Manchester Metropolitan University

Our Research Degree students are attached to Manchester School of Art Research Centre (MSARC), supported by staff who possess a unique and broad range of interests and expertise across theory and design, policy and practice. The PhD/MPhil programme is intrinsically inter-disciplinary and is open to students with an interest in any aspect of architectural research including sustainable urbanism, urban design and development, ecological and landscape design and the conservation and management of historic environments. We also encourage proposals for research by design.

This interdisciplinary approach also links to understanding technological innovation and urban change, analysing and integrating previously disconnected research fields - architecture and urban planning, the property sector, civil engineering and utilities industry, and stimulating collaborative, inter-disciplinary methodological approaches to understanding architecture and engaging with contemporary practice in a global context. Working across these range of research topics, students will have the opportunity to build networks and establish cross-disciplinary relationships that will be beneficial for their future careers.

The Researcher Development Programme provides research training, skills development opportunities and workshops on the various progression stages of the Doctoral experience. Practice based students are supported by seminars, exhibitions and crits, complemented by symposiums and student led activities. Manchester Metropolitan University is a member of the North West Doctoral Training Consortium and students are able to join consortium in training and events across the region.

University of Manchester

PhD Architecture at the University of Manchester is based within the Manchester Architecture Research Group (MARG), and looks beyond technical design to the complex processes and practices that run through the development adaptation and the use of built environments.

We traverse the disciplinary boundaries of architecture and social sciences to open new areas of architectural research, create new standards of architectural study, and craft new conceptual language to inform and influence architectural policy.

Sitting within the School of Environment, Education and Development, and the Manchester Urban Institute, allows us to benefit from synergies with Planning and Environmental Management, Geography, and several other disciplines. Through these connections, we have developed a distinctive expertise based on theoretical experimentation, methodological rigour, empirical attention, and a hands-on study of architectural practice, building technology and techniques of architectural representation and mapping.

Recently Awarded

Raqib Abu Salia

Customary Land Tenure and Land Readjustment: Land Administration in Semi-Arid Ghana

Raqib’s research examined the complex dynamics between customary and statutory land administration in semi-arid Ghana. Raqib drew on expert interviews, household surveys and focus group discussions in three neighbourhoods of Wa Municipality to identify actors and processes of customary and statutory land administration, examine existing tenure and land use and explore land readjustment.

The research found that local planning and land administration are undertaken through interaction of customary and statutory actors with different mandates and interests. Unequal power relations, under-resourced government agencies, opportunistic behaviour and restrictions reinforce exclusionary and inequitable outcomes in readjusting customary land. Neither customary nor statutory land administration can guarantee an inclusive and equitable land tenure system.

The dissertation contributes to a better understanding of the institutional dimensions and arrangements that mediate tenure regimes and shape land development and land readjustment in secondary cities.


Debapriya Chakrabarti

The Practice of Idol-Making in Kumartuli: Cultural Heritage, Spatial Transformation and Neoliberal Governance in Kolkata

Durga Puja is an annual cultural festival featuring a series of celebratory activities around hand-crafted idols and exhibits that take hold of Kolkata’s streets for ten days in September-October. The religious idols are sculpted in Kumartuli, a historic neighbourhood increasingly threatened by the city’s urban redevelopment agendas.

This thesis investigates idol-making as a situated, relational, culturally-embedded and caste-based practice. It examines the political economy of idol-making in the context of spatial restructuring and shifting governance, straddling sociology, human geography and architectural studies. It draws on semi-structured interviews, visual documentation, mapping and participatory visual methods to trace how Kumartuli is differentially shaped by wider relational geographies and growing consumer demands. The thesis asks if Kolkata will succeed in catering to the needs of idol-makers and other marginalised creative communities embedded in inner-city slums. This thesis establishes the need for incorporating the place-based practices of such traditional crafts industries in the cultural policy domains.


Johnathan Djabarouti

Architectural conservation is increasingly framed as a social process. Consequently, alongside technical knowledge of material decay, practitioners are also expected to consider representation, engagement, and participatory practices to help determine conservation and adaptive re-use strategies. This is evidenced by changes in national policy and guidance, which support an emergent socio-cultural expansion of heritage representation and a rising focus on intangible qualities of buildings.

My research addresses this shift in architectural practice by bridging the gap between critical heritage studies and architectural heritage. My resulting thesis, ‘The impact of intangible heritage on architectural and building conservation practices in the UK: a socio-material outlook’, considers how architectural practice can be redefined to capture a more dynamic and processual understanding of built heritage. Across several case studies, and with a focus on the Grade II listed huts at Bletchley Park, a framework is established that reconceptualises built heritage practice as a storytelling activity.


Sam Holden

Land, Materials, and Construction Site: Decommodification Through Alternative Construction

The definition of decommodification is contested. Researchers see decommodification either as a strategy to move beyond capitalism or a way to reform current conditions. Some researchers interpret it as a process that seeks to disentangle society from the market yet others claim it is individual actions that replace profit-based exchange. Through the exploration of, and engagements with, alternative construction practices, this thesis complicates the definition of decommodification by arguing that these competing definitions are mutually existing in dialectical relationships. When decommodification simultaneously suggests an overcoming of the profit motive whilst reinforcing existing conditions, and whilst it can be observed as both action and process, then to fully define decommodification these contradictions must be exposed. From land banking, and construction finance, to subordinated labour, there are standard procedures that have been scripted around financial capital making it appear as though profit based construction practices are the only option. This thesis asks: how does the engagement with, and analysis of, alternative construction practices suggest that the definition of decommodification should incorporate the contradictions - firstly of efficacy, and secondly of actions versus process?


Mahmud Tantoush

Urban Morphology in the Big Data Age: Exploring the Relationship between Urban Form and Function through Crowdsourced Data

The recent emergence of Crowd-sourced urban data is promising to revolutionise the way we plan, study and interact in cities. As a result, a new research agenda is arising which explores the interaction between people with and within cities on finer temporal and spatial scales. These interactions are facilitated by the underlying morphology of cities affecting people’s interactions and use of urban space. Crowdsourced urban data, therefore, has a role in providing insights into sensing urban activities reflecting how cities are being used by utilising data collected through collaborative projects and social media platforms. The results of structuring and analysing such data can reveal urban level emergent activity patterns that are relevant to architecture, planning and smarter cities. The first aim of this PhD project is to bridge the conceptual and methodological gaps between urban morphology and urban Big Data research. The second aim of this research is to test and explore the relationship between dynamic urban activities by analysing tweets (temporal, spatial and textual) and physical urban form metrics using a novel methodology formalised in a bespoke programmed digital tool.


Stelios Zavos

Thinking with Buildings: Sociomaterial Change and the Micropolitics of Design and Inhabitation

My PhD thesis addressed the existing epistemological and ontological bifurcation between design governance and inhabitation – the latter through the lens of humans’ meaningful engagements with the built materialities of their homes. To accomplish this, I traced the transformations – from the early 1960s until the late 1990s – of the ubiquitous, standardised and heavily coded/regulated post-war residential building of polykatoikia in Athens.

My doctoral research demonstrated the reciprocal presupposition of design governance and everyday practices of re/dis/ordering upon the material fabric of buildings through inhabiting. Conceptualising urban sociomaterial change and the potential for differentiation through minor material-political enunciations during the life course of buildings allowed for the development of an innovative research methodology. This methodology accounts for the cross-fertilisation of standardised macro-conceptions and normative imaginaries of urban living on the one hand, and situated, everyday practices of spatial organisation on the other. Moreover, my thesis added to existing works on Athens and its polykatoikia by providing an alternative historiographical account of its evolution.