About This Live Project

The Spires is a community building based on the Arbourthorne council estate to the south-east of Sheffield city centre. The building itself is very distinctive, formed by 13 hexagonal pods each rising to an individual apex. A local Christian charity known as the Miracle Trust are using the building to provide a much needed community support network. The hope is to extend the reach of the organisation and its valuable resource to a greater number of people by improving the public face of the building and providing a clearer connection to the community.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Work on the 15th floor.

The Friday Night Thang - Part 2

Recognising possibility.

After discussion with the client, our ideas are formed into what we want to acheive in the remaining few weeks and what we will leave in place for completion at a later date.

Quickly drafted masterplanning exercises help inform our ideas.

We make aesthetic occupations.

Check out this evocative webcomic by guerrilla architects In The Field.

Thursday, 9 October 2008


I've recently been pointed in the direction of artist Andreas Bergmann whose work is described as reconsidering barriers and inviting to dwell.

St Mary's: an inspiration

St Mary's Sheffield is a church, community centre, and more. The building was converted in the late '90s to include a variety of new facilities. Besides the main church hall, used for conferences as well as services, the church building houses a variety of flexible meeting and breakout spaces. During the renovation, the churchyard walls were removed, allowing it to become a thoroughfare with seating areas. It is one of the largest green spaces in the area and provides a welcoming and inclusive frontage to the church. Two small businesses also operate within, a design practice and a print shop.

Inner city areas tend to suffer from a lack of social cohesion. The people living there often come from many different countries and are quite transient. There is high unemployment, and problems in engaging with schools, health and leisure services. People lack the basic opportunities that many of us take for granted.
Through our team of Community Development workers, St Mary’s aims to respond to these issues.

This morning Matthew and I met with Reverand Julian Sullivan who gave us a tour of the building and explained some of the varied work that goes on in St Mary's. Especially impressive was their use of capital from the conference and other operations to fund their community work.

'I'll meet you at the Spires' 'Where?'

We're getting hung up on the tarmac...heres an alternitive appoarch to depaving.

We've also had a fair few ideas like 'identity', 'brand' and 'meeting place' floating about.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Grass - as a public meeting point?

Berlin, Germany, 2006

Youth Club + Pens = ???

Whilst not being entirely sure what is meant by it all, there are recurring themes within this manic drawing. Providing the Spires with a more recognisable identity within the community seems to be a key one, what with 'The Spires' blimp and one-eyed monster looming large over the area and the Arbourthorne baranding on the fence.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Survey Saturation

This morning Dan and myself went over to the spires fully equipped with the necessaries for a survey to pin down the location of some of those trees, telegraph poles and the drainage. We valiantly fought the weather, which was mainly wind driven rain (the Spires is rather exposed on top of a hill), and just about won, though the concrete dust mixed in with the rain from the demolitions next door almost got the better of us.

The end result was though in fact slightly better than hoped for. We’ve been left with one very soggy bit of paper with measurements marked on in pencil so the ink doesn’t run, we’ve done this before you see, and some useful information from the demolitions contractor next door. We also managed to help a confused BT engineer who couldn’t work out what was being demolished and sympathise with a local resident about uncoordinated street works. Alistair was right, people on the estate talk to you more when you put a pair of site boots on.

No photos Im afraid - far to wet.

Vegetable Printing

So with all the pools of paint finally having dried we can bring you a collection of paintings from the children at The Spires Playgroup. Using potato, carrot, pepper, mushrooms and broccoli paint was printed, dotted and smeared on paper creating a vibrant mess of primary colour.

watch this space - the posters

As a kick-off to the publication of the 6 week long live project at The Spires Community Centre, an intial series of 4 posters have been displayed on and around the site.

The primary aim of these posters is to raise local awareness of the live project taking place at The Spires Community Centre.

The nature of the direction of the project is such that there isn't a linear train of thought or purpose to it; but on the contrary a multi-directional, multi-purposed goal.

This introductory poster (labelled 01 bottom right hand corner) reading "something is happpening" suggests that there are a lot of questions to be asked... What is happening?... where, when how, who's involved?

It has been produced and displayed in the hope that it will draw some attention and trigger some thoughts, about what we are trying to do, but also what people would like us to do? We deliberately kept the poster ambiguous to avoid constraining the project at an early stage.

