Report - - Park Hill flats, Sheffield - July 2012 | Other Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Park Hill flats, Sheffield - July 2012


28DL Full Member



Park Hill was previously the site of back-to-back housing, a mixture of 2-3 storey tenement buildings, waste ground, quarries and steep alleways. Facilities were poor with one standpipe supporting up to 100 people. It was colloquially known as "Little Chicago" in the 1930s, due to the incidence of violent crime there. Clearance of the area began during the 1930s but was halted due to World War II.
Following the war it was decided that a radical scheme needed to be introduced to deal with rehousing the Park Hill community. To that end architects Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith began work in 1945 designing the Park Hill Flats. Inspired by Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation and the Smithsons' unbuilt schemes, most notably for Golden Lane in London, the deck access scheme, was viewed as revolutionary at the time. Construction is of an exposed concrete frame with yellow, orange and red brick curtain walling. The style is known as brutalism. However, as a result of weathering and soot-staining from passing trains, few people realise this and assume the building to be constructed entirely from concrete.
The concept of the flats was described as streets in the sky. Broad decks, wide enough for milk floats, had large numbers of front doors opening onto them. Each deck of the structure, except the top one, has direct access to ground level at some point on the sloping site. The site also allows the roofline to remain level despite the building varying between four and thirteen stories in height. The scheme also incorporates a shopping precinct and a primary school.

Construction began in 1957. Park Hill (Part One) was officially opened by Hugh Gaitskell, MP and Leader of the Opposition, on 16 June 1961.The City Council published a brochure on the scheme which was in several languages, including Russian.

To maintain a strong sense of community, neighbours were re-homed next door to each other and old street names from the area were re-used (e.g. Gilbert Row, Long Henry Row).Cobbles from the terraced streets surrounded the flats and paved the pathways down the hill to Sheffield station and tramlines.

Despite the problems, the complex remains structurally sound, unlike many of the system built blocks of the era, and controversially was Grade II listed in 1998 making it the largest listed building in Europe. Sheffield City Council hoped this would attract investment to renovate the building, but this was not initially forthcoming. The decision to list the estate was controversial at the time and it continues to attract criticism.
A part-privatisation scheme by the developer Urban Splash in partnership with English Heritage to turn the flats into upmarket apartments, business units and social housing is now under way. Two blocks (including the North Block - the tallest part of the buildings) have been cleared, leaving only their concrete shell.

I'd been busting to get up onto the roof at Park Hill flats for a long time and at the current stage of renovation, thought it was probably do-able.
Me, mstarmatt and aem had a good snoop around one night and couldn't suss any obvious access so the idea was shelved temporarily.

Fast forward a few months and a PM drops into my inbox from *********** mentioning service tunnels under the flats :confused
I mentioned that we'd already been planning another look at the roof so we decided to give it another go, and after a daytime reccee, me and *********** had sussed out some access.

We returned a few days later with aem (unfortunatley mstarmatt couldn't make it) to give it a go, and after some comedy access and Spiderman impressions from ***********, we were up on the roof of one of the derelict blocks with the intention of taking some shots then trying for the roof of the block currently under renovation. But before we knew it, *********** had drawn our attention to the 40m vertical ladder heading down a narrow shaft in front of us: our access to the service tunnels at basement level.
My first thought, on looking down the shaft into the abyss below was "what the fuck am I doing??" but the thought of what cool shit might lie below pushed me on.


After a claustrophobic descent in a space barely big enough for a grown man, let alone a sketchy ladder, and a grown man with camera bag and tripod, we emerged in the fully lit service tunnels!




We headed off with the intention of trying to get into the tunnels below the renovated block and searching for roof access there. We were soon confronted with the first of several stoops (for stoop, read crawling on hands and knees through puddles of shitty water and piles of crumbling rust, wedged between heating ducts and HV power cables).


If you're claustrophobic, stay away...


Fuck knows how long we walked/stooped/crawled but we passed several sheet metal doors, only one of which was locked, and met several dead ends, a big steam/hot water leak that turned the tunnel into a fucking sauna, and after every turn the tunnels just began to look the same.
After a massive (100m + ?) stoop, the likes of which I don't want to tackle again in a hurry, we came to a familiar piece of graf...
"Hang on, we've gone in a big circle!"


So, taking a different route this time (after another complete motherfucker of a crawl) we stuck our heads out of a door and found ourselves back out in the works compound with the renovated building directly infront of us.

After a quick bit of contortion we were into the service tunnel with aem leading the way. Suddenly the lights came on and we feared the worst - the whole length of the tunnel was rigged with movement sensors! After waiting around for a minute to see if secca showed up, it seemed we'd be free to carry on, so on we carried.




(excuse the odd blurry shot, the decent amount of light meant I just whacked it onto HIGHSO and took some handheld shots)


It got louder and louder the further we progressed and before we knew it we were in the boiler house.




I'd rattled off a couple of shots and was about to head upstairs when aem and *********** appeared looking worried: "we've just tripped a PIR, best get the fuck out of here."

So off we set again back down the tunnel, coming across a dome cam that we hadn't noticed on the way in! Fully expecting our night to be over and a reception party to be waiting at our exit point we carried on, but since nothing out of the ordinary happened we headed up into the block itself to try and find the illusive roof access but came to a dead end - that one will have to wait for another day.

So it was back into the first tunnels then up onto the roof there for some final shots before dragging our weary selves back out and home!






Cheers for looking :thumb



Similar threads