streets in the sky

Last weekend I took myself off on a little mini adventure.

Park Hill is a 1960s council estate looming over Sheffield train station. It was built to replace slum housing, and at the time I believe was pretty popular with people wanting to move in. The flats were clean and modern, those bridges in the picture are ‘streets in the sky’, wide enough to carry a milk float. There was a big grassy area in the middle of the flats were children could play.

When I first came to Sheffield, I found myself in the town planning department at the university, and our first assignment was a brief project about Park Hill. It’s got quite an interesting history, and became a Grade II* listed building in 1998, and the controversy about that still rages. It’s not pretty, but listing of buildings isn’t based on prettiness, despite what some folk think, and Park Hill is a fine example of Brutalist architecture (apparently) and therefore worthy of preservation.

There’s plenty of people who would happily see the whole complex demolished, but now it’s listed, that’s not possible, and it’s currently being redeveloped, having become rather run down and not a very nice place to live.

The redevelopment isn’t finished yet, but there’s show flats open, and an exhibition of modernist art in a couple of them. I must confess to having no interest at all in modernist art, but I was absolutely up for a nosy round the flats…

The exhibition is on the top floor, the twelfth, and there’s a rather fabulous transparent lift that takes you up with a view over the city centre.

You can see how we’re nestled in among the hills here. I do love being up high, watching the city below.

The flats themselves aren’t big – you can see pictures of them on the Urban Splash website. They’re very light and airy though, with a whole wall of windows in both the living room and bedroom, and the one I was in had a balcony at the front too. You can see the difference between the original flats and the redeveloped ones.

Can you imagine sitting and looking out at that sky while you were eating your breakfast? (You can just about see my house right on the very top of that hill to the left…)

I must confess to being quite taken with the flats themselves. They’re so far removed from anywhere else I’ve ever lived, really not the kind of thing I’d usually go for (there’s no room for growing stuff for a start), but I loved the airiness of them. If I *had* to live in one, I wouldn’t complain.

I rather enjoyed my little trip up into the streets in the sky. It didn’t involve any tea or cake – not at all like my usual kinds of adventures. But one of the things I wanted to do when I started this cheery little blog was get to know my local area a bit better, and since I see these flats every time I get on a train (which is pretty often), I’m glad I took the opportunity to go and have a nosy round.

I didn’t go back down in the lift, I took the winding outdoor staircase so I could take my time looking at the view. As I did, I caught a glimpse of the canal, and ended up wandering over there. I love canals, always have done (and I used to live on a canal boat), but I often forget we’ve got a canal basin here. We’re at the end of a canal, and you’d never walk past the basin itself to get anywhere else, so I very rarely go.

I did last weekend though, and had an ice cream, and then spent several hours plotting and scheming about how I could acquire a narrowboat of my very own…

(I came to the conclusion that I didn’t need one after all, but it’s lovely to spend a few hours dreaming sometimes…)

Have you been anywhere new in your own area lately?

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