Space, cultures and politics

This interdisciplinary humanities group researches the social, cultural and political implications of space production in different contexts. Researchers use varied humanities and social science methods.

People participating in stories of change research project

About us

Research in this group is historically wide-ranging and uses humanities and social science research to evaluate spatial production of all types. Projects range across a broad geographical and historical spectrum and are theoretically varied. They pay attention to relations in the global south and east-west exchange as well as seeking in depth analysis of the global-north. The group shares an interest in the critical engagement with domestic and public architectures, and urban transformation processes.

The group comprises a number of significant research topics and teams researching: climate change in relation to culture; spatial humanities; post-secularity; spatial experiences of health; conservation and regeneration; decolonisation studies in the global south; and digital criticality. Researchers draw upon a range of interdisciplinary attitudes, interests and methodologies including critical and historical inquiry, literature, medical humanities, philosophy, ethnography, scenario making, design research, drawing, creative writing, critical digital studies and urban studies.  

The focus of research undertaken varies significantly, from sustained research articles and monographs, to temporary installation work, to creative writing outputs, to public engagement and design projects.

Space, Cultures and Politics researchers have expertise in architectural humanities, climate research, conservation, decolonisation, design research, digital humanities, intersectional feminism, photography, religion and urban studies. We work in interdisciplinary ways with colleagues in Geography, Urban Studies and Planning, Landscape Architecture, English Literature, and Medicine, as well as with international colleagues in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Mexico and South Africa.

Research themes

  • Spatial Humanities: critical approaches to design and spatial research in a variety of settings; understanding the place of architecture in cultural transformations and transitional periods.
  • Decolonial thought and architecture: critical approaches to the canonical history of architecture, focusing on subaltern architectures, marginalised architectural contributions, and themes; critical pedagogies, and critical intersectional and feminist methodologies.
  • Conservation and Regeneration: approaches and concerns regarding time, managing change, heritage and memory.
  • Religions, post-secularity and urban spaces
  • Urban Histories: visual and material cultures across the world.
  • Architectural Health Humanities: storytelling health and wellbeing in cities, public and domestic spaces, across varied and marginalised citizen groups. 
  • Digital Critical: understanding the ways that digital technologies and cultures have an effect in the way we understand, design and inhabit spaces, looking at areas as broad as Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, CAAD/BIM from a humanities perspective.  
  • East-West Studies in Architecture and Landscape: modern architecture, traditional and modernist heritage, architectural anthropology, historic urban landscape, heritage-led rural and urban regeneration
  • Culture and Climate Change: the cultural dimensions of climate change

Research projects 

  • SSoA Feminist Library
    A live archive of feminist works, exhibitons, events, writings from alumni that have been produced by students and staff at SSoA over the last 20 years
  • field
    The free open access journal for the discussion of critical, theoretical, political and playful perspectives on all aspects of architecture. Paused for a few years, we are proud to host a renewed journal with a relaunch issue on decolonisation. 
  • Spatial Humanities
    Exploring the intersection of humanities, creative practice and spatial studies. 
  • Collectivity and Care
    Research project on feminist approaches to care in university settings
  • Architectural Health Humanities
    Investigating the intersections of health and illness with built environments and local cultures and using “storytelling” to unearth accounts of “spatial health and wellbeing”
  • Re-Dwell
    Delivering Affordable and Sustainable Housing in Europe   
  • East-West Studies in Architecture and Landscape
    Modern architecture, traditional and modernist architectural and landscape heritage, architectural anthropology, historic urban landscape, heritage-led regeneration in contemporary urbanism in Asian contexts
  • Architectures of the South
    Land, Bodies and Violence: (in collaboration with Dr Huda Tayob from the University of Cape Town). Explores the ways in which spatial thinkers engage with the contested grounds of architectures in the global south. 
  • Material Landscapes and Architectures of the Black Atlantic as Present in the Work of CLR James, Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy
    n collaboration with Westminster University, the Courtauld, Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden), the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL.
  • Wastes and Strays
    The Past, Present and Future of English Urban Common Land (with Dr Alessandro Zambelli, Portsmouth University; Dr Rachel Hammersley and Prof Chris Rodgers, Newcastle University). An AHRC Major Award on the histories of governance of urban commons in England, their present cultural use and understanding and their potential futures.

