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.

Saturday 21 December 2013

MA A+U Christmas Dinner

MA A+U held its traditional Christmas Dinner in sandbar Manchester this week. Puddings were eaten ...

... crackers were pulled ...

... and spontaneous decorations made


Tuesday 17 December 2013

The City in Winter

Projects by the MA A+U students responding to the urban landscape of Manchester

Mancunian Way Gardens Zhenyu Yang

Exchange Station Square Aissa Sabbagh Gomez

Great Northern Square Yubing Xie

Mancunian Way Tower Aidin Ahadzadegan Ahani

Salford Wintergarden Wenhao Yue

Cambridge Street Archive David Chandler

Greening Piccadilly Reece Singleton

Shudehill Square Anna Krysa

Medlock and Mayfield Gardens Xiao Weng

Wednesday 11 December 2013


At a Congregation held today at the Whitworth Hall new graduates of the MA A+U received their degrees from the President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell.

The Congregation was addressed by Professor Simon Guy of the Manchester Architecture Research Centre, and the graduands were presented by Professor Tom Jefferies, Head of the Manchester School of Architecture.

It was a special pleasure to see Gu Fang MA, Xiaoxue Bu MA, Xi Chen MA, and Shiyuan Qin MA who had all returned from China for the ceremony.

At dinner following the ceremony there assembled Curtis Martyn MA, Rebecca King MA, Hajir Alttahir MA, Xi Chen MA, Xiaoxue Bu MA, Shiyuan Qin MA and Justina Job MA.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter: Collage City (1978)

Reviewed by David Chandler

Like a thriller this book opens with a crime; the world of architecture and urban planning is in crisis. The two authors will need to uncover motives, retrace the routes taken by the protagonists, apportion blame and finally seek redress. The “crime” is the “rape of the cities of the world” and the further humiliation and disgrace piled on to the contemporary city, “rendered tragically ridiculous”. Those responsible will be forced stand trial over the course of five chapters and will be subjected to the full authority of urbanist theory, arcane philosophy and economic and social law reaching back to Plato’s ‘Republic’. The judges will sum up and the built environment will emerge a better place eventually. Balance and “common sense” will triumph. Solid pragmatic guidance will also be dispensed in a thirty page illustrated final “excursus” section of interesting and at times overlooked architectural examples for those who would prefer the power of images to sway and guide their practice.
Before the force of their architectural proposal can be fully grasped, the American cultural context in which this book was constructed must be considered. The “disintegration of modern architecture” they assert in their introduction may not be immediately recognisable to us in our current context of eco-ambitious projects of post millennium planning. However these architects were publishing in the year ‘The Deer Hunter’ and ‘Blue Collar’ were released with their themes of social fragmentation in working class and multi racial America. A seismic shift in Western values was very much in evidence and Collage City is the professional planners’ contribution to these radical and urgent public debates. This often unorthodox book is a plea for reason, creativity and artistic intelligence in an urban planned world that had for too long imposed conservative “modernist” values, ethics and assumptions upon architects and city planners. Many large scale municipal urban projects were now signally beginning to fail. Someone had to diagnose the ills and suggest a remedy.
Rowe & Koetter also had an implicit contempt for recent American and European high rise project-housing schemes such as that at Illinois Pruitt-Igoe which was part of an evolving crisis of social segregation in the 70s. Their book may also continue to have relevance for our own age in the light of the recent sub-prime scandals; “impoverished banalities of public housing which stand around like the undernourished symbols of a new world which refused to be born”.
The graphic apparatus of Collage City also needs a note before the arguments are considered in detail. There is a complex subtext of images that runs through the book until the final torrent of the last 30 picture pages. The semiological possibilities of the photographs can occasionally generate complex readings. The publishers, unusually, do not use figure references within the text so the correlation between argument and visual evidence is sometimes vague. For example, the title page has a wonderful image of the oculus of the Roman Pantheon casting its light in an elliptical sunbeam onto the textured coffers of its interior concrete vault. Is this to be read as the contrast between surface and void or a plea for historical architectural precedent? The authors just let it challenge and stimulate us. We soon learn that Rowe & Koetter rejoice in binary opposites, metaphor, dialectic and visual juxtapositions. By identifying ideological binaries they will endeavour to find a middle way to rescue 20th century architecture from the blight of dogmatists and extremists.
The first double page presents the argument of the book as a pictogram of polarities; Francesco di Giorgio Martini’s late quattrocento autocratic ideal city plan designed for the Duke of Milan contrasted with the allusive improvised beauty of Picasso’s Still Life with Chair Caning 1911 -12. We suspect that pictorial collage is related to the core argument of the book but it is not for another 140 pages does that particular work of art get put into the context of urban theory.
Rowe & Koetter propose a “dis-illusioning” process from early in the introduction. This is useful as it reveals the power of the grip that the current architectural orthodoxy had on the profession. Planners would need to break the spell of the accepted high church of utopian scripture. The authors will require the space of the first two chapters to tackle the chimera of an architectural utopia and its pernicious grip on the 20th century city. These early exegeses are important contributions to the history of utopias. From their observations of recent urbanist developments the authors summarise the polarised positions of the two dominant architectural camps in 1978. They identify those, on the one hand, who demanded the professional technologists’ imperious approach to building; “let science build the town” and those, on the other, who saw architecture from the activist standpoint of popular social movements; “let the people build the town”. Neither faction will be left untarnished by the end of the book.

