Studio Polpo: The Glamorous and The Mundane: How to Change the World …whilst Making a Living

Friday March 10, 14:30 – 15:25


In this talk Julia and Cristina will reflect on Studio Polpo’s approach to creating the conditions for fostering and  implementing change-oriented design interventions. They will do that through the lens of clusters of projects at different scales, around the themes of collective housing, accessible making and collaborations with cultural and community partners.
In discussing Studio Polpo’s work, Julia and Cristina will focus on the their multi-pronged approach that, out of necessity and by design, actively seeks to engineer synergies, between projects, between affiliated partners and potential beneficiaries. In this type of work, often at the intersection of teaching, practice and research, designers take on a number of roles and need to pragmatically navigate value systems, currencies and competing agendas to shape projects, grouping them into larger programs. Long-term ambitions for transformation and sustainability are addressed at program rather than project level, freeing projects to be small, contingent, tactical and narrow. Julia and Cristina will also reflect on the often overlooked practicalities of making this type of work financially viable and sustainable.

Short Bio

Studio Polpo is a Sheffield based social enterprise architectural practice. 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 justice and  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.

Cristina Cerulli qualified as an architect in Florence (1999) and since then she worked across practice and academia in Sheffield and London. Her time is currently split between Studio Polpo, which she co-founded in 2008, and the School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, where she is active in research and teaching, predominantly in the MA in Urban Design. Her work is underpinned by a strong commitment to enable a shift towards more just and equitable practices in the city, challenging the normative culture of the architectural profession and education. Current projects around Designing Inclusion, community led models for housing and community hubs for diverse economies.

Julia Udall is a Senior Lecturer in Architecture at Sheffield Hallam University, UK, where she leads M.Arch Studio Four. She is a Director of Social Enterprise Architectural Practice Studio Polpo. Her interests include architectural and urban activism; commoning; making, industry and craftsmanship; ecological, social and spatial justice; pedagogy and diverse and community economies.

Find out more on

Suggested Readings

  • Awan, Nishat, Tatjana Schneider, and Jeremy Till. Spatial Agency: Other Ways of Doing Architecture. 1st ed. Routledge, 2011.
  • Doina Petrescu, Constantin Petcou, and Nishat Awan, eds. TRANS LOCAL ACT Cultural Practices Within and Across. aaa/peprav, 2010.
  • Cerulli Cristina and Julia Udall. Re-Imagining Portland Works. Antenna Press, 2011. (available at


What are the levels of, intensities and types of partnership that can be fostered to support design practice & what kinds of practices do different models encourage? (use, co-creating strategies, mutual aid, support structures, shared spaces, etc)

How can we combine contingent and opportunistic interventions with longer-term aims of social transformation?

How do we map the diverse economies of this approach to design?