People

Studio Polpo was set up by Mark Parsons and Cristina Cerulli and now includes Anna Holder, Jon Orlek 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. 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 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 has collaborated on various projects and has also been University Teaching Practitioner 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 was a full time lecturer at the School of Architecture at the University of Sheffield and since 2017 has been at Sheffield Hallam University, where she is a Professor of Ethics in Architecture and Urban Design.

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. Much of her current work is around community led housing development models, shared models of living and `alternative´ and creative forms of management and procurement. This includes award winning outputs around user led housing and collective custom build as well as design and consultancy work around co-housing, community land trusts and collective models of funding such as community shares and civic crowdfunding.

Cristina is also one of six Yorkshire Artspace Ceramic Starter studio holders.

Jon Orlek
PhD, 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.

His PhD, a collaborative doctoral partnership between East Street Arts and the University of Huddersfield, investigated the provision of housing by artist-led organisations. It was also an embedded ethnographic study of a particular artist-led housing project called Artist House 45, located in South Leeds. Jon is also an Associate Lecturer in Architecture at Sheffield Hallam University.

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 Wakeford 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.

James Harrington
BA (Hons), MArch

James joined Studio Polpo in 2018 whilst studying his masters at the Sheffield School of Architecture. James has worked with Studio Polpo on the ds2 project, Aquaponic Minifarm, and a Sheffield-based Foodhub. He is currently working on projects around low impact living and adaptive responses to COVID-19. His interests include social practice, sustainable design, climate activism, retrofit, adaptive reuse and heritage.

James co-leads the Social Art Network in Sheffield, a national network of artists building agency in the fields of art and social practice. Continuing from his thesis proposing a model of community-led retrofit, he is developing Future Neighbourhoods; a platform which explores sustainable futures which engage with the places we live in today.

Jess Fisher
BA (Hons)

Jess graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with a degree in Interior Architecture and Design in 2021. In addition to graduating with First Class Honours, Jess was also the recipient of The Chartered Society of Designers Award. She first joined Studio Polpo in September 2020 to work on a speculative proposal for our Mycelium Pavilion, to be situated in Heeley Park. Her work for this project was featured in the RIBA Journal as part of an article focusing on the unique social and collaborative practices of Studio Polpo. Post graduating Jess re-joined the practice to continue her work on the Pavilion, in addition to carrying out material research, refinement and testing for other projects to be completed over the summer of 2021.

Jess’ interests include social engagement, adaptive reuse, circular material economies, understanding reapplications of construction waste and critical design. Moving on from her graduate project centred around such topics, Jess seeks to continue to develop a more action-orientated and reflective approach to material engagement, both in her own research and professional work.

Former members of the team include:

Stuart Thomason (Director 2010–21), Louis Pohl, Louwrens Botha, Lubna Wohbeh, Cara Mazetti Claassen, Chander Kant Aggarwal, Barbara Jorquera Diaz, Chiara Dalla Libera, Bryn Davies, Chloe Nicol, Katie Luckett.