Walk & Workshop | Scratching the Surface, led by Studio Polpo

Join us for the second event in our Recentring Attention programme, a walk and workshop exploring land ownership, landfilled materials, and biology.

How often do we think about the ground beneath our feet? What lies beneath the surface? And how can we collectively explore best practice when it comes to eco-politically viable approaches to soil distribution?
Led by arts, architecture and research practice Studio Polpo, Scratching the Surface examines the role of material movements (in particular soil) through the story of the Shirle Hill Cohousing development project. By following the process of soil testing, removal and remediation we start to uncover wider issues of land ownership, the value of landfilled materials, and biology. Workshop participants will receive specially collated documentation to read before taking part in a short walk around a Sheffield materials reclamation yard, followed by a group discussion around the issues raised at the nearby Grimesthorpe Community Centre.
Studio Polpo worked with Architype as architects for the Shirle Hill cohousing development in Sheffield. The site, a former house more recently used as NHS facility, was bought by a group of 12 people, with a view to converting the existing building into flats, building an additional five new sustainable dwellings and establishing a cohousing community with shared facilities and outdoor spaces.
Throughout the long process of co-design, planning and running the project on site, various issues around ground conditions and soil arose which had site, cost and time implications for the design of the project and the cohousing group. These are very common issues for ‘brownfield’ developments, but were the first time that the client group had been made aware of them. The fact that what looked to be ‘ordinary’ soil was classed as contaminated, and what that meant to them in practice was maybe the first time that they had come across these issues.
We have used this opportunity following the practical issues on site (existing soil being tested, new soil being imported, demolition waste being removed, land being owned collectively) to reveal deeper issues around what we do with ‘waste’, the value of landfilled materials, regulation, and biology.
Studio Polpo is a Sheffield-based social enterprise arts, architecture and research practice. They use situated and collaborative approaches to create objects, structures, initiatives and research-led resources that enable transformative social change. 
This event forms part of Recentring Attention, Arts Catalyst’s new strand of programme that informs the first phase of its relocation to Sheffield.  
Building on the knowledge and relationships that we have begun to form within the city, this exploratory journey, initiated in September 2019, encompasses a series of public workshops, deep mapping sessions, talks and informal gatherings across Sheffield with artists, scientists, architects, urbanists, sociologists and anthropologists. The programme also offers an opportunity to explore what the process of creating an institution can be and to reimagine what the role of the institution can be. A collaborative process of listening and learning from and with the city, Recentring Attention offers a creative, public space for transdisciplinary exchange and conversation within Sheffield and the wider South Yorkshire communities.
This event is free but booking is essential.