The authors start their process of the radical overhaul of the profession by tackling the “myth” of the “authenticity of the new”. Modernism and its inexhaustible sense of regeneration and novelty had evidently become a dogma to be feared. They add an astute insight into the public perception of the architect as “human Ouija board”. The authors’ use of metaphor in Collage City demands translation and interpretation; architects can’t communicate with the dead neither can they prophecy the future like the clairvoyants. They have abrogated powers to themselves that they just do not possess. Do not expect supernatural powers from these professional designers.
In chapter one, the title ‘decline and fall’ of Utopia parodies the great Gibbon verdict on the Roman Empire. The cultural reach of these authors is brought into focus by a debunking of the slightly religious tones of those who believed that a Utopia might be possible. Bruno Taut’s alpine fairy tale neverneverlands are put into the context of Finsterlin’s “hysterical” dreams of a spiritual place for mankind. This strand of utopian thought also reminds us of the Leni Riefenstahl’s Mountain movies that in turn inspired German National Socialist ideologies. We soon learn that this book is a liberal nose that will be used to sniff out the faintest hint of fascist poison amongst misguided contemporary utopianists. Rowe and Koetter turn the spotlight onto the sacred cows of 20th century modernist orthodoxy. Frank Lloyd Wright, who saw the architect as the saviour of the culture of modern American society and of course Le Corbusier who had announced the dehumanization of man with his city as “the great machine” to be put in motion...the exact prescription for its ills. These architects are alleged to be in the grip of “messianic passion.....they want to end the world and begin it anew”. So we have the first suspects in our investigation into the urbanist offenders. The authors latch onto their next binary by referring to Serlio’s ideals of Comic and Tragic cities which are stage set products informed by classical Greek stage theory. The eighteenth century is given close examination as the root cause of modern enthusiasms for utopia. Henri de Saint-Simon dreamt of a meritocracy of the learned as a world government who might make politics a branch of physics where all knowledge would act in concert. The poet Leon Halevy compounded this “utopian inflammation”; a virus had entered the body of urbanist thinking. Man could rebuild the universe; Ledoux was planning communities for the salt workers of Chaux in 1776 and Boullee constructed gargantuan theme park monuments on the spherical principle of the Pantheon in his famous Isaac Newton project. Even Sant’Elia’s short lived proposals for Italian power companies before the first world war are also lumped together with these hyper-utopian designers. An interesting socially predictive project is referenced in Fourier’s 1829 ‘Phalanstery’ that inserts workers’ houses into the footprint of the Palace of Versailles, thus coding an early socialist utopia and predating the Marxist paradigm. ‘Phalanstery’ represents a persuasive planning ethos and can be seen as the template for many subsequent mass housing projects. Politically, it centres on the elevation of working people by housing them in the palatial simulacra of the recently overthrown French aristocracy. If the physical planning of utopia had its limitations then the 19th century also started considering anthropological avenues into the society and citizens who might inhabit these new buildings. Even Le Corbusier has his own construct of Darley’s 1844 “noble Savage”; his modernist citizen born out of mother Modular. Maybe mankind would itself evolve to be worthy of the new city?
Chapter two places us within post war 20th century in which Rowe and Koetter discern a “certain aimlessness (which) has afflicted the modern architect”. They once again draw out a binary conflict in the “divergent pursuits” of “urbanism”versus ”science fiction”. The space age designs coming from post world war two drawing desks are contrasted with the homely folksy townscapes of Gordon Cullen. The assertion that “we live in townscape and we shop in futurism” is one of those lapidary phrases that give this book its authority and lasting value. The authors continue to draw out the ideologies in their rhetorical question concerning the Paris Opera and its sewers. Which one has priority? The servant or the served? This is a succinct way of discussing the functionalist approach to the city against the beauty of its objects which continued to divide architects. Modern architecture and a Marxist vision has for too long accepted a distinction between “structure and superstructure” and has assigned importance and primacy to structure.
Then follows a very surprising evaluation of the methodologies and contributions of almost all of the progressive studios of the post war period, including Superstudio and Archigram. Rowe and Koetter cast them as architectural binge drinkers suggesting they have all had; “a bout with destiny (followed by) morning after nausea”. They end with the needling verdict; “(was) all this activity worth-while?” Their logic then takes them to the emerging post modern attempts at popular architecture in the Venturi case study of Disneyworld. Here the two authors are at their most playful using a phrase such as “kitsch of death” as they tackle the perversity of public taste that has found nothing at all to please them in the output of most Modernist schemes. The public would prefer to feast on sugared fantasy; “Disneyworld is nearer to what people want than architects have ever given them”. In response, Rowe and Koetter produce a photograph of State Street, Ithaca, New York in 1869. A measured, human contrast to the “euphoric”, inflated confection of Cinderella’s Castle. An authentic place, struggling, eclectic and proud, founded on “moral impulse”.
Frances Yates’ The Art of Memory provides us with an important evolution of a dichotomy that urges investigation for Rowe and Koetter. Gothic architecture for her produced both “theatres of memory” (a conservative point of view) or “theatres of prophecy”(radical and forward looking political vision). The authors are preparing the ground to argue for a much more genuine dialogue with tradition without losing the best of the gains made by modernism. They assert that planners have failed to recognise the “complementary relationship of processes of anticipation and retrospection”.

