Saturday 6 June 2009

City Planning Dilemma's

I am a country girl at heart, given half a chance I would live by the sea, but I would hate to live in a city for any length of time. However, we find ourselves spending more time in Sheffield lately being as we are The Dancing Queens taxi service. I do think we should take care of our cities and love them a bit more than we seem to do in the UK. Sheffield has suffered a real identity crisis over the past few decades. Gone is the heavy industry and almost all of the cutlery manufacture that it was famous for. One of the most talked about subjects of late has been the strange decision that English Heritage took in adopting Park Hill flats when they became a grade 2 listed building in 1997. (Grade 2 listed puts this building in the top 7% of the most important buildings in the country making it as architecturally and historically significant as the Royal Academy of Art or Harrods. When they were built in the very early 60's it was the most groundbreaking and ambitious inner-city housing project of its day. It was built as social housing and to clear up the post-war slums. At Weston Park Museum, they have a really interesting feature about the flats and video of some of the first occupants who absolutely loved them. However in recent years, they became a big problem and were very run down. I think the grade 2 listing was a shock to almost all Sheffielders who mostly believed that they should be pulled down. Initially I felt that they should be pulled down, but I recently saw a programme on TV that showed what English Heritage wanted to do with this absolutely vast building. I hope that they can pull it off because when all said and done, the building has been part of the city skyline for over 50 years now, but I have to say that their plan looked flawed ie They didn't appear to have a realistic grasp on costs and the very posh bloke from EH seemed to be treating the whole thing as a huge joke. You can read more about the project here: and my photo (which was taken whilst wizzing round a very busy roundabout - I wasn't driving at the time I hasten to add)doesn't show the enormous scale of the building, just the stage that they are at (and have been for a while!!). I was glad when city planners got rid of "The hole in the road" (as featured at the start of the most excellent film "The Full Monty"). The hole in the road started off as an amazing architectural feature of the city, but then became full of drunks and drug users and a bit of a no go area. Instead of dealing with the human problem, they got rid of the hole in the road. Now I wish it was still there. I saw an exhibition recently at the YSP and some eminent Japanese architect (who's name escapes me) had built something very similar in New York for Goldman Sachs. It bothered me that we had something so special here once, and we got rid of it.

Something else that didn't quite go to plan was the "Museum of Popluar Music", however pop music's loss was the Hallam University Student Union gain and it really is a super building (there are 2 of these silver buildings side by side.)

When you alight from the train at Sheffield station, you are greated by poetry on the University building across the road. We really are a civilised and cultural bunch here in the north.

The old town hall is a wonderful building. My kids used to think it was Hogwarts when they were little. This is the side view which faces into the Peace Gardens.

In front of the town hall are stars in the pavement to commemorate Sheffields good and great - we were suprised to discover Gordon Banks was born in Sheffield!

There are some stunning water features in the grounds of the Peace Gardens

A self portrait!!

And finally, the Birthday boy had a great time. He invited 5 of his mates round for hotdogs and I still had to provide party games!!!!! He is a total petrol head and loves cars. His "surprise" is a day out (in about 2 weeks time) to a race track where they will teach him the basics of driving, then let him drive around (with an instructor and dual controls I hope) in an Aston Martin - his favorite car of all time. I hope he treats it with more respect than the go kart!!!


Lalabibaby @ Dreaming of The Simple Life said...

I'm all for progress but when the planners get carried away and take away the character of our towns and cities it is sad. My own town now has a carbuncle of a shopping centre at the heart of it instead of wonderful old buildings that could have been saved with a bit of TLC instead of sending in the bulldozers. Thanks for visiting my blog ..... perhaps I should change my name to Ma Larkin .... I'm sure I had a previous life in somewhere like the Darling Buds or Larkrise :-) Have a good weekend. x

Lx @ Twelve said...

Have just worked out how to follow you, now I can stalk with ease! I wathched that English Heritage program, it was really interesting. Sheffield is such a mix of new & old, redeveloped & neglected. It's such a shame. I love the peace Gardens, & the little ones getting wet in summer under the fountains; it almost feels like another country when you are there... I remember the hole in the road, I used to catch the 240 bus from Bakewell, and go to Sheffield to spend my baby sitting money on a Saturday - those were the days!

Hope your son has a fab time.

Love Lydia

Lisa said...

I missed that programme. I saw the Kings Cross and Kenilworth Castle ones. Some of those EH bods didn't seem to have much of a grip on reality did they?
Happy birthday wishes to the birthday boy. That cake loves scrummy!
Lisa x

Julia said...

I know what you mean about those flats - Ive got a love/hate relationship with them...I like them because they have a certain nostalgia (and my very own Dad lived there as a lad for a bit) - but I dont like them design-wise, they just dont do it for me and I guess its a bit like the old cooling towers debate isnt it - they're always going to be the cause of some grand debates!

I didnt see the program, but hopefully they'll pull something successful off. I think the city has some lovely parts to it now, but like you I kind of miss the hole in the road, specially the fish tank with the huge fish swimming about in murky green water...remember them?

Love J xxx

Rosie said...

I did intend to watch those programmes but in the end only saw the one on Apethorpe Hall. I hope they do something positive with the buildings if they have to be preserved I suppose they are pioneering projects and of their time. I remembr the hole in the road:) Sheffield has preserved a lot more of its architectural heritage than Stoke has! At the moment they are pulling down rows and rows of lovely victorian terraces and just leaving waste land - not good.

Twiggy said...

Hi Diane
Thanks for dropping by my blog. although I'm really not a city gal, we do have some beautiful cities don't we? I love to look up at the architecture above the horrid shop facades. If only every city was as well looked after as places like Leeds which I think is looking fab these days.
Twiggy x

Summer by the sea said...

Great post Diane - When I went back to Sheffield last month for my grans funeral I was shocked at how much had changed in Sheffield in such a short space of time, especially coming out of the station - I hardly knew where I was! - We were also there in April for my sisters birthdays and had a nice night out in Leopold square - which was strange - It used to be the offices for the Education Department where I worked from 1995 - 2000 - When I was stood in one of the bars, I worked out that it was roughly where my desk used to be - wierd! - I also remember the hole in the road and
can't wait to see what they do with Park Hill Flats - Its just a shell now isn't it - anyway, thanks so much for pointing me in the direction of your blog - I'll definitely be following you! - love Natalie x