Ghost streets in the sky
I'd been meaning to get up to Sheffield's Park Hill estate for a year or more, since first seeing the vast wall of hollowed-out flats while driving by Ponds Forge beneath. There wasn't any great rush - according to recent reports in the Sheffield Star, the project (estimated cost £160m) won't be complete till around 2017. It's three and a half years since I wrote about the plans here.
I had a free morning in Sheff last Friday, so popped over. I think it's the first time I'd actually been up close to the place - looming over the city like some demon fortress, it had a fearsome (and mostly undeserved) reputation when I was growing up in the city.
If it's still an unnerving place, it's an environment of eerie solitude rather than one of social threat, like stepping into the partially autopsied carcass of some sprawling municipal beast. Part has been stripped back to the concrete skeleton, secured behind high steel fencing; but the bulk has just been emptied and shuttered, and you're free to walk at will. All seemed deserted, although parts of the upper estate are still inhabited.
It's an interesting place to visit at the moment. I've doubts whether Urban Splash's grand plans will ever come to fruition, or whether this unique building will disappear from Sheffield's skyline. But the stripped frames of this first phase seem to hold a strange promise, of brutalism turned gothic, the bones of some monster waiting to be reborn.