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The focus of developer, Alumno Group, supported by the nature of student development, enabled a ‘retentionist strategy’ to be adopted that has celebrated the history of the site. As Project and Cost Managers, RPS have driven this ethos by challenging the design and construction teams to retain existing material (the ‘retentionist strategy’). This has enabled the preservation of the historic fabric, minimised build cost and achieved carbon reduction in the build process.
Béton House is Phase 3 of Park Hill, Sheffield and forms part of a wider masterplan led by Sheffield City Council and Urban Splash.
Park Hill is a post-war housing estate in Sheffield that was developed in the late 1950s/early 1960s from slum housing into apartments and community spaces including a nursery and four pubs. The community worked well until the 1970s, with the decline of the steel industry directly impacting on the community and eventually leading to the estate being abandoned in the early 2000s.
The estate is located on a steep slope adjacent to Sheffield Town Centre and was originally designed by architects working for Sheffield City Council. The design was heavily inspired by Unite D’habitation, a modernist residential eutopia located in Marseilles and designed by Le Corbusier, and this was evident in the use of wide outdoor corridors, structured design language and bright colours.
Some key features in the original development were the concrete balustrades, brickwork panels, and brightly coloured mosaics to the communal areas.
Rising to the challenge, and driven on by Alumno’s vision for the project, our team saw beyond the many potential pitfalls and created an inspirational plan to lead the way in sympathetic redevelopment and urban regeneration.
The main challenges of the project were the balance between the ‘want’ to retain the heritage and how to achieve this whilst meeting current design and construction standards.
The benefits were, in achieving the retentionist strategy, this enabled the preservation of the historic fabric, reduced build cost and achieved carbon reduction in the build process.
Working closely with the design and construction teams, RPS rigorously tested the design solutions proposed to understand how each element could be retained, achieving the budgetary constraints of the project and the material and construction longevity required.
The historic balustrades, which were an original and prolific feature, were due to be replaced. RPS worked with the architect and structural engineer to prove that they could be retained. Bespoke moulds of the balustrade spindles were created so that most of the original balustrades could be retained and those hit hard by weather could be matched and replaced. This approach enabled the team to save most of this element, significantly reducing the carbon output of casting new.
Historic mosaics that echo back to the original Le Corbusier design language were also preserved and remain today to tell the story of what was once there to the new students.
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Our team applied the same method to preserving the history of this 1950s housing estate than it would to a Grade I listed church and that dedication shines through. History is important, especially in a dynamic city such as Sheffield and any student lucky to live at Beton House will have the history of the modernist Park Hill site at their fingertips.
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