Virtual Design Festival

Manchester School of Architecture

Manchester School of Architecture's undergraduate exhibition features feminist design and historical studies

Manchester School of Architecture presents student projects completed across the final year studios of its BA Hons Architecture course in this VDF school show.

The BA Hons Architecture course is composed of seven design-led ateliers and two theoretical units that span history and technology. Among this year's ateliers are the feminist-focused Praxxis studio and the Flux unit, which invited students to reimagine post-industrial landscapes in Manchester.

All the student work produced as part of each unit is now viewable in detail via the links below, which leads to the school's online degree show.

Manchester School of Architecture

University: Manchester School of Architecture
Course: BA (Hons) Architecture
Programme leader: Dan Dubowitz

Course statement: 

"Manchester School of Architecture is a unique collaboration between the University of Manchester and the Manchester Metropolitan University. It is regarded as one of the best schools in the UK and ranked in the top 10 globally for the last five years.

"Our BA (Hons) Architecture programme connects the study of history, theory and technology with the practice of architecture through design studio. The joined-up, cumulative learning experience enables students to determine their own informed position on architecture as they progress through the course.

"In their third year, students begin to practice research-by-design in earnest, choosing one of seven vertical ateliers that connect the masters and undergraduate programmes.

"The School is characterised by its plurality and the authority and autonomy that students develop through engagement with the subject, the city, communities and each other. Here, we present the outline of the atelier and unit themes and content and invite you to discover the breadth of student work by visiting our first fully online degree show."

Manchester School of Architecture: Atelier Urban Spatial Experimentation

Atelier Urban Spatial Experimentation (USE)

"In USE, students are encouraged to form individual concepts, based on thorough site analysis. The projects follow personal narratives born out of the site's history and its latent potential.

"Students' narratives and sites combine to develop spatial and urban strategies which, in turn, inform a proposal for a building. The atelier places emphasis on creating bold strategies through experimentation and encourages the crafting of spaces using different media including physical model making, animation and creating artefacts.

"This year projects explored the nature of Pomona Island – an abandoned stretch of land sandwiched between the River Irwell and the Bridgewater Canal that originally housed five docks serviced via the Manchester Ship Canal."

Image: The Infinite Story by Karolina Vachalova

Manchester School of Architecture: Atelier Praxxis

Atelier Praxxis

"Praxxis is a feminist teaching atelier and research collective that pursues pedagogy and research within, and through, feminist architectural theory and practice. Our students explore feminist strategies and tactics to move our discipline towards a fairer and more equal society.

"We challenge the students to construct their own agenda and develop forms of practice whose aim is not just to inform the design of a building, but transform the social, political and economic conditions of a place.

"They used feminist design approaches including theories, dialogues, interruptions, interventions and participatory tools to enable architecture for intersectional housing on the high street that explored issues connected to displacement, mental health, permaculture, homelessness and access to better nutrition."

Image: Mancunian Mesopotamia by Rory Thomas

Manchester School of Architecture: Atelier Infrastructure Space

Atelier Infrastructure Space

"Infrastructure Space operates as a design and research atelier using data mapping and spatial analysis to develop architecturally driven proposals that test spatial futures. We are particularly interested in the interface between technology and space, and how this has manifested in architectural and urban form.

"Our approach is cross-thematic, spans a range of spatial scales and embraces value and effectiveness. BA3 have focussed on future forms of manufacturing.

"Through the lens of Brexit on the UK-ROI border, projects have questioned production, the nature of workers and their skills and how space is affected by process and quality monitoring. Projects have considered the lived experiences and what form factory towns of the future might take."

Image: Dairy or Riots? by Ioana Naghi

Manchester School of Architecture: Atelier Flux

Atelier Flux

"Flux proposed a site and a series of provocations but did not prescribe a brief or a method. Students were invited to investigate new ways of practising architecture and to then develop designs that respond to real-world problems.

"The primary challenge was to investigate an architecture that could bring about a state of change in the Lower Irk Valley, one of the most challenging post-industrial landscapes in Manchester.

"Individuals developed their own working methods that grew out of a deep and sustained engagement with the site over the course of six weeks. Each student developed proposals for transforming the land along the River Irk."

