Modern Housing Estates Obtain listed status
To most people, mention the term listed building and they will automatically think of a stately home in large grounds, however this assumption is actually quite removed from the truth, only 5% of all buildings in the United Kingdom achieve the top grade listing (Grade 1), within this category are mainly the buildings that could be best described as being of national and international importance. For example both Buckingham Palace and The Tower of London fall in to this bracket.
The bulk of properties that fall in to the lower listing groups are listed because of their architectural importance or their value to a local community, often listed buildings are small and seem of little consequence when considered outside the fabric of conservation and heritage. It is an interest fact that many owners of listed buildings, particularly new purchasers are unaware the reasons why their property is listed, often a good deal of research work has be be undertaken to establish the reason for the property being protected by statute.
The concept of listed buildings is to preserve for future generations our history and heritage, to offer a snapshot on the way we lived and to this end, recently a number of modern buildings, including tower blocks situated on council estates have acquired listed building status, more and more modern structures are beginning to appear on the radar of English Heritage, the organisation responsible for compiling the lists. This has raised a few eyebrows tower blocks in particular have come in for much criticism over the years and most people would not believe them worthy of protection.
However, English Heritage take a different view on the matter in relation to listed building status. Since the second world war they believe that many properties of outstanding quality have been produced and are now worth of protecting. Included in this are many Council Estates, one such estate is Park Hill in Sheffield.
Park Hill was designed in 1961 and is thought to be one of the most spectacular examples of new the approach to communal living in post-war Great Britain. The estate consists of of 995 dwellings, and provides living accommodation for in excess of 2,000 thousand people. it occupies an entire hill overlooking Sheffield city centre and has some wonderful views, built on a slope, it increases in height as the hill slopes away. The estate consists of large snake-like blocks which contain the duplex apartments and the estate’s famous ‘streets in the sky’, (based on the Smith sons’ Golden Lane Housing plan of 1952), this was a bold attempt to preserve the communal benefits of street-life. These factors have lead English Heritage to protect the estate by giving it listed status a fact that has bemused many of the residents. Locally, Park Hill is affectionately known as San Quentin after the notorious American Prison.
This estate is a classic example of polarised opinion relating to architecture, if anything the buildings are worth preserving as an example of how it was though post war Britain should live, the estate and it’s layout were much copied throughout Europe, living on the estate though came with many problems, decent families have been driven out over the years as the intricate street layout made the perfect environment for street crime to flourish, alas crime and the effects of crime were something that post-war developers failed to take in to consideration.
What ever your viewpoint on this complex, English Heritage have probably got it right in wanting to preserve the buildings, in 100 years time, this street in the sky development will provide an interesting window back to a time when Britain was emerging from one of her darkest periods, these buildings were constructed with a certain degree of hope that they would help to improve the nations council living accommodation and usher in a new era of modern living.Who is to say that eventually, they will not be viewed with the same kind of fondness that we feel, for some of our elegant Georgian squares who themselves have also witnessed periods of great dilapidation in their history.