Sheffield Civic Trust Feedback
in response to the consultation on Sheffield’s Heart of the City 2, Block B & C
Sheffield Civic Trust (SCT) thanks Queensbury, Counter Context and the design team at Leonard Design, for presenting the current proposals for The Heart of the City 2 to the membership.
The Trust recognises how the briefing from Sheffield City Council has resulted in the retention of much loved heritage buildings, despite their non designated status. The City Council’s vision in acting as client and driving the brief to the benefit of the city is welcomed.
SCT support the scheme especially on the following aspects;
– the horizontal mix of use i.e. retail at street level with apartments and offices at the upper levels
– access to upper floors with entrances from the street
– the block by block, phased approach outlined in the presentation
– the focus on a mix of uses that the current market is not supporting i.e. 2/3 bedroom apartments with quality external space rather than student housing.
– retention of the existing street pattern
– high-quality public space, that continues the approach taken throughout the city centre
– proposed historic façade retention.
Detailed design comments
Whilst the façade retention is welcomed, the gridded façade ‘folding’ into the existing pitched roof of the existing building (Laycock House) was considered awkward in some members’ minds. As this is a prominent corner, a more sensitive design solution should be considered.
The architectural treatment of corners of both blocks on to the new ‘5 ways’ are a great opportunity for the designers. Seven Dials in London’s Covent Garden was raised as a good precedent for the design. It was felt that the opportunity to mark this significant meeting of streets has been missed in the current design.
It was felt that the glazing proportions proposed within the new buildings should respect the order and hierarchy of the existing street facades more closely. Fenestration which denotes a top, middle and bottom may be more successful. The tendency towards expressing the top of the buildings in ‘zinc hats’ should be avoided, given their prevalence in speculative schemes over the last decade. The proposal for vertical stripes at the top of Laycock House currently give the appearance of cladding, similar to that used recently on a prominent car park in the city. Higher quality materials and detailing rather than the cladding shown are felt to be more appropriate. For instance the larger duplex units that top Block B could be
expressed whilst retaining the materials and architectural language of the rest of the block.
The servicing of the retail units from pedestrianised roads rather than a dedicated service yard is welcomed but will require careful management. This could ensure the strategy to reduce traffic congestion works, by encouraging workers to linger in the city centre after work.
The current approach of developing the Heart of the City 2 block by block has great potential for a rich and diverse mix of architecture uses and streets in the heart of our city. This richness is emerging in the
public realm, which looks both complex and exciting and is all about Sheffield.. The retention of historic facades will reinforce this diversity and local identity. However of concern is the emerging similarity in the building designs to date. The architectural expression of grids and cladding now emerging on the HSBC building is to be repeated on Blocks B&C. This reinforces the Trust’s belief that a more diverse range of designers should be employed to tie the scheme better to its context.
For future plots, we would welcome a commitment from SCC to promote more variation and design quality by committing to either design competitions or a diverse mix of designers/architects for each plot .
This approach was adopted at Liverpool One and has resulted in a wide range of architecture which enhances the experience of the city. Liverpool One avoids any uniformity or blandness in favour of a rich sequence of spaces and buildings which knit the development into the city – We do not want the blandness of Meadowhall transplanted into our city. We do want a more distinctive, new heart to our city that says ‘Sheffield!’
We hope that Sheffield City Council will consider supporting local suppliers in the awarding of the construction contracts, and proactively implement the Social Value Act, by considering inclusion of local labour clauses as appropriate when commissioning the development.
Whilst the aim for high quality city centre living with a range of types of dwelling is laudable, the City Council should have a long-term plan for a range of ownership, to avoid gentrification that precludes a fair and equitable city centre for its citizens.
We look forward to seeing the planning application in due course, and to engaging with the relevant parties as the Heart of the City 2 scheme goes forward.
Chair Sheffield Civic Trust
on behalf of the Trustees.