For the first project of the year, the brief was to design a facility for people going kayaking on the rivers of Sheffield. This had to include storage for the boats and associated safety equipment, as well as space for changing and relaxing.
The site we were given was by the River Don in Owlerton, an area of Sheffield known mostly for large stores, two stadia (Hillsborough football ground and Owlerton Greyhound Stadium) and the busy Penistone Road. This site was quite secluded and hidden behind the river, and had quite a barren, overgrown and almost rural feel. There was a steep hill with beautiful views over Sheffield, and across the river was a sixth form college and a power substation.
My site response was to separate the functions of kayak storage and changing/relaxing. By having the storage at the bottom of the hill, it was possible to avoid having to carry the kayaks long distances, and people could get straight into the river after picking up their boat. By having the changing and relaxing functions at the top of the hill, there was less flood risk for the dry functions and the views could be taken advantage of.
The concept for the storage building was that it would appear to grow from the rubble at the riverside – my use of a stone gabion structure gives this effect. The storage building has mirrored concertina doors which reflect the greenery and make it easy to get the kayaks out. The changing building also uses gabions, but the main structure is Cross Laminated Timber – this means it is easily prefabricated and assembled, as well as providing a warm cosy finish which provides a contrast with the wet functions by the river. The form of the changing building is influenced by a concrete block in the river which would have once supported a bridge – its odd symmetrical shape provided inspiration for how to draw from the quirks of the site in my design.
The second project of the year was to design a library in Attercliffe, an area of Sheffield which has quite a seedy feel and is mostly just driven through as a route between the town centre and Meadowhall shopping centre.
I chose to make this a library of music – it would feature a traditional sheet music and academic music library as well as including performance spaces and practice rooms, a tech lab and a café. The library could be used as a resource for musicians across the region to share their work with each other and the public, and the library would also be used to celebrate Sheffield’s rich musical heritage. The ‘Sound Library’ would become a destination for music-lovers across the region, hence helping to give Attercliffe an identity as well.
The form of the building takes influence from both musical forms (hence the curved corners derived from the shapes of instruments, and the rhythmic window pattern) and the geometries of the site – the building aligns with the conflicting lines of the main road and also the pub at different points. The massing of the building is such that it also addresses the varying heights of neighbouring buildings, creating an unusual tectonic composition. The dominant material is brick in varying shades of grey – this fits with common typologies in Attercliffe in terms of texture, but the colour of the brick will make the building stand out in its context as an important new landmark for the area.
The final project of the year was to design a housing development for Heeley, an area of Sheffield which feels quite separated from the rest of the city due to its hilltop location and the division caused by the river and the main road which cut across the natural routes to the town centre. Heeley used to be a village, and still has a feeling of isolation and nostalgia, yet also has urban characteristics and associated issues such as crime and disconnect between the generations. This made it a challenging neighbourhood to provide housing solutions for.
My housing ‘manifesto’ was to provide affordable housing for first-time buyers which could then be expanded as their needs changed, so they would be able to live in the same place for longer. I had the idea that pre-designed extensions could be easily added onto the homes when the needs arose – these extensions could be either an extra floor for the house, providing another bedroom and more living space if the family expands; an extension into the back yard to provide a ground floor bedroom for an elderly relative; or even a self-contained, small private flat on top of the house, which the homeowners could let out as an investment. This extension for private tenants could be built at a discounted rate provided that the homeowners let the flat out at an affordable rate. Through expanding, the neighbourhood would, over time, become more diverse and colourful, helping to create a stronger community.
The specific site I was given was on Hartley Street, a long, thin site with challenging edges – it is bordered by a school, SUM Studios (an upcoming business/arts/crafts centre), a church yard and a community hall. My response to the site was to build terraced housing in order to achieve a higher density and make sure all the exterior spaces got an equal amount of sunlight. I included community facilities opposite the entrance to SUM Studios which tied in with their work: a furniture/homeware shop and workshop (this also relates to the element of personalisation of the home in my manifesto), a community workshop, and a café where workers at SUM Studios could eat.
Four 3-bed houses sit at ground level, with three 2-bed houses above the public facilities. The same extensions can be added to any of the houses. In the middle of the scheme is a circulation zone with lift and stair to the higher levels, as well as facilities such as bin storage for the residents. The circulation zone features a translucent self-supporting glazing system, so as not to make the tower so dominant on the site that it competes with the church. The houses use a simple concrete block structure for affordability, but the cladding is timber: boards to match the cladding of the primary school, and also some shingles to bring textural variation and give a vernacular feel to hark back to the days of Heeley as a village.