July 25th, 2011
Thanks to a member of Sheffield City Council myself and a friend were allowed access to 187 Norwich Row to see what living conditions are like there and the panorama below was taken from the kitchen balcony.
Click for city panorama from Park Hill kitchen balcony
The flat we visited is an empty two bedroom flat facing the city on two levels, the kitchen on the lower floor and the two bedrooms, internal toilet and bathroom, living room on the upper floor . . .
. . . via a staircase winding 270° around a service duct with a balustrade looking down over the first flight.
I remember reading among the Urban Splash material that one of the reasons they chose to remove the brickwork and replace it with coloured panels was to increase the amount of daylight entering the flats by reversing the proportions from 2/3 brick 1/3 window to 1/3 panel to 2/3 glass.
While in the larger bedroom the daylight was sufficient, in the second bedroom and living room I felt they had a point.
This photograph is clearly underexposed showing only the second bedroom full-height window and leaving the room in darkness but the impression given in the room was a little claustrophobic for my tastes and certainly if I lived there I would have preferred that the window was horizontally rather than vertically aligned. An impossibility of course.
As an aside in modern developments I have noted a tendency to fit full height windows which rob the tenants of privacy, and commented on this elsewhere.
However here I think it matters less because the block is so far from the city that anyone making a night time dash for the loo without getting dressed would hardly be likely to be noticed unlike close neighbours across a street in a city centre.
The larger bedroom fares better with a double width window.
The living room I didn’t care for. It is almost square, I didn’t measure it. (11-1/2′ x 13′) I think a living room ought to be rectangular or L shaped failing that but square doesn’t do it for me so in answer to the question “would you live there?” I’m afraid the answer is no, both for the light issues and the living room size.
Perhaps I’ve been spoiled coming from a council flat in a tower block with large windows. In fairness the tower block flat had internal toilet and bathroom too so it isn’t that. It’s the poor light and the small living room.
I would like to apologise for the poor quality of the photographs. I don’t have a wide angle lens and didn’t spend much time trying to get “the ideal shot” so these are very much on the run pictures so to speak.
The one room I did like was the kitchen which has a wonderful view over the city centre and I can imagine the inhabitants spending a lot of time in there with the table hard up against the balcony dividing wall, or simply on the balcony.
Pardon my friend’s head, this shows clearly the attractive layout of the kitchen looking towards the city centre.
These empty flats are depriving people on the waiting list of a home. Surely some compromise can be found between the present extremes of waiting for Urban Splash to renovate all the blocks and just leaving perfectly good housing to rot?
UPDATE: This post doesn’t show the flat to its greatest advantage. The photos against the light are under exposed and the furniture in the rooms doesn’t help. The lack of a wide angle lens in a small room doesn’t do much for it either. I did get to go back, last September when the council had removed the furniture (not the kitchen units) and painted the walls white. It looked a bit better, not a lot. I don’t think it’s one of their better flats and I wish I could get access to a three bedroom flat up at the Talbot Street end.
I paced out the living room and it’s 11-1/2 feet x 13 feet with my shoe as a rough guide. I didn’t get in to the new Urban Splash show flats because I was there on Sept 10th the day they said and they moved it a month and I didn’t go back. So if you want to see the rebuilt flats on the 13 storey end I’d look at the website. They knocked out all the walls, a little unnecessarily and didn’t reinstate the kitchen so now you’ve got the modern ghastly kitchen / living room / diner which I think is an aberration but we’re all different, perhaps you like having the noise and smell of cooking in your face while you’re watching T.V.
The fact that Park Hill is largely uninhabited should be a source of great embarrassment to Sheffield City Council but they don’t seem that bothered. They managed to relocate the “decanted” residents and have given the estate away to Urban Splash to “regenerate” so that’s that. All people like me can do now is to look on with a sense of frustration and sadness for what was and hope that one day council housing makes a come back.