2012 recipients

Stephen Walker

Understanding the Architecture of the Travelling Street Fair


Travelling street fairs are familiar events, temporarily transforming our everyday surroundings with the lights, noises and smells of a fairground experience.

This study will consider the carefully orchestrated architecture that lie behind the fairgoer's experience of this temporary environment. It will focus on three street fairs that have remained in their original town centre locations since the thirteenth century — Oxford St. Giles, Ilkeston and Loughborough.

By examining the spatial and institutional interaction with their host towns, and the hybrid uses, users and spaces of key individual rides, this project will consider the environment of the street fair, addressing the permanent and temporary architecture of the surroundings. It will compare the re-purposing of static architecture with familiar townscape, and it will record the different kinds of spaces, temporalities and phases of change that conventional architectural techniques do not easily recognise or record with sufficient accuracy.


Often coincident with the establishment of thousands of settlements in the UK and beyond, the fair has been overlooked by conventional histories of architecture and urbanism because of its ephemeral nature and lowbrow associations. Through careful examination of these temporary events, the objective of the project is to allow their temporary operation within permanent surroundings to be understood, their complexity recognised and their significance celebrated.


Dr Stephen Walker is an architect and educator. He has worked in the School of Architecture at the University of Sheffield since 2001, and has published widely on a variety of topics peripheral to architecture, including Mediaeval Breton churchyards, ring-roads and the work of contemporary artists such as Gordon Matta-Clark and Helen Chadwick. He is a founder member of the Agency Research Centre, based in the School of Architecture (2009).


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