Sheffield: City of Landscape and Architecture. Part Two – Castle Market
Moving down from Park Hill and into the city centre proper, another piece of functional modernism rises out of the site of Sheffield Castle, the oft-threatened but still holding on Castle Market. Planned and commissioned under the stewardship of City Architect J. Lewis Womersley, and built over the course of 1960-65, Castle Market is functional modernism at its finest in my eyes. The exterior of the building doesn’t try to make any grand statements, instead placing an office block of Mondrian-esque straight-lines atop a system of walkways and bridges, with the market itself becoming part of the undulating landscape of Sheffield in much the same way that Park Hill does on the other side of the valley.
The interior is where my interest in this building is sparked, by the straight lines, multiple levels, labyrinth like hustle and bustle, formica tables charged with milky cups of tea and some quite beautiful faded glamour. The frankly stunning cantileverd stairs which connect the market to the gallery are a joy to behold. Whilst other cities would see their market places shoehorned into bog standard boxed Arndale complexes (indeed, Wormersley himself had a hand in the design of Manchester’s in the early 1970s), Castle Market is very much a building which is designed with the market place in mind.
Market units fit perfectly into the building’s straight lines, with natural breaks in ‘genre’ occurring within the different floors of the building – each of which opens out onto a different part of the hill which the building is set within – a point which I found mighty confusing on my first few visits, but have come to view as one of the finest parts of the design! It is hard to capture just how well the 1960s design and ethos have been preserved here in words, but it is important to note that this is not preservation for aesthetics cause – Castle Market still exists in the form it does because of the people who use the building. It is a hugely effective market place, still loved by stall holders and customers alike. Construction is now underway across the city on The Moor for a new Sheffield Market; on one level this could provide the kind of shot in the arm that has seen Manchester’s new Arndale Market become a forward thinking place of exchange once more, but you can’t help but feel that a piece of Sheffield’s history, community and identity would be lost by moving a single one of these traders out of Castle Market. Give me a choice between this building or a regen heavy pedestrian route to the Victoria Docks, I think it is pretty clear which would be my choice to represent Sheffield.
To accompany the mixed experiences of Castle Market I have selected possibly the most interesting band in Sheffield at the moment, whose blend of afrobeat, drone, loops and feedback tick pretty much every box that I have to tick. Blood Sport are rightly being talked up by a lot of people locally, and are making the kind of music that you would expect from a Battles/Fools Gold crossover. Last time I saw them was at Sheffield’s annual music for all festival Tramlines, with far more people than surely should have been packed into a room crammed together and moving as one to the band’s hypnotic sounds.