The unit Research 1 - Methods offers an opportunity for students to explore techniques and processes that inform design as a spatial practice. The course develops methodological capability consistent with the discipline of design production and students are encouraged to develop the subject of their enquiry in parallel with their interests, career aspirations and the content of studio units. The subject chosen will reflect the symbiosis between design practice and theory, and allow for scholarship within individual specialisms to be placed within a deeper understanding of architecture as a whole.

This year students were given the choice of 11 electives:

  • RM1 Arch. Land. Infra. Destination Runcorn: The Architecture and Landscape of New Towns
  • RM2 Accra Futurism
  • RM3 Transdisciplinary Urbanism_Infrastructures
  • RM4 Climate Resilient Design
  • RM5 Filmic Architecture V
  • RM6 The Age of MTV: Media, Urban Culture and Identity (1981-1992)
  • RM7 Remember Reveal Construct
  • RM8 Archives of (Energy) Transition
  • RM9 Unceasing Walk
  • RM10 L.(O.O.P) Live (Or Other Possibilities)
  • RM11 Prefigurative Architectures: The Making and Politics of Urban Infrastructures




Arch.Land.Infra. runs alongside the Post-War Infrastructure Research Network at MSA coordinated by Richard Brook, Laura Coucill and Luca Csepely-Knorr. Through archival research, combined with oral histories and design analysis techniques, this year, the workshop produced case studies of Warrington, Skelmersdale, Telford and Redditch New Towns.

The New Towns programme reflected the spirit of optimism and social reconstruction following WWII. Predicated on the ideals of Howard’s Garden City (1898, republished 1902) and developed through Abercrombie’s Greater London Plan (1944), the New Towns programme designated areas for planned development that avoided the unplanned rapid industrialisation of the nineteenth century to provide a considered spatial solution to population growth, employment and industry, recreation and transport as part of a broader objective to modernise society and its underpinning infrastructure.

This year, JMCE funding was secured to support a lecture and workshop from Janina Gosseye (ETH Zurich) who, through her archival research on Runcorn New Town, presented a European perspective on the UK New Towns Programme. Michala Hulme, an Historian based at the Manchester Centre for Public History & Heritage, gave a detailed introduction to oral history interviewing and analysis which supported live engagement with communities in each of the towns and with surviving architects and landscape architects to uncover insights into the relationship between design intentions and the lived experiences of post-war New Towns. Analysis took creative forms building on design skills to represent research findings in the form of diagrams, maps, drawings and models. A number of students developed their research further through their dissertation topics and a digital exhibition of the work is planned in connection with The Modernist Society, later this year.


Accra Futurism

This course combined archival research and the use of digital tools, in particular GIS (Geographic Information System), in order to map a unique moment in African architecture: the explosion of architectural production and urban imagination during the first decade of Ghana’s independence (1957- 1967). A privileged site for studying these competing imaginations is the waterfront of Accra, from the Korle Lagoon to Labadi. The settlements at the seashore were the oldest in the city, and they include the historical colonial settlements and forts (Usshertown, Jamestown, Osu) which were developed, rethought, reframed, and re-appropriated after Ghana’s independence. It was at the shore, or in its vicinity, that new spaces of representation of the new state were planned and, sometimes, constructed, including the Black Star Square, the redeveloped Osu Castle, and the International Trade Fair. These and other ensembles resulted in the creation of public spaces, spaces of for education, culture, socialisation, and leisure where the image of the new Ghanaian citizen was projected.


Transdisciplinary Urbanism_Infrastructures

This course is tightly linked with two ongoing research projects on sustainable infrastructure in Shanghai (China), Mumbai (India) and São Paulo (Brazil). The objective of this course is to develop critical spatial practice that recognises and addresses its normative aspects. It teaches students how to draw on research in their design process. Equal emphasis is placed on the processes of research, writing and representation.

Through the lens of infrastructure, students develop an understanding of the ways in which spatial interventions can affect people and livelihoods. They are challenged to see, understand and articulate the interlinkages of processes across spatial scales, from individual everyday practices to transnational financial flows. They formulate their position rooted in a deeper understanding of urban processes (and related concepts, such as development, distribution or poverty) and begin to recognise the implications of and for their work as designers.

The course is structured in two interrelated and overlapping parts: (A) studying individual interaction with infrastructure to understand its socio-eco-technical nature through an analysis of current and past everyday practices in order to (B) uncover their embeddedness in larger political, economic or otherwise defined systems and frameworks.


