Sheffield Design Awards on the lookout for quality in 2018

Sheffield's finest examples of good design are taking the spotlight with the return of a biennial prizegiving.

Friday, 11th May 2018, 12:35 pm
Updated Friday, 11th May 2018, 10:01 pm
Dan Brown, of the Sheffield Design Awards committee, at the launch. Picture: Andrew Roe

The Sheffield Design Awards, organised by the city's Civic Trust and Society of Architects, recognise buildings and open spaces of a particularly high architectural standard - with past winners including the refurbished university Arts Tower, the distinctive Blackburn Meadows power station with its orange-clad boiler house and the Grey to Green roads scheme that has brightened up West Bar.

A ceremony is happening in October, when honours will be presented in categories ranging from 'best building' to 'people's choice', which relies on nominations from the public.

Women of Steel, by sculptor Martin Jennings, won a prize in 2016

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There is also a new lifetime achievement prize for 2018 that will go to a veteran Sheffield architect or designer.

The Master Cutler, Ken Cooke, a patron of the awards, spoke of the programme's importance at a launch event in the Town Hall last night.

"We all feel more encouraged and enthusiastic if the places in which we live and work reflect our ambitions and hopes for the future as well as conserving those places from the past which we value as part of our identity as proud Sheffielders," he said.

"The signs of economic recovery and good health which we all hope to see strengthen in the years ahead need the visible symbols of good buildings and well thought-out open spaces."

The Blackburn Meadows power station was a previous winner at the Sheffield Design Awards.

The first ceremony was held in 2008. Winners are picked after a shortlist of nominees is visited by a panel of invited judges. One of the categories - the Keith Hayman award for cycling or public art - remembers the environmentalist and artist from Heeley who died suddenly in 2013, aged 69, while cycling. The memorial prize was given to Martin Jennings' Women of Steel sculpture, which stands in Barker's Pool, in 2016.

Rob Murfin, Sheffield Council's chief planning officer, was the keynote speaker at the launch.

"These awards are really important - in their own right, and as a statement of Sheffield and what we value about it," he said.

"In plain English, good design comes from us working together with the public, architects, urban designers, landscape architects, town planners and our politicians. We want Sheffield to be functional, attractive, liveable and sustainable."

Leanora Simmonite, Rob Murfin, chief planning officer at Sheffield Council, Lord Mayor Coun Anne Murphy, Master Cutler Ken Cooke and Dan Brown, of the Sheffield Design Awards committee, at the launch. Picture: Andrew Roe

But, as well as pressing forward with new ideas, developments should also preserve the best of Sheffield's past, he stated.

"Heritage is really important. Sheffield is pretty unique. You can see the patterns of manufacturing in the city centre, and there is a new role for that as well."

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'Mayor should take a view on planning'

City centres are 're-emerging' and South Yorkshire's newly-elected regional mayor 'needs to back' major schemes, Sheffield's chief planning officer said while launching the design awards.

Rob Murfin said Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis - who has taken office as the first Sheffield City Region Mayor - should have a role to play in championing developments.

"We are faced with some difficult decisions. There are two competing major motorway service area applications for South Yorkshire - the mayor should be able to take a strategic view, and say what is best for the city region."

He said a new local plan for Sheffield was being prepared for the period up to 2035, which 'won't be that far away'.

"We shouldn't get too wound up by the fact we see young people on their mobile phones all the time. We have sold cities to the millennial generation as places to live, and for entertainment. We shouldn't be surprised that they're starting to say 'We don't want to work in a characterless business park'. They want the whole picture. I feel strongly that we're seeing a reversal. The historical picture of cities, I think, is re-emerging."

Places like the Olympic Legacy Park on the old Don Valley Stadium site, and the Advanced Manufacturing Park at Catcliffe, are 'putting us back as world leaders', he added.

As well as the new local plan, the next 12 months will involve a focus on regenerating Castlegate and the introduction of some new 'premium planning services' at the council.

But the planning chief dismissed the suggestion that the role of a publicly-funded city architect - a post that no longer exists in Sheffield - could be reintroduced.

"The days of having a municipal approach to architecture are over."