THE University of Sheffield this week received strong support for its controversial scheme to demolish the Edwardian wing of the former Jessop Hospital to make way for an engineering complex - from its counterpart across the city.
Prof Philip Jones, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, said that, on this occasion, he was convinced that “the new is better than the old”.
He stepped into the debate as the council assesses Sheffield’s application to knock down the listed building in the face of opposition from the conservation community. A decision is due before Christmas.
“Managing heritage and developing modern spaces at the same time is a challenging task, but I support the University of Sheffield’s proposal to construct a new engineering block,” said Prof Jones. “The University’s Faculty of Engineering is already world class, but it has big ambitions. It wants to be the best in the world, and to meet its ambitions it needs to grow.
“Its proposal is controversial - a dazzling new build which would involve the demolition of the Edwardian building that made up part of the Jessop Hospital. The proposal is particularly challenging because many Sheffielders were born there.”
The University of Sheffield’s £80m plans were challenged by Howard Greaves, of Hallamshire Historic Buildings Society, who contrasted Sheffield’s plans, developed by a London architect, with Hallam, which is working with local architects to develop Sydney Works.
“The contrast is not strictly accurate. We are not responsible for that particular development but we are working on other projects. We are developing a new build on Charles Street but have to respect the 19th century street lay out by maintaining the line of the street through the building. It will cost us more and take up valuable space, but we are happy to do this, even though it will compromise the build and feels mildly eccentric.”
Hallam’s Vice-Chancellor added: “The University of Sheffield is a sensitive and imaginative developer. I do of course have to declare an interest as I was formerly part of its senior management team and was lead Pro-Vice-Chancellor in the development of its iconic and prize winning Information Commons. This building with its green copper cladding is far more striking and arresting than the old Edwardian block. As Howard Greaves said, the university did a good job in converting the Jessop building, but it’s the ultra-modern Sound Studios next door that catch the eye.”
Both city universities were at the heart of the city’s future, spreading the word about Sheffield across the globe, adding millions to the local economy and working with local, national and international companies. “Wherever possible in our new buildings we respect the old and develop the new. Sometimes though, we have to recognise that the new is better than the old. And I’m convinced that’s the case with the university’s proposed new engineering block.”