Climate Resilient Design

Extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy, have taught us that our existing buildings and infrastructure are ill-equipped to face the mounting climate change challenge. Practitioners and policymakers are encouraged to make our towns and cities more resilient to these challenges. This workshop introduces students to theories around resilience and how these may be applied in design practice. Students worked in groups to use different types of open data to understand the physical and social characteristics of their chosen neighbourhood in Greater Manchester. Based on this understanding, students proposed a range of interventions to make that neighbourhood and its inhabitants resilient to floods or heatwave in ways that are sensitive to existing social vulnerabilities.


Filmic Architecture V - Spatial Genre

Filmic Architecture returned for a fifth iteration, with a discussion of genre at its heart. The participants in the workshop each selected a director whose work resonated with them in some way and conducted a series of notational and diagrammatic investigations to develop a visual language around the films. The focus for this was genre, the codes embedded in a particular grouping of films, such as science-fiction, western, rom-com, or animation.

Each student designed a house for their chosen director based on this analysis, interpreting the idea of the house as loosely as possible, so one might choose to design a bath-house retreat, a love hotel, or even a series of pavilions. The aim is to translate the filmic language of the director into architecture; exploiting the connections between cinema and architecture.

We hired a cinema at HOME, Manchester’s centre for contemporary theatre, film, art and music, to hold a viewing at the end of the workshop, celebrating the work on the big screen.

The list of films and participants is as follows:

Iathei Chen’s House for Stanley Kubrick; Linyu Li’s Bath for Yasujiro Ozu; Zohir Foukrun’s House for Quentin Tarantino; Supriya Jagtap’s House for Spike Jonze; Pangiotis Kapositas’ House for Yiorgos Lanthimos; Yitian Lao’s Love Hotel for Makoto Shinkai; Joseph Kelleher’s House for Nick Park; Shaw Labrianidis-Kenny’s House for Christopher Nolan; Hui Lu’s House for Nadine Labaki; Iulia Lup’s House for Stephen Spielberg; Abigail March’s Space for David Fincher; Patrick Miller’s House for Nicholas Winding Refn; Yoon Nam’s House for the Wachowskis; Shitian Lin’s House for Shunji Iwai; Quadri Shogunle Aregbesola’s House for Mamoru Hosada; Raluca Sisu’s House for Wes Anderson; Tsz Ching Wong’s House for Makoto Shinkai; and Yuehao Wang’s House for Kaige Chen.

A selection of the films will be available at:


The Age of MTV: Media, Urban Culture and Identity (1981-1992)

When appearing in August 1981, the cable network Music Television (MTV) ushered in a true revolution characterised by the domestication of entertainment and a shift from a focus on public and collective spaces to the private and the domestic. MTV forever changed the global TV landscape, while reshaping music culture, visual culture, popular culture and, more importantly, youth culture.

Taking the history of MTV in its golden era (1981-1992) as a departure point, this workshop aims to introduce students to a range of themes and ideas – such as the bridging of high art and popular (low) culture; the 24 hour cycle and the end of sleep; the culture of individualism; the loss of authenticity and the omnipresence of simulacrum; questions of gender and alterity; the importance of style over substance; the celebration of youth and impermanence; the aesthetic of dreams and discontinuity; the end of metanarratives; the use and inhabitation of fragmented Space - that emerged from 1980s art and popular culture and to trace their influence on and relevance for current architecture culture.


Remember Reveal Construct

This research-through-modelmaking project investigated the relationship between context and building, studied how this can generate architectural difference, explored how contemporary architectural design can exploit this disparity, considered how this can be scrutinised through modelmaking, and revealed the findings through a collection of rigorously researched and methodically developed, beautifully constructed models.

The interpretive models were exhibited in the Benzie Gallery, and will be published as an integral element within the forthcoming publication, Remember Reveal Construct: Reflections upon the Contingency, Usefulness and Emotional Resonance of Architecture, Buildings and Context (Sanderson & Stone, Routledge 2021).

The buildings explored through the workshop were: The Prada Foundation (OMA Architects, 2015); Munster City Library (Bolles Wilson, 1993); Centro de Lazer Fábrica da Pompéia (Lina Bo Bardi, 1982); Universitia Luigi Bocconi (Grafton Architects, 2008); Red House (Tony Fretton, 2001); Jazz Campus (Buol & Zünd, 2014); The MAC (Hall McKnight, 2013); Renovation of Captains House (Vector Architects, 2017); and Warrandyte Police Station (Kerstin Thompson Architects, 2007).


