People

Studio Polpo was set up by Mark Parsons and Cristina Cerulli and now includes Anna Holder, Jon Orlek, Stuart Thomason and Julia Udall. We all bring different, but overlapping, skills and interests to Studio Polpo and work together to create positive initiatives and creative outputs.

Our board of directors ensure that we continue to use our profits in a way that supports our aims as a social enterprise as well as bringing fresh ideas to the practice.

We are a flexible organisation and enjoy working with a wide range of people with different specialisms, skills and approaches to deliver our projects. We believe that this not only makes our work stronger but also more enjoyable.

Mark Parsons
BA(Hons), Dip.Arch, Architect
Director

Mark is one of the founders of Studio Polpo, and has worked in London, Sheffield and Berlin, since qualifying from The University of Sheffield in 1997. Mark retains strong links with his former practice, Architype, with whom he continues to work on various projects and has also been a part-time design tutor at the School of Architecture at Sheffield University since 2005 teaching on both Undergraduate and Masters courses.

He is particularly interested in flexible, mobile and changeable architecture and the innovative use of materials, and continues to develop these ideas in practice.

Cristina Cerulli
PhD, MSc, Dip Arch (dist.), PGCE Learning and Teaching
Director

Cristina qualified as an architetto in Florence in 1999. Since then she has worked in practice and academia in Sheffield and London. After completing her PhD research on supporting learning within design practices in 2004, she has been a full time lecturer at the School of Architecture at the University of Sheffield. At the School of Architecture Cristina coordinates Knowledge Exchange activities, she is responsible for the teaching of management and practice across our courses, she also co-runs a MArch design studio (with Tatjana Schneider), Housing +, teaches in the Master of Urban Design, supervises student research at various levels and is involved in several funded research projects. She is also an active member of the research centre agency: transformative research into practice and education. Within the University of Sheffield she is a founding member and director of the Built Environment Theme of the Social Enterprise Research Exchange (SERX), a centre leading knowledge development with and for social enterprise.

Cristina’s research, teaching and design practice is underpinned by a desire to collaborate with others in ways that question and rethink the boundaries between approaches, roles and disciplines.

Jon Orlek
MArch, BA
Director

Jon joined Studio Polpo after graduating from the University of Sheffield in 2013. With Studio Polpo he has undertaken a number of projects investigating shared living and alternative models for housing. This includes initiating OPERA sleepover performances and co-authoring the Experimental Residential newspaper. He has also helped to deliver commissions for The Tetley gallery and Bloc Projects which playfully explore the connections between art and architecture. Jon is interested in using interdisciplinary research to understand the boundaries between individual/collective; domestic/urban; private/public.

Jon has been awarded a PhD scholarship to research artist-led housing and live/work schemes with East Street Arts and the University of Huddersfield.

Julia Udall
PhD, MArch (dist.), BArch
Director

Julia is a Senior Lecturer in Architecture at Sheffield Hallam University. Over the past 8 years she has taught Masters in Urban Design, Masters in Architectural Design, MArch Architecture and Landscape at The University of Sheffield, including post-graduate design studios ‘Future Works’ and ‘Design it Together’. Julia has recently completed work as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate on the AHRC Connected Communities large grant project, ‘Stories of Change’, which investigates energy and industry, past, present and future, working across a number of factory sites in the Don and Derwent Valleys.

Her research interests include ecological, social and spatial justice; architectural and urban activism; commoning; making, industry and craftsmanship; and diverse economies.

Anna Holder
PhD, MArch (dist.), MA
Director

Anna trained in architecture and planning, and subsequently worked in design practice in the UK and the Netherlands, on projects ranging in scale from domestic conversions to new neighbourhoods. Her interest and passion is how design can support changing social needs.

Anna specializes in research into spatial practice. Her PhD, drawing on the work of Studio Polpo, investigated projects initiated by designers, communities and local authorities, through collaborative approaches to governance and funding. In 2015 Anna delivered a research study into international design practice, as part of the EU-funded creative practice research network ‘ADAPT-r’.

With Studio Polpo, Anna has been invited to speak on architecture and social enterprise in the UK, Belgium and Finland. An experienced and enthusiastic design educator, Anna has also taught architectural design studios in the UK and Denmark, and delivered workshops for community groups and schools. She currently lectures at the University for the Creative Arts.

Stuart Thomason
Director

Stuart is currently CEO at Business Launchpad in Tooting, a charity which helps hundreds of disadvantaged young people every year to design and develop their own business. Alongside this role he works as a strategy advisor for the Power to Change Trust, supporting their development of a community-led housing programme. He is also a trained coach and training facilitator, and loves nothing more than a session of business model geekery. Prior to his current role, he worked at the Young Foundation developing their accelerator programme, which helped to support the development of hundreds of social ventures.

James Harrington
BA (Hons)

James graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2015 and has worked in architectural practice at Levitate specialising in adaptive reuse and conservation through contemporary design, and at Ash Sakula where he worked on the Canning Town Caravanserai, a community space built using upcycled materials.

James joined Studio Polpo in September 2017 and is also studying a masters in architecture at the University of Sheffield, exploring material culture in the digital age through a design project situated in the City of London, and a dissertation researching contemporary art in Sheffield.His interests lie in arts, culture and heritage, temporary space, adaptive reuse, and cross-disciplinary approaches, explored both through Studio Polpo and his academic work.

Louwrens Botha
BAS (Hons), MArch (Prof)

Louwrens studied Architecture at the University of Cape Town, graduating in 2015. His MArch dissertation explored the role of infrastructure and the modernist design paradigm in shaping the urban landscape of South Africa's cities during Apartheid and beyond. He joined a small architecture and urban design office and worked on a range of projects including schools, a historic wine farm, commercial urban design proposals and historic streetscape analysis.

Louwrens has joined Studio Polpo on a PAS placement while completing his MA in Urban Design at the University of Sheffield. He is interested in the commons, non-capitalist urbanism, and the agency of citizens as active co-producers rather than passive consumers of the city.