An interesting guy….Alan Simpson

This man sounds interesting….


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Learning About Bid Writing….

So, another thing I’ve been doing recently is working with Dr Cristina Cerulli to develop a sustainable funding strategy for SKINN’s Furnace Park project in the Shalesmoor / Neepsend area of Sheffield. Currently this involves preparing an application for the University of Sheffield’s Collaborative R+D and Partnership Award….

See here for more about SKINN.

See here for SKINN’s project description for the Furnace Park project.

Here are some things I’ve learned;

1) Use ‘active’ language – see here. Strengthens your writing by making intentions clearer and cutting down word count. For example;

PASSIVE:  The design document has been completed by the team.
ACTIVE:  The team has completed the design document.

2)    Academics can be strange beasts. I thought I’d learned about mouthing off from my posts whilst in Israel….but academics al seem to act like they’re protecting some kind of intellectual capital, when they could really benefit from knowing what each other is up to! This may be a naive view in today’s academic world where professors / researchers / lecturers are appraised on an individual basis and need to ‘stand out’…but it frustrates me to a point where I don’t care. The School is stronger as a School that as a roof over a number of individual academics. For the moment, I’m going to continue operating from my temporary office in the foyer of the Arts Tower, as it means I talk to people. This mean I find things out that are of benefit to my project, and that I can share the things I have found out with others, who can make use of it in their projects.


To Be Continued…

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(Re)Learning how to 3D Print…

There was a time when I knew how to do all this stuff….

But things have moved on. And every School seems to have a different piece of kit and to have bought different bits of software (and avoided paying for different things like training its staff how to use the equipment.). So after committing myself to building a model of the University of Sheffield’s Arts Tower for the upcoming Heritage Day,  I’m finding I have to relearn everything I thought I knew…

More about Heritage Day here.


Lesson 1 – Build model from scratch. Dont attempt to use an inheritted model in an attempt to save time. I was lucky enough that HLM Architects have recently completed a refurbishment of the Tower, and have constructed a detailed Sketchup model to accompany it, also generously making it available via Google’s 3D Warehouse. However, there are 2 issues; a) modelled at 1:1, there is simply too much detail for the 3D printer to handle at 1:200; and b) the process of constructing a digital model in Sketchup often results in shapes crashing into other shapes, and faces and the geometry ending up inside other pieces of model. This sends the 3D printer into meltdown.

Good tutorial help available here.

I could (and probably should) be using Vectorworks or Rhino to create a ‘cleaner’ 3D model to print from…

Lesson 2 – Our particular process is this: Sketchup > Sketchup Plugin (Convert to DXF or STL) > Check in Meshlabs > 3D Printer proprietory software > Print! This is a ‘beta’ method, as the Sketchup plugin frequently has problems. We’re using a Z-Corporation ‘Z-Printer 350’. So my current workflow is;

1/    Take detailed sketchup model (inherritted) at 1:1.

2/    Rationalise into components to be 3D printed by deleting unnecessary detail / tectonic elements and ‘tracing’ over the orginal model (locked).

3/    Copy clean, rationalised components into their own sketchup file (still at 1:1)

4/    Scale (by factor 0.005) to get 1:200 model. Locate with one of the verticies on origin.

5/    Run rubyscript plugin ‘Convert to DXF of STL’.

6/    Find file. Rename with file extension .stl.

7/    Open in Meshlabs to check that .stl export (and file extension trick) has worked.

8/    Email to James at the print unit to check on the machine’s proprietary software, ZEdit Pro.

9/ …and it works!

To be continued…

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Working with ‘Liveness’ at Sheffield…

There will be a book.

The book will be about the nature of ‘live’ pedagogy; ‘liveness’ in general rather than just Live Projects as an ingredient for that condition; the applied nature of researched-based practice and ‘live’ as a way of teaching; drawing things out from 13 years of teaching at the Sheffield School of Architecture, to derive something broader and more meaningful for practice.

It will also look at the civic role of a project office based within a university. The Bureau of Design Research (BDR) has been doing projects in the city, bringing students back in after their formal education, but also pushing them out into the city to work. As a model, it is a way of teaching and a way of doing consultancy. Its location within a university is important – BDR probably wouldn’t have won certain work without the foundation of a project being in work carried out by students as part of their studies. The research informs – and leads – practice.

The Soar stream of projects is a prime example. Direct commissions (for BDR and others) than come out of ‘live’ work conducted by students (feasibility studies, participative exercises, etc), that then come full-circle to allow further ‘live’ opportunities for civic engagement by and with a university. (The Soar projects are discussed in a chapter of ‘Architecture and Participation’ – search Amazon). Further projects often feature shared organisations and procurement methods, further evidencing the live ‘effect’ – projects that continue to have a life outside of the university and beyond the academic career of its students.

Other Schools of Architecture are picking up on the value that Live Projects can add to an educational offer, but few (maybe none) are getting anywhere near the implications that ‘liveness’ can have for practice too, rather than remaining merely a pedagogical initiative.

Live is a model for education and for practice. It has implications for how you commission architects and where the power lies in the process of commissioning the built environment.

It also addresses the challenge of building an awareness of what people do in universities .



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What is innovation?

Nesta’s website says:

“Innovation could involve coming up with a brand new idea, combining things in a new way, or finding new ways of making existing solutions work better. The best innovations often involve re-organising processes or the way people interact for example.” (Nesta, 2012)

Interestingly, ‘giving’ is also a devolved issue in the UK…so some grant schemes and challenge prizes will only fund things in England, if their funding comes from the Cabinet Office, or Office for the Civil Society.

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Designing a Project

Trawling through EU Life+ funding criteria, it becomes apparent that you have to really design a project to meet the funder’s priorities…

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Transformative Potential of Pedagogy

It has been suggested to me that I begin to keep a research diary, or PhD scrapbook, to inform any future research / aspirations to do a PhD….

A general thought whilst swimming in the sea this morning:

A lot of my ‘research’ or ‘research by design projects’ interests seem to link back to a common theme, which I can describe as the ‘transformative potential of pedagogy’; or, the way that academic or learning initiatives can have a social and spatial affact, influencing economic and urban development of a place. This principally manifests itself in my interest in the Live Projects at Sheffield, and in my continuing participation in the Eco-Nomadic School project. It also develops my Masters dissertation, in which I looked at the potential of social enterprise to offer a ‘third’ way between practice and research and an approach to professional practice – in a particular place – strongly informed by a research agenda.

My two Masters design projects also took pedagogical programmes…the Wick Academy in Hackney Wick, London, looked at the potential of an educational institution to support the development of a resilient, creative community. Cultivating Heijplaat looked at the important question of education as a social value stream in urban development and regeneration, specifically focussing on how educational opportunities could be built into the procurement process of a building and what affect that had on the aesthetic qualities of the architecture procured.

The interest in transformational potential of pedagogy can be extended to the complimentary interest in how it could be possible to reveal, or seed community in development projects. For a community to be engaged with, it must first a) exist;and  b) be capable of legitimately representing itself and interacting with other actors and agents. Pedagogical initiatives have the capacity to seed and develop community groups, which can then play a role in responsible urban and economic development.

That is all for now.

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