I was really pleased to publish some of Keith Collie’s photographs of Park Hill in our C20 Magazine last year, and it is good to see that he has now put together a selection of these stunning images in a small paperback. Park Hill Sheffield in black and white also includes a short article by architect David Leavitt and a longer piece by Jeremy Till. The former is reprinted from a housing manual, the latter from a Norwegian publication—both deserve a wider audience than they’ve had to date, and it’s great to be able to see a larger selection of the photographs too.
Whilst the photographs reveal just how physically fundamental the re-working of Park Hill has been, the authors explore how what it stands for socially has changed in response to enormous economic and political changes. David Leavitt highlights the current Urban Splash scheme’s addition of secure lobbies and 24 hour concierge service, as a key factor in managing what will become a mixed-tenure building. Jeremy Till contrasts the “’official’ architectural story” with a fascinating record of some of the immense amount of “anecdote, gossip and populism” that the estate has generated ( the two versions of the Park Hill story are presented side-by-side, in two columns)and comes up to date with someone from Urban Splash proclaiming “our aim is to make Park Hill sexy”.
Till concludes that “we have effectively moved from an era of welfare to an era of consumption” , but of course not everyone has an income and an ability to be a consumer. Even the “homes for affordable rent” in the new Park Hill will be beyond the reach of many of its former residents, and meanwhile a new underclass is being housed in the least favourable locations –a far cry from Park Hill’s proud prominence, which now hopes to speak of cool commercially funded (well partly) regeneration.
What’s Keith’s take? The last page prints the comment of an anonymous Park hill resident, presumably speaking to him—“I HOPE YOU’RE PHOTOGRAPHING THIS IN BLACK AND WHITE: IT’S GRIM UP HERE” . Surely there is an element of knowing humour and self-parody here ? Where will the story/stories of Park Hill go next? With just one section sexed up, will the rest follow?
For more on Park Hill look here at this excellent selection of documents in the local archives—including the cutting above right– a brilliant resource. https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/libraries/archives-and-local-studies/publications/park-hill-flats