‘The Crisis of the Object: Predicament of Texture’ is slightly risky title for a chapter, but it emerges that the ethics governing the city plan and the morphology of space, void and function are the key targets for reform. This chapter will also shift the argument from the identification of problems and take us to the urban solutions of the Rowe & Koetter “brand”. The authors pose 3 questions which provide the foundations of their programme. 1; why are we compelled to prefer a nostalgia for the future to that of the past? 2; could the imagined ideal city reflect /allow for our psychological constitution? 3; could this ideal city function visually as theatre of memory and theatre of prophecy? The book here adopts a clearer format as manifesto. It cannot escape the irony that Athens, CIAM and other conferences had also adopted this bullet point methodology in an attempt to cleanse the world of unhygienic buildings. Rowe & Koetter employ a metaphor of the garden as a key to this new vision for city planning. They lament the loss of the traditional street and consider the significant De Stijl contribution to the textures of the city block. They then turn their attention to the disappointing outcome of the very recent new town planning such as Harlow, here described as “a foreign body interjected into a garden suburb without the benefit of quotation marks”. Across a double page spread Le Corbusier’s Saint-Die in France is juxtaposed with the plan of Parma in Emilia Romagna as another of their impressive binary demonstrations. Which would we prefer as an index of the future city? This is answered by an attack on architectural “objects”, new buildings hermetically sealed off from public use, scattered around meaningless futurist grid-scapes. These are the vanity projects of urban failure and by implication the thinking behind the recently trashed Pruitt-Igoe projects. Another persuasive contrast accompanies the authors’ shift of gear to their “prognosis”; Vittoria, Spain, Plaza Mayor contrasted with Le Corbusier’s Plan Voisin 1925. The Paris project is illustrated several times in Collage City to hint at the real identity of the mastermind urban antagonist. A seductive section of the chapter addresses the solid / void problem and this is beautifully illustrated by contrasting the turgid arrogance of Le Corbusier’s Unite in Marseilles with the sublime colonnades of Vasari’s Uffizi buildings. The Florentine project also conforms to the emergent ‘collage’ thesis because the structures fit so well with its fellow heritage landmarks in every direction. This will be a key exemplum for those seeking to imbibe the Rowe & Koetter antidote to the bad habits of modernism. The remedies start to appear in quick succession. Disgraced tenet of modern architecture; why must all outdoor space be in public ownership? The authors identify another unwritten “rule” and chart its impact on the morphology of the city. They adduce the public buildings of Gunnar Asplund who “attempts to make of his buildings as much as possible a part of the urban continuum”. The term “poche” (or pocket-like building schemes) is used to support the idea that urban “infill” can enrich the texture of the city and should be exploited by planners. The chapter concludes with some inspired examples of object /void and infill projects from Sant’Agnese in Piazza Navona, Rome to the iconic Weisbaden figure – ground plan that is illustrated in its negative representation on the front cover of the book. Their supporting comment on Weisbaden is central to the new planner’s solution; “allow for the joint existence of the overtly planned and the genuinely unplanned”.
We will be required to learn a new anthropologically derived term, bricolage, in chapter four to be equipped to grasp the next step in the Rowe and Keoetter prognosis. They argue; “the garden as criticism of the city…has its clearest expression at Versailles”; in the planning of LeNotre’s; “aristocratic Disney World” with its two dimensional comic-book, yet autocratic connotations. They compare this with that of the apparently haphazardly disorganised Villa Adriana at Tivoli constructed by the Emperor Hadrian, based on the emperor’s interpretation of the organic evolving planning of Imperial Rome. The authors advocate this city case study deploying a persuasive thirteen illustrations of Roman city plans to underscore their points. Before bricolage is explained, Rowe and Koetter position another methodological metaphor in front of us using the fox and the hedgehog to try and define 20th century architects’ most basic ethical standpoints. “The fox knows many things but a hedgehog knows one big thing“. Architects had been compelled to be “hedgehogs” in their supremely self confident, even utopian CIAM style post war plans, but the new urban ethos would surely favour the “fox”, who is an improviser, resourceful, a pluralist and, of course, highly aware of her territory.
They provide the intellectual and ideological toolbox for the revision of modernism through the example of the “bricoleur” as the archetype for the new architect. Levi-Strauss had described bricoleurs as jacks of all trades in tribal societies; make doers, skilled in many crafts, not just one profession “they are ‘operators’ ”. Under the title“Collision City” the theory of “politics and perception” is adumbrated. The authors were profoundly disturbed by the urban impact of the politics of racial segregation in parts of the USA. Maybe planners shouldered some responsibility for recent riots and social discord; “we have an urgent need for the fox and the bricoleur” the writers plead. The last part of the chapter positions and advocates illustrated examples of organic city growth in planning and the visual allure of bricolage in the completed work of architects past and present.
The last chapter refers to the object of the argument and provides complex definitions of the term “collage”. The act of assembling the various components is a time based activity and requires an understanding of change as part of the process. Summarised on the final page, “collage could even be a strategy which by supporting the utopian illusion of changelessness and finality might even fuel a reality of change, motion, action, history.” Rowe and Koetter replicate the image of the dome of the Pantheon next to the mystical mandala board. They set out the proposition that we all “learn” from cities on a variety of levels. They go so far as to see “the city as a didactic instrument”. The authors question why fellow architects have failed to read the past like a textbook for fear of producing excessively referenced or derivative architectural styles. The writers assume that a tacit element of the modern architect’s training is informed by the 20th century architect’s “distaste” for the mannered historicism which had dominated the Ruskinesque Gothic of the 19th century, for example. They infer that taking on tradition somehow “betrays” the profession. They also play with the etymology of “traduttore = tradition” to bring out into the open the unspoken fears of planners who might avoid betraying their professional ethos. The authors are then free to suggest that the “city as museum” has an intellectual life that can only be positive. There is nothing to fear from these textbook examples of the past. They are particularly fond of the Munich case study with its “supremely conscientious profusion of references; Florentine, medieval, Byzantine, Roman, Greek”. They call it a “city of objects and episodes” that has not attracted sufficient research and is surprisingly overlooked despite its considerable reputation and success. Thus, continuing their habitual metaphorical demonstrations, they reduce the metaphor-concept of “museum” into two parts: museum equals scaffold or exhibits/objects are equated with demonstrations. Modernism is accused of ignoring the objects in favour of the ideologies of the “scaffold”. As a result modern architecture always professes “a distaste for art”. The profession is then brought to its lowest point with the assertion that the authors have witnessed an “increasing poverty of meaning and decline of invention”. Modern architecture lacks “art”.
They then produce a hero of the modernist movement; Pablo Picasso. The Bull’s Head 1944 cast in bronze from a bicycle seat and saddle is a particularly potent piece of sculpture recommended for architects’ consideration. It has the integrity of image and object but also has meaning. It is artless yet somehow descriptive, it is styleless but yet it is a talisman. It is well positioned for all urban designers to reflect upon and emulate. Then the authors extend their arguments to expound on the eponymous Picasso collage illustrated on the title page.

