Portland Works is a grade II* integrated cutlery factory in Sheffield. A hundred years ago it was the birthplace of stainless steel manufacturing. Today it is a diverse community of metalworkers, artists and musicians continuing a tradition of innovative making, which has run uninterrupted at the site for over 140 years. In 2009 an attempt to turn the building into flats resulted in a tenant and activist led campaign to save Portland Works through a community purchase.
The live project student group followed and responded to the campaign for six weeks in 2011. They set up a studio at the Works and collaborated with tenants to analyse the building and understand the complex relationships facilitated by it. This approach came at at important moment, instilling a creative and peer learning approach that sustained in future years throughout the campaign group.
This initial collaborative analysis led to a number of propositional participatory decision-making tools for Portland Works; these included a 1:200 Model, publicity strategies and templates, construction case studies and educational games.
In 2013 Portland Works was successfully purchased by the community, representing ‘one of the biggest community buy-outs in the country’. The live project tools continue to facilitate collective management and decision making within the Works and the live project report has formed the starting point for more recent analysis and research.
Client: Julia Udall, Portland Works Committee
Tutor: Cristina Cerulli
Students: Benjamin Baliti, Guy Moulson, Jonathan Orlek, Caroline Gore-Booth, Ewan Tavendale, Bryony Spottiswoode, Adrian Judt, Mersedeh Gharavifard, Chen Guo, Qi Mingyu, Scaria Njavally, Christopher Carthy
Research Question: What are the architectural, tools, processes and roles required to facilitate participatory decision-making at Portland Works?
This initial line of inquiry led to a broader questioning of the role and position of architects within community activist groups.