Following the Mass Housing events at Edinburgh College of Art last Thursday, featuring some great talks about the former Eastern bloc, I took a trip on Friday down to Sheffield to spend a day at the Site Gallery themed around Brutalist architecture. The day began with a fantastic tour around Park Hill Estate led by members of Sheffield Civic Society where we got the opportunity to see the on-going renovations being carried out by Urban Splash.
I studied Geography as an undergraduate at Sheffield University about 10 years ago and Park Hill always loomed large when arriving into the train station. Despite being such a Sheffield architectural icon I never actually bothered to take a closer look. It’s fair to say I was more interested in Jarvis Cocker than post-war architecture back then. So it was with great interest that I recently read Owen Hatherley’s Uncommon, where he combines discussion one of my favourite bands (Pulp) with insights into Sheffield’s post-war urbanism. I recommend.
Hatherley was one of the speakers at the Site gallery along with Jane Rendell, Steve Pile, and a bunch of artists, who had been part of a project curated by artist and lecturer Julie Westerman. Entitled ‘Brutalist Speculations and Flights of Fancy’, the aim of the project was to gather creative reflections and responses to selected examples of Sheffield’s Brutalist built heritage. The outcome of the project was a book that features written and artistic responses to the sites. Discussions from the day provided a lot to think about. Though the elusive answer as to why people have been getting more interested in Modernism again remained unanswered. Places like Park Hill provide the necessary focus for such discussions to take place.