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Degree show review 2019: Sheffield School of Architecture

The skills developed in Year 1 and Year 2 have been refined by Year 3 to produce proposals with a real sense of purpose, craft and identity

On a quiet Thursday morning in late June, the Sheffield School of Architecture’s degree show, always based at the department’s Arts Tower, is surprisingly busy.

Naively, I thought I’d be the only person (baby in tow) checking out the work. Usually, after the initial buzz of summer show opening nights, previews and drinks receptions, the exhibition spaces calm down, but this time I was surprised to find quite a few people milling about looking at the work. It was nice to overhear people commenting on how they wished they had studied architecture, inspired by the energy, creativity and ideas presented through the students’ work on display.

This morning is also quite telling of how well-regarded the Sheffield School of Architecture (SSoA) is as an architecture school, and the degree show itself does not disappoint.

The work throughout both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees has a tangible social focus

The work throughout both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees has a tangible social focus evident through an emphasis on research and engagement with the public. The SSoA interacts with its city through a number of live and built projects spread over the year and it even has the first permanent university-backed Urban Room in the UK: Live Works. The dedicated space in Sheffield’s city centre enables daily public interface with community groups, civic societies, other universities and arts organisations as well as SSoA’s MArch studios.

Impressively, these live projects and interventions interweave through all of SSoA’s courses, even PhD level. For example, in Year 1, Hack the Block pushes students from the outset to connect with a local audience through small-scale interventions in the public realm, notably touching on environmental issues in the first instance.

Sheffield’s pioneering initiative, Live Projects, which operates at the upper end of the school, embeds itself in the community as well, collaboratively working predominantly in the city, but also across the North and even in Brussels. This year there is also some of the school’s research work, Bloc Projects, installed in a courtyard at the gallery.

Copy of pages from y6 portfolio emily glynn 4

Copy of pages from y6 portfolio emily glynn 4

The work of the SSoA students is therefore very evident in the city and I’m sure this relationship, community integration and outward thinking makes the school’s architecture summer show much more approachable for the public than some of the others.

Thesis briefs throughout the school are incredibly varied, some more captivating than others, as usual. Unavoidable themes from current politics are tackled head-on: Brexit, migration, public service funding cuts and climate change. These subject areas are explored in the form of regional parliaments, EU embassies, migration hubs, recycling centres and food institutes, to mention a few propositions. Among the undergraduate projects, stand-out students include Joshua Burge, Cass Golding, Ruby Flanagan and Max Bridge.

The personalisation of each student’s thesis within the school’s units create individual critical standpoints, give character, and make some projects more memorable than others. It is warming to see projects that embody spirit, you can almost feel the students telling the story of their buildings and understand the people that they are made for. Atmosphere, thought and care are evident in their drawings.

Year 6 student Emily Glynn’s project Arrive with Trovare Casa uses intensely colourful axonometrics to illustrate a narrative which draws upon migrants’ individual experiences to inspire a ‘finding home’ travel agency, which aids those ‘in the process of arriving, offering temporary support and services to facilitate onward and upward movement of the transit migrant population’.

Cressy Lopez and Christie Tan

Cressy Lopez and Christie Tan

Cressy Lopez and Christie Tan

Another Year 6 student, Matthew Forbes-Yandi, aims to ‘unpick’ various discussions surrounding Brexit and the unanticipated consequences through a project entitled Make Grimsby Great Again. Also basing their project in Grimsby, Cressy Lopez and Christie Tan have set out to design a paradise in reaction to a lack of social justice within society – their drawings enthrallingly rich and visually mythological.

Copy of pages from mfy portfolio 2

Copy of pages from mfy portfolio 2

Overall the summer show displays a vast wealth of talent from its students, while the skills developed in Year 1 and Year 2 have been refined by Year 3 to produce proposals with a real sense of purpose, craft and identity. This language created in the undergraduate program is expanded upon in the MArch courses to portray elaborate thesis projects with just as much thoughtfulness.

Naomi Ronan is an architect at Peak Architects

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