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Building and Choice

Part 2 Project 1998
Rosie White
University of Sheffield UK

Joint project with Rachel Sara

Building For Choice: Housing for Sustainable Development

Meeting the housing need.

It was recently estimated that 4.4 million new homes will be required in Britain by the year 2016. This is cause for concern if the current trend for building new homes in the cities' green belts is to continue. However, it is claimed by the CPRE that 75% of the demand for new homes could be met by building on reclaimed brownfield sites and by using land and existing buildings in urban areas more efficiently.

The proposed scheme explores the possibility of providing co-operative housing as part of a sustainable community on a brownfield site in Heeley, Sheffield. Heeley is a typical inner city area of Sheffield to be hit by the decline of the steel industry and suffers from high levels of unemployment and poverty. The site is currently underused due to changing socio-economic trends of the area and it is appropriate that the land use should change in reaction to other plans for the area and local needs.

The Brief

An urban strategy is proposed and is intended to tie in to the existing 'green lung' of Heeley City Farm, the proposed Millennium Park and the Sheaf River Development Plan.

The Client

The client is conceived as a fully mutual co-operative.


It is intended that that the housing be backed by an established developer with a view to selling homes to members of the co-operative in the long term, hence the cost of the development must be kept to a minimum.


A participative approach is taken to both design and construction. Local people (particularly unemployed) are invited to take part in a training scheme, enabling individuals to eventually construct their own home. At the same time the participants gain nationally recognised qualifications. It is important that tenants are able to contribute to the image of their homes.


The overall philosophy for the design is to create a more cyclical pattern for development and for living. As part of this philosophy resources will be used minimally and in a low-tech fashion. Reliance on the car is discouraged and cycle/footpaths are developed.
Rosie White

Building for Choice: Housing for Sustainable Development

What I particularly like about this project is the way in which it has evolved. As an introduction to their main research project, Rosie and Rachel undertook an analysis of the possibilities that exist for building, literally, with rubbish. This led to a construction project at Heeley City Farm, Sheffield. What was built (with the participation of local people and disabled children and adults) was a vast sweeping seat using car tyres, bottles, aluminium cans, mud and straw. I was amazed by Rachel and Rosie's work, and in particular how they seemed to cope with both their core university studies and constructing this pilot project.

This scheme was then taken as a precedent for their main thesis project, promoting 'sustainable' housing. Their proposal was developed in parallel with the community, through a series of workshops and presentations exploring ideas evolved from the general theme of sustainability.The final proposal has a logic and a clarity which is refined in the best tradition of good architectural design. The creative re-use of the existing buildings and the linear contemporary new interventions on both sides of the river create a dramatic cliff face which exploits to the full the opportunity and drama of the site. Great care has been taken to arrive at an appropriate method of constructing the project, and there is a legible relationship between design ideas and technology which is how it should be, but which is rare in Schools of Architecture as it is in the real world.

It was this ability constant throughout the year, to unite constructiontraditions and techniques with their own new ideas and concepts that has really made this project shine. Rachel and Rosie have researched their ideas and tested them rigorously in respect of buildability, cost and appropriateness, and have used this exploration to create what I feel is a truly inspired thesis design project.

The proposal works at so many levels. It has great strength as an urban vision, creates a dramatic composition on the site, and is a technically competent detailed design. It is also refreshingly uncluttered by inappropriate references to any particular architectural style or fashion and instead is truly original. For all these reasons I think that this project deserves a wider audience and is worthy of the silver medal.

• Page Hits: 1823         • Entry Date: 08 January 1998         • Last Update: 10 May 2001