The Still Life with Chair Caning from 1911-12 is summarized as “disparate objects held together by various means”. This in effect is the panacea for all city planners. The authors rejoice in the pluralist, eclectic, hybrid and informal nature of the oval canvas with its rope frame; couldn’t the objects (exhibits) in the future city also be similarly “aristocratic or….folkish”? From this point the authors seek out examples of good practice in the adoption of a collage inspired (later called Contextualist) approach to planning. To prove an even handed and unbiased sense of proportion they refer to Le Corbusier’s 1928 Nestle Pavilion and the roof of the Unite d’Habitation as good examples of collage city. At this point the metaphors return again with the mandala board being illustrated to remind planners of the closeness of the illusion of utopia to this mystical object of magical but essentially unrealistic functions. The utopian thread finally disappears into the Platonic body of theory from which it emerged. The laws imposed upon those who live in the city will ultimately be the only “image” of the city that matter to its occupants and the only city that they will recognise. Rowe and Koetter then moderate their arguments in the last pages to suggest that;
“a collage approach …. is at present the only way of dealing with the ultimate problems of either or both utopia and tradition”.
The apparatus of this book culminates in an excursus upon what must have been produced as some by products of the editing process; a chapter devoted to photographs of many half page plates illustrating specifically what animates the writers as outstanding achievements. They celebrate parts of the urbanist pantheon that inspired their campaigning aims as follows; “Memorable streets-Stabilizers-Potentially interminable set pieces- Splendid public terraces-Ambiguous and composite buildings-Nostalgia producing instruments-The garden-Commentary”
These sub-chapter titles are definitely enigmatic if not a little eccentric, but then we have by now become accustomed to unravelling their extended metaphors from the book title onwards. For instance “stabilizers” have not really been introduced in any comprehensive way into the body of the written argument. The writers reveal themselves as possibly a little less structured than their text would have indicated had they concluded the book at the end of chapter five. Their illustrations of plan and building examples are intended to be read as a canon of iconic examples or are they more subjective? It was odd to see a repeat illustration of the Plaza Mayor in Vittoria, Spain when it had so brilliantly triumphed over the dreadful Plan Voisin in a comparison earlier in the text. This book, at times, seems to have confounded the editorial process altogether. The authors use section headings in the excursus when these would have also been effective apparatus inside the main body of the text for reference purposes. We are also left with an uncomfortable sensation that the two authors have opened a car boot sale of loved objects many of which have connotations that required a separate volume with amplified captions as all the examples are significant and challenging, especially the oil rig platform which predicts the vogue for exo-skeletal projects.
After the wide ranging erudition of the preceding five chapter arguments of Collage City they submit, in a spirit of humility the following last word on the last page:
“The disintegration of modern architecture seems to call for …a strategy… an enlightened pluralism… and possibly even common sense.”
In conclusion, Rowe and Koetter were sharp in their seizure of the historical moment. Their initiative seems to have synergised with a sea change in architecture into the 1980s. Contextualist theory certainly did find its adherents chief amongst them James Stirling for example whose eclectic approach to architectural sources in his Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart 1982 is of note. The book is emancipatory; many architects had felt restrained by the pre-scripted methodologies that later modernism had seemed to demand. Postmodern wit and counter-cultural movements had evolved by the late 70s to re-envision the urban site as more than a space for just the architect’s ego. Within the next 10 years the advent of new digital technologies and changed cultural and political contexts would mandate a far less bombastic version of later 20th century modernism and invite architecture and planning professions to seek to regain the trust of their audience and to rediscover the social gratifications to be derived from a well planned beautiful city.

Monday 2 December 2013


Urban planning and rationalism: finding better ways to design public space Xiao Weng

Is the polycentric city of today ready for the demands of an urban tomorrow? Reece Singleton

The formation and future of urban migrant enclaves in central China Wenhao Yue

Punishment, justice and public display Aissa Sabbagh Gomez

The development and culture of the industrial city Yubing Xie

Political disruptions / occupying spaces Aidin Ahadzadegan Ahani

The decomposition of ancient architecture and its recombination in modern architecture Zhenyu Yang

Utopian propaganda, progressive socio-industry and the rise of Nowa Huta Anna Krysa

How sustainable was the rehabilitation of the old city of Aleppo? Meisoon Jumah

The urbanism of Tarquinian Rome David Chandler

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Invisible (Manchester) Cities 4

I know a city where everyone is drunk because the alcoholic drink is free. This means that the town has real difficulty doing the simplest of buildings like a drunk struggles to do up shoelaces. It can only build one building at a time but completely forgets about the buildings it has just finished. Like a drunk it has lost the keys to its own front door as it does not really have any idea how to plan its space and doesn’t care about what style of architecture appears on its streets.

Because it is easily persuaded of the latest novelty, each of its buildings is different example of a building type, like a children’s textbook of architectural styles. However the rule of this particular city is that every building must be the same size as the one next it. All the buildings look quite nice from the front. But the architects were either not paid or forgot so they have no backs at all except visible service pipes and broken windows; in this city you should never look at the backs of any of its buildings.

The oldest of the buildings are made of brick and ceramic tiles. These were designed for a city that used to have lots of ceremonies and processions where everyone would dress up as a historical character and the wealthiest people would stand on balconies and wave. These early buildings are very self conscious about status and class. These buildings really wanted to be great European cathedrals but were in reality only insurance companies. The builders preferred to impose moral instruction on those who used them, using difficult to see lettering, mostly in Latin. They wanted the buildings to teach good manners and good morals to everyone who went in and out or who walked past them. Sometimes the builders wanted to dress their buildings as if they were from a long lost world of chivalry. These highly decorated fantasy buildings were mostly made from an inner skeleton of iron, but this is all kept hidden from public sight because it would have looked lower class.

The Victorian buildings were superseded by the next post-war generation who did not like styles and wanted architecture to look like colossal repetitive packaging units, similar to egg boxes. This new generation specially hated the inscriptions and moral saints. These modern buildings have nothing to say in terms of written inscriptions except the word “push” on the door. The very recent buildings from the 1990s only use windows because they hate walls because they are a reminder of the snobbish and class ridden Victorian and Edwardian buildings.They are glass boxes who don’t even want to be buildings at all, constructed for employees to make their photocopies in. It is a strange irony that the furniture that you will find inside of all the 3 different generations of building is exactly the same for each, whatever period they were built. It should also be noted that this city is particularly bad for people who walk, because it rains every day of the year, which destroys their shoes. So the pedestrians have to get out of their cars to buy shoes. All the shops in this town sell shoes. Or cars, which can sometimes look like big shoes when seen from a distance

Finally, two old serpents live in this town. One is a canal and the other is a railway line. The railway is a very friendly, welcoming place and is full of very happy drunk people looking for love. The canal is vengeful. The canal is unhappy because it is ignored by the happy drunken people looking for love. So it occasionally snatches a victim who drowns in the cold waters. The city has no subway like other European cities. Because it forgot to, in its pride it thought it would not need an underground but preferred to surround itself with large and small roundabouts like a sort of medieval theme park where the best rides require the drivers to go round and round in circles, which used to be seen as great fun many years ago. David Chandler

