Department store, 1963 to 1964 to designs of 1961 by Yorke, Rosenberg and Mardall (YRM).
Reasons for Designation
The former Cole Brothers department store (John Lewis Partnership), Sheffield, built in 1963 to 1964 to the designs of Yorke Rosenberg and Mardall (YRM), is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* as a rare example of a post-war department store designed by a leading architects’ firm to an accomplished modernist design using strict geometry and proportionality to create a statement building;
* the bold visual simplicity and unity of the building reflects the ethos of both the client and architectural practice, producing a sophisticated building that stands out from the more conservative and modest designs of other department stores of this period;
* for the skilful incorporation of YRM’s signature uncut white-glazed tiles that provide a clean, crisp image to the principal elevations, enhanced by the rhythm of rectangular brown mosaic window panels that cleverly balanced the client's requirement for daylit shop floors with the need for wall space for internal displays and limiting of solar gain;
* for its innovative planning that makes effective use of its sloping island site, fully integrating a multi-storey customer car park that directly connects into each sales floor, and providing pedestrian entrances on two levels;
* the largely unaltered exterior is complemented by the retention of the open-plan layout and circulation routes and good-quality original features including doors, granite-lined and black terrazzo-floored customer stairwells, customer and staff staircases and the central Marryatt-Scott escalator.
* the department store contributes positively to the varied historic buildings of its city centre location, having group value with the listed interwar City Hall and the War Memorial, Barkers Pool; former Waterworks Company Offices, 2-12 Division Street; C19 Leah’s Yard (courtyard workshop complex) and 32 Cambridge Street (former Georgian Sunday School); and the late-C19 Salvation Army Citadel, Cross Burgess Street.
John and Thomas Cole first opened as a silk mercer and hosier’s store on Fargate, Sheffield, in 1847, soon joined by brother Skelton, expanding over the C19. In 1920 the business was sold to Selfridges and was then acquired by John Lewis in 1940, though keeping the Cole Brothers’ name. On the nights of 12 and 15 December 1940 Sheffield suffered severe air bombing attacks and five out of the city centre’s six major department stores were damaged beyond repair, Cole Brothers’ being the only one to escape severe damage. By 1960 all five other stores had been rebuilt or were in the process of rebuilding and Cole Brothers was faced with resurgent competitors trading from modern, up-to-date premises. This provided a strong incentive to relocate and build a new store. It was the only store not destroyed by enemy action that John Lewis rebuilt in the two decades after the end of the war.
A new department store was commissioned from the Modernist London practice of Yorke, Rosenberg and Mardall (YRM). YRM designed many large post-war projects including Gatwick Airport terminal, Warwick University and St Thomas’s Hospital, London. F R S Yorke was a leading thinker and advocate of Modern architecture. He published The Modern House in 1934. He also travelled to Europe to meet Modernist practitioners, including Havlicek and Honzik, architects of the tile-clad General Pensions Office, Prague (1929-1934), and also the Czech architect Eugene Rosenberg, who had worked on the building. Rosenberg as a student had worked with Le Corbusier on Cite de Refuge, Paris, where white tiles featured on the exterior of the reception building and entrance drum. Later, fleeing the Nazis, he arrived in Britain and was reacquainted with Yorke. In 1944 they set up practice together with the Finnish architect Cyril Mardall. In 1952 YRM were joined by David Allford, Sheffield native and graduate, who became a partner in 1958, and was lead partner on the Cole Brothers’ project, although it was Eugene Rosenberg who represented the practice at the official opening. Allford, together with new partner Brian Henderson, brought a new dimension to the practice, influenced by the crisp rational forms derived from the American work of Mies van der Rohe. In 1961 YRM used white facing tiles on their own London offices (Grade II, former YRM offices, City of London) and their use was to become a signature of YRM’s work.
The designs for the store were passed by the City Council on 11 October 1961 and it was built in 1963 to 1964. The official opening was on 17 September 1963 by the Lord Mayor, Alderman I Lewis, who praised the building whose Modernist credentials aligned with the Council's radical post-war redevelopment plans. The store had approximately 105,000 sq ft of selling area on five floors (including a lower ground floor). The general contractors were Trollope & Collis Ltd, who had also carried out the building work for YRM’s recently completed offices in London. It was constructed around a square grid of reinforced concrete with 29ft (8.8m) column centres and 10 in (25cm) concrete slab floors, constructed floor by floor, using a wooden deck of laminated boards treated to prevent the concrete sticking, supported by scaffolding to form both shuttering and a working area, which was then dismantled and re-erected on each floor. Concrete was laid using a ‘placer unit’, fed through a rigid airtight pipe at 100psi, reported to be a new building technique used here for the first time.
The design carefully considered the City Corporation’s post-war development plan for Sheffield, which required off-street parking and off-street vehicle loading/unloading. The island site, opposite the City Hall, had a slope of approximately 14ft (4m) from north to south, enabling an internal goods yard beneath an integral 400-space continuously ramped car park at the south end, each level communicating directly with the sales floors of the store. The exterior of both the store and car park was faced in un-cut, white glazed, rough-textured Belgian tiles of 9 inch by two and a half inch dimensions, maintaining a unity to the whole building. John Lewis required the store to be daylit, but it was also necessary to provide blind walls in sales areas for internal displays, and to avoid excess solar gain, which had been a problem with some earlier department stores. Projecting panels of brown glass mosaic were placed in each window aperture with the largest panels used in the sales’ areas on the upper floors; smaller panels and more windows were used for the snack bar and restaurant on the second floor and for the office accommodation and staff facilities on the third floor.
