Sometimes I like walking through the streets of Sheffield. Urban walking has a different feel to the moors, a perspective that has more of the human than the landscape.
Walking along streets gives a view the human desire to be unique, to make a home, a community with all its hopes and dreams. I like the houses that are different, it says to me someone had the courage to stand out.
I often choose a walk that has a specific building in mind. A few weeks back I wanted to look at a church built in the late 50’s and designed by Basil Spence, one of two he designed in Sheffield at the same time he was thinking about Coventry Cathedral. The Sheffield churches are both listed buildings and reflect the confident attitude the country had at that time.
St Paul’s Church, Parson Cross, sits on a major road running through a sprawling housing estate of mixed private and council housing. The area in parts has seen better times and has enclaves of anti social behaviour, mixed with neat semis with nice front gardens.
The building sits, sentinel like, back from the road, surrounded by a low brick wall and grass. Made of brick, glass and steel the large windows allow you to look through the entire church, one end to the other. It is almost scandi in its simplicity, the interior items designed and made to fit in with the building, so at first glance it looks a little empty. Then eyes set on a font, modern, simple, elegant. The church organ set on a mezzanine above a wood lath screen that shields the congregation from the outside world and yet lets light flood in. Pews set in rows, a simple square design of wood and steel. The lectern, wood and square tubular steel.
It mixes modern with the ancient. It must have seemed like a new world was dawning when the first congregation entered for worship. The building now puts forward a slight utilitarian face, a hoover stored against a glass window, posters advertising Africa Aid and the next jumble sale, bits of the design altered to accommodate technology never imagined.
But it is, in my eyes a beautiful building, simple, elegant, pleasing.