Saturday 16 November 2013

Postgraduate Courses Fair Wednesday 20 November

MA Architecture + Urbanism will be participating in the MMU Postgraduate Courses Fair on Wednesday 20 November between 2.00pm and 6.00pm. To discuss the course with Programme Leader Eamonn Canniffe please come along to 809 Chatham at 5.15pm (or meet in 306 MMU Business School at 5.00). Further course information here

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Invisible (Manchester) Cities 3

When you are walking down the streets of Manchester towards city centre on weekdays there were many different pubs on other side of the road, during the time you’re passing on narrow alleys around Oxford Road there is not enough space for a person to pass by without colliding with other pedestrians.Comparing the city centre pavement with a flat stone road, the university campus's narrow sidewalks become quite dilapidate, the surface of the stone is broken and the underlying bricks are exposed.From the colour of trees with yellow and brown falling leaves you feel Autumn is coming, with chill winds passing through your clothing gaps. But suddenly sun will show up, surprisingly giving a warm touch on your face, giving a flash back of sunny days in summer. This is typical Manchester weather. Good memories of summer time, when the old red brick houses used to glow in the sunshine, but the cold winds are the sign of a long winter that the charming old industrial city will sleep for a while, like a sleeping beauty waiting for a charming sunshine prince to wake her up again.Aidin Ahani and Yubing Xie

Sunday 3 November 2013

Camillo Sitte: ​City Planning according to ​Artistic Principles 1889

A précis by Reece Singleton

Camillo Sitte’s 124 year old text, 'Der Städtebau nach seinen künstlerischen Grundsätzen' is his most famous and respected critique on 19th century urban aesthetic and city planning. It was arguably ahead of its time as the majority of its arguments are still being widely and fiercely debated today. His main concerns are that of public space (the Plaza) and the interaction of the built fabric of the city within its setting. He describes buildings as oil paintings that must have a good frame to work as a whole. He goes on to criticize contemporary planning technique as ‘unartistic’ and defines the approach to modern planning is seen as a ‘technical problem’. He ultimately tries to redress the lack of artistic flair through his theoretical solutions to public space.

Sitte’s background as Architect and Academic informed his thoughts and theories of how city planning should occur. He frequently brings the focus of the text back to antiquity and looks at how the ancient civilizations managed their public space, going on to say that they were able to marry art with function in a way that was quickly being forgotten in modern city planning. His examples of ancient Rome and Greece describe the essence of the city as Sitte saw it and how space, particularly plazas, could be an overwhelming myriad of experiences from the ephemeral transient journey to the protracted and truly spiritual revelation. He emphasizes how the ancient populations developed their cities in a way that was dominated by open space. Homes were designed around courtyards and public plazas where therefore to be looked upon as open, yet contained public rooms. These plazas therefore, were a space of practical and vital functional use, so the space was integrated into surroundings buildings, creating a rapport between the square and public buildings.

Sitte cites this integration of Plaza and Buildings as a key feature of antiquity that makes squares in the ancient cities of Rome, Pisa and Athens feel comfortable.
Sitte speaks of ancient city squares and plans with great passion and fervor but laments that, in the nineteenth century, we have lost through modern planning techniques the ability to create spaces that feel right, in both scale and decoration. He speaks about the new order of modern public space, its uniform regularity such as the ‘gridiron’ urban form developed in Mannheim and its lack of containment. He says that the modern city plan is thought of too much in plan and little thought is given over to the vertical proportions. Sitte sees the modern square as excessively large and out of proportion to the buildings it is surrounded by. He sees that the regularity of Urban form as ‘boring’ and unappealing to the visitor of the square and that, modern buildings of the era were being used as the basis of public space and that little consideration is given to the public space and overall outcome. He argues that more emphasis is given to the function of public space as a means to lay out a city plan than the overall form which in turn can influence function. He stands against the popular principle of symmetry and geometric design, going on to explain the original principle of symmetry is more aligned to proportion than a mirror image. He speaks against boulevards, street and square widening as embracing isolation and providing too much with which the eye could contend. This is contrasted with the irregularity of the ancient square and how they were considered as a whole with the buildings that encased them and the monuments and artistic flourishes that are equally important, developing the overall form and beauty of the space.

Sitte travels across Europe referencing differing examples of the plaza from Germany, Austria and Italy. Using these key examples he develops a way of understanding the squares of the ancient times and perception of its proportions between monuments and surrounding urban fabric. He argues that there is too much of a trend for isolation with monuments, stating the example that the modern Church is typically placed in isolation in a square, and that consequently rather than making a square, a wide street is created that round the entire distance of the Church. He argues that monuments should not be given over to the geometric centre of public space but should be placed around the edges of the space to provide a backdrop and interest.

He describes modern planning as being to restrictive and obsessed with issues of the day such as hygiene and transport. He goes on to say that by making the city healthier and more hygienic, something that he calls a noble aim and success story, we have created a sterility in the art and design of the city. He suggests that some artistic flourishes would no longer be allowed, such as a sweeping external staircase, for fear of health and safety in icy weather, and deplores the fact that some of these ancient design features will be internalized and lost from the public realm. Sitte again describes his despair at planning becoming a technical exercise, confined to the drawing board of municipalities, with little aspect of competition and creativity, accepting that in these fields pragmatism can come before the picturesque.

In the end of the book, Sitte tables ideas of how to improve the plaza and public space. Using the example of Vienna, his home city, he develops pragmatic solutions to some urban planning issues. He explains how street layouts can affect traffic flow and how best to counteract this, how to ensure the city does not become a monotonous block and emphasizes the importance of views and experience in the decoration and organization of public city space. He goes on to lay a foundation for planners, saying that the detail is not for them, that planning should concern only the streets and city at large and the rest be left to private design.