Featured projects

Culture and Climate Change

Supported by UK Research Councils, funding bodies, charitable trusts, the University of Sheffield and the Open University.

Culture and Climate Change is a framework for a series of research and public engagement projects on climate change. We convene research projects, workshops, exhibitions, events and publications that invite contributions from leading researchers, artists, producers, journalists and policymakers. All of our work tends to be collaborative, interdisciplinary, experimental and ‘in public’. We want all of this work to contribute to a more dynamic and plural conversation around climate change.

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Collective Scenarios: Rehearsing, Predicting and Speculating on Climate Futures 

This Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship (2019–2022) funded project will uncover the inter-relations of scenario-based methods in various disciplines, including the calculative technologies of the climate science policy interface, the narrative processes in speculative and science fiction, and anticipation strategies in projects for future ecosystem and urban design. The research will be organized around three themes: rehearsing, predicting and speculating on climate changed futures. It will involve archival research, interviews with climate researchers from different disciplines and scenario-based workshops where it will explore the potential of collective scenario-making for future modes of inhabitation.


Architectural Health Humanities

This research examines the way that health and illness intersect with built environments and local cultures specifically through access to necessities such as rest, nutrition, exercise and care. Using “storytelling” to unearth accounts of “spatial health and wellbeing”, it seeks to actively re-engage urban space with “public health”. It proposes to create an Architectural Health Humanities Institute, the first of its kind, to advance and study the importance of social, political and personal narratives of health and care in the urban built environment.

Spatial practices of members of Pentecostal Churches in Belo Horizonte, Brazil (before, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic)

This project is a continuation of an initial study done under a label ‘Religious Urban Imaginary’, conducted over the last two years in the UK and in Brazil as a collaboration between researchers from The University of Sheffield, Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and The Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais (PUC). This project maps 'narrative positions' of Christian churches in Belo Horizonte, in order to investigate how positions taken by these churches influence spatial perception and spatial behaviours of their members. The project aims to produce a detailed map of diverse ‘worldviews’ shared on particular territories of the city.

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Architectures of the South: Land, Bodies and Violence

(in collaboration with Dr Huda Tayob from the University of Cape Town). Explores the ways in which spatial thinkers engage with the contested grounds of architectures in the global south. The research project opens up questions around decolonial thinking in relation to and across southern territorial and disciplinary boundaries. It explores practices of care and freedom in spatial and architectural thinking, and contributes towards developing an ethics of practice as a critical and responsive tool. In the same way it explores creative methodologies, as we suggest that these are essential to the understanding, reading and interpretation of the global south in architectural terms.

Jennifer Bloomer, A Revisitation Special issue of The Journal of Architecture 2022

Emma Cheatle and Hélène Frichot, guest editors

Whatever happened to Jennifer Bloomer, architectural thinker extraordinaire, practitioner, and inspiring pedagogue? With this proposed special issue of The Journal of Architecture we gather a series of essays that interrogate, celebrate and inspire further scholarship on Bloomer’s legacy. We explore her original making, writing and pedagogical practices; we consider the material weight of her meticulous work on the texture of texts; we celebrate her art of conceptual creativity, spatial storytelling, experimental installation and dirty drawing; and we revisit her intellectual curiosity and complexity. Bloomer, a voracious and close reader, astutely introduced a vast array of conceptual and literary personae to the discursive scenes of architecture, from Walter Benjamin, the ‘two Jacks’ – Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida – to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, to James Joyce and Edgar Allen Poe. At the same time, she led us toward readings of key feminist thinkers, including Donna Haraway, Alice Jardine, Luce Irigaray and Hélène Cixous.

Group members

PhD students