six short-listed projects for the 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize. 

The estate’s transformation has now taken another step forward. Following planning submission in early May, Sheffield City Council has granted planning permission for Phase 3 proposals for 70 units to accommodate 356 student residents, alongside new commercial space for shops, cafes or a gym. 

The accommodation has been designed around groups of four and eight bedrooms with shared living space in a unique three-storey ‘townhouse’ format. It is expected that Phase 3 will bring investment of around £20 million to Sheffield, with approximately 100 people employed in the delivery (including construction & design). Once occupied, it is anticipated that the student population will bring an additional £2 million per year into the local community.

The proposals were developed by Whittam Cox Architects – the first design practice in the Sheffield City Region to play a key role in the transformation of Park Hill – which will add bespoke student accommodation to the existing mix of residents and businesses currently in Phase 1 and shortly to be joined by Phase 2 starting later this year.  

Alumno will be undertaking a thorough refurbishment using a conservation-led approach to preserve the historic character of the building, including the numerous mosaic panels across the block, which have inspired the colour scheme. The proposals add a distinct yet complementary neighbourhood to Park Hill that builds on the work Urban Splash has already done in giving Park Hill a new lease of life.

In line with the views expressed by the local community, Alumno expects the development to be ready for occupation by the start of the 2020/21 academic year. Alumno will also work closely with Urban Splash to progress securing occupiers for the commercial space.

Councillor Jack Scott, Cabinet Member for Transport and Development at Sheffield City Council, said: “Park Hill is quite simply one of the most iconic places to be in Sheffield, and can hold its own with any architectural landmark in the whole of Europe. These phased plans are a further sign of progress and confidence in the area, which is now thriving with an active community with regular events, a new cafe, businesses and the home of S1 Artspace who attract visitors from all over the city with their ongoing exhibition and events programme. 

“Students are going to love living in Park Hill and will benefit from living at one of the best known addresses in the UK. It is great news for the city that our planning committee is backing the ongoing regeneration and seeing it towards completion in a few years’ time.”

David Campbell, managing director at Alumno commented: “This is great news, and marks a significant milestone in the regeneration of Park Hill. We are very grateful for the support of our partners Sheffield City Council and Urban Splash as we reach this important point. This is an iconic site with international significance – forming a crucial part of Sheffield’s past, present and future – and will be one of our most important projects to date. Our plans will bring new life and vibrancy to this Grade II* listed estate delivering on both ours and our partner’s placemaking objectives.”

Mark Latham, Regeneration Director Urban Splash, added: “We’re delighted to see the plans for Park Hill take another massive step forward and look forward to working closely with Alumno and their team. The vision for Park Hill was to create a new and mixed community that reflected the city’s make up and therefore it is right that students should be part of it.”

Nick Riley, Board Director at Whittam Cox Architects, said, “We have worked incredibly hard to understand the deep roots of the original design which is clearly very unique in architectural character. Our designs retain and celebrate all of the important elements of the original scheme, while respectfully adding new layers of identity and design thinking to create three-storey townhouses for student residents, using the famous ‘streets in the sky’ of course. We are particularly proud to be associated with Park Hill as we are a local practice; this building is culturally and physically an intrinsic part of Sheffield for many people, so being part of realising its next chapter is hugely important to us.” 

Nick Myall

News editor

Key Facts:

Residential
Architecture
United Kingdom

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