Ultimately, we want to get as many people involved with the centre as possible; through publications, events and participation of the community in any physical building work that may take place.

One of the main aims of the project is to build up a greater number of attendees to The Spires Centre; young and old from all walks of life.

One of the problems identified is the aesthetic of the building itself. From the outside it is a very defensive, inward looking building with exposed harsh dull-grey breeze blocks. This aesthetic is far from inviting; in fact its almost fortress-like, and stands as a clear barrier between the beautiful, cosy, friendly environment within and the newcomer.

The statement "its timber inside" is aimed at getting potential newcomers to breakdown their thoughts of the external appearance being reflected inside - Its warm and inviting.

A large part of the project is to get more people from the surrounding community and beyond to want to check out the centre, What would make you want to visit? a new aesthetic may be part of a solution, or perhaps a landmark, a play/cafe or other facility... Please comment on your thoughts.

A rather striking statistic makes of the statement on another of the three posters in series two (labelled 02 bottom right hand corner), "15,000 people, 13 hexagonal buildings." This draws on the fact that The Spires Centre (in the form of 13 hexagonal buildings) is one very few community centres serving the 15,000 people in Arbourthorne have to go to; despite this the number of centre members is much lower than it should be...why?

Why don't more people come? What could get more people in?
What would you change to get more people involved with the centre? Help us give The Spires a physical identity!

One of the most basic, but most significant problems the centre has is the confusion of entering the centre, and we ask this question on this poster, "where is the entrance?" Currently, any newcomer, including myself will have to find a gap in the tall mesh fence off to one side, then feel their way around from the road facade of the building round to the rear of the building to enter into the bowls of the building away from sight. The poster also addresses the issue of introductions to the activities/services, how did you find out about it, word of mouth? The question makes people think about the first time coming to the centre, asking this to both regular users and apprehensive locals who don't, as yet, use the Spires.

One of the main objectives is to physically announce the entrance, be it through signage, landscaping, a purposeful function or by some other means. We want to know how you'd like the entrance to be?

The content of the posters will continue to evolve as we ask more questions and focus on the requirements, and receive feedback from our consultations in Arbourthorne... Keep your eyes peeled!

Race to the Spires


Let's rip up that asphalt and let the earth breathe!

"Depave has been created to inspire and promote the removal of unnecessary concrete and asphalt from urban areas."

How to depave.

Design Ideas Session

Found Ideas.

Well thought through ideas.

Exciting Ideas. Successful Ideas.

Discussed Ideas.

Monday, 6 October 2008

you can stand under my umbrella.

The Wapping Project, Wapping, London, 2007

Melbourne, Austrailia, 2008

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Arbourthorne Community Church

We arrived early and put up some posters up outside on the fence, when we entered the centre we were greeted by friendly faces and a very welcome hot drink, the worship group were practicing and there were children running and playing.

Church service on this Sunday morning dispensed with its proposed start time and informally began once the members of its congregation had filtered through the doors. The band played some upbeat songs of praise and led the members in a time of worship. With the young children going to creche and 'jump church' the congregation were then invited to share in communion. Alistair (church leader) shared the story of David and Goliath and encouraged the assembly with a message of being 'hope carriers' in the community and in life. After the service there was time to chat with the regulars and have another drink and biscuit.

The Spires Community Centre

Being a positive beacon in the community is difficult at best and even more so when you are working out of a defensive looking building that is less than inviting. You want to have a fun and approachable outlook but the estate you are working with is seperated from your building by a security fence, cracked asphalt and grey concrete blocks.

In stark contrast the interior is a series of bright, warm timber clad hexagonal spaces, interconnecting through steps and ramps, a dramatic and exciting space unfolds. The objective of our project is to complement the internal spaces with a fun, exterior landscaped area that connects through to the estate and creates a more approachable and recognisable entrance to the building.

The Friday Night Thang

What better way to get to know The Spires' youth club users than with a friendly game of pool? Gooch and Matthew threw together a tournament while Andrew (one of the centre's full time staff and a full time laugh) organised a shakeshack of exotic milkshakes and smoothies. Crunchie and Rolo shake comes highly recomended for those with a sweet tooth!

Although the tournament didn't get finished (we hope to wrap it up next week) we did get some drawing done:

From cheese to daleks, netto to ninjas, and zipwires to zepplins, the ideas were flowing a lot faster than the pool, and even the sky was no limit!