I love Sheffield's creative approach to architecture

Holly, an undergraduate student in the Sheffield School of Architecture
Holly Barber
Undergraduate student
BA Architecture
First year BA Architecture student Holly talks about the design process and walks through one of her design projects.
Holly, an undergraduate student in the Sheffield School of Architecture


Tell us a bit about yourself.

I've always had an interest in design, in school I enjoyed both Maths and Art and I wanted a degree that could combine a technical side with creativity. I studied Art, Maths and Physics at A level which I think prepared me well for the course, particularly Art, which allowed me to build up a portfolio for my application and experiment with drawing styles. I've always enjoyed making things and architecture gives me a chance to experiment with lots of different materials and techniques for model making, which I find really rewarding. Outside of Architecture I enjoy sports and walking, which makes Sheffield perfect for me since we're so close to the peak district and there's such a wide range of sports societies to choose from in the student's union.

What made you chose the Sheffield School of Architecture

I was really drawn to Sheffield as I loved the idea of working up in the arts tower. I also picked Sheffield School of Architecture for it's reputation and focus on the future of architecture, and the issues I will have to design for when I get to practice in a few years time. I think Sheffield is a great city to go to University in- having come from a fairly small town it's a nice balance having the peak district right on your doorstep and the city centre so close, with great public transport links.

What do you enjoy about the course?

I love Sheffield's creative approach to architecture, I feel my sketching skills have really improved in the few months since I started my degree and studio tutors always encourage me to think outside the box and try out new ideas, without worrying too much if it doesn't work out. I also appreciate the focus on creating architecture for the real world- we're taught a lot about ethical issues you need to tackle with architecture to make the built environment accessible to everyone, and how architecture needs to change to tackle the climate crisis. The arts tower is a great environment to work in- not only do you get an incredible view of the city but also there's a great community in the studios, we're encouraged to work together and discuss ideas with peers, which I find makes the design process so much more enjoyable.

What module have you enjoyed most so far?

I really enjoyed our P3 project, where we designed a small scale building for a site in the peak district. We were each given a verb - with mine being 'observe' - and started by visiting the site where I recorded tree placement, plant species and access points. I chose to explore 'observe' through taste and created an outdoor kitchen and library to encourage foraging. Twice a week throughout the design process I would discuss my current ideas with my tutors and they helped me consider new concepts I would never have previously thought to consider, for example the moss roof I ended up including in my final design, which helped my building blend in with it's environment. I found the focus on the site context really interesting as it encouraged me to respond to the site in a thoughtful way and I was able to appreciate how much building design is informed by its surroundings.

What do you do outside of study? 

I'm a member of lacrosse club and attend development sessions weekly, which allow you to improve your skills in a relaxed and friendly environment, they also run socials every week and there are three teams you can try out for. I'm also a member the architecture society (SUAS), who run loads of different things- there are weekly lectures; a series of life drawing classes; socials and I went to the winter masquerade ball, which was a great opportunity to get to chat to architecture students in different years. I also enjoy baking and my flatmates enjoy eating cake which is a perfect combination!

What do you like about the University and about Sheffield?

I love the range of independent shops available in Sheffield - it's such a fun city to walk around. The Moor Market in the centre of town is definitely worth a visit, as is Ecclesall Road. I also love all the green spaces around the city- the botanical gardens are just a ten minute walk from Endcliffe and a wonderful escape from the city. My favourite places to eat are the Cutlery Works food hall and Marmadukes. The University is great since it has such an active student's union- there's always something going on and there's lots of choice of study spaces, meaning you can always find a study space that works for you.

Could you share some of your first year work?

I've included pictures of my work from P4, where I was designing a house for a pizza maker and her family. This project's main focus was combining the public and private functions in a way that creates enjoyable spaces for the family and customers. The site I was given is in Hillsborough, by a river. During this project I learnt to fully accept and respond to the site you're given- in this instance with each design iteration I started to embrace the river a little more and my final design makes use of a pavilion over the water, as well as diverting part of the river through the site to separate public and private functions.