The square that Sheffield has taken to its heart

Leopold Square, winner of the People's Award to celebrate the best contemporary architecture
Leopold Square, winner of the People's Award to celebrate the best contemporary architecture

ONCE renowned as the former Central Technical School, then as council education offices, the grand Victorian buildings between Leopold Street and West Street have quickly established a reputation as an upmarket complex of bars, restaurants, hotel and apartments.

And local people have evidently taken it to their hearts. For the development, with its sensitively restored buildings, central courtyard, fountains and bronze benches, was named this week as the winner of the People’s Award in a bi-annual competition to celebrate the best contemporary architecture in the city.

Runner-up was the University of Sheffield’s black rubber-clad Soundhouse in Gell Street, off West Street, which is used by music students.

The Sheffield Design Awards, announced last night (Wednesday) at the Showroom cinema in Paternoster Row, are hosted by Sheffield Civic Trust and the Yorkshire section of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Winners were announced by Tom Bloxham, co-founder of Urban Splash, which is redeveloping Park Hill flats. He said: “The consistently high quality of entries to the 2010 Sheffield Design Awards shows that the city continues to push the boundaries of design excellence.”

Leopold Square was designed by Sheffield-based Axis Architecture to give a new lease of life to the old school and offices, helping to improve the city centre’s range of places to eat and drink with a touch of cosmopolitan sophistication.

Simon Gedye, of Sheffield Civic Trust, said: “We had hundreds of votes for the People’s Award which proves yet again how much pride people take in their city. Leopold Square is clearly loved by the many people who used it and I am delighted Axis Architecture have received recognition for their outstanding work.”

The Soundhouse building, near the old Jessop Hospital and an addition to the university’s Portobello campus, was designed by Carey Jones Chapmantolcher.

The Design Awards invite members of the public and industry professionals to cast their votes. Other winners are:

The Workshop, an extension to a Victorian villa to create a studio and offices in Nether Edge, by DRDH Architects, Best Building Award;

Western Bank Library, refurbishment of the University of Sheffield library, by Avanti Architects, Renovation Award;

Cemetery Road apartments, next to the General Cemetery at Sharrow, by Project Orange, Residential Award;

Newfield and Talbot School at Norton Lees, by HLM Architects, Community Design Award.

Commendations went to the Crucible Workshops, by Elden Minns & Co (Renovation), SAFAR, accommodation for alcohol rehabilitation, by BDP (Community Design) and Hallam University’s Furnival Building, by Bond Bryan Architects (Best building using sustainable technologies).

Emma England, head of RIBA Yorkshire, said: “Although entry numbers were down on 2009 the quality of the winning projects is outstanding.”