The Sheffield ‘Cheesegrater’

Q-Park Charles Street, with aluminium solar shading, was designed by Allies and Morrison, also responsible for building Nunnery Square – Phase 1. Photograph: mcmedia

It is one of Sheffield’s oddest buildings, and probably one of the most photographed. Liked by many. Hated by many. The Q-Park, Charles Street, opened in 2008, and the extraordinary steel cladding merited the ‘Cheesegrater’ name.

The ten-storey car park was designed by architects Allies and Morrison, and constructed by Sheffield-based J.F. Finnegan  as part of the Heart of the City project, which also included the Peace Gardens, Winter Garden and Millennium Gallery.

The small parcel of land it sits on was once the site of the Yorkshire Grey, a public house dating to 1833, once known as the Minerva Tavern and later Bar Rio, and so there was understandable anger when it was demolished.

The frame is a precast concrete column and beam construction used to form the main car park deck. Photograph: SRC Ltd.

In its place rose this ultramodern structure with its nerve-jangling circular ramp leading to 520 parking spaces above. Car parks can be unattractive, and the precast concrete columns, walls, and floors, were hidden behind a screen of folded, anodised aluminium panels.

The external envelope, painted green on the inside, was each manufactured from a single sheet of folded aluminium, cut to an angle on two sides, and hung in four different orientations, providing natural ventilation.

“By day, a varied monochromatic pattern of light and dark is achieved over each of the elevations, with each panel giving a different light reflectance from its surface. The variety of open ends and tilted faces transform the surface as daylight fades. By night, the interior lighting bleeds between each panel and creates a non-uniform composition of light and dark across the surface.”

Photographs: Dennis Gilbert/VIEW
Photograph: mcmedia

Love it, loathe it, the car park has put Sheffield on the world map. A year after completion, it was named the ‘third coolest in the world’ by a car parking company and a design magazine. In 2019, it was voted the world’s most unusual quirky car park – beating off competition from Tokyo, Miami, and Australia, and was voted the most unusual car park in the UK in 2020.

There are even claims that Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, built its new Science and Engineering Complex following the cheesegrater style.

Maintenance work to repair push fit friction fittings on the exterior cladding. Photograph: CAN Ltd UK

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