Tatjana Schneider and Jeremy Till of the Universities of Sheffield and Westminster win 2011 RIBA Research Award for ‘Spatial Agency’

Tatjana Schneider and Jeremy Till of the Universities of Sheffield and Westminster were awarded the RIBA President’s Award for Outstanding University-located Research for their work Spatial Agency - made up of a series of conferences, publications, as well as a website and book (co-authored with Nishat Awan).

The project, initially funded by the AHRC, presents a new way of looking at how buildings and space can be produced. Moving away from architecture’s traditional focus on the look and making of buildings, Spatial Agency proposes a much more expansive field of opportunities in which architects and non-architects can operate. It suggests other ways of doing architecture.

The judges said: ‘Describing a series of case-study projects that are marginal to the mainstream activities of the architectural profession, unofficial and informal practices, this is a timely study; it raises issues that are vital for the future.’

After ‘Flexible Housing’ in 2007, this is the second time that the team have won this prestigious award.

A small exhibition showing the scope of the research will be mounted on Floor 16 of the School of Architecture in late November.

See RIBA press release

Drawings from Banister Fletcher

The new exhibition in the Well features drawings from Banister Fletcher.

Sir Banister Fletcher’s ‘History of Architecture on the Comparative Method’ was first published in 1896.  It quickly became the standard history of architecture in English speaking countries and was required reading for all students  of architecture for many years.  The book was revised and updated at regular intervals, gradually incorporating modernist architecture and looking beyond the European tradition that had been the initial focus.  The twentieth edition was substantially revised by Dan Cruickshank to mark the book’s centenary in 1996.

At the heart of the book was a series of beautifully hand drawn, full page illustrations that provided condensed summaries of the different architectural styles and construction methods.  Large reprints of these drawings were also produced as ‘lecture diagrams’ to be used in schools of architecture in the days before slide or data projectors.  A forgotten set of these diagrams was uncovered during our move back from Crookesmoor.

In addition to explaining the history of architecture, the drawings are often exquisitely laid out, demonstrating how to combine a series of different projections and scales within a single, well composed drawing.  They are also worth studying for the different styles of freehand lettering that are used throughout the drawings, a skill that has almost completely disappeared!

The exhibition will run in the Well on floor 16, until Monday 7 November.

Usability and occupant guidance key to zero carbon housing performance

Low Carbon homes in Stawell were complex for users to understand

Innovative work on building performance evaluation methods related to usability was recently publicised in the Daily Telegraph. Professor Fionn Stevenson and her research team evaluated the performance of the first Code 5 private housing development, situated in the village of Stawell, Somerset, for the Ecos Trust earlier on in 2011. It was discovered that although the homes were generally comfortable and the energy bills reasonably low (£350 per year), the occupants struggled with the complexity of all the Low/Zero Carbon Technologies (LZCT) that were in place. These included solar thermal panels, solar photovoltaic panels, biomass boilers, centralised ventilation systems and rainwater harvesting systems. This was partly because they had not all been correctly installed initially and partly because the user guidance did not adequately explain how the users should operate their home. ‘Generally, user guidance is a bit of a ‘Cinderella’ factor in housing development -not enough research and development has been carried out in this crucial area. It can make the difference between a technology working or not working, depending on whether or not the user knows what to do.’ said Professor Stevenson.’ This is particularly critical in relation to centralised ventilation systems in new homes, where filters have to be cleaned regularly to avoid them clogging up, leading to poor indoor air quality. Many LZCTs are still not designed with the user in mind.’

An innovative combination of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ research methods were used to tease out the findings including a co-heating test, thermal imaging, interviews, walkthroughs, user guidance and usability evaluation. The project was funded through the £8m Technology Strategy Board Building Performance Evaluation programme, which she has been instrumental in developing guidance on for domestic projects as key advisor. Funding is available from this programme for building performance evaluation projects until early 2012.

Curry Stone Design Prize for practice co-founded by Prof. Doina Petrescu

Atelier d’Architecture Autogeree (collective practice founded by Constantin Petcou and Doina Petrescu) is one of the 2011 Winners of the Curry Stone Design Prize which was created to champion designers as a force for social change. Now in its fourth year, the Prize recognizes innovators who address critical issues involving clean air, food and water, shelter, health care, energy, education, social justice or peace. Nominees for the Curry Stone Design Prize are selected by an anonymous, rotating group of leaders representing broad fields of design, as well as humanitarian advocates from related disciplines.

Prize Ceremony & Presentation will take place in Harvard Massachusetts, on November 7th, 2011. Constantin Petcou and Doina Petrescu will also lead a workshop at Harvard Graduate School of Design.

An exhibition of drawings by the architect George Devey opens in the Western Bank Library

On Wednesday 5th October an exhibition of drawings by the architect George Devey opens in the Western Bank Library. Devey was a Victorian architect who built several large country houses, was the master of C.F.A. Voysey, and a  grandfather for the Arts and Crafts Movement, for he was among the first to draw on vernacular building as a source. Special Collections received a portfolio of drawings and photographs in 1914 thanks to the mediation of William Purchon, the very first lecturer in the Sheffield School of Architecture. It includes beside finished drawings many sketches and watercolours, offering an intriguing  display of the working method of the Victorian architect.

Perspective of one of Devey's lodges drawn in ink for engraving and publication