Image: Water Lab by Vilius Petraitis

Manchester School of Architecture: Atelier Continuity in Architecture

Atelier Continuity in Architecture

"Continuity in Architecture run programmes for the design of new buildings and public spaces within the existing urban environment.

"The emphasis is on the importance of place and the idea that architecture can be influenced by the experience and analysis of particular situations, a strategy that establishes an explicit relationship with environment, circumstances and history, not just with the building site and its immediate surroundings, but also with the climate, topography, geology, culture of the society that use, and have used, the place, with a keen eye on its future.

"This year, BA3 and MArch years worked together on projects in Shrewsbury which began using investigation based on Gordon Cullen's Serial Vision (1961)."

Image: A New Library for Shrewsbury by Isobel Currie

Manchester School of Architecture: Atelier Advanced Practice

Atelier Advanced Practice

"The atelier is a platform for research and experimentation in architectural design and is concerned with holistic understandings of design and sustainability. Our interest lies in the interaction between technology and people, in the design and delivery of environments that support the needs and activities of contemporary and future society.

"All projects explore contemporary and novel design methods and material performances in tectonic and spatial propositions. Testing of these occurs in application to a specific programmatic brief and this year's themes were 'high-rise' and interpretations of the notion of 'performative pattern'.

"Projects began with digital and material experimentation, then developed ideas, applying design techniques and understandings of material performance to the high-rise context in city-centre Manchester."

Image: Porocity Tower by Chungseng Loh

Manchester School of Architecture: Atelier &rchitecture

Atelier &rchitecture

"In the &rchitecture atelier we argue that difference is not a mistake that needs eliminating, but the potential for creating a more just society. Without engaging with different people, contexts and methodologies, our thinking and practices remain unchallenged.

"This limits the architect's ability to address the complex and fluid conditions we practice in. We believe that difference itself should be valued for its creative potential, and be the starting point for all physical and conceptual activity.

"This year we explored how housing design can support different kinds of people to live well together. We chose a site in Withington, Manchester working with local partners including the main social housing provider and developer in the area."

Image: Productive Cohousing in Withington by Max Frost

Manchester School of Architecture: Humanities


"A variety of teaching practices engage students in contemporary debates in architectural humanities and enables them to understand a range of theories and methodologies.

"In the first year, we focus on the fundamentals of the discipline and the role of the architect through the history of the profession. In BA2 students learn about theories of architecture, practice and professionalism. The units consider ideas and intersections, positing that architecture never exists in isolation – either as a design or academic discipline.

"BA3 Humanities is concerned with mobilising knowledge and poses the challenge of what we do with knowledge of architectural history and theory. Research-led teaching is central to BA3 Humanities electives, which are delivered through lectures, seminars, practical exercises and workshops."

Image: Development of Tashkent through the Prism of Russian-Uzbek Relations by David Baraev

Manchester School of Architecture: Technologies


"Technologies provides students with skills to critically dissect and deconstruct the structural, material and environmental performance of architectural precedents in an operative manner. In year one, existing applications and techniques are examined through a series of lectures and analytical exercises which support subsequent holistic analyses of small scale case studies.

"Year two explores certain issues in more detail by introducing environmental analysis software as a learning tool for analysing case studies and its application to qualitative iterative testing in design projects.

"Year three develops a discourse of contemporary technological design techniques, introducing students to rigour in building academic arguments for the development and resolution of their own technological design propositions."

Image: Technologies Design Project, office building in Munich by Lee Bowen

Manchester School of Architecture: Expert Panel

Expert Panel

"The Expert Panel was established this year to consolidate our invited guest teaching into a collective contribution to the life of the school and to connect practice and research to pedagogy.

"As well as contributing to our regular reviews and research lectures, our appointed experts have taken part in the Provocations series, consulted in round table sessions we have called Salons and presented fast paced pecha-kucha talks. Provocations are open events where two short and provocative talks are given on a matter of concern. Salons serve as an opportunity for different perspectives on work-in-progress.

"The creation of the Expert Panel allows us to build sustained relationships with professionals and practitioners who contribute to the developing culture of the School."

Image: Students participating in the Salon event

Virtual Design Festival's student and schools initiative offer a simple and affordable platform for student and graduate groups to present their work during the coronavirus pandemic. Click here for more details.