Threads Through Sheffield


Architecture meets life

New chapter: PhD here I come…

Apologies for my absence the last several months have been quite busy. I have several ‘plates’ spinning at the moment which I will like to share with you in more detail in the coming weeks.

For now I will leave you with an image.

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People Meet in Architecture

A good article I found in the AA’s free newspaper a few weeks ago that talks about the obsessions and rituals surrounding the Venice Architectural Biennale.

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RIP Tinsley Cooling Towers 6 + 7

It seemed unfair that these towers had spent the last 40 years cast into darkness every night until that is the night they were to be demolished, when they were lit up as ghostly spectres for a captive audience to snap at with picture phones, digital cameras and video cameras. I can only hope that these images live on as a timely reminder to what we once had and what we don’t have anymore.

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Evacuated Fields

S,M,L,XL Koolhaas, R. and Mau, B. (The Monaceli Press, 1995) p401

“Rotterdam is a city that makes no demands.

It is the average destroyed and reconstructed post-World War II European city, its attractions emptiness, neutrality, a work ethic, and the absence of history, pretension, “interest”, temptation.”

The circus sets up beside the railway tracks temporarily occupying an evacuated field – the circus is in town

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Once they’re gone, they’re gone…

Last Saturday ( 12th April 2008 ) the Cooling Towers Collectibles Co. Stall opened for business in Sheffield’s city centre Millennium Galleries. Its aim to commemorate and mark the Tinsley Cooling Towers as Sheffield’s own unique pair of landmarks, by producing products to celebrate them before their expected passing, when they will be demolished for good and lost forever.

At the agreed 9am opening time there was already a queue of about 30 people waiting to purchase their piece of Cooling Tower memorabilia. People came from all over the UK to wait in line. Within an hour the queue was making its way down the corridor towards the Winter Gardens. By lunch the stall had sold all of it’s limited stock – which included: 100 plates, 250 tea cups, 25 screen prints, 50 pairs of oak models, 50 paper make your own cooling tower kits, 50 t-shirts, 80 cotton bags, 20 jigsaws, and many a postcard. The 2 week predicted stall life was cut down to just over 4 hours.

My thanks go to the two Toms from Go ( who organised the event and gave me the opportunity to distribute the ‘Make your own Cooling Tower’ kit and the small oak pairs of cooling towers. Hopefully they have gone to good homes (not ebay – as some of the plates have!!!) that will cherish them and hold onto them for some time to come.

Make your own Cooling Tower Kit



one of everything please

customer being served

customers are interviewed for channel 4 documentary

Filed under: Sheffield

From Top of the Tower

(Images from

Tower 7 has been recently scaled by a group of ‘urban explorers’, offering a tantalising glimpse of what only the birds have been able to savour till now.









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Quadric Hyperboloids

A fantastic piece of writing by Hinchcliffe and Hodgson (2007) inspired by the Tinsley Cooling Towers to be read by two people:

“So cool we’re practically dead
Quadric hyperboloids!
That’s what we are.
A three dimensional continuous surface described by the mathematical equation
X squared over a squared, plus y squared over b squared, minus z squared over c squared = 1
We are thin shelled structures.
Maximum height and strength with minimum material.
A kind of “less is more” principle in practice.
And we are heavy.
Collossal actually and pressing down hard on an underpinning lattice of diagonal concrete pillars.
Not Doric or Ionic, just Iconic.
Tensile stress encircling two deep black cauldrons of what was once steaming hot water.
Turbulent, boiling rain.
A funny storm in an even funnier funnel!

Today, the two pools we still stand over are flat and stagnant.
Each one reflects a circular glimpse of sky, framed by the edge of our perforated crowns.
Light at the top of the funnel, not at the end of a tunnel.
We once took the heat out of it all
A very intricate process
Hot water, used to cool the turbines at Blackburn Meadows Power Station was pumped to the top of us.
Scalding and steaming, it cascaded down on the updraft of cooling air, sucked up by the pressure increase created in our pinched hyperbolic waists.
Now it appears we are a waste.

We are the last of seven you know?
Seven of us built between 1937 and ‘42
and only two of us left.
But Regal!
And Magnificent!
Advanced engineering
And Radical Architecture!
Presiding over Great Britain’s 1st motorway.
We altered its course forcing it to skirt around us as it rolled north.
That old M1 has kept us alive
They couldn’t blow us up because we’re too close to it
Only 48 feet away
But now the cleverly controlled implosion techniques of the 21st century, will be the downfall of us both.
Whatever happened to

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Tinsley Cooling Towers

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”

(Amended Newton’s third law)

The Tinsley Cooling Towers are still standing but it would seem for not much longer, Eon are determined that they will not make it to see the summer of 2008.

E.ON UK Press Releases

01 February 2008 16:00
Preparations ongoing for demolition of the Tinsley cooling towers

Plans to bring down the Tinsley Towers are ongoing, with discussions continuing between E.ON UK, the Highways Agency, and other interested parties in preparation for an expected spring/summer demolition.Mark Maisey, E.ON UK Property Manager, said: “We’ve been working with a number of technical specialists on getting the final approvals finalised for demolition and now we’re looking to pin down a date that best suits everybody.

“It’s a big project and we want to ensure minimum disruption, which is why it’s taking some time but, naturally, we will share the demolition date with everyone as soon as we have it confirmed.”

Filed under: Architecture, Sheffield

one field many tents – fairground

Annoyingly I can’t find the full reference for the book, but I think the title was called Fairground Architecture and this was found on page 25.

What I like is the Liqurice Allsort appearance of the plan, and the way it also illustrates the paradigm “one field many tents”; albeit quite literally in this case.

Click on the picture to see it whole, plus the amazing legend that accompanies it.


Filed under: Architecture, Circus, Drawing

circus imitating life imitating circus

A redrawn diagram from Richard Schechner’s book Performance Theory:


A version of this diagram also pops up in an article written in 1986 by no other than Sheffield’s own Peter Blundell Jones. The article is called ‘Beyond the Black Box’ in AR (July 1986)  and is worth a read. PBJ writes about the Half Moon Theatre in London designed by the Architecture Bureau (which included Florian Beigel, now of the London Met’s Architecture Research Unit)

It touches on the reciprocal relationship between theatre and life, and how theatre and pubic performance was once a means through which social relations and competing realities were negotiated. Although not necessarily directly written about circus, there are many overlapping fields of interest and relationships.

Filed under: Architecture, Circus, Film