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“Design today is not merely the conjuring of an object, but a problem-defining, problem-solving, information structuring activity that defines a specific course of action.”
Peggy Deamer, ‘The architect as worker’

About the Atelier

Manchester Spatial Agents are part of the Centre for Spatial Inclusion at the Manchester School of Architecture (CSI@MSA). The atelier is run alongside and contributes to the CSI programme of professional research projects including the £10m Ambition for Ageing programme. Students in the atelier are invited to contribute to research questions defined by existing projects or partners and to explore the edges of our current understandings and practices, extending the research expertise of the school and actively working to improve the world outside the university. Opportunities are created for student work to directly support professional projects, which can lead-on to formal and informal student-led commissions as well as establish pathways for further study at doctoral level.

Exploring different ways of being architects and different forms of architecture

Spatial Agents believe that architects and architecture can help design city spaces and services through our expertise in working across disciplines; ability to understand the social and physical factors that make good places; experience synthesizing and communicating complex information from multiple sources and; our propositional focus on delivering integrated and coordinated solutions and innovations.

We believe that the most positive future for architecture lies in developing both expanded disciplinary practices and expanded disciplinary services using architectural knowledge to add value and enable positive social processes.

Explore the content of architecture; different ways of researching and practicing

The studio provides alternative routes to research and practice. This is both an ethical and a pragmatic response to the current political and economic situation for architects and architecture and involves exciting and productive collaboration and engagement outside of the academy. These engagements are stimulated by the relationship to CSI and assisted by the staff team, but are designed so that they are driven by your particular interests. If you are interested in a particular subject or area of research, bring it into the studio. If you want to explore particular forms of practice, for example, through community engagement - we will support you to do this.

Explore the formal expression of architecture: different ways of designing

There are lots of ways of approaching your design – we refer to this as your design-research methodology because we (and most other ateliers) are assuming that the process of designing – drawing and model making – is a form of research. This means that the drawing or modelling actually produces knowledge rather than merely presents existing knowledge. We aim to explore with you the most productive and appropriate ways of designing for you and your particular interests and capabilities.

Potential Programme Content (2017)

Post-capitalist Architecture and Urbanism PAU

MSA projects are currently exploring the exhausting globalising fact that financial capitalism appears to be permanently dividing the world between those with access to capital and those entirely without. It is a fact that we increasingly have no choice but to look and act past. Rather than impossible 'revolution' or timid 'reform' the most-plausible sphere of operation for most of the world's population is now that of a ‘post-capital’ existence.

In a world smoking, sweltering and sinking; with population surging, ageing and migrating; the paucity of our progress remains measured by the numbers who are not suffering - extremely. With global ‘sustainable development’ targets hailed as triumphs, economy or 'good home management' now means that the greater your ability to contribute, the less compelled you are. The tawdry austerity premise that the least compelled contribute the most through ‘stimulating growth’ belies the evidence that social deficits are more than covered by legalised asset stripping (tax avoidance), that increasing consumer debt and housing speculation remain the mainstay of post-crash economic growth; and that the entirety of employment increases are tenuous part-time and short-term positions. Capital provides financial and social independence, but for those of us with limited or no access to capital, now and increasingly, all around the world, community economies are our homes.

If this is the world into which our own graduates will emerge, how should they practice architecture? How do we plan our cities, communities, economies and public and private spaces for an ethical future?


5th yrs students examined the concept of Ideal Homes in the light of a post-capitalist world. Working alongside CSI they developed community economy action plans in four areas of the city as part of the professional design research project ‘Ambition for Ageing’ and designed an ‘ideal home’ for specific community actors in specific spatial circumstances. They investigated the spatial development of a diverse community economy in order to design a home for actors without financial capital but with valued social or affective capital. They then designed an ‘Ideal’ – Age Friendly- home with the aim of being built at the Ideal Home show as well as entering (and winning places) the 2017 RSA Inclusive Living competition.

6th yr students worked with us to produce an individually tailored programme of study. Example research projects include: affordable housing for Dubai, community-led PFI’s; A museum of African identity; Alternative material cultures for high-density high-rise living.

International Links

We have partnerships with a wide range of organizations around Europe. Last year we worked with The Mayor’s office in Athens, UNHCR and CRS to explore urban responses to refugee programmes.

Partner organizations and practices

The Centre for Spatial Inclusion at the Manchester School of Architecture is a community-engaged research and design partnership between Manchester's City Council, Architecture School and University. Over the last decade we have developed innovative cross-sector projects working to make cities and neighbourhoods more inclusive. Focusing on multiply-excluded populations with an emphasis on experiences across the life-course, we have developed world leading approaches to delivering age-friendly city policy in local contexts. Our work has been cited as World Class by World Health Organisation representatives and is now an integral part of the Manchester City Council Ageing strategy as well as forming the central methodological case-study for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Alternative Age-friendly Cities Handbook. These research and design projects are developed by a professional team working across the two Manchester universities as well as through a network of subject area experts through Local, National and International research collaborations. We work closely with the Manchester based architectural co-operative Loop Systems to provide delivery mechanisms for the architectural commissions produced through the engaged research of the center.



Atelier Staff

Dr Stefan White
Senior Enterprise Fellow

Helen Aston
Senior Lecturer

Stephen McCusker
Associate Lecturer

Emily Crompton
Manchester Age Friendly Neighbourhoods (MAFN) Project Coordinator

Mark Hammond
Manchester Age Friendly Neighbourhoods (MAFN) Project Coordinator