Last week Sheffield City Council released a list of 20 buildings judged by their Conservation Officers as being ‘at risk’. The ’20 x 20’ list looks across the city to identify historic buildings that could be saved and converted to create over 300 new homes. The list includes the Farfield Inn in Neepsend, the former Middlewood Church, Beehive Works and Tapton Court. All of the buildings are Grade II listed or above and all are believed to be in private ownership with the potential to be developed.

With the limitations of listings, unknowns of existing buildings and endless possibilities for redevelopment, how best can existing buildings be creatively re-used and adapted to bring them back into use whilst retaining their unique character?

In our experience, the best results are achieved by a close collaboration between building owner, architect, conservation officer and builder.

We have worked on projects converting pub buildings into flats and residential units, created unique homes from chapels and workshops and worked with owners of unique buildings to help to reassess how they could be reinvented for multi-purpose new uses.

This former chapel in Wensley was sensitively renovated and converted into a single home.

Externally the original features of the chapel were renovated and celebrated. Internally, lightwells allow light to flood into both levels from the existing high windows and an open plan living space hugs into the curved apse at the rear of the chapel. Similar ideas to this could be applied to the Loxley Chapel on Loxley Road that appears on the 20×20 list.

Thread Director, Anya, created her home from a former joiner’s workshop in the heart of Sheffield.

The workshop on Slinn Street was in a poor state of repair when Anya and her partner Joe took on the project. Rather than demolishing and starting again, they worked with the existing structure to breathe new life into the building and form a contemporary new home that celebrated the industrial heritage of the building. The careful consideration of the existing building and new additions earnt the project Residential and Conservation Awards at the 2016 Sheffield Design Awards. There are a lot of metal trades buildings on the 20×20 list, such as the Don Cutlery Works. The success of the re-use of these buildings will depend on careful consideration and preservation of their industrial heritage, sensitive interventions and creative and well-crafted additions.

We’ve also worked on multi-purpose re-use projects, such as this former Magistrates Court in Chesterfield.

The owner at the time wanted to reconsider the use of the building altogether, exploring ideas for residential units, restaurants, flexible working spaces and a nursery as a mixed-use development completely reinventing the existing building. Through a series of sketch feasibility plans and aspirational images, we helped to visualise the possibilities for the future of this building. The success of the larger buildings on the Council’s 20 x 20 list, such as the Former Tribunals Court on East Parade, will be in the creativity of thinking of their owners and their architects. This creativity gives the freedom to see past the existing use and sometimes poor condition of these historic buildings to visualise what they could be, to celebrate their history as well as their future in the city.

More recently, we have worked closely with the building owner and Sheffield City Council Conservation Officer on the renovation and modern extension of a grade II listed office building in a city centre conservation area.

The design, which was granted planning permission last year, breathes a new lease of life into an important historic building as well as creating a new landmark extension on a prominent Sheffield site. Building work will commence on site later this year.

By highlighting the potential of the buildings on their list, Sheffield City Council hopes to encourage their development and re-use. We look forward to seeing how these buildings develop in the coming months and years and to making our own contribution to the preservation and reimagination of historically significant buildings in the city.