Castlegate ‘Live Project’ enables student involvement in city regeneration

Masters students at the School of Architecture are getting practical industry experience that benefits the wider community, through taking part in a project to rejuvenate the city centre area of Castlegate.

An illustration of Castlegate in Sheffield.

Work in Castlegate started in 2014, when Senior University Teacher, Carolyn Butterworth, situated her design studio there and set up the area’s first Live Project which allowed students to take their learning outside of campus.

The Live Projects programme, established in 1999, gives students the opportunity to work with community clients and develop the skills they’ll use in their career.

“I’m always looking for interesting places to take my students to work in and find new projects,” Carolyn says.

“We were obviously really aware of the changes in Castlegate, the fact that the market at that time was still standing but it was being emptied for demolition, so it was quite clear that it was going to be an important part of Sheffield city centre that was going to go through really drastic change over the next few years,” she adds.

This collaboration has really developed alongside the growth of this idea of the civic university, where the University actively contributes to the development of its host city through teaching and research.

Carolyn Butterworth

Senior University Teacher, School of Architecture

Engaging with the community

Students have already designed, in collaboration with community groups, a temporary pier in Castlegate, that will overlook the site of Sheffield’s old castle – which once housed Mary Queen of Scots – as archaeologists unearth its foundations.

It is hoped that this pier will inspire the community to actively engage with the future of Castlegate while being able to see the past being revealed through such an exciting archaeological excavation.

There are also plans for people to use their smartphones to access an augmented reality model of Sheffield Castle, something that the pier would be invaluable for.

Carolyn says: “The Pier will be a place for people to get excited about the past, present and future of the Castle site and a key aspect of this is the development of an AR experience of the Castle as it used to be.

“People will be able to visit the site and, using their smartphones, will not only be able to see the Castle there in front of them but also our students' visions for the future of the site.”

Castlegate's future

Having both her studio and the Live Project situated in Castlegate over many years has set the agenda for a site-specific relationship with that area for Carolyn and her students, so much so that she’s now a member of the Castlegate Partnership - a group of organisations, including Sheffield City Council, that are working together to improve the area.

Carolyn’s students have also built fantastic relationships with local stakeholders and continue to be involved in the development of the area, even after their graduation.

She says: “This collaboration has really developed alongside the growth of this idea of the civic university, where the University actively contributes to the development of its host city through teaching and research.”

University participation in the wider city is the ultimate goal for this project, so that architecture staff and students alike can be instrumental to the future of Castlegate and have changes to the city informed locally.

“We’re setting up a co-production way of working in the city, where we all align with this vision of grass-roots regeneration, where it starts with small things like the Pier and then incrementally will build until larger scale, permanent development can occur which is still locally responsive and relevant to the people and place of Castlegate,” she continues.

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