The interior design was carried out by Raymond Loewy of New York, who also designed the interior for John Lewis’s flagship Oxford Street store. Heating was by warm air with some radiant panels above windows. Some areas, such as the restaurant and hairdressing department had cooling systems. An escalator and lifts served all floors.
The interior décor has been renewed over the years, however the lifts, staircases and escalator remain in their original positions.
Department store, 1963 to 1964 to designs of 1961 by Yorke, Rosenberg and Mardall (YRM).
MATERIALS: the building is constructed of reinforced concrete faced with white tiles with brown glass mosaic panels. The ground-floor shop fronts are faced in Spanish grey granite and the window and door frames are aluminium.
PLAN: the building is rectangular in plan, surrounded by roads, with its primary frontage to Barker’s Pool (north). The integral car park and ramp is located at the south end and there is also parking on the roof of the store.
EXTERIOR: the structure is faced in a grid of small, horizontal white tiles, with shuttered concrete to the car park balustrades and ramp. A cantilevered canopy projects over the display windows on the ground floor and there is a tile-clad parapet to the roof-top car park. The windows have slender aluminium frames and the doors have slender aluminium frames with central wider transoms with glazing above and below.
The four-storey, five-bay front elevation has a full-width tiled canopy over the ground floor with a wide central public entrance with aluminium and glazed doors and large rectangular overlights. To each side are two large, full-height display windows with aluminium frames and grey granite to the facade. The floor plates between the upper floors are clad in tiles, forming horizontal bands, and are topped by the parapet (the parapet fencing is a recent addition). The upper floors have brown mosaic panels of differing widths with vertical lights to each side and a row of smaller lights over. The first floor has five wide panels; the second floor has three wide panels to the first three bays and two narrower panels to the fourth and fifth bays; the third floor has two almost square panels to each bay separated by vertical lights.
The canopy continues round the corner onto the west elevation (Cambridge Street). The floor plates are tile-clad with full-height vertical bands of tiling towards the left-hand end and also to the right of the canopy, denoting the location of stairwells. The ground floor has similar large display windows with a wide public entrance with glazed aluminium doors and overlights to the right of the vertical band of tiling. At the right-hand end is a doorway with a modern external ramp. The upper floors have less regularly placed brown mosaic panels of differing widths. Set back on the roof behind the parapet is the flat-roofed engine plant room. At the right-hand end of the elevation is the car park, which rises above the parapet level. It has a wide full-height band of tiling with board-marked concrete balustrades to the left and to the right, wrapping round the south-west corner. Set back beneath the left-hand balustrade is a doorway with double doors to the stairwell. Projecting out from the corner is the concrete board-marked balustrade enclosing the upper end of the external car park ramp. Beneath is a large display window and recessed double doors.
The south elevation (Cross Burgess Street) is tiled with board-marked concrete balustrades to both outer corners. In front is the car park ramp rising from right to left with a board-marked concrete outer balustrade. Beneath at the left-hand end is a large display window with double doors to the right-hand return beneath the ramp, with two display windows to the right surrounded by grey granite.
The east elevation (Burgess Street) has the car park at the left-hand end. Board-marked concrete balustrades wrap round the south-east corner and to the left is the entry to the external ramp. Beneath the balustrades is the vehicle entrance to the internal goods yard. To the right is a wide, full-height band of tiling, a narrower vertical band of board-marked concrete balustrades with the recessed staff entrance beneath with double doors, and a narrower full-height vertical band of tiling. To the right are the sales floors with tile-clad floor plates and a full-height tiled band towards the right-hand end. The canopy wraps a short distance round the right-hand, north-east corner with a large ground-floor display window beneath and an adjacent public entrance with a double door. The ground floor has wide brown mosaic panels with a row of lights over. The upper floors have mosaic panels of differing widths with vertical lights to each side and rows of smaller lights over.
INTERIOR: the sales floors are open plan with boxed-in columns, a central escalator void with a roof light above, enclosed staircases to the periphery and lifts in the centre of the south cross wall dividing the store from the car park. In the south-east corner of each floor is a lobby with two sets of doors between the store floor and the car park. There is a public cafeteria and white-tiled kitchen on the west side of the second floor and a staff dining room and white-tiled kitchen above on the third floor.
The main public entrance (north) has a glazed lobby with similar aluminium framed and glazed inner doors opening onto the sales floor. The public side entrances open into stairwells and the ground floor is faced in grey granite. The entrances, stairs and landings have black terrazzo flooring with thin inset metal strips. The stairs have rectangular-section metal balusters and handrails (presently painted pale green) with brass strips to the top faces of the handrails and toughened glass panels. The staff staircases have square-section metal handrails. The central escalator is the original fitted by Marryatt-Scott. The original boilers, heating and ventilation systems remain in the basement. Many inner double doors are of solid timber with narrow vertical safety lights with square brass hand plates and skirting strips.
The sales floors and the cafeteria and dining room have been refurbished.
The car park has sloping floors and there are no internal columns.