Tom Bellfield

Now with SCABAL full-time, Tom is assisting in the design development of the extension and refurbishment of an existing 1930s Gym Block to create new state-of-the-art performance spaces at The BRIT School in south London. Alongside this, he is helping to manage improvement works at primary schools in East and North London, funded through the LCVAP scheme, as well as aiding in the development and submission of Building Control Approval package for a new private family house in the Essex countryside.

Before joining full-time, Tom completed his PhD with the SCABAL studio. Tom’s doctoral research is one of three to unfold within a collaboration between two co-supervisors, Dr Catherine Burke, an historian of education in the Faulty of Education at the University of Cambridge and Dominic Cullinan of SCABAL.

This collaboration seeks to interrogate the relationship between Architecture and Education and is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through the Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) scheme. CDAs support partnerships between academia and industry in order to contribute to cross-disciplinary knowledge in areas where there is a significant gap in our thinking – here, in school design. A short abstract is included below.

Tom studied architecture at Sheffield University and has worked in practice on a variety of educational, residential and healthcare projects, including alterations and repairs to listed buildings. Interested in the social and educational potential of participatory design practices, he has been involved in a variety of projects that sought to engage with different groups of people through both design and construction in primary and secondary education as well as the third sector.

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Negotiating school as place*

Tom’s doctoral research investigates the educational potential of practising spatial design within primary and secondary school education in England.

First, it develops a relational understanding of practising spatial design as inescapably contingent and political, able to operate in dominant and nondominant modes, each with very different educational purposes and potentials. Second, it investigates how modes of spatial design practice are operationalised by exploring empirically how different negotiations manifest and unfold during its practice.

The study demonstrates how schools continually produce and are produced-by negotiations between the human, material, policy, regulatory, and financial threads that comprise them; how these negotiations unfold during design and inhabitation through uses of material, care, and time; and therefore the importance of paying serious attention to the particular qualities of materials, care, and time used.

*Place, as a dynamic and contested tangle of ‘stories-so-far’, is inescapable. Spatial design as a means to generate, expose, subvert the ongoing negotiation of place, to jump into the mid-stream and wrestle with its currents.