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.

Monday 26 December 2011

Public Space: The square in the contemporary city

International Symposium, 13 and 14 January 2012 UAL Lisbon
Public Space:
The  square in the contemporary city

From its origins to the present time, the square has maintained its role as a public space of excellence in citizens' lives, a place where the streams intersect, influencing the more relevant social transformations. Given the awareness that the square is now consolidated as a city's heritage, what are the current trends and the different approaches for the redesign of squares? How do architects and designers respond to this challenge?

The symposium, consisting of one and a half days (Friday and Saturday morning), intends to open a debate on the role of the square in the contemporary city, taking case studies in Portugal, Spain and Italy. We will explore other areas of thought and research, such as history and philosophy.

The conversation model focuses on the exposure of several speakers per panel, followed by debate.


January 13, Friday
Opening of the Symposium
Flavio Barbini (UAL)
Filipa Ramalhete (CEACT UAL)
Paulo Tormenta Pinto (ISCTE IUL)

Panel 1
09h00 to 13h30

The Agora and the Roman Forum
Flavio Barbini (UAL, PT)
Middle Ages and Renaissance, the place of the square
Rogério Vieira de Almeida (ISCTE IUL, PT)

Coffee Break
The Enlightenment square
Miguel Faria (UAL PT)
Squares of the Empire during the Estado Novo
Ana Vaz Milheiro (ISCTE IUL, UAL, U.S.)

Panel 2
15:00 to 18:00

The "anti square"
José Manuel Fernandes (FAUTL, PT)

Public space, Banyoles, Girona
Silvia Brandi (MIAS Josep Mias Architects, Barcelona, ​​ES)


The Repugnant Stage
Eamonn Canniffe (Manchester School of Architecture, UK)

Piazza Ugo Dalló and S. Luigi Casiglione delle Stiviere, Mantova
Alberto Ferlenga (Naomi Architetti, IUAV, IT)

Debate moderated by Paulo Tormenta Pinto (ISCTE IUL, PT)

January 14, Saturday

Panel 3
10h00 to 13h00

Public Space
Nuno Crespo (UAL, PT)

The square of the Abbey of Santa Maria de Alcobaça Alcobaça
Gonçalo Sousa Byrne (FCTUC, PT)


The Ambivalence of the Public Square
Malcolm Miles (School of Architecture, Design & Environment)
University of Plymouth, UK)

Intervention in the neighborhood and Contumil Pius XII, Porto
Cristina Guedes (FAULP, PT) and Francisco Vieira de Campos (FAUP, PT)

Debate moderated by Ricardo Carvalho (Department of Architecture UAL PT)

Organised DA-UAL - CEACT ISCTE-IUL - CIAAM and dynamic CET

Friday 16 December 2011

MA A+U Christmas Dinner

The 2011-12 MA A+U cohort brought Michaelmas Term to a traditional close with a festive Christmas dinner at sandbar, a local venue created in 1996 by its patron 2011 MA A+U graduate Stephen Gingell and current MA A+U student Simon James Gonzalez. Many thanks to Damien Woolliscroft who acted as mein host for the evening.


Monday 12 December 2011


Ketki Tendolkar, Supriya Pundlik and Natalie Macbride
with Eamonn Canniffe

The first trio of graduates of the 2010-11 MA A+U cohort received their degrees at a ceremony held in the Whitworth Hall at the University of Manchester on Monday 12 December. In his speech the Head of the School of Environment and Development Professor Simon Guy praised the excellent quality of the year's work, and wished them all well for their future careers in the UK and around the world.

Also on the dais and participating in the ceremony were Dr. Albena Yaneva, Head of the Manchester School of Architecture Professor Tom Jefferies, Dr. Leandro Minuchin and Dr. Isabelle Doucet

Thursday 8 December 2011

Alison and Peter Smithson: The Charged Void: Urbanism (2005)

Discussed by Zoe Mason

Alison and Peter Smithson met at the school of architecture in Newcastle; they then married and set up their own practice in London after winning a competition to design Hunstanton School in (1950 - now a Grade II listed building). After completion of the school, the Smithson’s began to move away from modernism and establish ‘new brutalism’; a style evident in much of their own work, as well as the numerous projects that they have influenced. They disagreed with the ideals of Le Corbusier and the Athens charter; what they felt was lacking was identity, a concept discussed at length throughout the book. ‘The Charged Void: Urbanism’ is one of two volumes by Alison and Peter Smithson, published in 2005, four years after their first book ‘The Charged Void: Architecture’. The book is a series of case studies in roughly chronological order. Each project is thoroughly illustrated and described in relation to a number of themes, which form the 14 chapters of the book. Some of these themes are reiterated in the chapter titles, showing consistency to the principles followed by the Smithsons throughout their working life. 

