Candidate: Peace and Winter Garden

Location: Sheffield, UK

Category: The Great Place Award

Year: 2008

Sheffield’s £130 million Heart of the City project successfully demonstrates the immense effort involved in restructuring and recreating the idea of the city. The process has produced a collective vision that has become a catalyst for change and turned a city without a historic centre into one that has a new heart – linking the railway station with the Peace & Winter Gardens.

This shared vision is evident in the governance of the Gardens and the clear design and delivery process. The Gardens are well managed and embody an exemplar process of engaging local communities and stakeholders in rethinking the city centre. Over 25,000 people commented on scheme proposals in one way or another, resulting in changes to the design that reflected local aspirations.

Sheffield also employs around 25 ‘ambassadors’ that have a highly proactive presence on the city streets and seamlessly direct and manage the demands of residents, businesses and visitors against safety and security issues and the maintenance of public spaces. They support civilized and responsible behavior and contribute to a sense of safety and security. They are a national exemplar.

The design of the Gardens has strong local distinctiveness and identity. Major structural changes to urban blocks in the centre were undertaken to correct the blockages formed during the mid twentieth century. The masterplan interlinks a number of smaller private and public projects and has created a recognisable place with legible movement patterns, aided by attractive and easily understood pedestrian information panels throughout the area. The urban transect is also legible with uses in the right places and accessible to all.

The street network is quite successful in creating active frontages with an appropriate intensity of use at all times; and the Peace Gardens are an attractive and safe place for people to live, work, visit and enjoy. It proactively attracts people of all ages with a range of spaces and activities. Special events, such as turning the Gardens into a beach in the summer – complete with deckchairs and sandcastles, adds a unique distinctiveness to the city centre.

The Peace Gardens scheme focuses on the concept of water flowing between the Garden and the Station, which creates a strong identity for the area and introduces new water ecologies and environments into the City Centre. The scheme responds to the topography of the area, which falls and rises on the approach from the Station to the City Centre. The landscape concept, when explained, has a clear and interesting design rationale but it may not be readily accessible to the passer by. There is a good relationship between landscape materials to building material and an integrated public art strategy that relates to the history of Sheffield.

The Millennium Galleries and the Winter Gardens open on to the Millennium Square, Tudor Square and Arundell Gate and so form the valuable link with the train station. The Gardens were designed by Richard Sharratt Architects and were opened in May 2003. The Winter Gardens are 70 metres long and 22 metres wide and are constructed from large wooden arches that are nearly 21 metres high. There is 2100 square metres of glass; and the construction includes and intelligent Building Management System that controls the fans and vents.

The Gardens are built on a human scale, cleverly integrating larger structures with space for people of all ages to enjoy. There is an ongoing proposal for a new building and environmental improvements: for example in the Station forecourt and perhaps a new 32-storey tower.

There is considerable recognition of economic growth in the City as a result of the public sector investment made in the public realm. This has generated confidence, excitement and a sense of pride and ownership in the city, which has stimulated private sector investment and seeks to generate economic opportunities for a wide range of business and communities.

Photo by IzaD KasmijaN (via Flickr)

The Academy of Urbanism (Number 2) Limited is a not-for-profit organisation limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales 0595604, 11c Milton Road, Cambridge CB4 IXE, United Kingdom.
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