Although Sitte argues for the use of planning techniques of the ancients, he doesn’t appeal for historical replication of what has gone before. He argues that Urbanism calls for solutions of the day, but that by applying well worn and justifiable principles of years gone by we can create better space for our Cities. His works have influenced generations of Urbanists and Planners, and after falling out of favour, became the inspiration of some of those involved with the Townscape movement. Sitte’s argument for better city planning by embracing the intrinsic artistic nature of humans is a noble one and has led to the development of beautiful cities. Whether we have learned any lessons from his writings and continue to develop in a way he set out is still to be seen.

Saturday 26 October 2013

Invisible (Manchester) Cities 2

Even as I landed in the capital of the North I am filled with expectation, the original metropolis awaits; the real deal. I come with a mind overfilled with ideas of high rise glass temples of the developed West.
I am shocked, and met with a rose-tinted nostalgia for greatness long past rather than architectural greatness of now or of time to come.
I meander through the smaller than expected centre, I start to understand this fondness for the past. The city speaks its history through its buildings, a collection, an almost random mixture of styles, sizes and quality all screaming and vying for attention, all in different ways like money men on the trading floor. Let's not forget this is a city with money and financial speculation in its DNA.
From its buildings its inhabitants spill out, they must be cooped up inside as the city lacks any free space for them. These are the things that tell The Rainy City's present, that make this city. Its people; a city of all peoples. A city of drunks and academics, of workers and families. Everyone is here.
Thats what this place is. A city of mixture. A mixture of styles. A mixture of people. A mixture of culture. A true metropolis. The original. The real deal.

Reece Singleton and Xiao Weng

Sunday 20 October 2013

Architecture + Urbanism recommends 'INVITATION TO EXHIBIT'

Successful Designs for Making Cities Healthy for All Portland, OR, June 8-12, 2014 Urban designers, landscape architects, architects, planners, developers and cities are invited to submit proposals for an exhibit of Successful Designs for Making Cities Healthy for All. Projects in design or construction phase (eligible for inclusion in the Exhibit) must be real projects commissioned with the intention to build. Completed projects (eligible for inclusion in the Exhibit, AND the Awards Program) must already exist and be in use, having been completed or restored within the last ten years. Six categories of exhibits are eligible:NEIGHBORHOOD PLAZAS ACTIVE MOBILITY & COMPLETE STREETS FAMILY-FRIENDLY HOUSING HOUSING THE HOMELESS MIXED USE 10-MINUTE NEIGHBORHOODS All submissions must be made online. For more information, please visit: All selected projects in all categories will be exhibited at the conference. Awards will be made for outstanding completed projects already in use. Winning projects will be promoted on the IMCL website. The conference will bring together 350-400 delegates from around the world to learn from the most successful solutions for making cities healthy for all. Application Deadline: November 20, 2013

Thursday 17 October 2013

Invisible (Manchester) Cities 1

Lunch time, as we step out of the building, no different than the neighbouring one, we allow the city to guide us by its sheet metal barriers and follow the route allowing ourselves to discover the city once more, this time in sunshine. We know that this is quite a rare occasion when we bring ourselves to look up towards the clouds, the 23 clouds and not be battered by rain. Squinting to see the colours reflecting on sleek sheets of glass, we feel inspired. Following this colourful vision we find ourselves surrounded by the softer beauty of red brick, intricately carved stone and small paned windows acting as mirrors, reflecting its twin building on the other side of the road. Yet again, we get that shared feeling of freedom. Deciding to carry on this walk we come to an unexpected halt. Stopped by an enlarged glazed arrow. Feeling drawn in, our eyes are trying to find the point of focus, which the arrow might be pointing towards. We look down. We see a lightstrips shaped like an eagle ... with *rm*ni written underneath. We resume looking down, and hear a voice asking for money. Suddenly we can no longer see the rainbow reflected in the window but a man, sitting on the floor in front of a box on the wall, dispensing money. We can no longer see the clouds, but a massive tower block sheathed in glass. Then the rain comes, and our lunch is over. We find a quicker way to get back to work after lunch, through side streets. The smells coming from each twist of the route have removed our hunger. To our surprise these buildings are covered in cheap red brick and not elegant imported stone. The first appearance, as blinding as it might be sometimes, is not always the correct one. Anna Krysa and Zhenyu Yang

Saturday 5 October 2013

Cities and Urbanism: Ideologies and Futures

The new cohort of MA A+U students begin their literature seminars next week in the MA ROOM Chatham 809. All seminars begin at 2.00pm on the date indicated and all visitors are welcome.

Tuesday 8 October Reece Singleton (Sitte)

Tuesday 15 October Yubing Xie (Garnier)

Tuesday 22 October Aissa Gomez (Kopp)

Tuesday 5 November Zhenyu Yang (Jacobs)

Tuesday 12 November Wenhao Yue (Lynch)

Tuesday 19 November Aidin Ahani (Koolhaas)

Tuesday 26 November David Chandler (Rowe & Koetter)

Tuesday 10 December Xiao Weng (Mitchell)

Tuesday 17 December Meisoon Jumah (Lehnerer)

Thursday 19 December Anna Krysa (Aureli)

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Where are they now? Número doce

After his brilliantly successful year in MA A+U Juan Manuel Del Castillo Caceres has returned to Peru and is currently working for the Metropolitan Institute of Planning, part of the Municipalidad Metropolitana de Lima, and is helping to elaborate Lima´s Urban Development toward 2035. Juan's blog is here.

Juan is pictured in front of "The Cabin", an old theatre where the offices are based, in the middle of the "Parque de la Exposición", the first great park of Lima.

