2020-2021 Studios

Our MArch programmes are based around a series of thematic studios which develop out of the studio leaders’ own research interests.


Our most recent studios.

MArch Studios 2020-2021

Collaborative Production

Studio lead: Dan Jary

The prevailing economic model of speculation and market-driven growth is unable to address the urgent global challenges of climate change and social inequality.  The industrial exploitation of resources, followed by disuse and abandonment, is no longer acceptable or feasible.  The damaging consequences of this are nowhere more apparent than in the north-east of Sheffield, where the studio is located.  There is an urgent need for greater recognition of interdependency, social capital and local value.  How might an alternative economic model be realised, and what kind of built environment might it generate? 

The studio positions itself in a future where a sharing economy has become mainstream, promoting innovative forms of production and exchange, and transforming the way people engage with local governance, education, healthcare and recreation.  The opportunity exists for the creation of an environmentally and socially sustainable urban neighbourhood, bringing mixed tenure housing into the city centre alongside new civic, social and cultural amenities.  

The climate emergency demands that we drastically reduce the consumption of energy and water in building construction and use.  The studio will look to maximise the use of existing buildings and infrastructure, drawing on the area’s historic character and rich culturally diversity.  The introduction of new green spaces and improved access to existing waterways will create spaces for social interaction whilst increasing biodiversity.  

The notion of collaborative production extends to the working methodology of the studio.  Students will work collectively during the early stages of the project, sharing resources, ideas and approaches.  A collective strategy will be developed which supports the creation of a socially dynamic and productive neighbourhood.  Students will then generate and evaluate programmatic and spatial possibilities, developing individual architectural propositions responsive to existing physical and social structures.  What will make the neighbourhood a vibrant and socially cohesive piece of the city?

Housing the Public

Studio lead: Jo Sharples

Covid-19 has accelerated the decline of the high street; with 50% of shops expected to fail as a result of the pandemic and 88% of workers anticipating continued home working for the longer term; the severity of urban abandon is palpable. Although the pace and scale of change was previously unimaginable, a societal shift permitted by the internet was inevitable. The technology that allows us to work from anywhere has released centuries of pressure on urban centres leaving a density that is seemingly no longer required. 

Those who were able made an immediate escape to the country proliferating a demand for lower density living and the record high of Amazon’s share prices in February  would suggest the closing of shops did not equate to a reduction in consumption. In an era when  we cannot afford to consume more land and resources these emerging trends feel instinctively dangerous. 

By their very connectedness urban centres will remain as meeting points and places of cultural exchange. With 80% of existing buildings predicted to remain in 20505, the low carbon retrofit of these buildings over the next 10 years is considered ‘the most significant issue in achieving carbon neutrality’ by UK Committee on Climate Change, 2020. We will focus this year on reuse and environmental upgrade of existing buildings for mixed-use, zero carbon living. The scale of retrofit required will have a dramatic impact on what our towns and cities look like, how this might be done is an exciting design opportunity that we will continue to explore from a position of local distinctiveness and material frugality. 

We will be studying this year in the Victorian market town of Huddersfield and a recent recipient of the High Streets Heritage Action Zones grant ‘the biggest ever single investment in the UK’s built heritage’ to support regeneration. The imposing Italianate architecture will be carefully reappraised and the original cultural influences examined to explore what contemporary architectural expression is relevant today. While possible, we will be working directly in Huddersfield, using making and drawing as a means of processing thoughts, engaging the local community and expressing ideas.

Intergenerational Architecture

Studio lead: Satwinder Samra

We will investigate how we can design and evolve an appropriate architectural response for our current and future intergenerational demographic. This will include exploring environments for play, education, living and healthcare.

As healthcare and well -being has improved so as the ability to live longer. We shall explore the inevitable environments that exist for the young and the old and explore if these can be improved.

 As we move towards depleting energy supplies and decreasing capital we will endeavour to be resourceful in both our processes and outputs. We will aim to ensure that we develop a mutual and collective approach in all our work. This will encourage you to be mindful and reflective towards achieving a healthy and productive work/life balance.

We will build upon ideas developed in the Pleasure and Austerity studio, Ageing and Architecture studio and Intergenerational Architecture studio which has recently worked in Rotherham and Southwark.

