The MA Architecture + Urbanism course is the Manchester School of Architecture's taught postgraduate course which conducts research into how global cultural and economic forces influence contemporary cities. The design, functioning and future of urban situations is explored in written, drawn and modelled work which builds on the legacy of twentieth century urban theory and is directed towards the development of sustainable cities.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Architecture + Urbanism recommends "Preston Bus Station Charrette 28 June 2013"

In December 2012 Preston City Council voted ‘in principle’ to demolish Preston Bus Station and replace it with a surface car park. This building is a major cultural landmark and it should be preserved and creatively adapted to serve the city. It could act as a key building and public space to make Preston accessible and temper the decay that is affecting the city. BDP will host a charrette on Friday 28th June 2013, at their North West office to discuss ideas for the future of this building and the urban area surrounding it. The charrette or workshop will be held in BDP’s Manchester offices in Piccadilly Basin. Key members of their architectural and urban design team will contribute to the discussion. They feel that this is a very important project, both locally and nationally. The state of panic that now exists in Preston is symptomatic of the reaction not only to the recession, which has hit the North particularly hard, but also to the change in shopping habits that the digital revolution has caused. How the post-industrial city will have to adapt to an uncertain future is one of the most pressing issues for architects and designers at this point in the twenty-first century. Preston Bus Station was constructed in 1969, and was designed by BDP. It was built at a time of great confidence; it was, after all, the same year as the first Moon landing. The building resembled an airport lounge, testament to the importance that was placed upon it by the people of Preston. Modernist buildings can possess great quality and worth, and can contribute to the collective memory of a place. If we are not careful, we will regret the loss of many of them, just as we regret the loss of many older structures that were torn down in the name of progress. Certainly the Bus Station is very much a symbol of Preston, if it is lost the city will lose a famous landmark and part of its optimistic heritage. This charrette is open to all, architects, designers, and students as well as anyone else who is interested in the future of the building. Contact Sally Stone for more details or to discuss this further: Gate 81 is a project that intends to bring to greater attention the plight of Preston Bus Station. There has been a considerable amount of negativity surrounding the future of the building, and this is our attempt to bring some optimism to the situation. To this end, we are staging a series of events to both raise the profile of the building, and to generate ideas for the future of this troubled building and the urban area that surrounds it. The first, which was held on May 11th, was an open workshop, collection of lectures and other happenings that was held on the concourse of the Bus Station. Gate 81 is supported by: The Arts Council, Manchester School of Architecture, They Eat Culture.

Sunday, 16 June 2013


Marco Casagrande has published a short section from the report on the DENSIFY Symposium in the special issue of MENSCH published to mark his participation in the Eastern Promises: Contemporary Architecture and Spatial Practices in East Asia exhibition at the MAK Austrian Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna. The article appears on page 21 here

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Remember to show all your working out.

2012 MA A+U graduates Lisa Kinch, Jack Penford Baker, Julie Tadros and Edward Patton feature in the [WORKINGS] exhibition 15-18 June at BLANKSPACE 43 Hulme Street, Manchester M15 6AW

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Thomas Sharp: Town Planning (1940)

