Love Among the Ruins: Photography that documents the community of a Sheffield housing estate

Bill Stephenson, 'Tony the Ton' and Martin age 8, outside the Pop In Centre. Hyde Park Flats, Sheffield, 1988 © Bill Stephenson

This July, S1 Artspace reopens in the heart of Sheffield’s iconic Brutalist Park Hill estate with an exhibition of archival photography and film of the residents who shaped the original communities in Park Hill and neighbouring Hyde Park.

Love Among the Ruins: A Romance of the Near Future presents the work of two social documentary photographers Roger Mayne (1929 – 2014) and Bill Stephenson (b. 1955), who documented the first residents of Park Hill from 1961-65 and the last remaining residents of Park Hill’s sister building Hyde Park in 1988 – both landmark buildings which were the product of City Council Architect J. L. Womersley’s pioneering vision for social housing in Sheffield.

The exhibition takes its title from Evelyn Waugh’s satirical short story, which imagines a dystopian future Britain as the result of an overbearing welfare state. Written in 1953, Waugh’s story foreshadowed some of the concerns about the possible social consequences of the government’s progressive post-war approach to rebuilding the country.

Including rare documents and archival material, Love Among the Ruins is a re-interpretation of Streets in the Sky, an exhibition by Mayne and Stephenson curated by Matthew Conduit at the Untitled Gallery in Sheffield in 1988. Thirty years on, this new show revisits aspects of the original exhibition alongside works not previously shown and includes The Fortress, a film about Park Hill produced by the BBC in 1965 as part of its Landmarks documentary TV series.

Originally staged during the most significant period of decline of the two estates, Streets in the Sky provided an insight into the sense of rootedness and connection to the architecture felt by many of the residents. Despite the increasing deterioration of the fabric of the building, Stephenson found "a close community reluctant to be broken up" and "did not meet a single resident who wanted to be rehoused, despite the current condition of the flats."

Looking back to the utopian ideals inherent in the architecture of Park Hill and Hyde Park, Love Among the Ruins traces the social history of the buildings, as Park Hill is once again undergoing a huge period of reinvention following its Grade II* listing in 1998 and ongoing redevelopment since 2007. It offers a moment to reflect on the major changes that the estate has experienced historically and marks the next phase in the evolution of this landmark building.

Love Among the Ruins: A Romance of the Near Future – Roger Mayne and Bill Stephenson will run from 20 July until 15 September 2018 at S1 Artspace in Sheffield.

Roger Mayne, Boys playing football, Park Hill Estate, Sheffield, 1961 © Roger Mayne Archive / Mary Evans Picture Library

Roger Mayne, Boys playing football, Park Hill Estate, Sheffield, 1961 © Roger Mayne Archive / Mary Evans Picture Library

Bill Stephenson, Donna Hargreaves and Carmen Bello sit on an unguarded fourth storey concrete parapet. Hyde Park Flats, Sheffield, 1988 © Bill Stephenson

Bill Stephenson, Donna Hargreaves and Carmen Bello sit on an unguarded fourth storey concrete parapet. Hyde Park Flats, Sheffield, 1988 © Bill Stephenson

Roger Mayne, Milk delivery, Park Hill Estate, Sheffield, 1961 © Roger Mayne Archive / Mary Evans Picture Library

Roger Mayne, Milk delivery, Park Hill Estate, Sheffield, 1961 © Roger Mayne Archive / Mary Evans Picture Library

Bill Stephenson, Roller skating paper girls Anita and Emma. Hyde Park Flats, Sheffield, 1988 © Bill Stephenson

Bill Stephenson, Roller skating paper girls Anita and Emma. Hyde Park Flats, Sheffield, 1988 © Bill Stephenson

Roger Mayne, Park Hill Estate, Sheffield, 1961 © Roger Mayne Archive / Mary Evans Picture Library

Roger Mayne, Park Hill Estate, Sheffield, 1961 © Roger Mayne Archive / Mary Evans Picture Library