Saturday 21 September 2013

What now ...?: The Fourth Annual MA A+U Colloquium

The Fourth Annual MA A+U Colloquium will be held in our new base Chatham 809 on Thursday 26 September between 4.00-6.00pm presenting examples of the urban research conducted by the 2012-13 cohort. ALL WELCOME
Thomas Sydney MA PARIS Hajir Alttahir MA NEW YORK Curtis Martyn MA HAVANA Simon James MA MADRID The Colloquium will be followed by the opening of the MA Show in the new Manchester School of Art building

Monday 16 September 2013


Congratulations to all our successful MA A+U graduates in the 2012-13 cohort
Elham Amini MA Hajir Alttahir MA with Distinction Xiaoxue Bu MA Simon Carder MA Matteo Casaburi MA with Distinction Chen Xi MA Juan Manuel del Castillo Caceres MA with Distinction Gu Fang MA Simon James MA Justina Job MA Rebecca King MA Christos Kyrillou MA Che-Yu Liu MA with Distinction Curtis Martyn MA with Distinction Shiyuan Qin MA Thomas Sydney MA with Distinction Zhouzhi Yu MA

Sunday 8 September 2013

Architecture + Urbanism recommends "Confronting Urban Planning and Design with Complexity: Methods for Inevitable Transformation"

On January 16 - 17 2014 Manchester School of Architecture will be hosting the AESOP Confronting Urban Planning and Design with Complexity: Methods for Inevitable Transformation 12th Thematic Group Meeting on Complexity and Planning
call for papers Urban transformation has increasingly become recognised as both inevitable and complex. Processes of urban change can take various forms, from evolutionary to emergent, and are driven by trans-scalar and dynamic relationships ranging from policy and infrastructure to local and bottom up agency. Working with these complexities requires innovative new approaches and tools which can incorporate and utilise the inherent potentials of urban change. These could support spatial planners and designers in managing transformation and retaining dynamics and adaptability within systems. Processes of urban transformation incorporate multiple and parallel assemblages of dynamic change. It is often within the comparative timelines of the processes of change and the differences between the types of transformation, that opportunities for intervention and management in such processes can be identified and negotiated. With this in mind, spatial planners and designers of the urban realm are asked to demonstrate, identify and propose innovative approaches and methodologies which utilise complexity as the filter through which morphological urban processes can be addressed in a variety of ways, from spatial acupuncture and pattern formulation, to stakeholder negotiation and policy design. This call is aimed at exploring more closely the potentials and parallels between processes of Spatial Planning and Urbanism/Design. In particular, how the complexity sciences can create and enhance this discourse through an examination of processes of inevitable transformation. Papers may address: The relation between processes of planning, urban spatial design, urban transformation and complexity; Approaches and tools to work with ongoing and inevitable urban transformation; The potential of utilising multiple timelines and dynamic relationships between spatial development processes to enhance planning and design methodologies; Complexity as the basis for communication and collaboration between planners, designers and policy makers. We will work towards a themed issue for the journal Environment and Planning B: Planning & Design. ABSTRACTS to be submitted by 30 September 2013 to Ulysses Sengupta

Tuesday 3 September 2013

MA A+U 2012-13 Thesis Projects 2.0

The second group of recent student submissions are illustrated below
Hajir Alttahir New York
Thomas Sydney Paris
Curtis Martyn Havana
Elham Amini Runcorn - Further examples of thesis projects are available here

Saturday 31 August 2013

Where are they now, already?

Matteo Casaburi, who joined MA A+U from the Politecnico di Milano is continuing his postgraduate studies in Architecture at TU Delft

Wednesday 28 August 2013

MA A+U 2012-13 Thesis Projects

Images from the first group of thesis project submissions are displayed below
Zhouzhi Yu Qianhai
Juan Manuel Del Castillo Ñaña
Matteo Casaburi Manchester
Shiyuan Qin Nanjing - More projects will follow in future posts. - The MA Show will open on 26 September in the Manchester School of Art

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Architecture + Urbanism recommends "Visible and invisible: perceiving the city between descriptions and omissions"

Visible and invisible: perceiving the city between descriptions and omissions AISU Congress Benedictine Monastery CATANIA 12/13/14 September
The conference will focus on the many ways in which the city has been described, narrated, portrayed and quantified in words, numbers and images over the centuries. Description and representation techniques from ancient and medieval times onwards provide an opportunity to initiate a comparison between different cities and contexts, seeking different ways of perceiving the urban whole in its full complexity. This is just the start, with respect to the objective and subjective limits inherent in the analytic process. On the one hand, there is what has actually been omitted, hidden and ignored, especially within the deliberately concealed areas of a city (in the private and social life behind the walls of ghettos, prisons, hospitals, brothels, convents, homes). On the other, there is a city that lies beneath the surface of all physical evidence: the city of excavations, underground infrastructures, sub-services, underground or underwater buildings. Beyond physical substance, there is also a city of intangible networks, a city of networks and other relationships that go beyond the “papers” and official documents. Beyond descriptions and representations, therefore, there is a city that is silenced and marginalized, which is not mentioned or pointed out in the documents. It is a somewhat submerged reality that eludes renderings and corresponds, in part, to what has been concealed over time. What comes into play here are other techniques and strategies related to the omission of information, to deception and to propaganda. Different realities have to be brought to light: the many residual presences in the city, conditions of decay and suffering, as well as industrious situations, which have not been recorded but are no less real. The conference will provide an opportunity to reflect on the complexity and ambiguity of the tools required to describe the city and its history. Confronting opposites, it is possible to compare a visible to an invisible city, an official to an unofficial city, a public to a private city, a subjective to an objective view, a systematic view to one based on impressions, a false to a plausible view, and, finally, even an interpretation structured as an "album" to one built on individual fragments. AISU Congress site here

