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Millennium Galleries by Pringle Richards Sharratt

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With the completion of the Millennium Galleries Pringle Richards Sharratt has kick-started an urban regeneration scheme which looks set to return Sheffield’s city centre to its former glory

Forty years ago, Sheffield was seen as a city with a bright future, its prospects buoyed by its innovative approach to architecture and planning. Pevsner wrote of the ‘massive achievement of Sheffield from about 1950 onwards. No other English city except London can show so impressive an architectural record.’ Ian Nairn was equally fulsome. ‘The buildings put up in the last 10 years and projected for the next 20 are as interesting and exciting as all the older buildings in the city put together, ’ he wrote in 1961. ‘Sheffield could be the boom town of the 1960s.’

Last year, Sheffield One, one of three new government-backed urban regeneration companies, was launched with the prime purpose of regenerating not Sheffield’s rundown industrial fringes, devastated by the contraction of the steel industry, but the city centre, which Pevsner and Nairn had so admired. In June 2000, Koetter Kim was appointed as masterplanner for the central area - where 50 per cent of Sheffield’s jobs are based.

The achievements of the 1950s and ’60s are now widely seen as a burden, with the drab commercial buildings of the period - Sheffield had suffered severe wartime bombing - no match for their Victorian predecessors and undoubtedly responsible in part for the city’s commercial decline. (As a retail centre, Sheffield lags way behind Manchester, Leeds and Nottingham. ) The inner ring road constructed around the centre under the regime of J L Womersley (city architect 1953-63) is rightly regarded as an unmitigated disaster.

Pringle Richards Sharratt’s (PRS) recently opened Millennium Galleries is a prime component in the ‘Heart of the City’ project intended to reinstate Sheffield as a major retail, cultural and leisure destination - office, retail and hotel developments are projected, linked by new public spaces. It is being promoted as ‘the most exciting and highest quality building to be built in Sheffield in the post-war period’.

In 1996, with Terry Farrell then in the masterplanner’s seat, PRS, with engineer Buro Happold, was appointed to design the galleries and a linked Winter Gardens, a covered public space to be built on part of the site of an ugly (and functionally deficient) 1970s extension to Sheffield’s late-Victorian town hall. Funding has come from the Millennium Commission, the European Regional Development Fund, English Partnerships, the local authority and a PFI initiative.

The Winter Gardens is set to open ‘some time in 2002’ - demolition work on the town hall extension has not yet begun as a consequence of delays with the PFI funding.

For the moment, visitors to the Ruskin gallery, the westernmost of the new exhibition spaces which extend parallel to Surrey Street between the town hall and the Arundel Gate section of the inner ring road, have a view not of a lofty, almost Gothic space, crafted in timber, steel and glass, but of the crude, egg-box facades of the 1970s monster.

(Admirable glass panels by artist Keiko Mukaide do much to ameliorate its impact. ) On Arundel Gate, PRS’ elegant glazed facade - the principal external expression of the building - is squeezed between a surviving Georgian town house (used as offices for the galleries) and the showy bulk of the Novotel.

The urban strategy behind PRS’ galleries and Winter Gardens project is essentially anti-Modernist - at least in the old Modern Movement, Pevsner/Womersley understanding of the term. The Millennium Galleries, say the architects, is not a freestanding object but ‘a series of streets and spaces ‘mined’ out of a dense bit of urban fabric’.

John Pringle makes a comparison with the enclosed malls of Meadowhall, the outof-town shopping centre which spelt near-ruin for central Sheffield. ‘This is also a covered, enclosed space, ’ he says, ‘but it is true public space, where there is calm and, we hope, beauty.’ He compares the complex to the networks of alleys and covered ways found in Mediterranean cities. Where the planners and architects of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s went out of their way to ignore the regular grid of Georgian Sheffield - a surprising amount of which survives - PRS reconnects with the historic pattern.

The galleries take advantage of Sheffield’s steep slopes. The visitor - maybe an outsider, like me, having toiled up the hill from the station - entering from the eastern end, on Arundel Gate (now much tamed and not the impassable barrier it was), passes the restaurant, which opens out onto a new paved and planted square, and ascends by escalator or lift to the gallery level, exiting on grade at the western end or though a side door into Surrey Street. The undercroft contains education spaces, stores, staff accommodation and plant and is serviced via an underground road created as part of the 1970s town hall extension project. None of the undercroft spaces are more than functional, though the education rooms benefit from the availability of natural light.

The main gallery level is, however, an unusually satisfying, unfussy and truly modern succession of top-lit spaces, 1,500m 2inarea, of which John Ruskin, with his loathing of pretension and empty display, might have approved. They are formed as 11 bays on a 7.5 x 15m grid, with a series of rooms covered in exposed precast concrete vaults - the finely finished concrete of the vaults, beams and posts creates the internal character of the building.