Reviewed by Seton Wakenshaw  
  Thomas Sharp (1901-1978)     Town Planning was one of several thousand books published by Penguin under the Pelican imprint between 1937 and as recently as 1984, forming part of a series of books that “would educate the reading public rather than entertain”.   Books ranged from the aforementioned ‘Town Planning’ to ‘Primitive Art’ to ‘The Physiology of Sex’ that considered reading materials that would inform both the public and armed forces in preparation for the end of World War 2 and the positive and optimistic times ahead.   Pelican books was an expansion of the Penguin business in 1937, with the aim to provide high quality and reliable information on many fields, often being written by authors of specialised academic books.   Thomas Sharp   Throughout his career Thomas Sharp was a significant and respected figure in town planning, particularly in the mid-twentieth century. His influence and impact stretched from practitioners to academics through written theory and practical planning and have remained relevant in many ways to this day. Key texts focused upon planning and design incorporating both town and countryside, with an emphasis upon understanding how best to incorporate traditional value and modernity. Oxford and Durham benefitted from his ideas on townscape and are key examples of his theories and models today. The book “In the 1940’s 80%of the UK population lived in urban areas. The most urban population in the world.” ‘Town Planning’ is a very solid primer and introduction to the subject of urbanism particularly when considering the relationship of Architecture versus Town Planning and how these disciplines may better work together. The human centered ideology is an important constant throughout and is and should be a key aspect of present and future planning, architecture and design. We should not lose sight of this. The text below, although not an extensive overview, highlights the key ideas and agendas of Thomas Sharp. We will come to the idea of the male and female role in this later…… but at this point let us consider the idealistic agenda of creating a “utility for collective living” as a hugely positive act. “Town Planning is an attempt to formulate the principles that should guide us in creating a civilised background for human life.” Sharp shares the view that historically (mid 19th century), architecture understood what it was and while not strictly planned, the builders of the time controlled their relatively small scale sites and this ensured a degree of consistency builder to builder, area to area and an air of urbanity grew. With less pressure upon space than we face today the idea of green spaces, common areas and the creation of human environments was more feasible, through now classic streets featuring vistas and detail that could only now be looked upon as a beautiful extravagance. We appreciate them all the more in the context of modern day ‘solutions’ that impose upon us how we should live out our lives.
With a seemingly negative view of architecture and planning of the time, the idea of individuality, personality is continually emphasized when considering the grander masterplan which may neglect details that enable human interaction and experience. “Monotony through repetition (in architecture) is bad” while “The recognition of the natural desire of the citizen to preserve some symbol of his individual existence, even while he conforms to wider social demands for the sake of collective effect is a first essential towards the public acceptance of really urban architecture.”
  This is a significant period in terms of evaluating and setting priorities, World Wars 1 and 2 are significant in the timing of this publication, having recently come out of WW1 (1914-18), WW2 had commenced (1939-45) and town planning would take a decidedly different direction, survival!!! “Town and country planning is planning for living: Planning for living is planning for peace: And most planning in war is planning for death, or the avoidance of it.” Interestingly, this period highlights the importance of towns as human centred hubs and, as with most things, they were never more popular than when they were ‘taken away’. Plans were implemented to move woman and children to areas out of town, less prone to attack, however removing the social interaction was to big a loss and despite the risks families moved back to the towns. Further prioritising the idea of humanity in any urban planning that may be carried out for the future, and perhaps why it has failed on so many occasions in the past, through stack them high ‘community’ approaches! It is evident within the book that Sharp has some clear opinions, contentious at times, and is not afraid to share them and if you do a little background research you find that this did result in periods of unemployment. However, all points are raised and debated, for and against resulting in a well balanced text which still feels relevant today. Various planning methodologies are discussed but rather than discuss each individual method we can look at Sharp’s preference for ‘satellite towns’. But first we should consider the male and female perspective within the theories, which gives the text a certain place in time and context, which although unsurprising is not particularly relevant today. It is very clear that the town is perceived as male orientated and that the female population are very much secondary in any planning that may enable the town to evolve going forward. It is also not lost on Sharp, the developing communications that will guide the development of the town, but he does not lose sight of the importance of human engagement.
“The telephone, the radio, television are without doubt great inventions that have brought large benefits to mankind. But they can never satisfactorily be a substitute for normal social intercourse. Man is a social animal. He depends for a great deal of his happiness on the company of his fellows. That is why men go to football matches, race meetings, to clubs and pubs: that is why women like shopping in a busy street.” The period coming out of war is an opportunity to rebuild, develop and make better, but there is concern that perhaps we have seen the best of British planning and architecture. Will we ever improve upon London circa 1850 which laid claim to be the “best built capital in the world”? There is a worry that we will never better this and the sprawling towns and cities, particularly Manchester and Birmingham, race out of control with little consideration of people or place. Sharp’s preference for satellite towns is in contrast to this evolution and focuses upon satellites providing social life, economy and industrial life while the centre has more specific purposes in addition, such has hospitals, universities etc.   It should be considered at this stage that predictions of population growth (which played a large part in framing planning models) were exactly that and as it turns out, were inaccurate. In certain cases underestimated, particularly for the UK, and in other cases extremely exaggerated for example New York, USA. Planners predicted 21 million population by 1965, it was in fact 7.7 million, this did however coincide with the world fair! It could be argued successfully that these predictions were in fact created to benefit the justification of certain planning models and that they were in fact nothing more than a ‘stab in the dark’. In conjunction with this it should be highlighted that size and rapidity of growth are generally accepted as symbols or indicators of prosperity, so it is no surprise that these figures are often inflated. The following calculations and theories again place the ideologies in the context of the time but are interesting nonetheless; “It was calculated that the ground left after an ordinary small house had been built on a plot covering one twelfth of an acre was the smallest area upon which a man could grow sufficient vegetables to support himself and his family and still have enough left to sell and make a comfortable small profit that would supplement the wages he earned.” “the desirable maximum number (based upon 50 persons per acre) is just over 100,000 inhabitants” for a town. This is based upon a town being 2 miles across i.e. 1 mile from town centre to country. Which also considers feeding the town and the proximity of production to consumption. However should a town be more than 2 miles across then it becomes less efficient and residents are cut off from the countryside. An important aspect within Sharp’s theories and the ‘female’ aspect of any planning i.e. Town male and country female, the countryside must evolve and adapt to survive; The countryside “is a living organism and it is impossible to preserve any living organism in the condition at which it has arrived at any particular moment in time. To preserve it is merely to kill it.” Throughout, Thomas Sharp displays his appreciation of detail on both a large planning scale to a proportionately smaller, but no less significant, architectural and design scale. The imperative focus is human experience. We can also learn from the social nature of the text and the understanding of co-existence and how we may better enable this to occur. Whilst with all models it is important to understand that, in the majority of cases, they are a best fit but should strive to be a response to facts that may better enable a better quality of life. Arguments are balanced with both sides considered and clear conclusions reached that feel relevant today in many cases. It is hard not to warm to his ideals, whether ultimately achieved or not and it is important to exercise these ideals as well as learn from mistakes of the past and if there is one that we strive to achieve, it is this; “We must reailse that the town can be beautiful, it can be healthy, it can be efficient, it can be a utility for the living of a full and happy life, if only we have sufficient care to make it so” Hopefully, despite all the modern day challenges, and the collection of successes and mistakes made in the past, we can look forward to a future that considers well-being and beauty, in some form or another, as part of the town planning, architecture and design agenda.  

Monday, 3 June 2013

DENSIFY on film

Our friends at MIES have produced two films which feature speakers from the 2013 MA A+U Symposium DENSIFY. The films, which include a range of contributors, are available as Episodes 5 & 6 at their archive
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