Locations for your work will relate to one of the following: 1. Sites in Rotherham and/or Southwark London. 2. Sites within a 5-mile radius of where you are physically living. 3. Sites from the Historic England buildings at risk register. All of these will allow us to be contingent and responsive, capitalizing on existing knowledge (either your own or that of others).

  • We will realize that architectural speculation and production can co-exist.
  • We aim to develop multiple working methods that can expand the true spatial potential of your endeavours.
  • We shall be canny and agile in deciding how we work and what we focus on
  • We shall openly discuss why being original isn’t helpful.
  • We will realize that good ideas can only exist if they are shared and communicated.
  • We will view the technical through material and poetic engagement.
  • We will aim to enjoy the process of producing architecture of merit.

Invisible Cities

Studio lead: Cith Skelcher

Institution can mean both building and organisation (social/political/cultural etc) and in the context of the city the two have become synonymous. Public institutions have traditionally framed and mediated interactions between individual and society, creating a sense of shared purpose and identity. In their physical form they can act as landmarks; points of orientation. But whom do these institutions now serve and what values do they represent?

Whether remnants of the philanthropic building programmes of the Victorian era, the post war state intervention of the 50s and 60s or Blair’s New Labour Project, these institutions demonstrate a paternalistic version of ‘Care’ that is ultimately about preserving the status quo. 

Recent events, from the global pandemic to the BlackLivesMatter movement have revealed the cultural redundancy and increasing irrelevance of our built institutions and the ideologies of nation, empire and patriarchy that they represent. 

Technological advancements have allowed us to escape from an increasingly hostile and alienating public realm that has been further eroded by austerity, gentrification and the global pandemic.

Care can be viewed as ‘a species of activity that includes everything that we do to maintain, continue, and repair our ‘world’ so that we can live in it as well as possible. That world includes our bodies, ourselves, and our environment, all of which we seek to interweave in a complex, life-sustaining web.”

Studio invisible cities will be exploring how radical methodologies of Care can be applied to reclaim, repair and recast our institutions to be vital, restorative structures that can support the reproduction of a more just and inclusive society.

Landscape + Urbanism

Studio lead: Howard Evans

Only one third of the world’s great rivers remain free flowing.  Our desire to control, harness and bend water to our own uses has radically transformed these essential natural elements of our landscape.  

The post-industrial landscapes we now see are often the result of an unplanned series of accumulations.  These fragmented urban landscapes may be a relatively new phenomenon but they are often the result of multiple layers of change derived from an earlier rural condition.

The studio will explore the cultural and historical legacy of our relationship with water over time.  We will be exploring the River Don from source to estuary.  We will explore the impact of climate change and challenge the race to build flood defences that grow ever longer and higher.  We will challenge the orthodoxy that water is something to be contained rather than the celebration of an annual inundation that enriches the flora and fauna along the course of the river.

The resultant projects will create briefs that will be wide ranging but may have a focus on the development of operative communities and how they in turn develop support networks for health and wellbeing, learning, working and living.

(re)-Activist Architecture

Divided Cities 

Studio lead: Simon Baker

Thirty years from the fall of the Berlin Wall, new global tensions are polarising our world – and our cities feel more divided than ever. Trump’s proposal to build a Mexican wall imposes on our political rhetoric.  

When the Berlin Wall fell (1989), there were only two other border walls in Europe, now there are fifteen.  Cities like Belfast, Jerusalem, Nicosia, Beirut, Mostar ++ were not necessarily destined for partition by their social or political histories. They were partitioned by politicians, citizens and engineers. Fracture isn’t only physical - people can have contrasting experiences of the same city; generational difference, wealth, climate, education, food … is division inevitable?

The Studio will explore the themes of a “Divided City”. We will visit Belfast, a city divided for fifty-one years. 

Despite the declaration of peace and the Good Friday agreement over twenty years ago, divisions in the capital of Northern Ireland are still clear. “Peace” is represented within communities separated by a wall up to six metres high, with gates along its length that are locked at night, and artwork painted on either side that talks of harmony, but promotes messages of revenge or oppression.

There are currently more than sixty interface structures across Northern Ireland, which are managed by the Department of Justice, many erected during the last twenty years of relative peace.  

2023 is Stormont’s promised deadline to bring down the walls - part of the Northern Ireland Executive's "shared future" proposal.

