Sarah Stevens is a registered architect, design tutor and academic.
Her research has been in responsive architecture, focusing on kinetic facades and time sensitive design explored through an agenda of sustainability, reflecting the human condition and our current understanding of our systemic relationship to the world.
Sarah leads the MArch RIBA 2 programme at Brighton. Her research directly informs her design studio teaching.
Sarah Stevens is a registered architect, design tutor and full time academic.
Previously a senior architect in practice, Sarah’s experience has included design research into zero carbon housing prototypes and the development of adaptive portable structures. As a freelance consultant her work has included contributions to the BRE Green Guide, and graphic design commissions.
Sarah's exploration of a train of thought regarding architecture’s ability to respond and align itself to a world in a constant state of flux, led to a PhD focusing on kinetic facades sponsored by Arup. Her work explored the development of responsive architecture, its forms and implications, and included a detailed study of experience explored through the psychology of control.
The research has continued to evolve this line of investigation whilst further rooting itself in a sustainable agenda. Current work explores a concern for poetic time sensitive design that reflects the human condition and our current understanding of our systemic relationship to the world. Exploration is carried out at both macro and micro scales, from the kinetic potential of architecture, to the aesthetics of aging through weathering and decay. The thread of time sensitive design also envelops a concern for the valuing of the myriad histories of reality; the overlooked, the devalued, the dispossessed, the day to day events that make up existence. Sustainability, a fundamental requirement of such systemic design, underlies all of the work, as does an overriding concern for experience. These themes are explored in relation to current socio-political conditions, the consumerist culture and the implications of these for both the human condition and global system.
A second thread of pedagogic research focusing on the design studio and critique further informs her teaching practice alongside her architectural practice and research. Sarah leads the Masters level Architecture programme, Architecture RIBA Part 2 MArch, at the University of Brighton.
She previously taught at Oxford Brookes University, alongside work in practice, and has acted as an external critic at a number of schools. Experienced as a design tutor at both postgraduate and undergraduate levels, she has also been a design examiner for the RIBA Office Based Exams. For five years she ran undergraduate Unit B at Oxford Brookes University, with student work shortlisted for the RIBA Bronze Medal and widely published in the architectural and design press including Blueprint, RIBA Journal, Architects Journal and Building Design.
Her PhD, sponsored by Arup, was in the area of responsive architecture, focusing on kinetic facades. Sarah’s research has continued in this area, focusing on time sensitive design explored through an agenda of sustainability.
I run the Master of Architecture (MArch) course and am subject leader for design across both years. My own design studio, Studio Laboratory 3, feeds off my research and PhD offering both research led and research based teaching, which is something we employ across all studios in the MArch.
Everyone is unique, our masters students come from diverse and international backgrounds, and so my aim is to work with students on an individual basis, sculpting the right approach to release their potential. An important aspect of this process is building trust and an environment where it feels safe to expose both strengths and weaknesses. Learning through experimentation and risking errors is an important and valid part of the design process, and it is therefore important to build a learning environment where it feels safe. My teaching practice engages with shared problem solving, active listening and student-led conversations.
This concern for the student experience, in particular with regards to the crit [student review] is something I explored through work for my HEA Fellowship. It also helped shape our dedicated studio spaces that allow students the opportunity to work alongside their peers and take ownership of their own space. The studios have evolved into a valuable, vibrant and supportive environment. Creativity can be a fragile thing and so I aim to build a positive environment that actively nourishes it.
Students work with briefs that encourage them to draw out their own area of research within which to become the expert. This provides personally meaningful and a far richer experience, generating all the benefits of intrinsic motivation and deep learning. I really enjoy working with students in this way to evolve their own approach and architectural language. It is always incredibly rewarding seeing individual approaches emerging, new work being ventured, unexpected responses to the brief pursued and students exceeding their own expectations.
BRE SHADE 2001 Facade Design Competition Judge
Building Research Establishment: