While I strongly believe York is the best place in Yorkshire for art and architecture, I want to bring your attention to the hidden gem that is Sheffield. Being an hour (give or take) away from York, it offers a few less advertised areas that might be of interest to the fellow art historian.
First of all, I want to set the scene. Being born and bred Yorkshire, it’s not surprising that I couldn’t wait to come home to Sheffield for Christmas. Not only can I now indulge in Henderson’s Relish and visit the one and only Corp nightclub, but I can also delve into the architecture that takes quite a different approach to York. While York sticks to what it knows and keeps the traditional Gothic and Georgian buildings, Sheffield constantly reinvents itself through an interesting amalgamation of architectural styles.
Let’s start fairly logically with the main high street, or as we call it, Fargate. Here, we have (in my opinion) the most striking juxtaposition of architecture, as we have this white building sitting quite uncomfortably right next to this red brick beauty.
The former is known as Kemsley House and takes on an almost French Gothic style through the white plaster and grey roofing. On the other hand, this analysis can be contradicted as it has apse window frames and an aura of classical pediments above three of the windows. These conflicting points seem to show that the architects Gibbs, Flockton & Teather in the early 20th century were interested in appropriating styles and eclecticism. The latter is the Parade Chambers and is a classical example of Victorian perfection with it’s Tudor-Gothic red brick and stone carvings of gargoyles. As separate entities I think they work, but when placed side by side they look like miss-matched jigsaw pieces.
Just a five minute walk up the road, and you find this:
(the latter being the back end of the former – if you ever visit you’ll soon come to realise we have a thing for water features.)
This is the City Hall, and is quite obviously employing a Classical Greek architectural style. It was built in the 1930’s and appropriates styles from classical antiquity to create a gorgeous statement slap-bang in the centre of town. With the facade and Corinthian columns, we’re transported from the Victorian-Gothic era to Classical Greece.
To confuse us even more, the Town Hall is an interpretation of Renaissance architecture that uses local materials such as sandstone from Derbyshire. With a clock tower, turrets and engraved doorways, it’s a perfect example of the North Renaissance style. And again, right next door is a straight-up modern building known as the Winter Gardens.
This blog is only a selection of places I wanted to talk about, and it is only focused on the city centre. Other places include Meadowhall, the Botanical Gardens, Western Park and the Hubbs. Not forgetting of course, Graves Gallery and the Millennium Gallery.
I’m not saying get on the next train to Sheffield immediately but it’s definitely worth a look! York is an amazing spot for all things architecture, but for those of you interested in how modern builds can work alongside traditional ones, I strongly advise a little trip. It’s always interesting to consider how cities reinvent themselves. I think Sheffield does a brilliant job of this, but also keeps the links to it’s roots and where it all started.
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