Students will explore this new future, to re-appropriate the peace lines (or their equivalents); to tackle the social impacts of physical partition; and to precipitate intercommunal cooperation. 

The studio adopts the spatial participatory practices of the Situationist International; the derive and constructed situation to explore specific places and to identify different and diverse user groups.  With the “voices” of divided-city residents, the students will redefine the architectural structures of separation to identify new speculative narratives of cohesive and collective social institution: building bridges not barriers. A celebration of being together as strangers  – ‘throwntogetherness’ (Massey 2005).  We will explore different conceptions of what it means to live in a “Divided City”.

Resilient Futures

Learning from Besieged Sarajevo

Studio lead: Lucy Dinnen

‘Sarajevo is science-fiction!… Sarajevo can teach you how to survive the post cataclysm!… Sarajevo is the city of the future! 
Sarajevo Survival Guide, FAMA, 1993.

The pre-war city of Sarajevo was seen as the ‘European Jerusalem’ and cultural hub of the former Socialist Yugoslavia. The city’s global image changed during the Siege of Sarajevo (1992-1996), cutting-off 350,000 citizens from supplies of water, heating, electricity, food and comms for 1,460 days. 

Alongside violence and destruction, this also gave rise to an intensive period of cultural production, creativity, and human spirit, in which ordinary citizens and architects made tools, urban and architectural interventions that played a critical role in the city’s survival. 

Sarajevo remains in a perpetual state of crisis; suffering with trauma, political division, unregulated development, air pollution, erasure of public space and shared heritage, emigration and now, the Covid-19 pandemic.

Can we re-imagine Sarajevo as a laboratory for exploring alternative models of perpetual resilience for uncertain futures?

The Studio will explore models of resilient architectures that can redefine borders and empower vulnerable and marginalised communities in the age of global uncertainty.

Using the ‘Sarajevo Survival Guide’ (FAMA, 1993) as a starting point, we will investigate how Sarajevans adapted resourceful, transient, covert and often surreal infrastructures for survival.

We will ‘visit’ Sarajevo in the virtual and fictional sense; meet Sarajevans, get virtual tours of the City and museums, hear lectures and testimonies, dérive through 3D scans, archives, maps, war photographs, films and books. Re-interpreting and fantasising resilient architectures in relation to Sarajevo and our own ‘isolation’ in the Covid-19 pandemic.

We will work individually and collectively to make observations and propositions at different scales: Device and Individual, Building and Community and City Infrastructure and Society. Projects can be situated in present or future, real or fictional sites and crisis scenarios, through which we will explore informal development, right to the city, collective action, self-governance, protest, eco-action, and design activism.

As a studio, we will collaborate with Sarajevo based architect Vernes Causevic of projektvarhitektura, and bring together a team of international studio friends.

Sacred Landscapes

Studio lead: Jacquie Milham

This studio will be set in West Yorkshire in the area around Hebden Bridge. Hebden Bridge is a market town in the Pennines surrounded by a remarkable landscape of woodland, pastures, moorland and fast flowing rivers and streams. Gritstone emerges from the hillsides in the form of rough rocks and hewn manmade constructions. This is a rugged and dramatic landscape where amazing places make you feel a sense of connection with the divine (what-ever this may mean for you.)

We will begin by experimenting with our own physical nature, using The Feldenkrais Technique to experience moving more subtly. We will then move this sensitivity of perception out into our experience of the landscape and you will work in groups to make a series of short films conveying your feeling for the landscape to your peers.

Our area of analysis will be within a three-mile radius of Hebden Bridge and will be defined by a series of natural and manmade features within the landscape: Great Rock, Stoodley Pike, Lumb Falls and Lower Gorple Reservoir. 

In this time of climate emergency we need to re-establish our respect for the natural world, re-evaluate how we live within it and change practices which are viewed as ‘normal’ to become those which are ‘optimal.’

The aim of this studio is to find means to optimise our relationship with the rich resources of this particular landscape. You will work as a series of groups to propose strategies for change that will have a positive impact upon this environment and the people who live within it. You will then develop the design of a pivotal building which embodies and enables aspects of your strategy for change.

The expectation is that your design thesis will manifest an innovative approach to sustainable, ecological design within the development of its brief, the materials from which you propose it should be constructed and the way in which it relates to its surrounding landscape.