In principle, the whole internal space can be reconfigured, opened up or subdivided at will, though it is presently divided into five sections: a multipurpose long gallery facing Arundel Gate; the Ruskin gallery; the craft and design gallery; the metalware gallery (showing products of Sheffield industry); and - the largest of the spaces - the 800m 2temporary exhibition gallery, which occupies five bays of the building. The first exhibition contains some remarkable treasures from the V&A - though this is not ‘the V&A of the North’ and the link with that troubled institution is much more distant than was initially envisaged. (The Tate and National Portrait Gallery are the other partners in the project with the Sheffield Galleries and Museums Trust - the next visiting show brings works by Francis Bacon from the Tate. ) The galleries will, inevitably, be compared with Kahn’s Kimbell for their calm dignity and skillful use of natural light but, as Pringle explains, they make use of a highly original daylighting strategy - light from a clerestory level is bounced off reflectors set at the edge of the vault on to the white concrete. (The mix is calculated to give the vaults maximum reflective qualities. ) The clerestory itself is louvred to filter direct sunlight. Given PRS’ environmental interests, one expects (and gets) an innovative approach to energy and services.

It helps that Sheffield - always a progressive place at heart - has its own ‘green’ district heating system (which burns refuse). Power from this source propels low velocity fans located in the raised, office-style ‘hypocaust’ floor, introducing conditioned air which, absorbing heat from the sun, the lights and the visitors, is extracted at high level via a natural stack effect.

The heavy concrete structure of the building acts, of course, as a thermal store, reducing the demand for mechanical heating and cooling.On top of the gallery vaults, there is a thick layer of insulation, with hard-wearing terne-coated stainless steel as the external covering. ‘There is not a lot to see, ’ says Pringle ofthe services, ‘but there is a lot going on.’ The discreet and elegant manner in which servicing is integrated into structure is one of the strengths of the scheme.

Like the forthcoming Winter Gardens, the foyer space (‘the avenue’), which extends along the northern edge of the run of galleries, is a tempered but not conditioned environment. The use of double-glazed glass blocks and fritted glass will exclude glare and there are opening windows for hot weather.

It is hoped that this space will become a public route, reinforcing the idea that the Millennium Galleries are an incident in the city rather than a destination - a place where the passer-by may be drawn into the world of the Gloucester Candlestick (one of the V&A’s greatest treasures), the Sheffield cutlers, William Burges, the Kelmscott Chaucer, Japanese lacquer and Ettore Sottsass, to mention some of the wonderful things currently to be seen there, protected behind a layer of four-ply plate glass. There is an admission charge to the temporary exhibitions, but all the other spaces are free.

The Millennium Galleries are seen as part of a regeneration programme, the key link in a new cultural quarter which includes the city’s Graves Art Gallery and the Crucible and Lyceum theatres, with the heavily populated campus of Hallam University nearby. The Graves is, however, stranded uncomfortably on top of the 1930s public library and the theatres are essentially evening places. In contrast, the Millennium Galleries are uncompromisingly democratic spaces, their prefabricated, modular construction expressing their nonhierarchical character, which invites the public to enter, pass through or linger according to their inclinations. This non-prescriptive programme is in tune with the cultural thinking of New Labour and the Millennium Galleries are, in this respect, rather more radical than the more traditional ‘destination’ of Walsall.

At only five years old, PRS has produced a major work, though one which is intentionally unmonumental and clearly one element in a regeneration strategy rather than a grandslam Bilbao-style gesture. (Branson Coates’ Pop Music Centre, now closed, was a cut-price attempt at the latter. ) But it is the Winter Gardens, phase two of the practice’s grand project, which could be the key move in breaking the stranglehold of Meadowhall and reanimating the city centre.

If other new developments in Sheffield take their cue from PRS’s restatement of civic and cultural values, the city, with its real assets of landscape and community, could be on the road to a real renaissance.


The precast concrete roof vaults (which span 15m across the gallery spaces) were designed in pairs of 28-tonne units which are stitched together on site.

The gallery spaces are controlled to narrow temperature and humidity parameters.

Displacement ventilation provides required conditions in the lower space where artefacts are located. Upper levels are allowed to fall outside these conditions, reducing volumes of air required and energy use.

Exposed structural concrete surfaces - roof vaults, gutters, columns and adjacent ducts - provide thermal mass, assisting in stabilizing the gallery environment. Their high heat capacity prevents sudden fluctuations in temperature through occupants, exhibits, lighting heat loads, etc.

