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Relearning Place: REdistribute Student Blog

Posted on 21 April 2023

Written by:

Guest Author

Relearning Place: Student Blogs are a series of online blogs by our WEdesign students, giving a taste of their experience of planning and facilitating the live event. We have invited student participants from each of our partner universities to write a short blog about taking part in WEdesign from their perspective. In this edition Zeyana Khamis Al-Aamri from Sheffield School of Architecture gives us her thoughtful and descriptive point of view about taking part in WEdesign.

Zeyana Khamis Al-Aamri from Sheffield School of Architecture

On the cold evening of the 1st of March 2023, student facilitators from the University of Sheffield and The Glass-House Team assembled in the Arts Tower to prepare for all that was to come. The WEdesign workshop event was planned over two meetings held online before it commenced in person. The first was a briefing session that introduced the event and all those involved, and the second delivered instructions on how to facilitate the event, the aims of the conversations and the distribution of roles.

The overarching theme was ‘REdistribute’. Its core idea was introduced to us in our first project titled ‘Trading Places’. Tasked with designing a market in different cities, we explored infrastructure that supported the storage of goods as well as transport systems that further encouraged their distribution. Over the centuries, the interconnection between people and places has not only redefined our cities; but the people we meet, the languages we speak, the food we eat and the countries we visit. Through collaborative frameworks, we are able to assemble innovative ideas that bring our diverse characters to light and in harmony. Just as we aimed to design a common place for a diverse population, the WEdesign event brought together members of the public, built environment professionals and students within four walls and created that commonplace.

With a pace of ease and a smile quick to reach, conversations about who we were and what we were about to embark on seemed effortless. After an introduction to the event everyone was divided into groups of the following themes: Education, Community, Ecology and Practice. Although each had questions of their own, it became evident at the end that redistribution was understood as a way of ‘sharing better’.

Conversations in all four groups were probed by questions, and participants were encouraged to communicate their ideas through making. “What is the role of the practice?” is among the questions that intrigued me, and the response has left an imprint on me. The table dealing with the above question responded by creating ears using colourful pipe cleaners and titled it ‘learning to listen’. Learning to listen to redistribute agency. Within practice, that looks like optimising skills that recent graduates come with. Within communities, that is creating safe spaces to share stories so as to become one. Learning to listen is also about redistributing resources by rethinking our priorities. Time is a resource that is in high demand; stretching time enables further research to be done to achieve designs that are responsive and empathetic to all.

From these conversations, I learnt that the built environment is understood to be about people. If, indeed, the built environment is about people, it begs the question, how do we make architectural education accessible to the masses?

The built environment is a complex field, one of which a majority know very little. I believe that having
conversations with those outside of our profession about space and place can provide useful insights.
As architecture students, we are equipped with the knowledge and critical thinking skills to hold these
discussions, evaluate circumstances, and to re-learn in order to progress.

At the Sheffield School of Architecture, we are taught to design for the people. What better way of doing so than involving the public in conversations that relate to the spaces they occupy? What better way of designing for the well-being of the public than asking them directly? It is acknowledged that our professions differ, but the beauty of combining varying mindsets is the points of perspectives that they offer. We can learn from each other, and I believe we should be learning from one another.

About the Author

Zeyana Khamis Al-Aamri is a RIBA Part 1 final year student at the Sheffield School of Architecture.
She is a driven individual whose current interest lies in the relationship between cognitive
neuroscience and Architecture as well as Business of Architecture.

You can find her on LinkedIn: @Zeyana Khamis Al Aamri and on Instagram: @zk_art.arch

About the WEdesign 2022/23 Series: Relearning Place

Relearning Place is The Glass-House’s 2022/23 WEdesign series which combined free, interactive events and co-design activities in person in Glasgow, Sheffield, London and Newcastle, with a range of online events and think pieces. This year’s series finished in March 2023. 

WEdesign is kindly supported by the Ove Arup Foundation.