Park Hill Estate Sheffield – Architects Jack Lynn & Ivor Smith
TEXT: So, we just get the banks to pay these claims. Perpetuate the madness?” “Yes, we can’t let consumerism fall, it keeps them happy, their aspirations can carry on. And our money will continue to come in. It’s like they have won the lottery. They get something back…you know?” “But…the banks, surely they won’t want to lose..” “Good grief, they make more money than you can imagine. They want to maintain this way of living. Sure, it got out of control but, you have to try and get it back. They will pay whatever it takes to maintain this way. Bonus’ depend on it for gods sake. They have to try”. “But what if it all collapses?” “We have to take that risk. If we do nothing it will all be lost anyway. So we put money into the pockets of the big spenders. They feel like they have been through a recession. In a few years they will loosen their belts and all of this, all of this money, it will be back in our hands, I assure you of that.”
Park Hill was opened in 1961, and replaced the ‘slum terraces’ with ‘streets in the sky’. While it was a conceptual and futuristic place, the estate actually drew ideas from traditional social requirements such as communal areas, pubs, schools, shops, and even walkways you could drive a milk float down. A popular place to live initially, within a couple of decades it had become run down, dangerous and was abandoned as a dated, failed experiment.
Repetitions and patterns with slight changes have always interested me, musically as well as visually, I guess it makes things more human, easier to access, slight imperfections that give you an imposed empathy.
The largest listed structure in Europe, Park Hill has recently undergone redevelopment to preserve it’s original features while adapting the original concept to meet modern living ideals. These photos were taken prior to this vast investment, and it was an unusual and silent place to explore. At the time, a few people were still living in several of the flats while the majority were abandoned husks. An imposing, futuristic and iconic place which overlooks Sheffield, it became run down like many similar estates across the country that have long been demolished. I’m glad this one has been preserved, from an architectural interest and social history point of view, but also with the ever expanding population in the UK we may need to look back at this way of living and try to learn if it can work. It was a period of invention and exploration of human habitat that shouldn’t be forgotten.