It's a tower, but is it art?

Sheffield Travel Blog

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The Arts Tower - borrowed picture from:

Sheffield, like most UK cities has failed to ever have anything you could reasonably call a skyscraper.  I have to say it's a bit odd when you think about it - a small country where space is obviously at a premium has hardly any high rise buildings.


Anyhoo - the tallest building in Sheffield is the University Arts Tower.  This dominates the city centre skyline and due to our position of being located on seven large hills it can be seen from vantage points across the city.


Having just done a bit of research on it (isn't the internet a wonderful thing) I have discovered that it's a grand total of seventy eight metres tall and has twenty floors.  Not much in the scheme of things when you consider the monoliths in the US and Southern Asia but hey - this is Sheffield.


You can't really miss it though.  It's not really so high that it towers above everything - especially as the geography means that parts of the city look down on it (in a physical rather than moral sense.)  What does set it apart however is it's appearance - it's a great big black thing with bright white windows.  Now this does make it stand out!  It hovers there like something that has just fallen out of space, completely at odds with anything else on the skyline.  That’s 1960s architecture for you.


Now I'm sure there are people who would claim it an eyesore but I have to disagree - it's a great looking building.  On closer inspection it’s not really black (just dark grey) and the white windows are actually blinds but it's still a monument to modernism.  And anyway - they couldn't get rid of it if they wanted as it's now a listed building.


Occasionally they use the front of the building to make images or text by putting lights on in specific windows or inserting coloured blinds - the most recent one being their spring daffodil which appeared the other week.


But more exciting than all that is the lift system inside it!!  No glass elevators here.  No, instead there is the only example I’ve ever come across of a paternoster lift system.


What is a paternoster lift I hear you cry.  [We cy, we cry - Ed]  Well, it's difficult to explain without the use of diagrams or anything but I'll give it a go.  Instead of standing in a box that is winched up and down on a wire this uses a constantly rotating belt and platform system.  The platforms are attached to the belt and rotate up one lift shaft and down the other and you just hop on and off as one goes past.  (It's not exactly death defying - it doesn't move that quickly and you couldn't fall down the shaft.)  Apparently if you go over the top or bottom it unbalances it and it stalls for a couple of minutes while it’s gyros realign or something.  And you probably get shouted at.


So that's it's real claim to fame - a paternoster lift!!


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The Arts Tower - borrowed picture …
The Arts Tower - borrowed picture…
photo by: moshers_moll