Art and Architecture in Sheffield

Old couple kissing on wall in Sheffield UK painted by street artist on side of pub

People may rave about the award-winning art scene in Manchester and the street art in London or Bristol, but I want to add another city into the mix. With weird and wonderful architecture in Sheffield, not to mention the artists and creatives seemingly around every corner, ignore the Steel City at your peril.

Le Corbusier style building in English city with I love you message on bridge
Park Hill is a familiar part of the horizon in the city.

Eye-Catching Architecture in Sheffield

Park Hill

The Park Hill estate is a concrete hulk of Brutalist architecture, inspired by Le Corbusier. Completed in 1961 as a rejuvenation project for one of the city’s poorest areas, Park Hill was initially a success but gradually fell into disrepair as it mirrored the declining steel industry in the 1980s.

Noise and street crime began to be a problem, as the seemingly endless corridors and dimly lit corners of the estate felt more of a hindrance than a help – see the Guardian’s piece with the dramatic heading ‘The utopian estate that’s been left to die’. Today, Park Hill’s Grade II listed status means it can’t (and shouldn’t) be demolished or become some kind of Detroit-esque ruin porn, so it’s being slowly regenerated by Urban Splash. Radio 4 also explored the sad love story behind its famous graffiti scrawl: ‘Clare Middleton I love you will u marry me’ [sic] has been on one of the bridges since 2001 and is now a piece of art in its own right.

The Cheese Grater car park in city centre
Anyone got any cheddar?

The Cheese Grater

Have you ever lusted over a car park? Thought not. However, Charles Street Car Park may just change your mind, as it’s been voted the third coolest in the world. Built in 2008, it got its ‘cheese grater’ nickname due to the jagged geometric panels covering the outer walls.

Allies and Morrison Architects explained: ‘The internal face of the panels is coloured green to reflect the foliage within St Paul’s Place; the colour is subtly revealed in daylight and is more evident at night when internal lighting gives the impression of sunlight filtering through the leaves.’ Not your typical concerns when looking for a parking space, but pretty attractive nonetheless.

Futuristic building used by Hallam SU.
No, you haven’t woken up in the year 3000.

The Hubs

Formerly the short-lived National Museum of Pop Music, these space-age buildings on Paternoster Row are now part of Sheffield Hallam University. Devised by local firm Nigel Coates Architects with the idea that ‘People would choose which gallery to enter first, and effectively could write their own script’, they were officially branded ugly in a 2011 poll by VirtualTourist.com.

The squat structures don’t really do the area many favours. Perhaps they’d look right in another city, but there’s something off-key about them here. However, as a students’ union site for Hallam, they’ve been given a second chance to prove themselves useful.

Mural of Patrick Moore in Sheffield city centre by Rocket01
Sir Patrick gazing at the stars from his patch in Froggatt Lane.

Street Art in Sheffield

Start on Howard Street, where stainless steel discoverer Harry Brearley can be seen looking down from the side of the Howard Hotel (painted by Sarah Yates of Faunagraphic). Charles Street, running parallel, is home to a giant David Attenborough mural by Rocket01. Take a left onto Arundel Street and wind your way through to Froggatt Lane, a tiny backstreet where another Rocket01 piece, this time capturing Sir Patrick Moore, appears on one wall.

Positive text mural 'Stay Bright' in blue, yellow and green
This piece won a Dulux competition. It incorporates several city scenes blended into one.

Emerge onto Furnival Street, then take a quick detour along Matilda Street to Sidney Street, for a glimpse of Rocket01’s Charles Darwin piece. Go back up Matilda Street, turn right to reach Furnival Square, then follow Furnival Gate before taking a right at Charter Square. Look out for Stay Bright, in Backfields, designed by Emily Forgot.

Mural next to Mooch Vintage
Phlegm’s labyrinthine artwork reminds me of M.C. Escher.

At the top of the road, turn into Division Street, then find a black and white mural by Phlegm as you head north along Westfield Terrace. Cut along Rockingham Street and, when you emerge on Broad Lane, you’ll see The Sheffield Snog (painted by Pete McKee) on the side of Fagan’s pub. In the rest of the city, look out for typographic pieces by Kid Acne.

Metal spoons bent into circular formation for display in museum
A stainless steel sculpture in the Millennium Gallery.

Art Galleries

The Millennium Gallery (Arundel Gate)

Expect intricate local sculptures, a massive helping of stainless steel and metalwork on permanent display, and the Ruskin Collection. Regular life drawing and craft classes are held on-site.

Lobby installation in Sheffield city centre
Birds in flight, captured by local artist Seiko Kinoshita in paper, yarn and mixed media. As seen in the Graves Gallery.

The Graves Gallery (Surrey Street)

Enjoy the building’s Art Deco touches, as well as its paintings, ranging from the traditional (17th century Flemish art) to the ultra-modern (Peter Blake, Stanley Spencer, etc.). Until 25th June 2016, see The Age of Abstraction: Women Artists here.

Brown Street gallery for young British artists with yellow walls and photographs fixed to the walls
Ultra-modern art at the Site Gallery. Not for traditionalists.

Site Gallery (Brown Street)

This is a conceptual art space, close to the train station. It’s free to visit and perfect for art students, with a range of platform residencies to inspire you in 2016.

When you reach Sheffield, just remember to take your sketchbook, your camera or at least a sense of imagination, and you can’t fail.

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