Park Hill \

Bringing love life and pride to a Sheffield icon

Stirling Prize-shortlisted housing regeneration scheme for Europe's largest Grade II* listed structure

Changing Perceptions

Years of under-investment left the infamous Park Hill estate in a state of decline, compelling English Heritage to award it Grade II* listed status. The challenge for Sheffield Council was how to regenerate a notoriously neglected estate on the outskirts of the city into a place people wanted to live in. An identity overhaul was desperately needed in a climate of declining public investment. The response was to launch a developer-led design competition, to seek out a team who would invest both financially and emotionally into the regeneration of the estate.

“Hawkins\Brown and Studio Egret West, have achieved something spectacular and the rebuilt apartments are a delight...”

Edwin Heathcote, Financial Times

Ten Commandments

Our winning vision recognised the need to reconnect Park Hill to Sheffield at the same time as turning it into a destination in its own right.

Together with Urban Splash, and our collaborators Studio Egret West, 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, 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 invest in Park Hill to establish new homes and to create new businesses - then it had to sell itself to the city.

“...I think this scheme gives real meaning to the word 'regeneration'; it represents a new beginning, a new vitality.

Ivor Smith, original architect

Streets in the Sky

The apartments have been given a thorough face-lift and remodelled to 21st-century standards. The existing concrete frame has been repaired and a new façade installed including the iconic ‘Streets In The Sky’.

At the ground level of the building a new ‘high street’ of local shops, bars, pubs and restaurants has been established, revitalizing the public realm for both residents and visitors to Park Hill.

A visit to one of our studios will reveal we even have Park Hill cushions handmade by our very own Sally Spencer-Davies (not to mention Sally’s Park Hill dress).

Inside Out

The apartments have been reinvented and refreshed, and their layouts subtlety altered and updated. Free flowing living space and full height glazing offer bright and covetable homes, a refreshing departure from many identikit developments. All apartments have a voluminous hall space and generous layout, as well as built in storage space, boutique-hotel-like bathrooms and intelligent detailing.

We were one of four interior designers selected to fit out a Park Hill show flat, illustrating how the apartments could become ‘home’. Our proposal ‘Second Life’ was a celebration of designers who have recycled, re-appropriated, refashioned, re-modeled or re-valued old pieces of furniture, a theme inspired by our own rejuvenation of Park Hill.

Softening a Megastructure

Historically the building has had an uncomfortable relationship with its landscape, sitting above and slightly alienated from the main city. Our masterplan addressed this through building a round-the-clock community of shops, bars, cafes and restaurants at ground level.

The green space, designed in collaboration with landscape architects Grant Associates, captures the rugged beauty of the nearby Peak District, with its angular forms and loose natural planting. Every green space in and around the building is purposeful – including allotments, children’s play areas and a bowling green. The result is a building that feels grounded within its very own parkland.

'I love you will u marry me?'

When we first visited Park Hill, a line of graffiti sprayed onto a concrete bridge, 30m off the ground, proclaimed ‘I love you will u marry me’? Originally one person’s very daring declaration of love, this slogan has been overwritten in neon and taken on by Urban Splash as a symbol of the estate’s regeneration. We have commissioned bespoke textile artworks to accentuate the romantic side of the estate.

Alex Turner, lead singer of Sheffield band The Arctic Monkeys, has worn the Park Hill slogan ‘I love you, will u marry me?’ on a t-shirt.

  • Project Details
  • Project Update
  • Lessons Learnt
  • Materials
  • Sustainability
  • Collaboration

Project Summary

Project Team

Studio Egret West
Grant Associates
Civic Engineering
Simon Fenton Partnership
Ashmount Consulting Engineers Ltd


  • BD Architect of the Year Awards 2013 - Refurbishment - Shortlisted
  • AJ Retrofit Awards 2013 - Housing - Shortlisted
  • RIBA Stirling Prize 2013 - Shortlisted
  • RIBA Awards 2013 - Yorkshire Conservation Award - Winner
  • RIBA Awards 2013 - National Award, Yorkshire Region - Winner
  • British Construction Industry Awards 2013 - Building Project of the Year (£3m to £50m) - Shortlisted
  • Housing Design Awards 2013 - Completed Schemes - Shortlisted
  • RIBA Awards 2013 - Yorkshire Regional Award - Winner
  • The Sunday Times British Homes Awards 2012 - Conversion, Restoration or Refurbishment - Winner
  • The Green Apple Awards for the Built Environment and Architectural Heritage 2012 - Building Project, Retrofit Large - Gold
  • BD Architect of the Year Awards 2012 - Refurbishment - Shortlisted
  • RICS Awards 2012 - Pro Yorkshire Region Conservation - Winner
  • WAF Awards 2011 - Future Projects/Residential - Shortlisted
  • AJ Retrofit Awards 2010 - Future Project Award - Winner

Project Update

In January 2013 the first new residents and commercial tenants moved in to the building, a defining moment in the start of a new phase of its life.

Lessons Learnt

Our journey has taken us to many places in our quest to share our enthusiasm and communicate the lessons that we have learnt. We participated in the 2006 Venice Biennale and a critically acclaimed exhibition at CIVA in Brussels in 2012. We’ve presented our work to events staged by the 20th Century Society, The Architecture Foundation and the World Architecture Festival. Most recently in August 2010 our proposals featured in the BBC Four documentary about the work of English Heritage.

Refurbishing the scheme has prevented four football stadium’s worth of material being taken to landfill.


The building’s original concrete frame has been repaired and revitalised to ensure that the 50-year-old structure will live on successfully; in total over 5000 in situ concrete repairs have been undertaken.

The most visually striking aspect of Park Hill’s transformation has been the replacement of the original façade, of brick panels and timber windows, with brightly coloured anodised aluminium panels and large sections of glazing. These new window ‘cassettes’ introduce a shimmering and lustrous effect, with colours ranging from a dark aubergine at the lowest level of the building to a fizzy lime-green at the top. A mirror-finish, stainless steel helical staircase and a pair of glazed wall-climber lifts complete the external transformation.


Sustainability is embedded in the Park Hill project – to keep, make good and bolster the best parts of the original scheme. The retention, repair and upgrade of the original concrete frame is a primary example of this. Modern technology and techniques have been used to achieve new, as well as original ambitions for the building, enabling the scheme to achieve a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ rating.

The embodied energy in the concrete frame is equivalent to three weeks’ energy output from a power station.


Collaborating with co-designers Studio Egret West and Grant Associates has been a real joy. Together we have forged strong, dynamic relationships where our complementary skills, critical peer review, energy and enthusiasm have pushed the project from strength to strength. Urban Splash instigated and participated in this collaborative spirit of regeneration, encouraging us to find new ways to think through long-standing design challenges.

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