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Sheffield Hallam University

Buildings are to the fore at Sheffield Hallam, and many are highly competent

The school of architecture at Sheffield Hallam is a 21st-century phenomenon already stealing its share of the RIBA White Rose awards. The show includes work from the BSc in architecture and environmental design (AED), alongside that in architectural technology and the postgrad­uate courses of MSc in technical architecture and the brand new, three-year, part-time post-graduate diploma in architecture. The show is held around the atrium of the Owen building, which is, unfortunately never going to show work off in the best light. It somehow feels as though the students were a little surprised that they had a show to put on at the end of a year of what has undoubtedly been hard work.

The most interesting part is the third year of AED, the RIBA Part 1-validated course, which is tucked away in a room at the back. What strikes the visitor most is how much ‘architecture’ is equated with ‘building’ – the noun, rather than the verb.

Ben Kee images

Ben Kee images

Each project is delivered as a single, bounded building entity, the definitive answer to a posed question. You get the feeling that the students judge themselves more on the answers they offer rather than the questions they ask.

Nevertheless, there are some highly competent products here, the pick of which is Benjamin Kee, whose observatory and digital campus appear to be the result of poring over 1990s Tadao Ando monographs. Kee’s work stands out, due to its controlled restraint and draftsmanship, where most others have overloaded the pages with too much information and a reliance on CAD.

Ben Kee section

Ben Kee section

Inevitably there will be comparisons with Sheffield University’s school up the hill, as both sets of graduates will be competing for the same diminishing number of jobs. What employers must ask themselves is whether it’s a time for questions or for answers, style or substance.

Resume: There are many answers, but where is the questioning?

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