The first chapter considers house types and their context, a result of the studying the Valley Section created by Patrick Geddes; a biologist, sociologist and urban planner who was interested in the relationship between life and its environment. The Smithson’s used Geddes’ Valley Section to devise a range of house types to suit different communities; the hamlet, the village, the town and the city. These designs were hugely influential, with a number of housing schemes taking inspiration from them. The term ‘Cluster’ is used to avoid association with the concept of the ‘street’; a place that the Smithson’s felt was outdated, since the use of cars prevents the street from being a place for a resident to identify with their environment. This led to their project ‘Golden Lane’, designed in 1952, a multi level project with housing occupying one side of wide ‘streets in the sky’, designed to provide residents with direct pedestrian access to activities intended to give the community a strong sense of identity.

The Smithsons' house type designs appear in a number of urban planning schemes, most notably ‘Hamburg Steilshoop’. This project is discussed in one of two chapters entitled ‘Connection allows scatter’, along with ‘Berlin Haupstadt’. Both were large utopian masterplans for development, designed with similar basic concepts; allowance for maximum mobility, which was done by separating pedestrian and vehicular movement as much as possible with pedestrian ‘streets in the sky’; the creation of an inverted profile to allow for open space in the centre; allowance for growth and change and the inclusion of green space. Both schemes are designed with transportation networks forming the primary structure; connections and routes, whether vehicular or pedestrian, are the main focus for much of the Smithsons' urban planning. 
‘Connection allows scatter’ is a concept that is also reflected in the projects studied in the chapter ‘Cohesion’; which concerns the ‘poetry of movement, the connection of the city’. In this chapter we see plans for a triangulated net of urban motorways, as well as ‘greenways and land castles’; intended to allow London to develop as a motorised city while maintaining safe, green pedestrian and cycle connections. Similar to the ‘Greenways’ of London are the ‘Wild Ways’ of Berlin; a leisure network of green routes created using the disused railways in Berlin. Alison and Peter Smithson also briefly introduce their ‘ideal city’ as an infrastructure of motorways connecting scattered points of intensity which are three miles apart; the ‘3 mile measure’. These proposals are illustrative of a recurring concept in the book, ‘Pavilion and Route’. The Smithson’s idea was to separate the two, and allow them to develop independently. 

A particularly interesting scheme which reflects many of the ideas already discussed is the Kuwait urban study; a project intended to give the city its own Arab identity, which they felt had been destroyed by fragmented Westernised development. The outcome was logical with interesting research and development, which resulted in the design of a low level ‘MAT’ building on stilts across the city. This ‘MAT’ building was to be divided on various gridlines to create a ‘Galleria’, which allowed for sight lines between the ‘fixes’ in the city; the mosques. The design was proposed to create shade across the city for freedom of pedestrian movement in the hot climate. Cars were to be separated from the pedestrian movement and lead to covered car parks, or into the multi-storey car park built along the boundary of the old city, where the earthen rampart once stood. 

The book mostly consists of Urban Planning schemes which were designed but never built; however it does also cover the Smithsons' most successful built project, the Economist Building in London, a small cluster of towers with a public plaza (which is now also Grade II listed). This contrasts enormously with the failure of another of their built projects, ‘Robin Hood Gardens’; a housing estate in London built around a central green mound referred to as the ‘stress free zone’, which was to be overlooked by the surrounding flats and their ‘streets in the sky’. This building was a physical representation of the Smithsons' ideals of community, an arena for social interaction with visual and physical connections encouraging expression of identity; but in reality it was vandalised and neglected by its unhappy residents. The project (but not its failures) is discussed briefly in the context of ‘Holes in the cities’.

The book is concluded with a range of much smaller design projects such as the Yellow lookout; a small installation intended to be one of many ‘Signals’; or the leafy arbours over the Verbindungskanal in Berlin, designed as a ‘Minimal Intervention’. These smaller projects perhaps show the damage that the failure of Robin Hood Gardens did to their reputation, which never fully recovered.

Monday 5 December 2011

Flaminio Film and Book Launch

Recent MA A+U graduate Kathryn Timmins will be holding a book launch and showing her project film on the Flaminio quarter in Rome at 7.00 pm on Wednesday 7 December in The Castle Hotel, Oldham Street, Manchester.

You can see her film here

You can follow her tumblr on the project here

Thursday 1 December 2011

Interim Review

On Tuesday 29 November MA A+U held an interim review for full and part time students, a chance to discover to what extent they were still Lost in Space. Guest critics at this event were Isabel Britch (Architects Britch), Gavin Elliott (BDP) and Steve Parnell who contributes regularly to the architectural press.

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