The gallery finishes are exposed precast concrete. Upper levels are precast elements with permanent precast concrete formwork for in situ concrete columns. Back-of-house areas at the lower level are constructed from in situ concrete. The concrete roof vaults were formed in steel moulds, with other elements cast in timber moulds. The vaults were cast in two halves, allowing exposed surfaces to be cast face-down into moulds. Cast surfaces were shot-blasted to create a lightly textured finish.

The 5.6m wide roof vaults span 15m and are supported by corner columns with a stainless steel tie preventing the folded plate spreading. There are no ties across the vault within the span. Because a complete vault forms a very efficient structural component, the compression and tension forces in the apex and eaves respectively are not large. The vault overall depth is around 1.4m, with a span-to-depth ratio around half that of a typical beam.

The vault shell thickness was thinned to 80mm, reducing overall unit weight for handling and erection. Stiffening ribs expressed on the vault undersides provide additional out-of-plane stiffness. Bottom edges of the vaults are in tension, acting as beams.While reinforced concrete can carry tension forces, development of surface cracks needed considering. The low vault span-todepth ratio led to low strains in the concrete edges and small crack widths through careful detailing of the reinforcement.

It was established that crack widths could be adequately controlled using normally detailed reinforced concrete. However, Dutch contractor Hibex was concerned about development of cracks, particularly during manufacture, and opted to post tension vault reinforcement. Diffuse light is required for gallery spaces. Concrete surfaces were formed in white concrete with specially selected sands and aggregates. These were exposed by shot blasting, creating a high light-reflective surface. The clerestory windows, in conjunction with a light shelf at gutter level, bounce light onto the vaults and thus into the gallery.


Pringle Richards Sharratt www.prsarchitects.com

Buro Happold www.burohappold.com

Arup Acoustics www.arup.com


Costs reflect anticipated out-turn



Site investigation work, permanent ground stabilisation work, bulk excavation and reinforced in situ concrete ground slab including the associated underground drainage


FRAME £213.36/m2

Precast concrete framed structure with natural white self finish to gallery with structural steel frame to kiosks

UPPER FLOORS £135.10/m2

Precast concrete upper floor with natural white self finish including in situ concrete infill sections and steel mezzanine floor forming plant room

ROOF £248.11/m2

Precast concrete barrel vaulted roof and gutters with natural white self finish internally and terne-coated stainless steel sheet metal roof coverings externally, glass block roof terrace, safety line equipment installation for roof cleaning

STAIRCASES £16.05/m2

Steel fire escape staircase, steel spiral stair and steel plant room ladders to back of house areas


Bolted structural double glazing and double-glazed framed curtain walling forming external walls including glazed external doors. Double-glazed framed clerestory glazing, electrically operated tilting, encapsulated blinds at roof level, glass block panelling, louvered blades, air transfer grilles, glazed brickwork to kiosks


Steel roller shutter doors (note: glass external doors included within costs for external walls)


MDF and plasterboard dry-lined partitions, blockwork partitions, glazed internal partitions, sliding/folding demountable acoustic partitions, MDF framed freestanding moveable partitions to subdivide gallery spaces, metal mesh security cages


Timber fire check flush and glazed internal doors and ironmongery



Emulsion paint to internal partitions, ceramic tiling to WC areas, minimal render and plaster work.Fair-faced concrete soffit generally to gallery, front- and back-ofhouse areas.Suspended ceilings to kitchen, servery and WC areas, painted soffit (nominal) to remaining areas


Raised access floor system with composite stone floor tile finish to gallery areas, composite stone floor tiles to remaining communal and front of house areas on screeded bed.Painted concrete finish to back-ofhouse areas



Tables, chairs, benches, shelving, racking, signs, whiteboards, projection screens, bins, seating, lockers, reception desks, shop units, work benches, notice boards, hat and coat pegs, staging, banners, security cabinets


Glass balustrades with stainless steel handrails and uprights around escalator void and to external roof terrace


Electrically operated tilting and retractable blinds to gallery areas


Permanent display showcases and glass showcases to Ruskin gallery, metalware and craft galleries incorporating interactive and graphic displays.Glass showcase cabinets to temporary exhibition spaces (costs associated with the direct funding by the Sheffield Galleries and Museums Trust of additional showcases and software/hardware to the audio/visual displays are not included)



Vitreous china sanitaryware, vanity tops, WC partitions, waste disposal installation


General fit-out including provision of all equipment, fixtures and fittings, mechanical and electrical installation, floor, wall and ceiling finishings and general builders work in connection with the installation (kitchen fit-out was part funded by the client and this contribution is included in these costs. The balance was funded by the end user and the costs associated with this are not included)


