JPI Urban Europe ENSUF - Urban Education Live (UEL)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Architectural Studies


Urban Education Live (UEL) aims to contribute to the making of inclusive, vibrant and accessible urban communities. The three-year project brings together university partners from Finland, the UK, Slovenia and Romania to develop and test new models of collaboration between universities, urban communities, NGOs and public bodies. It proposes that universities act as independent brokers, curators and catalysts of positive urban change and aims to build urban capacity between multiple stakeholders by employing innovative socio-spatial mapping and activation tools. This trans-educational approach - which engages universities, NGOs, vocational colleges, primary schools, businesses and municipalities in the design of urban spaces - will be supported by mapping techniques and technologies which will allow a high degree of sensitivity to emerging patterns of use, desire and need. Local hubs - akin to corner shops - will be set up to provide a locus for discussion and debate on these forms of producing and thinking space while also serving as centres for learning and doing for citizens, students, academics, city authorities and others. Through this "Super Site Specific" the project aims to establish agendas, methods and transformative spatial strategies that can address current socio-spatial complexities and challenges.
UEL is founded upon interdisciplinary collaboration between architecture, urban design and urban planning but its findings will also be useful for furthering knowledge in the social sciences, education, community development and service design disciplines. By aiming to understand urban issues from the bottom-up, UEL will assist partners and other educational institutions in finding new modi operandi.
In the UK context, the project seeks to specifically examine the increasingly devolved planning framework, whereby local communities are passed rights to develop buildings and neighbourhoods but without the adequate support necessary to translate these rights into radically inclusive spaces. On the local level, we aim to analyse, test and map models of collaboration between different actors that strengthen local innovative ecologies; while, on the national level, the project will contribute to discussions on creative collaborations between universities and local authorities to develop transformative spatial strategies that address 'austerity policies' and public sector funding cuts across the UK. The findings will contribute to the project's 'Dynamic Archive', to which each partner will contribute; it will be further articulated and developed during a series of symposia and summer schools; and will be critically examined through a series of non-academic reports and peer-reviewed academic articles.

Planned Impact

The research will directly and immediately benefit any individual, professional, institution and organisation affected by / working in the context of co-production & bottom-up community design projects. Specifically, the beneficiaries include representatives of each of the target groups listed below, who will be involved in the project as part of the mapping processes, through the discussion papers, interviews and production of design propositions. Active conversations throughout the project, not least through involvement of key stakeholders in the process of the design studios, will be sought to maximise impact through the vehicles outlined in the Pathways to Impact statement. In line with this, all impact activities will be discussed and co-devised with the UK Impact Advisory Board (UKIAB), to meet twice / year, which has representatives from local communities, local & central government, industry and academic institutions with expertise in co-production and engaged pedagogy.
[Please note: We refer to 2 main beneficiary groups - local authorities and communities - in the Part C of the submission, but have expanded on these groups further below.]
1) The groups and community initiatives, otherwise referred to as 'network of practices' (e.g. Portland Works, Abundance, Regather trading coop, studio polpo, foodhall, Reach, grow sheffield, Sheffield CLT), that will participate in the production of the Sheffield specific-map. The map of existing initiatives and groups working in the city of Sheffield will feature stories of these groups, put them into a new context and provide (through blog and other dissemination strategies) a platform for their exposure to a wider audience. The groups will benefit from this exposure and the wider dissemination of their stories.
2) Communities. UEL Sheffield will set up a space within 2 neighbourhoods in Sheffield. These hubs will be used as spaces for discussion, exchange, production of new agendas, ideas & designs. Each of the communities within which one of the hubs will be established (the precise location will be established following the initial mapping process, focus group sessions and interviews) will be invited to work with UEL to reimagine their socio-spatial relations together with Masters-level students who will work on specific proposals that will articulate and visualise ideas. Communities linked to the hub will directly benefit from the ongoing exchange with the research and the design proposals. They will, together with the research team (of which the students will be part of) be able to articulate and co-create ideas for their localities - ideas which will have the scope to be implemented. The reflection of the particular experiences will be documented in the report which will be aimed at making available to the wider public the challenges and opportunities of co-production.
3) (UK) local authorities. Faced with funding cuts, city councils are often overwhelmed with questions on how to continue adequate public provision. UEL aims to develop new agendas and tools that radically rethink how community provision can be implemented. Knowledge of the Sheffield case studies - as well as the case studies from all partners - have the potential to guide local authorities across Europe and beyond in their own respective processes of socio-spatial transformation. The reports, but in particular the dynamic archive will serve as a growing resource that can be tapped into by these entities.
4) Universities / programmes. Many architecture and design based programmes have shifted towards a 'live' based learning process. Here, the project and its findings will benefit these programmes by providing in-depth knowledge on the potential of such approaches. While many such approaches are relatively short-term (6 weeks to 1 semester), our 3-year study will provide a medium-term perspective of these methods and their possibilities and will have impact on other programmes in the UK and elsewhere.


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