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Degree show review: University of Sheffield

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The University of Sheffield’s School of Architecture has produced an impressive showcase pointing to a school at the top of its game

Helen galletti di cadihhac sheffield uni

Helen Galletti di Cadilhac - MArch student at University of Sheffield 2018.

Helen Galletti di Cadilhac - MArch student at University of Sheffield 2018.

In March the University of Sheffield’s famous Arts Tower, which houses the school, was occupied by students protesting at proposed changes to staff pensions. While the reason for the strike was widely supported, the blockade of studios and lecture theatres by comrades on other courses understandably caused frustration. Seminars were cancelled and access to coursework and the studios denied. The timing could not have been worse.

Sheffield University Student Show 2018

Sheffield University Student Show 2018

Sheffield University Student Show 2018

It is a credit therefore to both the tutors and the students that the show is neither pockmarked with spaces left void by unfinished projects, nor suffers any tangible drop in quality of the presentations. If anything, there is an extra energy in the displayed work, which, combined with the university’s usual rigour, has produced an impressive showcase pointing to a school at the top of its game. The Guardian clearly agrees, naming it the best architecture school in the country in its latest league tables.

Holly Harbour, evening, exterior

Holly Harbour, evening, exterior

Holly Harbour, evening, exterior

The school’s long-embedded ethos of social conscience and sustainability is evident even from the very first term of Part 1, where students are encouraged to engage with local groups and the city – projects include designing a community kitchen – before they get stuck into the nitty-gritty of housing. 

In Year 2, themes include a neighbourhood study of the city’s Burngreave area, before the third-years take in-depth, socio-political and typographical studies of other towns, such as Scarborough.

Like any other school, the work reflects the current architectural vogue – so there are Adam Khan-esque roofscapes, flat pastel visualisations, O’Donnell + Tuomey mimics and a flurry of sculptural chimneys. But the standard is unquestionable, with 22 Part 1 students receiving firsts. Among the undergraduate stars are Ethan Loo, Holly Harbour and Michael Neal, whose City Hall project is notably well-considered and presented.

Michael Neal

Michael Neal

Michael Neal

The MArch course begins with live projects, where students meet clients in need and help them with real-life design problems. Though the results are most often the creation of an intelligent brief for further thought and commissioning, a scheme for an inland pier over archaeological explorations in the Castlegate area could actually be realised.

MArch: Inland pier view

MArch: Inland pier view

MArch: Inland pier view

Student groups go on to work on their own detail projects. Those standing out include Helen Galletti di Cadilhac, Mansel Haynes, Luke Moran and David Hodgson, whose Arcade of the Arts, a reimagination of a 19th-century arcade for a local artist collective, is delightful. Sheffield’s students – and the university staff who eventually managed to agree a deal over their pensions – have a rosy future.

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Arcade on the Moor by David Hodgson

Arcade on the Moor by David Hodgson

Arcade on the Moor by David Hodgson

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