Studio Adapt

Studio lead: Anna Bardos

We will explore adaption of, and to, our surroundings.

We’ll be working in Neepsend, floodplain of the Don, formerly densely-populated centre of industry, largely cleared of housing in the 1950s. In remaining industrial buildings small-scale manufacturing, repair and creative industries grow, pockets of gentrification appear, and future large-scale developer-led housing prepares to land.

Sheffield City Council deliberates whether its immense housing needs can be accommodated in the city - or must Green Belt be sacrificed - alongside an ambitious declaration to be zero carbon by 2030. This very real and immediate context demands creative exploration, and a culture shift in the construction industry. We explore ways to meet these aims – to regrow a diverse, denser, mixed community, integrated with the life enduring or emerged sofar, compatible with the city’s environmental aims.

Viewing extant construction as a resource - of materials, physical experience, bygone craft skills, social history, local memory, embodied carbon - we’ll explore regenerative and adaptive design strategies, to compare and evaluate a variety of construction responses.  

We’ll study how different times and cultures have adapted their environment where energy is scarce, and challenge current standard development typologies, to test our ideas of what to build and how. The climate and ecological emergency is a fundamental context, to which we’ll seek both qualitative understanding and quantitative evaluation of our proposals.

Bounded to the north by elevated railway tracks sided by forests of birch, and to the south by the lush vegetated banks of the river Don, Neepsend’s relentless hard surfacing is devoid of visible natural processes. We’ll explore the reintegration and revealing of natural processes in the city, as fundamental to regenerative design, and to our understanding of the natural world we inhabit.

Studio Degrowth 

Studio lead: John Sampson

The continual pursuit of infinite growth has led us down a dangerous path.  As extreme weather events become more frequent and measures of wellbeing and prosperity continue to falter the limits of a globalised economy, based on the continuous pursuit of growth, to respond to the scale of the climate emergency have become abundantly clear.

As a studio we will imagine how the concept of degrowth can be translated into strategies to make our cities more equitable and aid in the transition towards a zero carbon economy, as cities, through their economies of scale, have the potential to reduce per capita costs and demands for resources. For us to rise to the scale of the climate emergency this transition is as much a social and cultural issue as it is a technological challenge. As such the studio at its heart is interested in people, the way we live and interact with natural systems.

Working in collaboration with TOWN the studio will explore radical alternatives to the way we live and build. We will develop strategies to reimagine and retrofit the

urban, ecological and cultural infrastructure of our cities, that draw on the principles of sharing, urban commoning and shared equity.

The studio will:

  • acknowledge the scale and urgency of the climate emergency
  • explore how our cities can be decoupled from their current high energy usage
  • invite comparison of degrowth to the foundational economy, the Green New Deal and other growth optimist and ecological economic models
  • work across a range of scales from spatial planning through to urban design and individual buildings
  • engage with development economics and the way we build
  • Propose optimistic low carbon visions of how to live within the Earth’s limits

Studio Degrowth is a continuation of many of the ideas and work of  arrivalcity.studio

Studio In Process

Studio lead: Lettice Drake

This studio will focus on how we produce our built environment. Can that process be a culture-producing, community- generating exercise in itself? Can we, as architects, have a great time? In focusing on the how, this studio invites you to imagine and advocate for your dream way of practicing creatively as an architect, as an agent in the world.

You will be asked to take the lead on outlining and determining the themes of your research, programme and site – the who, what where and why. What we will focus on and explore together as a studio, across a range of independent projects, is the how - how your designs could be developed and realised in greater detail, be that driven by an interest in collaborative design methods, in community activism, in material sourcing, in generating projects, in project-management, in self-build processes or in construction methods more broadly. 

The richness of final designs will come from a solid and vivid understanding of how the architecture will come to be, and outlining those processes will form a key part of your final proposal. As a studio we will explore and reflect on methods of working supportively and collaboratively across the different tangents of our projects.

We will explore precedents of designers and artists acting as community- project-generators – as collaborators, as builders. We will explore low-embodied energy materials and construction methods, talking to builders, hearing their experiences of construction work and of working with architects. We will consider well-being along the production line, reflecting on the working cultures and conditions of construction workers and architectural workers, and how those worlds relate to each other. Beyond "working conditions", can our processes creatively, experimentally, demonstrate and advocate for the type of the world we want to live in?

