In 2008-2010, Chiara Dalla Libera wrote a wonderful dissertation as part of her Master Erasmus Mundus (Crossways in European Humanities), under the supervision of Dr Amanda Crawley Jackson (University of Sheffield), Dr César Domínguez (Universidade de Santiago de Compostela) and Dr Ana Gonçalves Matos (Universidade Nova de Lisboa).

The dissertation, entitled FROM NON-PLACE TO PLACE: A STUDY OF EUROPEAN PUBLIC SPACE AS A SPACE OF IDENTITY, is available to download as a pdf here.

In short, my research question has to do with the role some places have in forging bonds between people and cultures, focusing in particular on the example of the European context. I expect to identify the process of the ongoing transformation of such places from neutral zones to expressions of a shared culture through their appropriation by its users, leaving behind their functional aspect to embody the process of identification with European models of culture. In fact the study of the public space could be intended as a way to approach the study of the process of building Europe in its cultural sense, in order to detect the consequences that have determined or not a change in the relation and in the characterization of the public space itself and its social dimension. Above all I aim to analyse the mechanisms that build the identity of these spaces in order to change the vision we have of them, especially because, as they are increasingly more present in our daily movements, they should be experienced as environments where we do not just spend time, but where we actually live and make our time useful and pleasurable.  

Chiara Dalla  Libera (2010)

The JR James Archive at the University of Sheffield

An amazing archive, recently digitised and made freely available online by the University of Sheffield.

This website hosts the photos, maps, plans and images of the JR James archive, digitised in the summer of 2013 by Philip Brown and Joseph Carr – MPlan graduates of the Department of Town and Regional Planning at the University of Sheffield. The project was funded by the University of Sheffield Alumni Fund and directed by Alasdair Rae, an academic in the Department of Town and Regional Planning.

JR ‘Jimmy’ James was Professor of Town and Regional Planning at Sheffield for several years before his untimely death in 1980. Prior to that he was the Chief Planner at the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. He left to the Department his large collection of fascinating planning-related photos, maps and plans spanning many decades.


Consult the archive here:

Introducing Furnace Park – Live Project video

In late 2012, a group of students from the University of Sheffield School of Architecture (SS0A) developed a plan for Furnace Park. Working in collaboration with SKINN, plastiCities (the group that heads up occursus’ live projects) and Cristina Cerulli (SSoA/Studio Polpo), they designed and made prototypes of a number of modular systems that can be made cheaply and quickly from locally sourced, reused and recycled materials.

Guy de Maupassant, Will Self, the Eiffel Tower and the Shard

This morning, BBC Radio 4’s Point of View featured a fascinating disquisition by British novelist Will Self on the state of contemporary urban planning. Opening with Guy de Maupassant’s sardonic reflections on the Eiffel Tower (see below) and the unfettered view afforded by his London home of Renzo Piano’s Shard, Self develops an argument that takes in Ebenezer Howard’s garden cities, Le Corbusian modernism and Owen Hatherley’s perspicacious critique of the boosterist architecture that produces our cities’ dazzling skylines and has the demerit of functioning as both icon and logo.

You can listen to the podcast of Self’s talk here.

Source :
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

J’ai quitté Paris et même la France, parce que la tour Eiffel finissait par m’ennuyer trop.

Non seulement on la voyait de partout, mais on la trouvait partout, faite de toutes les matières connues, exposée à toutes les vitres, cauchemar inévitable et torturant. Ce n’est pas elle uniquement d’ailleurs qui m’a donné une irrésistible envie de vivre seul pendant quelque temps, mais tout ce qu’on a fait autour d’elle, dedans, dessus, aux environs.

Comment tous les journaux vraiment ont-ils osé nous parler d’architecture nouvelle à propos de cette carcasse métallique, car l’architecture, le plus incompris et le plus oublié des arts aujourd’hui, en est peut-être aussi le plus esthétique, le plus mystérieux et le plus nourri d’idées ? Il a eu ce privilège à travers les siècles de symboliser pour ainsi dire chaque époque, de résumer, par un très petit nombre de monuments typiques, la manière de penser, de sentir et de rêver d’une race et d’une civilisation. Quelques temples et quelques églises, quelques palais et quelques châteaux contiennent à peu près toute l’histoire de l’art à travers le monde, expriment à nos yeux mieux que des livres, par l’harmonie des lignes et le charme de l’ornementation, toute la grâce et la grandeur d’une époque.

Mais je me demande ce qu’on conclura de notre génération si quelque prochaine émeute ne déboulonne pas cette haute et maigre pyramide d’échelles de fer, squelette disgracieux et géant, dont la base semble faite pour porter un formidable monument de Cyclopes et qui avorte en un ridicule et mince profil de cheminée d’usine.

Guy de Maupassant, La Vie Errante (1890)

I left Paris and even France because in the end, the Eiffel Tower annoyed me too much. Not only could you see it from wherever you went in the city, but you also found it everywhere, made in every material known to man, on sale in all the shop windows, an unavoidable and agonising nightmare. It wasn’t only the Eiffel Tower, however, that gave me an irresistible desire to live alone for a while, but everything that was done around, inside, above and adjacent to it. Really – how could all the newspapers speak to us of a new architecture in relation to this metallic carcass, because architecture, the least understood and the most forgotten of the arts today is perhaps also the most aesthetic, the most mysterious and the most nourished with ideas. It has had the privilege, across the centuries, of symbolizing as it were each age, of summarizing in a very small number of typical monuments a race and a civilisation’s way of thinking, feeling and dreaming. A few temples and churches, palaces and châteaux contain more or less the world’s entire history of art, and express visually, better than books, through the harmony of lines and the charm of ornamentation all the grace and grandeur of an epoch.

But I wonder what will be concluded of our generation if some future riot does not topple this tall, skinny pyramid of iron ladders, this ungainly, giant skeleton whose base appears designed to carry a formidable monument of the Cyclops and which aborts in a ridiculous, thin profile of a factory chimney.

Guy de Maupassant, The Wandering Life (1890)

Excerpt translated by Amanda Crawley Jackson

Prue Chiles, Re-imagining the City of Sheffield

As part of a project entitled ‘Materializing Sheffield’, architect and academic Prue Chiles wrote this thoughtful article on how we might re-imagine the city of Sheffield:

(Prue also designed one of my favourite Sheffield buildings, the Hillsborough Park Pavillion. Well worth a visit if you haven’t seen it already. See ).