Sheffield Design Week: Beauty and the Brutalist

Daniel Dylan Wray
Photo of the inside of a corrugated tunnel

The first ever Sheffield Design Week takes place across the city this month, bringing together both the brutal and the beautiful.

“Sheffield, I suppose, could justly claim to be called the ugliest town in the Old World” – so goes the now famous George Orwell quote. Orwell felt that Sheffield, “has a population of half a million and it contains fewer decent buildings than the average East Anglian village of five hundred”. Ouch. Sheffield’s relationship to design and architecture has always been an interesting – and often contradictory – one. The city itself is something of a mish-mash of leftover, often crumbling Brutalism and ambitious modernism, with its buildings now housing burgeoning young artists and designers. It is a city in something of a state of aesthetic flux; so, it seems that “a citywide celebration of design in all its forms” could not be more suitably homed than in Sheffield.

An expansive programme of exhibitions, talks & films – even a Beat the Architect lego competition

Taking place at various venues across the city, the inaugural Sheffield Design Week will run from 23-29 June and see an expansive programme of exhibitions, talks, conferences, events and films – even a Beat the Architect LEGO competition. The line-up will showcase many areas of design, including advanced manufacturing, technology and fashion, alongside the perhaps more obvious areas of graphic design and architecture. Explore the city with the HCD Sheffield Architreck tour, or settle in somewhere for a film. This strand of the festival is entirely free, screening a broad range of documentaries in venues including Site Gallery and Sheffield University: Microtopia, for instance, looks at bizarre and inventive alternatives to traditional housing.

The MADE NORTH Conference is the central event at the festival, with a rich variety of speakers and industry-leading creatives present. These include Antony Burrill, whose best-known works will also be on display in an exhibition called I like it. What is it? at MADE NORTH Gallery. Sheffield’s Millenium Gallery is hosting Yorkshire in Yellow as part of the Grand Depart, and, of course, there couldn’t be a design festival in the city without including the infamous, monolithic Park Hill housing estate. The estate is hosting the English Heritage-led show, Brutal and Beautiful: Saving the Twentieth Century. The exhibition looks at listed buildings from the post-war era, exploring a love-hate relationship with England’s more recent architecture. One suspects George Orwell might have had a slightly different view of Sheffield in 2014.

Culture Guides


Northern flicks, sci-fi masterpieces and some brand new film festivals feature in this month’s cinema preview.


Spring weather might be dragging its feet a little, but the world of exhibitions isn’t slowing down with new shows popping up everywhere to greet the new season.

The Bull and the Moon at Instituto Cervantes


With spring’s indecisive weather in mind, we’ve pulled together a whole load of fun indoor and outdoor family events and activities taking place in Manchester and the North.

Poet Helen Mort.


Spring is making an entrance in live literature land with some extra special festival events, writing walks, online launches and in real life readings from local writers as well as international talent.


From Father John Misty to The Flaming Lips, The Waeve to Big Thief, here are the gigs on our radar for early spring.

Theatre in Manchester and the North


You’ll find everything from work-in-progress scratch nights to multi-award winning musicals in this month’s theatre guide.

Classical Music

We preview the standout classical music events and venues in Manchester and the north.

Food and Drink

Get ready for spring and summer with the best restaurants and bars in Manchester and the North.

Tours and Activities

From indie markets to bit-sized meditation, spoon carving workshops to gallery tours, here are the headlines in the world of tours and activities.