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Ssshh! It's Mecanoo's less-than-impressive UK debut

Readers might not have noticed Mecanoo’s first completed project in the UK – so here it is….

The Dutch-based practice, which has made the headlines with its contentious new Birmingham Library proposals, has understandably not been shouting about this small housing scheme in Sheffield.

The six-unit project, which was showcased in the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2006, marks the first phase of a larger 33-home development at Foxhill for developer Artisan.

But while the designs remain true-ish to the architects’ original intent, the finishes leave something to be desired. The practice admits the ‘heavily postponed’ development had ‘involved some value engineering’.

That’s an understatement according to an AJ spy: ‘The design of these units is quite satisfactory, but the cheap materials and shoddy workmanship ruin the buildings. I have never seen such poor stonework and the concrete copings mock the dry stone wall concept that is supposed to marry the houses to the superb countryside they look over.’

The scheme is part of the city’s wider regeneration programme looking at failing communities in Southey, Owlerton and Brightside Shiregreen

In response to the criticism a Sheffield City Council spokesman said: ‘We’re obviously disappointed that we’ve had negative feedback about the project at Foxhill as people’s views are important to us.

‘However, what we can say in response is that the project is in its initial phase and while we know there are elements the contractors are improving, such as replacing the temporary doors, we know the design would be a talking point. We wanted a development that makes the most of the fantastic views, doesn’t turn its back on the existing neighbourhood and offers a natural linkage to the countryside.’

Readers' comments (3)

  • It may be disappointing, but I'll wager behind the scenes they've had battles against planning & 'nimbyism' which will have diluted their best efforts.....

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  • Let's not continue to give our industry a bad name by being so catty. This is a perfectly nice scheme, which I'm sure satisfies the client's brief and expectations, and it doesn't detract from its surroundings, in fact it sits quite well within them and it is a nice piece of architecture. Our industry has got to get a clue -- it's not always about trying to be 'star-chitects'. How about designing functional buildings, which of course look very nice but which can be built cost-effectively, that connect with people and help change their lives for the better? What a concept!

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  • Looks like the developers and planners designed this one.......
    Perhaps the article needs to be more appropriately titled.

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