Here’s a building that attracts attention from all over the world. Strangely enough, it is a building that frightened me as a child. The cold, harsh, concrete structure overpowers one of the main gateways into Sheffield city centre.
Do we like it?
It seems that disapproval of Sheffield’s Brutalist architecture is reserved for Park Hill flats, and the Electricity Substation, on Moore Street and Hanover Way, seemingly escapes most criticism. And since October 2010, the building has been floodlit with coloured lighting at night-time creating a dramatic artistic focal point on Sheffield’s ring road.
Its history goes back to the early 1960s when electricity distribution in the city called for the use of a 275 kilovolt cable ring around the city centre with transformer and switching substations needed on the ring.
A substation was needed near the junction of The Moor and Ecclesall Road. Back then, this was an area largely occupied by substandard back-to-back housing and small cutlery works and was identified for redevelopment.
The original plan was square in detail, but this was rejected because it would have forced the closure of several small factories. Instead, an L-shaped plan, occupied by back-to-back properties, was devised by the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) to be built in two phases.
The chosen site needed an architectural statement and the CEGB appointed Jefferson, Sheard and Partners of Sheffield and London, led by Bryan Jefferson, as architects to work with the board’s own civil engineer.
The result was this concrete building that housed transformers, switchgears, and busbars on separate floors. Phase 2, forming the other leg of the substation was never built because anticipated demand never materialised.
The Electricity Substation was built by Longden & Sons and completed in 1968. In the same year, it was commended in the Financial Times Industrial Architecture Awards.
Constructed with a reinforced concrete frame with concrete floor slabs, blue engineering facing bricks, and cladding panels of Cornish granite aggregate, it was completed by Longden & Sons in 1968. In the same year, the building was commended in the Financial Times Industrial Architecture Awards.
The ground floor houses two transformers, with switch gear occupying the floor above. It was Grade II listed in 2013, considered to be of special interest, and is still in use, although advanced technology means the second floor is redundant.
Bryan Jefferson founded his practice with Garry Sheard in 1958, and the architects were also responsible for the Cinema and Entertainment complex in Pond Street, now occupied by Odeon Luxe, Tank Nightclub, and the O2 Academy.
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