One Great Workshop is a Live Project taken up by the MArch and MAAD students, alongside their mentors Julia and Renata, at the University of Sheffield. It looks at the history of energy and making in Sheffield with specific reference to the site, Portland Works, a Grade II* listed building situated in the heart of the city. The project aims to explore this former cutlery works, now providing affordable work spaces for the ‘makers’ within the city. The building was bought in 2013, saving it from a future deflecting from its industrial past. We are interested as to why this past and the culture of the ‘little mesters’ was so important to the people of Sheffield, and if the connection reaches even further afield. With the idea of ‘making’ again gaining in popularity – what can be done to preserve this culture for the future? We believe the answer relates strongly to energy use within the building, to not only preserve the existing structure, but to preserve the idea of making itself.
‘One Great Workshop’ was the name given to Sheffield in the 19th Century due to the network of factories in the city, alongside the tradition of ‘Little Mesters’. These specialist craftsmen occupied various departments across Sheffield, forming links in the chain – largely for the production of cutlery and edge tools. They, in turn, shaped the physical, social and economic landscape of the city. These Little Mesters can still be observed today, although their work has broadened, they still embrace the culture of making. We have gained an insight into their history, and helped to preserve their making industry.
When referring to the ‘Works’ we have visited or acknowledged, the definition is a place of work, employment or factory. This term is in common usage in the industrial centres of the UK.