Leeds Arts Research Centre

Architecture Live Project

Research designed to help reshape the pedagogical field of architecture live projects

Architecture Live Project

The Challenge

This research highlights the work of Craig Stott and Simon Warren in the pedagogical field of architecture live projects, which seeks to address the discontinuity between architectural practice, theory and education by developing a new model of architectural pedagogy.


Architecture live projects were introduced at Leeds Beckett University’s School of Art, Architecture & Design in 2009 offering a wide variety of learning experiences for students of design disciplines. By introducing clients and community (people) with real life situations (projects) to an educational programme the consequences have had a radical impact on all participants as well as yielding a range of architecture projects. Prior to the start of the 2018-19 academic year 21 architecture live projects have been undertaken, each developing live project pedagogy and contributing to the real world through the impact of their architectural realisation, with new projects continually being commenced.

In 2013 Project Office was formed to oversee and deliver the consultancy elements within the Live Project Programme. Housed within the Leeds School of Art, Architecture & Design, Project Office is an RIBA Chartered Architecture practice making ethical, social and resilient architecture by working with like-minded communities, organisations and individuals as a design and research collaboration of staff and students.


The architecture live project programme has had a range of impacts across the institution – pedagogic innovation and student learning experience, and impact on a range of external collaborators through the production of student led design projects including completed buildings and installations, architecture designs e.g. feasibility studies and design guides, community consultation and advocacy. These have wider cultural and social impacts which can be measured in a variety of ways:


  • Employment; Prior to the Live Project Programme’s involvement in 2013, New Wortley Community Centre (NWCA) was run by 2 members of paid staff and 8 volunteers. In January 2018 following the new community centre being built based upon student design work, NWCA employed 21 people plus 53 volunteers gaining back to work skills, all local to the area
  • NWCA now play a pivotal role in the Leeds’ most disadvantaged community offering drug rehabilitation, job shops, laundrette, charity shop, IT and skills classes, back to work volunteering opportunities, health and wellbeing classes, and much more
  • A Crime and Safety survey suggested a significant increased perception of safety within New Wortley
  • Individual success stories and personal testimonies are documented in case studies and qualitative surveys confirming that local people in the communities Project Office have engaged with feel happier, are accessing more services and developing new skills
  • Following the investment in a new community centre, the New Wortley community now believe change is possible and are proposing ever greater suggestions for NWCA to take forward


  • In December 2018 the New Wortley Community Centre project was chosen to be part of Universities UK MadeAtUni campaign which aims to change public perceptions of universities and bring to life the difference they make to people, lives and communities across the UK. It is the only Architecture project included. NWCA has become nationally regarded as an organisation delivering a highly successful model of community governance. A significant component of this success is the unique relationship built between the Leeds School of Architecture & Landscape and the community organisation
  • On January 17th 2018 NWCA Manager Bill Graham was invited to meet then Minister of State for Housing Dominic Raab MP, to discuss how NWCA functions within its community and relevant learning for how such a model could be successfully replicated in other deprived areas
  • On December 15th 2017 NWCA Manager Bill Graham won support for a community health service at Locality Convention ’17, using student design work as an aide


  • In February 2018 Leeds City Council’s Local Centres Programme awarded £75,000 to improve the urban realm immediately surrounding NWCC with a ‘Gateway to New Wortley’ based upon student design work
  • In May 2017 Power to Change awarded a £75,000 grant to develop the New Wortley Housing Association for the provision of affordable social housing based upon student design work and Project Office professional input
  • In November 2015 Power to Change granted £200,000 to test pilot converting the pre-existing building in New Wortley into a Health & Wellbeing Centre based upon student design work
  • In February 2015 BIG Lottery Reaching Communities Fund awarded a £759,497 grant to construct a new Community Centre building in New Wortley based upon student design work and overseen by Project Office
  • In December 2014 Efficiency North granted £75,000 for material improvements to the existing community building in New Wortley based upon student design work and Project Office professional input
  • Following the opening of the new New Wortley Community Centre in May 2016, NWCA’s annual turnover rose from £80,000 to £623,000, due to the space and facilities provided by the student design new building
  • The new NWCA employees appointed following the completion of the new building, had a combined total of 66 years economic inactivity between them, costing the Treasury approximately £775,000
  • During the first year of the new community centre being open, NWCA registered 40,000 volunteering hours, worth £467,000 in social value
  • The extra space provided following the completion of the student designed new community centre building enabled an Ex-Offenders programme, run by an ex-offender now employed by NWCA, to be implemented. In its first year the scheme worked with 150 offenders leaving HMP Leeds, located less than 500m from the community centre. Of those 150 participants, only 7 have returned to prison, a reoffending rate of just 5% compared to the prison average of 34%. The cost benefit to the Treasury is over £4.5 million based on reoffending and incarceration data. A Guardian article on 9th January 2017 covered the project

Designers are well placed to challenge the world’s troubles. It follows that design students should be exposed to these realities during their formal education. This is one reason Project Office exists. For architectural education to remain relevant, students’ incredible talent and energy must be harnessed to critically address the societal, political and environmental issues facing humankind.

