After being abandoned by the public for a flashy young out-of-town mall, Sheffield's city centre is enticing them back with a number of arresting projects, the latest of which is this Pringle Richards Sharratt winter garden
The latest phase in the reinvention of Sheffield's city centre was unveiled to the public on Wednesday.

The Winter Garden, designed by Pringle Richards Sharratt, is a 21 m high temperate greenhouse that doubles as a galleria, offering a covered shortcut between the new Peace Gardens and the refurbished Tudor and Hallam Squares.

"It's a new form of public space that you don't normally see in cities," says John Pringle, partner at the practice. "It's not trying to sell you anything."

The £5.5m garden is linked directly with the Millennium Galleries, an arcade containing art and design exhibitions that was completed by the same architect last year. Both projects are part of Sheffield's Heart of the City initiative, which aims to revitalise a city centre that has struggled to compete with the Meadowhall shopping mall.

Pringle says Sheffield is fighting back with projects that enrich the civic experience, rather than providing yet more shops. "A lot of the life went out of the centre when they built Meadowhall," he says. "This is about drawing people back in. They're trying to reinvent the centre not by competing with Meadowhall but by offering lots of public activities."

The building is constructed from 18 pairs of parabolic arches, each made of glulam timber beams made in Germany by Merk Holzbau. This choice of material caused something of a ruckus. Pringle recalls: "There was a bit of discussion about Sheffield being a steel city – but it isn't really any more. It's having to reinvent itself."

The beams step down in height at each end, giving the exterior the form of a giant glass croissant. Architect Ian Sharratt explains how the shape came about: "The steps avoid the need for double-curvature glass. We had a problem with funding so, unlike the British Museum's Great Court, where every bit of glass is different, 80% of the panels are the same shape."

The project is funded by the Millennium Commission, English Partnerships and Sheffield council.