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Dr Julia Udall PhD, MArch (Dist), BArch

Senior Lecturer in Architecture


Dr Julia Udall is a Senior Lecturer in Architecture, and leads MArch 4th Year, having joined Sheffield Hallam University in September 2016. She teaches design studios, and research in post graduate, and history and theory across undergraduate and postgraduate. She is a Director of Social Enterprise Architectural Practice Studio Polpo.


I am interested in the intersection between practice, research and teaching and am currently leading an MArch live studio, based in Tinsley, Sheffield, where our architecture practice is developing an experimental managed work and cultural space.

My research interests include architectural and urban activism; commoning; making, industry and craftsmanship; ecological, social and spatial justice; and diverse economies.

I have recently completed work as a Postdoctoral Research Associate on the AHRC Connected Communities large grant project, ‘Stories of Change’, which investigates energy and industry, past, present and future, working across a number of factory sites in the Don and Derwent Valleys.


My approach to teaching and research is collaborative and interdisciplinary. Much of my teaching is engaged, working with communities, industry and practice to understand pressing concerns and build the skills and knowledge required to address them. With the right framework established for teaching and assessment this can enable critical and original outcomes.

As a teacher I recognise the value that each student brings to the institution, and seek to draw out and support their curiosity and interests to establish environments for mutual and peer learning. Academic study offers the opportunity to explore new ideas and interrogate and expand meanings, values and understandings; this should be situated, and developed with an ethics of care as well as intellectual rigour.

In 2014, together with two colleagues, Dr Anna Holder and Dr Kim Trogal, I initiated, and obtained funding for the Learning and Teaching Project ‘The Elephant in the Room or the Lice on the Bald Head’, which visualises and challenges barriers to peer learning with home and international students. Working with Urban Design students and alumni, the process of identifying barriers that were tacit or implicit gave rise to discussing the tactics and strategies that students and tutors were employing to address them and the experiences of trying to do so.


My research considers how a more diverse group can gain agency to transform the spaces and places that they care about, from the scale of a tool, to a building, to the city, through to radical system change. In order to support such investigations the topics and methods I explore include: architectural and urban activism; scenario building; participatory and critical spatial practices; diverse economies; commoning; tools, industry, making and craftsmanship; design research; and architectural pedagogy.

My doctoral research was activist design-research into how, in the context of gentrification and loss of affordable space for small-scale industry and making in UK cities, communities can come together to safeguard their spaces in ways that are just, equitable and resilient. In exploring the case of Portland Works, I propose that through the co-design of a number of tools, social, political, democratic and pedagogical agencies can be achieved that can support common ownership, and the sharing and development of such resources. I was an initiator (together with a fantastic and diverse group of makers and others) of the campaign to save the birthplace of stainless steel from speculative redevelopment, which resulted in the purchase by over 500 shareholders, to retain it as a place of making. As an active member of group from 2009, I have helped to lead the process of setting up an Industrial and Provident Society, partaking in writing the business plan and form the governance structure, and in the subsequent development for community benefit. I developed a number of business skills during this period, including around how successful organisations operate.

In 2015 was invited to write the editorial on socially engaged architectural research and practice for the RIBA publication ‘Demystifying Architectural Research’. The book explores how architectural practices can benefit from developing a research specialism, both in improving the quality of projects, helping them to define a brand and by generating new channels of revenue with innovative services for clients.

AHRC Connected Communities Large Grant ‘Stories of Change’
Stories of Change Platform
Stories of Change, Future Works
Twitter @energeticstory


Journal articles

Udall, J. (2019). Mending the commons with the ‘Little Mesters’. Ephemera: Theory and Politics in Organization, 19 (2).

Smith, J., Butler, R., Day, R., Fyfe, H., Goodbody, A., Llewellyn, D., ... Whyte, N. (2017). Gathering around stories: Interdisciplinary experiments in support of energy system transitions. Energy Research & Social Science, 31, 284-294.

Udall, J., Forrest, D., & Stewart, K. (2014). Locating and building knowledges outside of the academy : approaches to engaged teaching at the University of Sheffield. Teaching in Higher Education, 20 (2), 158-170.

Udall, J.M., & Holder, A.M. (2014). The ‘Diverse Economies’ of Participation. Footprint, 13, 63-80.

Book chapters

Tyszczuk, R., & Udall, J. (2018). Future Works. In Architecture and Resilience Interdisciplinary Dialogues. Routledge

Vardy, S., & Udall, J. (2017). How Do We know, who knows? A history of enacting spaces of learning. In Explorations in Urban Practice. Barcelona: Dpr-barcelona

Other activities

I am a director of social enterprise architecture practice, Studio Polpo. We work at the intersection of a number of disciplines to create objects, structures, research and initiatives that can be taken-on and built-upon by others. All our projects are underpinned by our ethical values and a genuine desire to work towards social, environmental and economic sustainability. For this reason we are constituted as a social enterprise, and use any profit we generate to allow us to help organisations get projects off the ground, as well as starting initiatives that we believe will benefit the city. Current examples include feasibility studies for ROAR in Rotherham, and the Sheffield CLT.

We Design and Make. We work at scales from fixings and furniture, to new buildings and the refurbishment of old or existing structures. Our architectural expertise informs our approach to smaller arts-led projects, and our involvement in making, testing and building at smaller scale informs the detailed thinking on larger projects.

We Research. We test, play and experiment with materials, working with fabricators, suppliers and our colleagues at Chopshop CNC to inform our designs. We also investigate, analyse and collate information for dissemination to our clients and the wider public to facilitate positive change, for example in our work for Portland Works.

We write. This helps us to reflect on and learn from what we have done, as well as sharing and discussing this with others, and we have written and spoken in a number of places both academic and non-academic.

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