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; religion and post-secularity; spatial experiences of health; built and cultural heritage; decolonisation studies in the global south; postsocialist domesticities; informal imperialism; and digital criticality. Researchers draw upon a range of interdisciplinary attitudes, interests and methodologies including critical and historical inquiry, social and cultural anthropology; ethnography; literature, medical humanities, philosophy, scenario making, design research, drawing, film making, 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, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Eastern Mediterranean, France, Germany, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Romania and South Africa.

Research themes

  • Culture and Climate Change: on the cultural dimensions of climate change.
  • Collectivity and Care: on feminist approaches to care in university settings.
  • 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.
  • 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.  
  • Conservation and Regeneration: approaches and concerns regarding time, managing change, heritage and memory.
  • East-West Studies in Architecture and Landscape: modern architecture and heritage, modernism's other, traditional built and cultural heritage, architectural anthropology, historic urban landscape, heritage-led rural and urban regeneration.
  • Urban Histories: visual and material cultures across the world.
  • Architecture of ‘Informal’ Imperialism: the role of architecture in materialising ‘informal’ imperial ambitions at the peripheries of empire in the nineteenth-century.
  • Material and economic histories of architecture: exploring the multi-layered meanings and implications of the material and economic networks that underpin the production of the built environment.
  • Postsecular Architecture Research Network: investigating how religious imaginaries and practices materialise in a built environment, with a particular interest in Eastern-European Catholicism, Pentecostalism and Afro-Brazilian religions. 
  • 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”.
  • Spatial Humanities: Exploring the intersection of humanities, creative practice and spatial studies. Critical approaches to design and spatial research in a variety of settings; understanding the place of architecture in cultural transformations and transitional periods. 
  • Postsocialist Domesticities: investigate the relationship between gender, domestic space and the (post)socialist state in Eastern Europe.
  • Feminised Migration from the Global East

Research projects 

  • Culture and Climate Change
  • Collective Scenarios
    Rehearsing, predicting and speculating on climate futures 
  • Co-designing Forests
    Co-designing Forests is a collaborative research project between Forestry England and design-researcher Liam Healy working in conversation with the more-than-human communities who visit and dwell in forests to consider forms of access to them. We will explore how the design of paths and trails might contribute to woodland health, sustainability and expansion by harnessing the fun and joyous experiences of being-in, playing, and moving through the woods. 
  • Feminist Library
    A live archive of feminist works, exhibitions, events, writings from alumni that have been produced by students and staff at SSoA over the last 20 years
  • Peter Blundell Jones Library
    The Peter Blundell Jones Library is a department-based digital resource which aims to remember, document and celebrate the work of British architect, writer and teacher Peter Blundell Jones (1949 - 2016). The site has so far collected many original photographs from Peter’s buildings visits, his autobiographical PhD by publication thesis, and a list of more than 500 publications in the UK and abroad. 
  • 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. 
  • (Non) secular spaces in Brazilian cities
    in collaboration with PRAXIS / Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Alamar: An Archaeology of Socialist Domestic Infrastructure in Havana 
    Alamar is a collaborative research project involving scholars and practitioners in architecture, comparative literature, and film. Employing archival and ethnographic material, the project investigates the legacy of Cuba’s approach to mass housing in the 1970s.
  • American Imperialism in the Eastern Mediterranean
    The architecture of American ‘soft power’ and its connections to older cultural, religious, and political practices in the Eastern Mediterannean.
  • Informal Imperialism in the Ottoman Empire 
    Exploring the role of informal and non-state foreign actors in the urbanisation of the Ottoman Middle East, focusing in particular on the architecture of educational and religious institutions

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.

Read more

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.


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

  • Emmanuel Oloruntoba Aina
  • Alex Axinte
  • Wajdi Atwah
  • Abhishek Bhutoria
  • Niveen Daoud
  • Bana Darwich
  • Xingyue Du 
  • Omid Ebrahimbaysalami
  • Sofia Gamez Gonzalez
  • Fangjie Guo
  • Tongfei Jin
  • Danni Kerr 
  • Deniz Kesici 
  • Basma Massoud 
  • Nurul Mohamad
  • Zainab Aa Murtadhawi
  • Najihah Ngaimin 
  • Hale Nur Pinar
  • Deborah Stevenson
  • Helen Stratford
  • Farouq Tahar
  • Claire Tymon
  • Xiaolu Wang 
  • Yang Yang 
  • Xinfei Zhao
  • Yali Zhang