The Live Projects are a pioneering educational initiative introduced by the School of Architecture at the University of Sheffield.
Masters architecture students work in Live Project groups with a range of clients including local community groups, charities, health organisations and regional authorities. Live Projects include design/build, masterplanning, building feasibility studies, sustainability strategies, online resources and participation toolkits. In every case, the project is real, happening in real time with real people.
The projects draw on the School’s exceptional research base as well as the commitment, vision and resources of highly talented students.
The Live Projects set real constraints, responding to budget, brief and time. In each project students and clients work together to define the project and develop a brief. Through regular contact with the client students develop useful design solutions. These could take the shape of a physical structure, a set of drawings, a toolkit, an exhibition or a website. There is an expectation for the student groups to work responsibly and ethically. These projects are public and accountable, and make a clear difference to the clients and communities they work with.
Running since 1999, the initiative is responsible for over 150 completed projects.
Live Projects are important in educating architects of the future. Too often architectural education happens in the abstract and pursues a set of ideals that are often removed from the concerns of the everyday world. In contrast, the Live Projects develop collaborative techniques and skills in communication and participatory practice – all approaches that are essential and absolutely relevant to the future practitioner.
The Live Projects also get the students out of the ivory tower of academia and into the real world (in our case this is a real tower with the studios at the top of one of the tallest buildings in Sheffield). Live Projects establish an awareness of the social responsibility of the architect. The aim is to produce work of exceptional quality that empowers clients and students alike.
The benefits however are not solely of educational value. As pieces of work in their own right the Live Projects provide valuable tools, ideas and built designs to community clients that would otherwise be unable to obtain them. These products very often continue to have a life and be of use long after the end of the Live Project.