Archives of (Energy) Transition

In the context of anthropogenic climate change and global heating, there has been renewed talk about transitioning to alternative energy sources and new ways of living, which includes designing and building. Historically, energy transition, understood as, the ‘the gradual shift from a specific pattern of energy provision to a new state of an energy system’ (Vaclav Smil), has been at the base of modernization since the invention of the steam engine. This research methods workshop entered into archives of (energy) transitionin various respects at different points in time: 1- past transitions of the 19th and early 20th century understood as the modern development towards a new energy system; 2 - the transition towards renewable energy as a project of the 1970s and 80s, both critical and emancipatory; and 3 - the imperative for current transitionings, in the plural, as one of the biggest challenges we are facing today, much needed and, after all, inevitable. The workshop encompassed in-class discussions of readings, individual and team projects on past and present case studies, and a field trip to Milton Keynes, one of the key planning sites in the UK, where alternative energy projects were experimented with, institutionalized, implemented and eventually commodified.


Unceasing Walk - researching the city from within

Through investigating different notions of power, this Unceasing Walk focuses on ideas and practices that create exclusion/inclusion in cities. The aim of the workshop is to research how architects and urban designers can deploy design methods and methodologies to meet the needs and aspirations of different groups of people. We will use various methodologies such as feminist methodologies, critical theories, active research methodologies and transdisciplinary methodologies in order to reflect on rather than objectify exclusion and inclusion in cities; we will not aim to prove a hypothesis nor prescribe a particular methodology or solution to a problem, but to offer self-reflective thinking that aims to address the problems in cities. The main focus of the workshop is to use different design research methods (mapping, drawing, graphic novel, interviews, surveys, performances and story telling) in order to map out the policies, practices, and physical artefacts used by policy makers, planners, developers, real estates, community activists and others (power/ resistance) in order to understand the line that divides people in the cities. Unceasing Walk investigates the role of architects in a context where people are constantly transforming, resisting and negotiating in order to answer the question: How can art/architectural/urban design methodologies play a role in these increasingly critical situations?


L.(O.O.P) Live (Or Other Possibilities)

L.(O.O.P.) is a live research vehicle realising projects from practice guided & student-led engagement with partners from beyond our educational establishment.

Our co-operative approach does not simulate architectural practice but instead immerses the students in a real practice scenario comparable to experience in architectural practice. This has input from a practising architect to inform dialogue with a real client and budget; we expose the students to manufacturing, testing and production of something tangible and useable – not a theoretical, temporary installation. This year we collaborated on a design commission with Manchester Museum to develop a new approach to their public shop, a modest project in scale but a critical part of their business plan and income generation within the larger refurbishment of their listed premises. Their team have seen last year's outputs and are keen to work with students on developing a new shop installation:

“We have been very, very impressed with the standard of work that the students have produced and in a very short amount of time. Their commitment to the project has been excellent, and their level of knowledge impressive. We have all been surprised that the students were so professional and their ideas and concepts so well-developed”


Prefigurative Architectures: The Making and Politics of Urban Infrastructures

Urbanisation, in its contemporary iteration, has become inextricably associated with the varied and conflictive infrastructural processes that are transforming the earth. From logistics hubs and extractive zones to improvised sanitary solutions and expansive peripheral settlements - private and popular infrastructures are radically altering environmental dynamics and territorial formations. The construction, distribution and access to these socio- technical mediums delimit a domain of contestation that — despite shaping the rhythms of city life — cannot be fully contained or organised through municipal or metropolitan institutions. The struggles surrounding the construction of everyday infrastructural networks does not only enrol community organisations, social movements and local and national state agencies, they also involve transnational construction and developing firms, hedge-funds and financial institutions. The workshop set out to examine collective infrastructural interventions that sought to prefigure other ways of producing urban space.

This year we teamed up with a Manchester campaign group, TreesNotCars, to develop alternative proposals to oppose the Council’s master plan for a former retail park in Ancoats. The involvement allowed us to understand the workings and consequences of the accelerated financialisation of housing in Manchester and the emergence of novel forms of infrastructural struggles in the city.