Sunday, 23 June 2013

Thematic concepts explored

With close to two weeks experience within Sheffield my thoughts of the city and relevant themes have progressively developed.  My academic understanding within the city of Sheffield and the historical context of Northern England has greatly enhanced through field visits and guest speakers. 

As it is considered that Northern England was the heart of the Industrial Revolution during 18th-19th century, it became aware through field visits that most industrial cities currently represent this wealth and prosperity that was generated through buildings and artefacts, despite a changing city function since the 20th century.  For example, Leeds Town Hall was a monumental building expressing power, wealth and control during the industrial revolution.  Liverpool has continually developed its service industry as was represented along Albert Docks renewed into commercial-tourist hub, whilst representing the once rich port and shipping connection to the wider world.  The bustling wealth and prosperity of Sheffield during the 19th century is further reflected within the grand Town Hall building and Railway Station.  Remarkably, there is a strong association with stainless steel artefacts within these Sheffield precincts representing a strong steel manufacturing connection to the town’s original prosperity. 

Since arriving in Sheffield, my knowledge of the factors associated to the modern city function, layout and culture has progressed.  It became aware that Sheffield experienced mass population during the industrial revolution and steel production throughout the 19th-20th century.  This resulted in vast amounts of low-paid workers requiring appropriate forms of housing where it became evident in the participation of the underground coal mine that many miners since record were drastically underpaid. The consolidation of these housing forms is accordingly clustered within the northern-eastern districts of Sheffield close to the factories.  Meanwhile, the topographical nature of Sheffield home to the River Don and River Sheaf generated initial water power for production, whilst many coal deposits and mines located east of Sheffield strategically located factories to operate within the northern/eastern boundaries.

All good things come to an end, as was the case within Sheffield’s bustling steel production industry.  This downfall during the 1980s resulted in a changing city direction as regeneration projects since the 1990s have attempted to sustain the city of Sheffield.  Being a major themed focus within my individual research essay, urban renewal projects has attempted to bring new directions into the city through a changing economy into a service-sector and technological metropolis.  The ‘Heart of the City’ is a representation of the history of Sheffield through the distribution of 18th-20th century classical buildings being utilised by modern commercialised shops, further representing the latest economical function of the city.   

The nature of the study tour being an interdisciplinary approach to learning has constituted positive and negative outcomes.  While it has been difficult to grasp extensive knowledge within the desired discipline, awareness within other fields has contributed to a greater contextual understanding of Sheffield’s core themes.  This is relevant within the planning approach.  This perspective has interrelated with the sociological and historical discipline to understanding the culture of the city present today. 

The interdisciplinary approach of the study tour coordinated through the group projects has been rewarding.  The combination of arts, archaeology and planning students within my allocated group project has required broader thinking to adopting individual’s ideas and pursuing these into a sole focus. Each discipline seemed to have unique methods of approach such as presenting and expressing information which is useful for future assessments. 

Northern England has much evidence that its rich industrial heritage has resulted in positive and negative outcomes upon the cities throughout time.  While Sheffield continues to function as a post-industrial city, is its global recognition as being a ‘steel city’ lost within the modernisation and redirection of the community focus? Or does this enhance Sheffield’s identity as being characteristic to steel through the sturdiness and resilience nature to combating the downfall of the manufacturing industries?
- Taila Maher (Bachelor of Urban, Rural and Environmental Planning)

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