Space and Politics

About us

The Space, Cultures and Politics group supports research into the socio-political dynamics and implications of space production. We operate across different scales, contexts, and cultures, with varied methodologies, expertise and approaches. Our work is geographically distributed, paying particular attention to east-west exchange, spatial production in the global south as well as closer to home, and historically wide-ranging.

The group coheres around a shared interest in the urban, in urban production and urban transformation processes. For us, the urban is not a situation that is defined by scale, or in contra-distinction to the rural, but rather by the complexity of the forces that comprise the urban condition (including architecture and society, material and visual culture and history, economics and political geography).

The group comprises a number of significant research teams, which draw upon a range of attitudes, interests and methods including:

  • Critical Historiography: Critical approaches to the official history of architecture, focusing on the overlooked, on revisionist histories of Modern Architecture, and on critical historiographical methodologies
  • Conservation & Regeneration: With concerns regarding time, managing change, heritage and memory
  • Urban (Hi)Stories: Visual and Material Cultures, Mediating and Exhibiting Architecture

Across this range, the focus of research undertaken varies significantly, from incidental and temporary installation work to regional planning, and across a broad geographical and historical spectrum.

Our Space, Cultures and Politics researchers have expertise in reuse of abandoned places, architectural history, urbanism and mediation of architecture.

Selection of 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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RAUM: Researching Architecture as an Urban Method

Funder: European Commission

This project brings together graduate students and academics from 4 universities to jointly rethink the capacities, qualities, methodologies and tools that spatial practitioners need to develop in order to have a positive impact in the face of global challenges affecting cities.

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Towards radical postsecular urban theory

The project critically reviews urban post-secular theory inspired by Jurgen Habermas' intervention in the early 21st century. This theory was formulated in a general framework of post-Enlightenment and liberal thought. This 'liberal' postsecular urban theory is not (or no longer) answering fundamental challenges that contemporary cities are facing - both political and environmental. Therefore this research proposes radicalization of post-secular urban theory, which goes beyond post-enlightenment and liberal frameworks.

Research making an impact

Siedlung Brombeeriweg, Zürich, Switzerland (Architects: Em2n Architekten, 2003)

Flexible Housing

Flexible housing can adjust to the changing needs of users over time and accommodate new technologies as they emerge. In a project funded by the AHRB researchers examined the past, present and future of flexible housing. The project produced a book which acts as an accessible guide to how flexible housing might be designed and constructed today to achieve adaptable and ultimately sustainable buildings.

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Caption: Casa do Vapor (Exyzt / Alexander Römer, 2013).

Spatial Agency

Spatial Agency redefines what architecture is and what it is for. It presents possibilities for a future practice that is based on principles of ethical engagement and collaboration. It presents groups and collectives that have engaged and are engaging in the recalibration of professional values and wider socio-spatial concerns within the field. It suggests other ways of doing architecture.

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PhD students and projects

Our School has one of the largest cohorts of architecturally based research students in the UK. We are renowned for the quality of our PhD programmes and have a vibrant Graduate School that enjoys strong links to our research groups.

Find out more about our current PhD projects and opportunities.

Postgraduate Research Activitites