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Astragal: Park Hill is alive with the sound of music

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Supporting the strike with a picket • Never-ending storeys • Maria Hellman

Sheffield-born singer Richard Hawley is to write songs for a musical about his home city’s iconic Park Hill estate

Sheffield Theatres says Standing at the Sky’s Edge will run at the Crucible theatre in early spring next year. The show is written by Olivier Award-winning playwright Michael Wynne with music and lyrics courtesy of the one-time Longpigs and Pulp guitarist.

The musical will tell the story of the first residents of Park Hill over the 50 years starting when they moved into the estate in 1961.

The estate was designed by Ivor Smith and Jack Lynn. Smith’s death last month led to an outpouring of respect for the architect, including from several of the practices involved with the ongoing refurbishment of Park Hill.

Sheffield Theatres describes the musical as ‘a heart-swelling, heart-breaking love song to Sheffield’.  

Supporting the strike with a picket 

Cambridge red fence

Cambridge red fence

Intriguing news last week from the city of perspiring dreams where disgruntled students chained a giant picket fence to the gates of Senate House at the University of Cambridge as part of a protest against pension changes for academic staff.

The so-called Rebel Architects faction of the Cambridge Defend Education group said the red fence represented their solidarity with striking staff at the university.

‘Attacks on our staff are attacks on our education,’ said the faction on Facebook. ‘Already many junior staff and students struggle to afford the basic necessities of a dignified life, suffer under an escalating mental-health crisis and are exploited at every opportunity. Enough is enough: our futures are not for sale.’

The rebellious attitude and use of physical metaphor are great traits for any architecture student and cause no alarm. 

What amazes is that the students were up to carry out their protest at 7am. And during the coldest snap for some years.

Astragal can only assume they were still out from the night before.

Never-ending storeys

Long live the differences between the UK and the USA.

While our government consults over changes to planning guidance that could possibly make it easier to extend buildings by a storey or two, a bank in New York is about to rip down a 215m-tall skyscraper and build an even bigger one.

No longer satisfied with its 52-storey home at 270 Park Avenue, JP Morgan Chase has announced plans to demolish the 1960s-built Skidmore, Owings and Merrill tower. 

In its place will come a 70-storey giant, some 150m taller, according to local reports. 

‘With a new headquarters at 270 Park Avenue, we are recommitting ourselves to New York City while ensuring we operate in a highly efficient and world-class environment for the 21st century,’ JP Morgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon declared.

Perhaps the redundant ‘old’ tower could be broken into individual storeys, shipped to the UK and added to existing buildings one by one.

Maria Hellman

Maria and bucky crop

Maria and bucky crop

Very sad news has reached Astragal of the recent death, at 76, of Maria Hellman, wife of the AJ’s cartoonist of 50 years Louis Hellman. 

Maria trained at the Bartlett School of Architecture – the backdrop for this remarkable photograph (above), taken in 1961, where she is pictured building a geodesic dome with fellow students under the supervision of Buckminster Fuller (pictured second on the left)

Married to Louis for more than 55 years, in 1973 Maria went on to run a shop in Ealing that sold the work of women artists. 

She then graduated in art history at Birkbeck, before working at London’s National Gallery.

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