Park Hill Studio Egret West

Park Hill

2008 - 2014

How a simple, romantic plea became a symbol of the estate’s refurbishment.
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How a simple, romantic plea became a symbol of the estate’s refurbishment.


Park Hill is Europe’s largest Grade II* structure. When it was completed in 1961 it was initially famous for its radical vision: streets in the sky, wonderful views, duplex apartments, district heating and modular construction systems. But this positive vision later became overshadowed by the disintegration of the public spaces and the spread of anti-social behaviour. Years of under-investment had left the infamous Park Hill estate in Sheffield in a terrible state of decline.

Sheffield, UK
Urban Splash
Sheffield City Council
Urban Designer and Architect
Park Hill Phase 1 - Completed 2012. Grace Owen Nursery - Completed 2014
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Together with developers Urban Splash and our 50/50 collaborators Hawkins/Brown, we structured ‘ten commandments’ to help put right nearly 30 years of neglect and misunderstanding. They ranged from overarching guiding principles, such as getting the building to engage with its landscape and with the city, through to how we might address fundamental repairs to the building fabric.

But most important for us was manifesting ‘transformational change’ and communicating this to the rest of Sheffield. If a new community was going to put down roots here, then Park Hill had to appeal once more to the city.

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A piece of graffiti sprayed onto a concrete bridge 30 metres off the ground proclaims ‘I love you will u marry me?’. This simple romantic plea became a symbol of the estate’s refurbishment.
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Our masterplan gained planning consent in 2007, along with the detailed design of 300 homes and commercial units. We then undertook the complete internal refurbishment of the existing Grace Owen Nursery School, which was completed in 2015.

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Our work has unlocked a whole new lease of life for Park Hill, and Urban Splash is now working with Mikhail Riches on more homes and workspaces, and with Carmody Groarke on a new international arts venue. Over the years to come, Park Hill will be utterly transformed.

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The 300 apartments have all been reinvented and refreshed, and their layouts subtlety altered and updated to reflect a different approach to the spaces in our homes. All apartments have generous hall space and a free-flowing layout, as well as built-in storage space, boutique-hotel-like bathrooms and intelligent detailing.

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We’ve designed two new flexible studio spaces which have now become home to creative agencies. With folding ply balustrades, frameless glass balconies and a new internal street, we’ve created an invigorating working environment that retains the charm of the original building.

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These are directly connected to a new south-facing outdoor play area, and short dividing walls allow staff to see across the nursery while allowing the children to share in a wider social context. It’s a bright, inspiring and child-friendly space, which still acknowledges its Brutalist origins.
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Grace Owen Nursery School uses the building’s existing concrete structure as the backdrop for a colourful feature wall that defines the classrooms and play spaces.
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Historically Park Hill had an uncomfortable relationship with the landscape, sitting above and slightly alienated from the main city. We’ve reconnected the two and made Park Hill a destination in its own right. With shops, bars, cafés, restaurants, workspace and the nursery all part of our masterplan, we’re creating a safe, round-the-clock community.

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Sustainability is embedded in our work at Park Hill. We’ve worked with lifecycle-costing experts to ensure the longevity of materials and systems, and we’ve done everything possible to keep, make good and bolster the best parts of the original scheme. The retention, repair and upgrade of the existing concrete frame is a primary example of this, and with the help of modern technology our scheme has achieved a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ rating. We’ve given Park Hill a second, sustainable life.

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