General space heating and ventilation/extract system, hot and cold water installation, sprinkler installation.Mains intake and distribution, specialist lighting installation to gallery areas, general lighting, power, fire and security alarms, CCTV, lightning protection, electrical work in connection with mechanical installation


Glazed scenic passenger lift, goods lift, escalators, scissor lift to loading bay, pair of dumb waiter service lifts



Management contractors’preliminaries includes provision of site offices, welfare facilities, compounds and access roads, security, scaffolding, temporary telephone, electric and water supplies, consumables, common labour gang, rates and charges, insurance, construction staff costs and management contractors’ fees



Hard and soft landscaping including drainage around the gallery and leader house


Refurbishment of a detached Grade II-listed building adjoning the site for office accommodation to house Sheffield Galleries and Museums Trust administrators EXCLUSIONS Professional fees, VAT and external commissions ordered by the Sheffield Galleries and Museums Trust

Cost summary

Cost per m2 Percentage (£) of

SUBSTRUCTURE 221.49 8.34


Frame 213.36 8.04

Upper floors 135.10 5.09

Roof 248.11 9.35

Staircases 16.05 0.60

External walls and windows 282.84 10.65

External doors 1.39 0.05

Internal walls and partitions 202.00 7.61

Internal doors 34.69 1.31

Group element total 1,133.54 42.70


Wall and ceiling finishes 14.09 0.53

Floor finishes 103.04 3.88

Group element total 117.13 4.41



Sanitary installation 28.21 1.06

Kitchen fit-out 13.06 0.49

Mechanical and electrical 448.87 16.91

Lift installations 56.70 2.14

Group element total 546.84 20.60

PRELIMINARIES 443.21 16.70

TOTAL 2,654.63 100.00


TENDER DATE November 1997

START DATE 1 March 1999



GROSS FLOOR AREA Gallery 4,594m 2(including kiosks and plant room mezzanine) Leader House 394m2

FORM OF CONTRACT JCT Standard form of Management Contract, 1987 edition

TOTAL COST Gallery £12,780,000 Leader House £354,600

CLIENT Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Galleries Museums Trust

ARCHITECT Pringle Richards Sharratt Architects: John Pringle, Penny Richards, Ian Sharratt, Douglas Oyugi, Basil Kalaitzis, Adam Blacker, Joanne Metcalf, Valerie von Truchsess, Therese Degermark, Tim Gledstone

PROJECT MANAGER Sheffield Design & Property

QUANTITY SURVEYOR Sheffield Design & Property




LIGHTING CONSULTANT Bartenbach LichtLabor/Ingenieurbur Martin Klingler

EXHIBITION DESIGNER Jasper Jacob Associates, Ralph Appelbaum Associates



PLANNING SUPERVISOR Sheffield Design & Property

MANAGEMENT CONTRACTOR Tilbury Douglas Construction


SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS terned stainless steel roof suppler Eurocom Enterprise; roof glazing Cox Building Systems; external glazing and lift shaft enclosure Soliver Waregem; aluminium framed glazing RC Systems; bolted glazing Structawall, Glas & Metaal Engineering; automatic sliding doors Geze UK; glass blocks and terrace GBW; glass block supplier Solaris; glazed blockwork Astraglaze (Forticrete); external louvresWestern Avery; escalators Schindler; internal glazed screens In House Design; raised access floors Atlas Access Floors; raised floor tile supplier Tate Access Floor System (Alumasc Interior Building Products); spiral staircase Albion Design; glass balustrades Sovereign Stainless Fabrications; sliding/folding partitions Panelock, Alco Beldan; plasterboard supplier British Gypsum; floor finishes Q Flooring Systems; floor tiles Quarella (Concord Tiling); WC wall tiles Ezarri - Shackerley Holdings; shower tiles Buchtal (UK); sanitary fittings, WC accessories GroheDal, Armitage Shanks, Keramag, Hewi, Laufen, Duravit, Ideal Standard, Warner Howard, Amwell Laminates; ironmongery manufacturer FSB Allgood; lock supplier ASSA; decorations Foyle & Kirk; floor paint Hesselberg Barrikade; clerestory blinds Screenline (UK); internal blinds Levolux AT; external works Sheffield Direct Services; gallery fitout Graeme Ash Shopfitters; track lighting Concord; light fittings iGuzzini, Artemide, Erco, Thorn

WINTER GARDEN SUBCONTRACTORS laminated timber structureMerk Holzbau; roof and wall glazing J&W Haran; roof glazing system supplier Vitral UK; roof access system Clow Group; Winter Gardens planting Rentokil Tropical Plants

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