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Urban Flux

Part 2 Project 2009
Tom Randle
Newcastle University Newcastle-Upon-Tyne UK
Once a city of manufacturing pride and industry, with falling employment in manufacturing, Sheffield is slowly losing its personal relationship with its manufacturing heritage. With modern manufacturing moving from a ‘dirty industry’ in a much more creative and innovative direction, possibility exists for a new urban centre to promote small businesses while also reclaiming the importance of innovation in Sheffield.

Weaving into half demolished structures on the boundary of the industrial areas, this thesis considers an adaptive approach to architecture and an overlapping transition between new and historical narratives. In a constantly challenging financial climate, the project also seeks to question if architecture can be directly generated by its users, thereby making the most of resources.

The scheme will house workshops, business pods and office space as well as shared meeting, support and exhibition areas. It will be used by small start-up businesses but will also link with general public and nearby institutions to create a communal forum for manufacture.

Building upon the strong sense of tension and flux of the surrounding context, the scheme developed as a transitionary structure, never to be fully ‘finished’. This adaptation is achieved utilising a standardised system of panels and reclaimed components. 20 possible clients were developed, along with anticipated dependencies and working patterns. An architecture was created to meet the needs of the users but also executed so that it could evolve to facilitate new working relationships as they changed. By using this as a practical and flexible approach to sustainability, the adapting building gears itself to the ever changing needs of users, and by doing so maximises efficiency while minimising waste.

To the visitor, the building will make explicit and re-establish the important historical relationship between manufacture and the city. To its users, the building becomes an enclosure maximising collective working between large numbers of small businesses. Essentially, the building aims to change public perceptions of the industry, showcasing it as a vibrant, creative industry rather than dirty and dangerous.

Tom Randle


As the project title suggests, Tom Randle’s work this year has explored how an architecture might emerge from a range of continually changing parameters. These demands vary widely in frequency – from slow infrastructural shifts to fleeting inter-personal relationships and have often presented seemingly contradictory requirements. The resultant building is a sophisticated and elegant solution which manages to be flexible without being wasteful, loose-fit yet specific.

The project also questions the architect’s role in the post industrial condition. Traditional factories have been crudely clad machines; machines that have exploited the resources of a location without care for the consequences. Sometimes they have been embellished with decoration and occasionally built with pride. Yet their success has been measured principally in terms of how efficiently they can accommodate a particular process. But what happens if the process is not particular? And what if a prescribed process could be enhanced by chance interactions? Could the resultant ‘factory’ help heal the wounds of a place previously exploited by manufacture? Could it also help regenerate pride in a place?

In a sense Tom has strived not to ‘design’ his project. It is never meant to be finished. What is illustrated is a moment in time – the building itself continually evolving. It also attempts to be a genuinely rational function of the processes it contains. As these processes are complex, varied and multivalent, so is the architecture.

In questioning the role of the architect in this process, Tom has imbibed his machine with a conscience. While simultaneously responding to its programme, Tom’s project strives to be conscious of the needs of its users and visitors, conscious of its responsibility to place, both physical and temporal, and conscious of its use of resources.

Tutor(s)

2009
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