Case: Blackburn Meadows Biomass

 Biomass (large)

(Above: Blackburn Meadows Biomass power plant is a striking new landmark. Image credit: © Paul Karalius)

The Blackburn Meadows Biomass power plant, created by BDP for E.ON Energy, has won the RIBA Yorkshire Award 2017 and a RIBA National Award 2017.

The site of the Blackburn Meadows Biomass was sure to be a challenge for any project in response to the iconic, 250ft high Tinsley Towers standing just yards from the southbound carriageway of the motorway as it crosses the double-decker Tinsley Viaduct near Sheffield. The towers, which stood from 1921-2008, had become a memory and a visual symbol of the past industrial heritage.

Following the announcement of the new power plant and the demolition of the Tinsley towers, stirring up many emotions for and against, the new E.ON Biomass power plant was approved and laid the pathway for this to become the new symbol of sustainability, reflecting the modern industrial revolution.

The project was described by the design team as:
“…provide a striking new landmark in the place of the recently demolished Tinsley Cooling Towers, entering the public consciousness as a marker for the city and a beacon of sustainable energy production…

“Form follows Function” is a phrase commonly used to define the zeitgeist of modernism and is perhaps most relevant in the ‘wrapping‘ of this large mysterious object, where the architectural expression is purely driven by the process of the functioning machine. The striking black and amber volumes draw their inspiration from the processes of the past: the black is a reference to the site’s industrial heritage or even the smut and smoke of the coal fired power stations, while the amber is a symbol of fire, surrounding the burners glowing at dusk like a rising phoenix of the old Tinsley Towers.

The project provides additional educational benefits to the local community, as well as a benefits fund worth up to £25,000 a year, initiated to support local projects throughout the lifetime of the plant. Landscaping to the south of the site enhances biodiversity, and £500,000 of funding will contribute towards a permanent piece of public art for the area.

This is a truly sustainable project, celebrating the past and present and providing a new 21st century icon for Sheffield.