Park Hill Flats, Sheffield
‘Streets in the sky’, Sheffield’s visionary post-war housing
The flats at Park Hill were built as part of a post-war housing project throughout Sheffield. Park Hill was one of several ‘streets in the sky’ schemes which sought to solve the problem of the growing post-war population in Sheffield.
The Park Hill development replaced slum housing that was known as ‘Little Chicago’. The slums were demolished due to poor sanitation and were said to be a hub of violent crimes.
The design of Park Hill was inspired by Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Marseille and was designed by architects Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith under the supervision of Sheffield Council’s J. L. Womersley. Construction began in 1957 and was completed by 1961.
The flats were called ‘streets in the sky’ as the decks were three meter wide, wide enough for cars to pass through. The streets were free from traffic, apart from the milk float, and were wide enough to encourage neighbourly interaction. There was a whole community for residents which included a pub, shops, school, health centre, dentist and social club.
By the 1980s, Park Hill and the other 1960s developments had gained somewhat of a reputation. The flats were blamed for rising crime and a lack of maintenance had left the buildings in a bad way. Whilst many of the other developments have been demolished, Park Hill was given a Grade II Listing in 1998, making it the largest listed building in Europe. In 2009, Urban Splash in partnership with English Heritage began work on renovating Park Hill.
If you visit central Sheffield, you can not miss the Brutalist concrete structure that towers above the train station. Locals have mixed feelings regarding Park Hill. Many love them and think that they are an important part of the identity of the city. On the other hand, many residents think that they are an eyesore and should have been torn down and replaced with something else. I personally can not imagine Sheffield without Park Hill.
As of 2021, the flats are still undergoing refurbishment, with phase 2 of the works underway.
There is a short video of the flats that can be viewed here.