Arts Tower
Arts Tower in 2013
Record height
Tallest in Sheffield from 1965 to 2010[I]
Preceded bySheffield Town Hall
Surpassed bySt Pauls Tower
General information
LocationUniversity of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom
Coordinates53°22′58″N 1°29′14″W / 53.382738°N 1.487289°W / 53.382738; -1.487289
Construction started1961
OwnerUniversity of Sheffield
Roof78 m (256 ft)
Top floor78 m (256 ft)
Technical details
Floor count20

The Arts Tower is a building at 12 Bolsover Street in Sheffield, England, belonging to the University of Sheffield and which opened in 1965. A spokesperson for English Heritage described it as "the most elegant university tower block in Britain of its period".[1] At 78 m (256 ft) tall, it is the second-tallest building in the city, after the 101 m (331 ft) St Paul's Tower on Arundel Gate, which was topped out in 2009.[2] Mitchell Construction a British civil engineering firm, built the Arts Tower.[3] Photographs from their topping out ceremony in October 1964 help to document a different era in UK working conditions.[4]


Designed by architects Gollins, Melvin, Ward & Partners (GMW), construction of the tower started in 1961 and lasted four years.[5] Contrary to popular belief, there is no documentary evidence to suggest that the design was directly inspired by the similar, but much larger, Seagram Building in New York City, or for the theory linking it to the CIS Tower and New Century House in Manchester, England - although the similarity of aesthetics between the four buildings is undeniable. When asked about the possible inspiration of Mies van der Rohe's buildings in the United States, GMW project architect Robert Smith explained instead that the form of the building came from the surrounding context.[6]

Entry to the building was originally made by a wide 'bridge' between fountains over a shallow pool area in front of the building. This pool was eventually drained and covered over when it was found that strong down drafts of wind hitting the building on gusty days caused the fountain to soak people entering and exiting the building.[5]

Paternoster lift

Circulation is through two ordinary lifts and a paternoster lift which, at 38 cars, is the largest of the few surviving in the United Kingdom.[7]

A bridge at the mezzanine level links the tower to Western Bank Library.[5] This building was also designed by Gollins, Melvin, Ward & Partners—the two buildings are intended to be viewed together.[8] The Arts Tower and Library are Grade II* listed buildings.[9]

The buildings can be visited during office hours, although visitors may have to sign a register and show identification.[10]

Original accommodation

The building was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, in June 1966;[5] it has 20 storeys and a mezzanine level above ground. These housed the Departments of Landscape, Modern Languages, Philosophy, Biblical Studies, and Architecture, as well as the library administration, before the building's refurbishment. As its name suggests, the building originally housed all 18 of the university's arts departments, which had far fewer students in the 1960s.[5] Noticeboards for long rehoused departments such as History and Social Science survive in the basement foyer area. There are also two floors below ground level that house nine lecture theatres. The building contains a café in the basement.[11] It has a student computer room on the 10th floor,[12] and a self-service language teaching centre on the second.[13]


In December 2007, the university announced plans for a major refurbishment of the Arts Tower. The refurbishment saw a major re-organisation of the building's interior, as well as a new façade, and coincided with the move of the modern languages departments to the Jessop West building, on the former Jessop Hospital site. The building was vacated in April 2009, with refurbishment taking approximately two years to complete.[14] The work was finished in time for the beginning of the 2011–12 academic year; the building is still used for teaching, with the top nine floors allocated to the university's School of Architecture and Departments of Landscape.

References and notes

  1. ^ Belshaw, Tony (6 February 2008), "Multi-million pound revamp for city landmark", The Star, archived from the original on 7 February 2008
  2. ^ "World Architecture News". Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  3. ^ "SHE F ELD". SHE F ELD. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  4. ^ "Topping Out Ceremony". Picture Sheffield. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d e Mathers, Helen (2005). Steel City Scholars: The Centenary History of The University of Sheffield. James & James (Publishers) Ltd. pp. 191–3. ISBN 1-904-022-01-4.
  6. ^ Schneider, Tatjana (2008). This Building Should Have Some Sort of Distinctive Shape: The Story of the Arts Tower in Sheffield. University of Sheffield. ISBN 978-0-9556669-0-2.
  7. ^ "PatList". Archived from the original on 13 February 2017. Retrieved 9 November 2007.
  8. ^ Harman, R. & Minnis, J. (2004) Pevsner City Guides: Sheffield, pp82–84. New Haven & London: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-10585-1
  9. ^ Historic England (1993). "Library and Arts Tower, University of Sheffield (1247655)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 7 January 2006.(registration required)
  10. ^ "Visitors | Library". The University of Sheffield. 4 September 2020. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  11. ^ "School of Architecture Course Handbook 2007 - 2008" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  12. ^ "Arts Tower - Room AT10.12 - Student Computer Rooms - IT Services". The University of Sheffield. 10 February 2020. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  13. ^ "Facilities". Archived from the original on 26 June 2007. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  14. ^ "The Arts Tower". Archived from the original on 11 March 2012. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
Records Preceded byLeeds Town Hall69 m (226 ft) Tallest building in Yorkshire 1965 – 1973 Succeeded byWest Riding House80 m (260 ft) Preceded bySheffield Town Hall61 m (200 ft) Tallest building in Sheffield 1965 – 2010 Succeeded bySt Paul's Tower101 m (331 ft)