Community Spirit Puts Student Sarah in Running for Prestigious Architecture Award

University of Huddersfield architecture student Sarah Bradshaw is in the running for the prestigious national Women in Property National Students award after being named as one of two regional winners from Yorkshire and the North East. 

Key to this success for Sarah, about to start her third year at the University, was an innovative project aimed at improving infrastructure and facilities for young people in the nearby town of Holmfirth. 

Sarah impressed the judges for the regional award in a Zoom presentation, being described as “…very knowledgeable, eager to educate and inform people, she really brought her personality into the presentation, which was very fluent in its delivery.” 

Changing perspectives through the built environment 

She goes forward to the final on 16 September, which comprises of an interview by a panel of judges followed by the award ceremony at Claridge’s in London. The awards, sponsored by Bouygues and Savills nationally and Ecus and HBD for the Yorkshire & North East region, aim to seek out the country’s top built environment students and also provide the winners with valuable networking opportunities. 

“The library at Birmingham changed my whole perspective on what design was,” says Sarah, who credits studying Buddhism in her A level in Religion for giving her new ways of looking at the world.  

“I didn’t like libraries as a child, so the main thing for me was to go into a career with the ability to change people’s perspectives on a space by creating it in a different way.” 

Improving opportunities for the young and disadvantaged 

Sarah has carried this through to her studies at Huddersfield, which gave her the chance to approach people in Holmfirth about possible improvements to the town. It is well known for its long association with the TV series ‘Last of the summer wine’, but the reality for young people in the town is that transport links are scarce and employment opportunities limited. 

Along with several students from her course, Sarah consulted with a range of people in Holmfirth to come up with ideas to regenerate key aspects of the town. 

“The main thing people took from us was that we proposed a ‘park and ride’ scheme to help improve transport from Holmfirth to Huddersfield, and to develop Holmfirth’s bus station as a central hub for the town. 

“That hub was key for us to give young people the chance to stay in the Holmfirth area, but also have that quick link into town or go further afield for work or study.” 

Sarah also came up with an innovative idea for a hostel  in the town, one that would not only offer refuge for those needing it but also take the frequency of flooding in the area into account. 

“The common mindset about a hostel is negative – people go there if they are homeless or for refuge,” Sarah adds. “But I wanted to create a space where people are at one with nature, as the site is surrounded by woodland.  

“My design used an adaptable structure with slide-out accommodation ‘pods’ made from shipping containers. The frame was made from Glulam beams that are an energy-efficient way of laminating timber to make it stronger. It was also raised above the ground so water could flow under the building if it did flood, and the containers were varying sizes to accommodate two, four or six people. 

Jon Bush, Senior Lecturer in Architecture at the University, proposed Sarah for the award which he feels reflects her passion for her subject. 

“Sarah stood out at her interview for the course as someone with plenty of ideas, initiative, creativity and imagination – all the things you want for a place on an architecture course. She came across as absolutely genuine, enthusiastic and a force to reckoned with in her presentation for the award. She thoroughly deserves it. 

“She is very community-oriented in her approach to architecture, which helped us established rapport with a community group in Holmfirth. Sarah was a leading light in that process of consulting with the local population. She came over as genuine, someone who knows what goes on in the world and had things to say to people in Holmfirth.” 

‘Community begins at home’ 

“Community begins at home," adds Sarah. "I am very much into the idea of social housing, and new ways to create diverse communities that can live together in somewhere that is affordable and comfortable. Architecture talks a lot about eco-living, but that can be very expensive. I’m looking at things that are more affordable, that allow people to get onto the property ladder, which I think that is more important than creating something just for profit.” 


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