Tuesday 13 August 2013


Heritage and Architecture of Urban Landscape under Production 16-28 September 2013 Venice
This workshop will involve faculty and students from the Universita IUAV di Venezia, Escuela Tecnica Superior de Arquitectura de Granada and Manchester School of Architecture. The programme offers an intensive design workshop focused on the redevelopment of sites of production, which are recognizable for the architectural and landscaping value built-in urban context. Design in particular will face the problems of complex redevelopment of historical and cultural interest related to water landscapes in a space frame defined by whether out-dated productive processes, or by ancient uses which have left unresolved spaces in the city, but with significant potential. The recognisability of places of cultural value and of vital importance for the transformation of the landscape will place an intensive workshop that will produce integrated and sustainable design solutions in the requalification of landscapes of post-production. The need to define improvement processes that include and protect the architectural and landscape value of an organizing structure that recognizes places built by particular technical forms of production, imposes nowadays reinterpreting capacity with proper and sustainable programmes in which truths prefiguring a urban or territorial role. The design for these subjects should express its -inclusive aptitude and of innovation aimed at giving quality to strategic transformations. The areas of study and project related analysis are linked to urban and quality contexts. In particular it will be the subject of study and reuse project, those interstitial spaces and buildings still to be recovered of the Arsenale (the Old Shipyard) of Venice, either in relation to the city, as to those parts occupied by the Navy, or the spaces and activities of the Biennale and the Magistrato alle Acque as well as the lagoon landscape. The students participating in the Programme will face the problems of design in areas heavily transformed throughout the history and with considerable cultural value. The learning experience will investigate different ways to reuse the architectural heritage and the cultural resources correlated to productive activities that identify parts of the city and landscape. The ground of industrial post-production is today a significant power in the transformation of territory, highlighting how nature and culture have achieved in their different outcomes a formal balance strongly identified, although with contradictions and conflicts, to which the integrated project can give adequate interpretation for the achievement of a sustainable regeneration. The workshop will end with a travelling exhibition among the different Universities in the consortium. In that manner the programme aims to make a contribution to the definition of new strategies of recovery and reuse of architecture and post-production landscapes. In particular, it will offer the results to the attention of the Biennale of Architecture, in order to open the international participation of Intensive Programme for a direct comparison with the issues faced by the international exhibition that will take place in 2014. The volume that will collect the results and theoretical contributions, provided by the Erasmus intensive programme and the various dissemination actions, will also be published in digital version by August 2014. IUAV announcement here This project follows on from the international workshop ARCHAEOLOGY'S PLACES AND CONTEMPORARY USES

Monday 5 August 2013


I am very pleased to announce the publication of the new Spanish language edition of my and Peter Blundell Jones's 2007 book MODERN ARCHITECTURE THROUGH CASE STUDIES 1945-1990 as MODELOS DE LA ARQUITECTURA MODERNA Volumen II 1945-1990 published by Editorial Reverté. Edited by Jorge Sainz, and translated by Roberto Osuna, Ramon Serrano and Maria Teresa Valcarce the book is available here
Descripción Este libro es la segunda parte de un riguroso trabajo de investigación que intenta observar con un nuevo enfoque el Movimiento Moderno y enmarcarlo según unos criterios más amplios. A diferencia de las historias canónicas de la arquitectura moderna, este estudio exalta la profundidad y complejidad de ese movimiento, y resalta no tanto sus propósitos comunes como su espíritu explorador y la consiguiente diversidad creativa. En este estudio se intenta también hacer una aproximación más cercana a los edificios, pues muchas historias del pasado han mencionado los edificios sólo de pasada. Esto hace que el enfoque de este libro sea diferente y que tenga además un marcado carácter didáctico, pues el libro va dirigido fundamentalmente a los estudiantes de arquitectura. Para ello se ha adoptado el método del “estudio de modelos” o casos concretos (case Studies), de manera que cada uno de los capítulos que componen el libro está dedicado monográficamente a un ejemplos singular, en este caso del periodo que va desde el final de la II Guerra Mundial hasta la caída del Muro de Berlín. Así pues, los capítulos abarcan desde la continuación del Movimiento Moderno en la posguerra (con obras de Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Hans Scharoun, los Eames o Egon Eiermann) hasta la corriente denominada “deconstructivista” (representada aquí por Peter Eisenman), pasando por la renovación propiciada por el Team Ten (Aldo van Eyck, los Smithson y Giancarlo De Carlo), algunas figuras singulares (como Gottfried Böhm, Sigurd Lewerentz, Günther Behnisch o Carlo Scarpa), las obras participativas (como las de Lucien Kroll y Ralph Erskine), los dos últimos “maestros” (Louis Kahn y James Stirling), los ideólogos posmodernos (Aldo Rossi y Robert Venturi) y la exaltación de la tecnología punta o hig tech (Norman Foster y Piano & Rogers). Índice Prólogo. Láminas. Introducción. Charles y Ray Eames. Casa Eames, Pacific Palisades, 1945-1949. Hans Scharoun. Teatro Nacional, Mannheim, 1953. Egon Eiermann y Sep Ruf. Pabellón de Alemania, Expo de Bruselas, 1958. Aldo van Eyck. Orfanato, Amsterdam, 1954-1959. Gottfried Böhm. Ayuntamiento de Bensberg, 1962-1971. Sigurd Lewerentz. Iglesia de San Pedro, Klippan, 1963-1966. Alison y Peter Smithson. Edificio 'The Economist', Londres, 1964. James Stirling y James Gowan. Escuela de Ingeniería, Leicester, 1959-1964. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlín, 1968. Günter Behnisch. Instalaciones olímpicas, Múnich, 1967-1972. Carlo Scarpa. Museo de Casteldecchio, Verona, 1957-1974. Louis Kahn. Museo Kimbell, Fort Worth, 1966-1972. Lucien Kroll. Casa de la Medicina, Bruselas, 1969-1972. Ralph Erskine. Viviendas en Byker, Newcastle, 1969-1975. Giancarlo de Carlo. Escuela de Magisterio, Urbino, 1968-1976. Norman Foster. Willis Faber & Dumas, Ipswich, 1971-1975. Renzo Piano y Richard Rogers. Centro Pompidou, París, 1969-1977. Aldo Rossi. Cementerio de S. Cataldo, Módena, 1971-1978. Peter Eisenman. Centro Wexner, Columbus (Ohio), 1983-1989. Robert Venturi y Denise Scott Brown. Ala Sainsbury, Londres, 1986-1991. Conclusión. Bibliografía.

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Architecture + Urbanism recommends 'Richard Rogers RA: Inside Out'

Throughout his career, Rogers’ creations have been shaped by political, social and ethical concerns, as well as popular culture, technology, art and urbanism. This blend of influences is manifest not only in his architecture, but also in his roles as a speaker, writer, politician and activist. This major retrospective exhibition celebrating the 80th birthday of Richard Rogers runs at the Royal Academy of Arts (Burlington Gardens), London until 13 October 2013. Exhibition website here

Tuesday 23 July 2013


I am very pleased to announce the publication of the Chinese edition of my 2006 book URBAN ETHIC: DESIGN IN THE CONTEMPORARY CITY 城市伦理--当代城市设计 Published by China Architecture & Building Press the book (translated by Hongling Qin) is available here
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