24 April 2019

Using digital technology to foster community engagement in urban regeneration

Sheffield citizens were recently able to experience Sheffield Castle through an augmented reality model, learn about recent archaeological research and see visions of the future from our masters students.

People viewing the model of Sheffield Castle using virtual reality

Castlegate is the birthplace of Sheffield, home to Sheffield Castle that was demolished in the Civil War, and now an area in decline. The ‘Experience Castlegate’ project brought together academics from Archaeology, Architecture and Computer Science to collaborate with creative industry and community partners, Human VR and Friends of Sheffield Castle.

The project looks at Castlegate as a testbed to explore how immersive digital technologies can engage people in local heritage while involving them in the processes of urban regeneration.

The development of an AR experience of the Castle is a powerful tool to engage people in conversations about the past, present and possible futures of the site

Carolyn Butterworth

Senior university teacher

An Augmented Reality prototype was developed to show how on-site digital experience could immerse people in the site’s history, revealing its current potential and raise aspirations for a locally relevant and vibrant future.

Outputs from the research were showcased during the Festival of the Mind 2018 where thousands of visitors experienced a 3D digital model of Sheffield’s Castle, through Augmented Reality. Visitors first saw a physical model of the present-day Castle site and then, when the model was viewed through an iPad, the Castle sprang into view, overlaid upon the contemporary site. Alongside the model was a film showing the digital model of the Castle, excerpts from recent archaeological research and future visions of the site designed by architecture students.

Carolyn says: “Through Live Projects, Studio work and Live Works, Sheffield students are developing ambitious design ideas, backed with strong research, in order to raise the collective ambition for the future of Castlegate. The development of an AR experience of the Castle is a powerful tool to engage people in conversations about the past, present and possible futures of the site."

Since 2014, Carolyn Butterworth has been working with Sheffield architecture students, Sheffield City Council, local stakeholders and fellow academics from the University of Sheffield on developing a vision for community-led regeneration of Castlegate. This co-production process led to the award of £75k funding from the AHRC for the research project ‘Experience Castlegate’.