Studio in Residence

Sheffield and Other Mythologies

Studio lead: Carolyn Butterworth

“What we dream of is already in the world” 
Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Darkness

Sheffield is a city that loves to tell stories of itself: ‘The Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire’, ‘Steel City’, ‘Music City’, ‘DIY City’, ‘City on the Move’, ‘City of Makers’... Sometimes utopian dreams, sometimes marketing messages, often a bit of both, these stories are mythologies that aim to bind citizens together with a sense of purpose and identity. This year Studio in Residence will be working with Sheffield’s communities to co-create a new collective story of our city as it faces the challenges of the climate emergency. 

Studio in Residence explores how interdisciplinary architecture/arts practice can open up new ways of producing space in the city, in collaboration with creative practitioners and local communities. This year we will discover together how citizens can shape an ambitious and fair vision for Sheffield’s sustainable future.

We will work with Sheffield Climate Alliance who, with their 35 community partner organisations, are about to embark upon a National Lottery funded project to develop and test proposals for a new Climate Action Centre - to start "creating and telling a new low-carbon story of Sheffield City Region". 

SiR will work closely with this initiative, bringing valuable mutual learning opportunities - for you to develop your projects in a ‘live’ context and for SCA to benefit from your research and design ideas. 

Our collaboration with SCA will form a kernel from which your ambitious, experimental and innovative architecture can grow. Speculative design can play a powerful role in the creation of new city stories - raising ambition, asking ‘what if?’ and catalysing new ways of thinking and behaviour. 

We will use Live Works, Sheffield School of Architecture’s ‘Urban Room’ on the Moor, to work ‘in residence’ as much as possible - to test, at 1:1 and through larger-scale speculations, designs for low-carbon architectures for collective debate, learning, prototyping, protest, assembly, story-telling and direct action. 

Drawing on the radical history of Sheffield and more contemporary campaigns for equality and systemic change, your projects will embody an ethos of climate justice and play an active role in shaping how our city responds to the climate emergency with imagination, creativity and hope.

“These stories serve to reaffirm the right of all us to be heard and respected; far from being democracy’s enemies, activists perhaps constitute its true guardians.” 
Stories of Activism in Sheffield

Urban Ecologies 

Studio lead: Wai Piu Wong

We find ourselves in a climate emergency, we have been overconsumers in a materialistic world for far too long. As individuals we have been asked to consume less, to make sound choices, to make sacrifices that will lessen the environmental impact. As architects we must make decisions about the materials we use and the technology we implement.

Sacrifice, is derived from sacre (sacred) and facere (to make), and this studio aims to reframe the crisis from a perspective of design limitations and constraints to that of engagement and making; from the sacred to the profane.

Our investigations will take us from the ruins of Lesnes Abbey and its’ woodlands to Thamesmead by the River Thames.

Lesnes Abbey Woods in South East London is an area of ancient woodland. At 88 hectares it covers woodlands and parklands and is a site of metropolitan importance for nature conservation, a nature reserve and metropolitan open land. The Abbey ruins are a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM) and Grade II listed.

Across the B213 road from the Abbey ruins is Thamesmead, a 1960s Utopian vision of concrete towers, elevated walkways, and manmade lakes. With poor connections to central London and early mismanagement, this concrete new town was destined to fail from the start; and was considered a perfect setting in 1970 for Stanley Kubrick's dystopian vision and futuristic depiction of violent youth in the film Clockwork Orange.

In 2014 Peabody became the majority owner of Thamesmead and has embarked on an ambitious programme to build 11,000 homes and refurbish many of the existing ones.

We will consider the dichotomy between these two worlds of protected stasis in the ancient woodlands, and the continual flux of the brutalist estate now undergoing a rebirth, and consider the role of sustainability in terms of Conservation and preserving heritage, from the spiritual arcadia of the wooded Abbey ruins to the re-use and reimagining of a Brutalist landscape.

Four students laughing while sat at a bench, outside the Students' Union

International scholarships

We offer a generous package of financial support for international students, including undergraduate and postgraduate taught scholarships towards the annual tuition fee. Applications are open for existing offer holders.