How Sheffield's landmark Cheesegrater car park design is making waves at world famous Harvard University

The Cheesegrater car park in Sheffield city centre has won many awards and become a much admired part of our skyline.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 12:28 pm

Now the design of the Charles Street car park is making waves at the world famous Harvard University after its new Science and Engineering Complex followed the Cheesegrater style.

The American university, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, says the complex is the most significant new building constructed by Harvard in a generation.

Writing in New York-based design company Co.Design’s newsletter, Nate Berg says: “It looks like a cheese grater, but this new Harvard building has environmental superpowers.

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Cheesegrater by Andrew Duffield
Cheesegrater by Andrew Duffield

This extraordinary facade helps reduce the Science and Engineering Complex’s carbon emissions by 42%.

“The metal screen that wraps around much of the new Science and Engineering Complex at Harvard University is a piece of advanced engineering in motionless action.

“Made of 14,000 panels of precisely formed and cut stainless steel, it appears to be a gigantic cheese grater. But the facade is actually a finely tuned device for controlling both the light and the heat that enters the building.”

Which is all very nice, but it also looks very familiar as pointed out by David Vernon-Edwards, director of The Children’s Hospital Charity, who told us: “Well we had it first in Sheffield. Surely?”

Of course David, who later this year will step down from his role after almost 20 years with the organisation, is right.

The distinctive Sheffield Cheesegrater constructed by JF Finnegan, is a 10 storey, steel-clad structure, which opened in 2008. It was nicknamed the Cheesegrater by locals due to its jagged cubed exterior.

The car park was designed by architects Allies and Morrison as part of the Heart of the City project and was named in 2019 as the world’s number one quirky car park in a rundown of some of the most unusual car parks – beating off competition in Tokyo, Miami and Australia.The car park was dubbed a ‘multi-storey marvel’ by judges at award-winning airport parking operator and retailer Airport Parking and Hotels.

A spokesman said: “For those who appreciate architectural wonders that transform the ordinary into something rather extraordinary, we’ve collated a list of the 10 most quirky, unusual and spectacularly-designed car parks from around the world.”The judges added: “This 10-level multi-storey car park provides visitors to the city centre with 520 spaces and is affectionately known as the ‘Cheesegrater’ thanks to its striking and cube-shaped external design.”It beat car parks from across the world – including a floating car park in Japan and a 2.5 mile long car park in Germany. The Cheesegrater was also named the third coolest in the world in 2013.

The judges said the design turned "a traditional car park shape into a visually striking building".

But there have been voices of dissent. A BBC interview in 2009 quoted an older couple describing the Cheesegrater as "obscene," a "contraption" and "quite horrendous" and were dismayed that so many "old traditional buildings were being pulled down to put **** up."