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A scheme that uses innovative smartphone technology to magically light up a dark footpath in Sheffield has won the first prize of £5,000 in the Forgotten Spaces 2011: Sheffield architectural ideas competition.

Guiding Lights, designed by Chris Paterson, brings to life Frog Walk, between Stalker Lees Road (off Ecclesall Road) and Sharrow, with animated 'avatars' and an LED screen.

The screen interacts with travellers at night, using motion sensors to track their movements and generating bright colourful silhouettes, which escort them.

And a smartphone app can be used to choose and customise avatars, which signal when other people are approaching to reassure lone travellers. The idea for the avatars was inspired by Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.

The idea impressed competition judges for its 'brilliant' solution to making people feel safer at night. They also praised Chris' colourful and clear designs.

Chris, 30 who lives in Firth Park in Sheffield but is originally from Holland, said: “I’m absolutely stunned to be honest. There was a lot of stiff competition so when they read my name out I was amazed.”

A second prize of £3,000 was awarded to Oliver Peach for his Wicker Spice design to develop an essential oil distillery in abandoned buildings in the Wicker area. The idea celebrates the local community's cultural mix and brings a new identity to the area.

Third prize, and £1,000, went to Doma Architects for their Food for Thought idea, which redesigns the dilapidated Millhouses barn into a self-sufficient community centre, complete with allotments and public café. The building, in Millhouses Park in Sheffield, was nominated as a 'forgotten space' for the competition by the city's South West Community Assembly.  

Forgotten Spaces 2011: Sheffield is an architectural ideas competition, run by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Yorkshire and Sheffield Hallam University.

The competition encouraged architects, designers and artists to come up with innovative ideas that find new uses for the region's forgotten spaces. The project is sponsored by British Land, owners of Meadowhall, Creative Sheffield, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce (SCCI) and Industry and developers and engineers Buro Happold.

The winners of Forgotten Spaces: Sheffield

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The winners, selected from a shortlist of 19, were announced at an event organised by the SCCI at The Crucible Theatre.

John Palmer, director of communications and public affairs at Sheffield Hallam University, said: "The winning entries really reflect the diversity of the entries we had for this competition. I hope they will cause debate and delight around the innovative ideas that architects, artists and community groups have come up with for Sheffield's overlooked spaces."

Emma England, director of RIBA Yorkshire, who was one of the judges, said: "It has been a real delight to be part of this terrific ideas competition. As a member of the judging panel, I have been inspired to see such a fantastic range of creative, innovative, thought-provoking and, in some cases, controversial ideas for transforming forgotten spaces in Sheffield."

An exhibition of all the shortlisted entries, including models of the designs, is on at The Crucible Theatre until Saturday 8 October.

Judges also commended the following projects:

  • Life is a beach by Ark D M Team
  • Pigs, Bees & Bells by David Britch, Eamonn Canniffe, Stephen Martlew
  • Is the River Really Beautiful...?by John Harrison, Chantelle Stewart
  • The Coo-op by Evans Vettori Architects
  • Cuthbert Bank / Walkley Flying Club by Simon Gedye, Keith Hayman

For press information: contact Tess Humphrys in the University’s press office on 0114 225 4025 or email