Located on the eastern edge of Sheffield City Centre, Sheaf Valley Park traverses a steep gradient, rising parallel above Sheffield train station and offering fantastic panoramic views across Sheffield and to the hills at the edge of the Peak District. It is defined by its extensive landscaping; a large open-air amphitheatre is carved into the steep slope while cycle paths zig-zag their way up through the park, disappearing behind the many trees that hide the architectural monument of Park Hill at the rear of the site.
It was my task to design a Cycling Centre able to store up to 50 bikes, accommodation for a maximum of 2 people (ticketing, small scale administration, tea making etc.), a small cycle workshop, a minimum of 2 accessible public toilets and sufficient showering facilities.
I began the project by undertaking an extensive drawing and measuring study in order to understand the spatial requirements of my subject. Following this I refined the brief; a visit to Russell’s Bicycle Shed at Sheffield train station – a workshop, storage and hire facility – not only acted as a valuable study experience but confirmed that cycling commuters had all they needed in this part of Sheffield. What cycling infrastructure was actually needed?
Following the visit of the Tour de France in July 2014 and the subsequent rise in numbers of serious recreational cycling, I decided to conduct a mapping study of cycling clubs based in Sheffield. It revealed that proximity to the Peak District and the virtual barrier of a confusing and incomplete City Centre cycle network were two key characteristics that caused a definitive split in the location of cycle clubs. With my site situated on this split I saw the opportunity to create a Cycle Centre that acted as a gateway to the Peak District for cyclists on the ‘wrong’ side of it. A place to socialise with a drink and with friends before and after rides, maintain your beloved two-wheeled machines, and sit and look out at the landscape where you spend your time riding.
Taking direct inspiration from the site, my design is formed around a miniature ‘amphitheatre’ that acts as a social space for cycling clubs and takes advantage of the spectacular views. The buildings are stacked up the slope and play with levels on the steep terrain to form spaces for a small workshop, café, toilets/showering and a small bicycle hire facility, all tied together underneath a large protective roof.
It is hoped that the Cycle Centre will not only act as a gateway for the existing cycling clubs on the this side of the split, but encourage new clubs to form and maybe entice the other clubs to venture out to explore this side of Sheffield once in a while.
My site for this project is a rough area of broken tarmac next to the famous Sheffield pub ‘The Lescar’ in Sharrowvale, a south-western surburb of the city. Sharrowvale is set a couple of streets back from Ecclesall Road – one of the busiest arterial routes into Sheffield – and is formed of many small independent businesses which give it an uncommon intimate village-like quality in this part of the city. The variety and difference in shopping experience, coupled with its location, means that Sharrowvale attracts a steady stream of visitors throughout the day and into the evening.
After a study trip to Liverpool’s numerous theatre and performance venues I evaluated the position of theatre in today’s society, ‘the digital age’, and why it is still important – It provides a space for people to gather together in the same room and explore human nature and the issues associated with it. I was tasked to design a performance venue appropriate for the context – due to the rich variety of individuality that makes Sharrowvale so dynamic, I knew I would have to design a theatre that was a unique experience. The design began to manifest itself around Shakespeare’s writing in Hamlet; that theatre is a mirror of life. You should take a play’s truths and apply them to yourself – you should reflect on what you have learnt, and to reflect you first need to be experientially removed from the world.
Early sketches, models and images derived from models explored this concept, using something as simple as bubble-wrap to mute and distort the outside world in a vertical journey. I looked at precedents such as Steven Holl’s staircase at the Department of Philosophy building at NYU and Simmon’s Hall light well at MIT, as well as the entrance process into a cathedral, going from a low and dark space to a light and high one. This space developed as the front of house area; it creates a sense of expectation when you enter, passing up under the raw concrete belly of the theatre before ending your journey at the top of this space, where a single hole in the skin of the theatre opens up to let you in. It also contains the interval bar and galleries for you to stand and look down and reflect on what you have seen in the theatre during performance breaks.
I wanted the theatre experience to be an intimate and experiential experience like the space that precedes it so I chose a stage to suit this need. The audience surrounds the stage on 3 sides which means everyone is very close to the action whilst still providing access to the rear of the building for prop storage and deliveries. Backstage is beneath the stage and contains 3 dressing rooms, a shower and costume storage. The box office and general management office help to form the low, dark entrance space appropriately located at the beginning of the experiential journey.
Housing – Connecting Heeley:
This project is located in Heeley, a suburb to the south-east of Sheffield city centre. Heeley seems lost in the urban sprawl, it has lost its identity, and in order to realise its potential as a community once again it needs to become more of a destination. There’s a promising regeneration strategy driven by the Heeley Development Trust at Sum Studios, but it is disconnected from the cultural and economic prospects of Heeley high street. My site is located on the road between these two nodes of Heeley and I want to use my project to connect them; re-defining a town centre for Heeley.
I decided to support the regeneration strategy with my scheme by creating two workshop spaces and a café with an outdoor space to address the street condition of the site, and some public steps that fall down the natural slope of the site – inspired by the Spanish steps in Rome. I have designed my housing around people looking to live and work in Heeley, to bring new skills to the area and develop the community. Above the café and workshops are flats suitable for 1-2 people, and a row of terrace houses suitable for families.
My site is the entrance to a park, which at the moment feels really exposed because it is quite wide and it feels unsafe because it is bordered by private walled gardens that no one sees in or out of. The orientation of my scheme means that there is now passive surveillance of the park from both the terrace houses and the workshop courtyards and café. It also narrows the site which reduces the exposure and creates a clear route into the park in the form of a bike path and a footpath, which form part of a neighbourhood study masterplan I worked on that addresses the disconnected nature of Heeley.
I wanted to make these houses feel like homes, to make them feel cosy, and after reading an article in the RIBA Journal about cosiness I found that to make something cosy you’ve got to expose it at the same time, it’s all about opposites and contrast, things like the differences between light and dark, low and high, inside and outside. When sketching spaces that linked these opposites I found a common form in the L-shape, and manipulated this form to create the buildings. From my site you have moments where you get glimpses of the rest of Sheffield. I staggered my buildings in such a way to catch glimpses of this view, so you are reminded that you are just a small part of a bigger city, you are exposed for a moment, and this makes you feel cosy tucked up in your little house.