Sheffield Live Works: the UK’s first permanent University-funded ‘Urban Room’

Sheffield Live Works: the UK’s first permanent University-funded ‘Urban Room’

Live Works share space with organisation Aalfy- Learn Create Sell at 108 the Moor in Sheffield

Live Works is an innovative cross-cutting initiative that delivers excellence in live teaching, graduate employment, civic engagement & participatory action research, working at a local level to create & disseminate knowledge that has national and international relevance. It is the UK’s first permanent University-funded ‘Urban Room’, a space in the city centre where local people can collaborate with academics and students on the past, present and future of their city. Live Works leads the UK Urban Rooms Network and is setting the national agenda in place-based community participation.

“Every town and city should have a physical space where people can go to understand, debate and get involved in the past, present and future of where they live, work and play. The purpose of these Urban Rooms is to foster meaningful connections between people and place, using creative methods of engagement to encourage active participation in the future of our buildings, streets and neighbourhoods.” (The Urban Rooms Network shared mission)

Live Works at 108 the Moor (open in 2018) builds on SSoA’s reputation for participation, alternative forms of practice and critical pedagogy: the pioneering Live Projects are the longest running programme of live pedagogy in the UK (over 17 years 1600 masters students have collaborated with community partners on 170 national and international co-design projects).

First event at the 108 the Moor Live Works: the 2017 RIBA President’s Medals Exhibition

From April 20th until May 4th, Live Works are hosting an exhibition of RIBA President’s Medals Exhibition — the RIBA’s oldest awards and are regarded as the most prestigious international awards in architectural education. The projects on display are at the forefront of creative design, delivered with exceptional artistic skill and include a proposal to build ’room boxes’ on top of terraced houses in London and a design for a school damaged in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. The exhibition is on display for two weeks at Live Works from Monday 23 April to 4 May, Monday to Friday 1pm — 6 pm and Saturday 10am — 3 pm.

RIBA President’s Medals awards exhibition

The Live Works located at the Union Street in the city centre of Sheffield (operational between 2014–2016) had formerly already established as a bridge between academia and the local community by hosting various workshops, events, studios in residence, urban walks, networking events, exhibitions and many others (

Live Works events at Union Street in Sheffield


Live Works as a Local Hub for mutual learning and connecting with communities: Urban Education Live methodological background

In the context of the Urban Education Live project, a ‘Local Hub’ can be an underused building or a shop with space for both university activities such as workshops and local activities such as public meetings. The hubs can be described as extensions or satellites of the universities, locally embedded to get a deep understanding of the communities’ concerns, so that even smaller interventions can have a long-term impact.

Hubs allow for the fundamental urban dynamic of the unplanned encounter, and the local presence allows for spontaneous and improvised actions or situations to happen. Groups that seldom engage in political processes are directly involved in place making and hands-on urban change, each developing their own capacities. Within that context, the role of the new Live Works hub at 108 the Moor is to continue to foster a productive and effective dialogue between city stakeholders and the target groups identified through the initial research stages, seeding the location of satellite hubs to then maximise impact on a neighbourhood level.

Satellite hubs will be set up in areas across Sheffield to work with communities on transformative strategies for their areas. Having established the existing division of the city of Sheffield, we are particularly interested in addressing these divides. These hubs will be used as spaces for discussion, exchange, production of new agendas, ideas & designs. The methodological steps of identifying the general areas for the new satellite hubs are outlined below:

  • Network of practices

The project team is at the moment working on the first step of the methodology by mapping existing initiatives and groups working in the city of Sheffield and collate stories of groups. In this phase, we are compiling and mapping knowledge that is already in the public domain.

  • Focus Group Discussions

Some groups identified through this Initial mapping or the ‘Network of Practices’ have been identified as key players in the city, and are being invited to take part in Focus Group Discussions in order to develop an understanding of their parameters of success, challenges they are facing, and the modes of their motivation and operation. Three roundtable meetings with a selected group of individuals has already been organised with stakeholders from diverse disciplinary backgrounds, with three more to follow in the following months (so far we have worked with Israac Somali Community, Pitsmoor Adventure Playground, Regather Co-operative, Friends of the Old Town Hall, Ruskin in SHeffield, TimeBuilders, Time Walks, Theatre Deli, SADACCA Sheffield And District African Caribbean Community Association and the Sheffield Chinese Community Centre).

  • Individual Interviews

Identified by the Focus Group discussions, we will conduct ten in-depth interviews with individuals (e.g. academics, community representatives & local politicians).

  • Opening new satellite location/s in the next couple of years

Communities linked to the existing and new satellite hub/s will directly benefit from the ongoing exchange with the research and the design proposals. They will, together with the research team be able to articulate and co-create ideas for their localities — ideas which will have the scope to be implemented.

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