It follows that, if designers are able to decide to act as agents of change, then educational institutions can also choose an ethical and social position as a starting point for educational projects. Such ‘Anchor Institutions’1 can “promote economic, social and cultural regeneration” by embedding themselves within their local community and working with regional partners to bridge the pedagogic gap between practice and academia. Thus the role of universities becomes one intent on advancing society for the greater good through the productive output of student endeavour, in addition to the classic creation and dispersion of knowledge.

To this end students of the Leeds School of Architecture, and the wider Leeds Beckett School of Art, Architecture and Design have opportunities to experience group working and live project pedagogy during their education. This experience has the ability to influence students, encouraging them to forge a more socially conscious path than they might otherwise have done so, as illustrated by the quote from Architecture Alumna Laura Kershaw.

Students across courses at Leeds Beckett University completed design elements that were incorporated into the New Wortley Community Centre new building as part of their coursework, including:

  • Landscape Architecture designing the external realm
  • Graphics designing wayfinding, signage, and a memory based art piece using work by Cultural Studies
  • Product Design designing built-in furniture
  • Architectural Technology students producing working drawings
  • Project Office’s graduate employees conducting community consultation, building design and contract administration
  • New Wortley Community Centre is believed to be the largest student co-designed architecture project built in the UK

1. Social Mobility Advisory Group (2016) Working In Partnership; Enabling Social Mobility In Higher Education. London: Universities UK, 24.

Over the last 8 years a partnership with Project Office has been a positive force for change and investment in our community. Working with committed staff and students we have created and delivered a large number of successful projects including small scale work; local landscaping ideas and initiatives, to the building of a new £750K community building. The effect of this work on the community and the community association has been to help transform the area, raise local people’s aspirations and create a safer environment. The partnership between Project Office and NWCA continues to flourish.

Bill Graham Community Leader, New Wortley Community Association
  1. Next steps

    Existing relationships with specific clients are being furthered through continued student design work and Project Office support to seek funding for new community buildings across a range of locations. These include:

    • Crescent Arts, Scarborough. The 1924 constructed Children’s Corner on Scarborough’s South Beach, derelict since 1986, is to be converted and extended into a new community arts centre based upon student design work. Funding is currently being sought from Arts Council
    • ROYDS Community Association’s Business Development Park in Buttershaw Bradford is a non-profit using all proceeds to improve community facilities in one of the UK’s most impoverished areas. Funding is currently being sought for a new flexible working office building to support creativity and entrepreneurship
    • Following the £75,000 Power to Change grant awarded in May 2017 New Wortley Community Association have developed a new Housing Association to provide affordable social housing based upon student design work and Project Office professional input. Craig Stott is now a board member of the New Wortley Housing Association. A Planning Application will be submitted in early 2019, with funding being sought from Homes England and Leeds City Council

    Each of the above projects, plus other new opportunities being explored, offer Leeds Beckett students the opportunity to gain professional understanding and client exposure during their education, whilst in return providing a valuable social service to numerous non-profit organisations.

Outputs and recognition

  • Warren, S.P. Architecture Live Projects, an example of learning environments with consequences. P. xx in: Jones, A. & Hyde, R. (Eds) (2019) Defining Contemporary Professionalism for Architects in Practice and Education. RIBA Publishing: Pending
  • Stott, C.R. & Warren, S.P. Advocating a co-design methodology across academy and community, P. xx in: Benedict-Brown, J. & Anderson, J. (Eds) (2018) AAE Charette Journal: Pending
  • Stott, C.R. & Warren, S.P. The Pedagogic Value of Architectural Co-Design, P. xx in: Bell, B. & Ferdous, F. (Ed) (2018) All Inclusive Engagement in Architecture. Metropolis Books: Pending
  • Stott, C.R. & Warren, S.P. Competitions and Educational Structures, P.193 - 200 in: Theodorou, M. & Katsakou, A. (Ed) (2018) The Competition Grid: Experimenting With & Within Architecture Competitions. RIBA Publishing: London. ISBN: 9781859467107
  • Stott, C.R. & Warren, S.P. The Story of New Wortley, Invited Presentation on 08/04/2017 at: SFI17 Structures for Inclusion Conference 2017 Portland State University, Oregon, USA
  • Warren, S.P. The Fareshare Live Project, P. In: Harriss, H. and Widder, L. (Eds) (2014) Architecture Live Projects Pedagogy into Practice. Routledge

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