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Threads through Sheffield - Circus School

Part 2 Project 2008
Paul Bower
University of Sheffield, UK
Where coal, steel and stripping South Yorkshire men once formed the 'landscape' and forged the socio-political, economical and cultural threads that ran through Sheffield and beyond, the world of Circus is explored to re-address the often clichéd and all too hasty urban response to dealing with the post-industrial condition.

The project is imagined in the evacuated fields and left-overs of industrial glories past and present. A projected timeline from 10 minutes to 100 years provides a thread along which the scenario plays out. A performance venue, circus school, funfair archive and event meadows assist in the continual mutation of site. Set in the foothills of the majestic, albeit ill-fated, Tinsley Cooling Towers the project utilises circus knowledge along with local expertise and material to help regenerate this former Power Station.

Sheffield has had its 'fingers' burnt once before by the relentless visions of Modernism, therefore it takes a certain romance to be made in Sheffield and it starts by smelling the roses...

Paul Bower

Paul Bower’s project for a Circus School at Meadowhall, proposes a new and invigorating alternative to a defunct industrial site, anxious about its ‘landmark’ towers and prone to flooding. Working alongside the existing conditions of a much maligned shopping centre, sewage works and transport interchange the project for a Circus School provides both a strategic and playful occupation of the site and its terminally decaying fabric both ahead of and instead of its planned comprehensive redevelopment. The Circus School project takes inspiration from both the traditional circus that once travelled by train and the current European rail network as a way of making the contemporary UK circus both mobile and sustainable. It proposes to connect existing disjointed schools and circuses via an interdependent European rail network accessed from this transport hub, but also aims to provide a permanent base for performance, display, training and education. This project draws on an acute awareness of the complex threads of interconnection between people, things and systems, while building on an intimate and local knowledge of Sheffield. By seeking to understand the peculiarities of this found space at Meadowhall, it attempts to make the most of an overlooked and neglected territory, without negating its character. The approach to circus construction does not simply rest on an ad-hoc temporary aesthetic. Its careful and intricate re-use of the most basic and large scale industrial materials and structures sourced from the site- telegraph poles, railway sleepers, pylons and cooling towers- creates the possibility for a performative and changing architecture, that can be both fleet-footed and robust. The architectural responses to the seasonality of the site and its occupation, the transient and episodic nature of performances and the history of entertainment and industry in Sheffield is nuanced, composed and energetic.

Dr Renata Tyszczuk
Mr Florian Kossak
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