After graduating from Hull School of Architecture (BA), Helen then studied at Kingston School of Architecture and Landscape (Diploma) where she was subsequently employed as a lecturer and senior researcher (1997 until 2003). Alongside teaching and researching she established iballastonarchitecture with her husband in 1997.

Helen joined the MSA as an Associate Lecturer in 2005, teaching in years 1 and 2, and then became full time in 2007. She led BA2 (2007-2008), then led BA1 for five years, coordinated the BA/M.Arch events programme (2008-2013) and currently Co-leads BA3 with Stephen McCusker since 2017. Between 2007 and 2018 she shared the teaching and running of the M.Arch atelier Manchester Spatial Agents (Projects) with Professor Stefan White, whilst also leading a third year atelier, MSA Praxis with Sarah Renshaw and Stephen McCusker (2013-2018). Both MSA (Projects) and MSA (Praxis) focussed on social, economic and environmental sustainability. We often undertook live projects working towards making cities more inclusive, working with multiple project partners such as Manchester City Council and the varying communities of Manchester. Most participative design projects were sited within and around Manchester, although some have taken place in Equador, Athens (Greece), Kenya and Senegal. Helen has represented the MSA in the Faculty Academic Standards Quality Committee for five years, the Exceptional Factors Panel and recently coordinated and assessed the M.Arch admissions for the school.

More recently, Helen set up PRAXXIS a feminist architectural research collective with Emily Crompton, Sarah Renshaw and Kat Timmins. PRAXXIS has built a consultation station, created some feminist architectural wallpaper and is planning to manufacture some Engagement Top Trumps. It has three key aims... inspire: be a woman centred and woman led organisation with an open, honest, supportive and transparent working practice // challenge: be a learning organisation encouraging creativity and the sharing of knowledges through engagement, participation and partnership to promote inclusive design // impact: influence the built environment professions using our voices to value diversity and champion equality. This has led to the launch of PRAXXIS, a feminist atelier in both BA3 and the M.Arch. PRAXXIS is an explicitly feminist teaching atelier aiming to stimulate a positive intersectional feminist debate within the school.

In July 2018 Helen was selected for an RIBA Ethel Day Award. As a result of many years of inspiring students who then go onto demonstrate an inclusive design approach in many architectural practices she was voted by peers and previous graduates from around the UK for the first RIBA Ethel Day Award to celebrate 130 influential Women in Architecture from around the world.

Helen has also been directly involved with the Architecture School for Children (TASC), building inclusive school playgrounds, co-running creative workshops with Key Stage 1&2 school children and developing a long-term business plan using various funding streams.

Throughout her time in practice and academia she has always taken an inclusive feminist approach and investigated gendered territories of cities, and the ways in which architectural practice sites itself within this environment. She has explored this through teaching, her own thesis project proposing the regeneration and the re-exposure of the sex industries in Soho, research into the space and manipulation of the female form, as a researcher at the Women's Art Library, and through her own architectural practice. Development of the architectural brief, client consultation, engagement techniques and design games are all tested within her practice and her current BA3/M.Arch teaching in PRAXXIS (2018 onwards) and Manchester Spatial Agents (Projects) & (Praxis) (2007-2018).

Since 1997 she has also run a small architectural practice iballastonarchitecture, formed in order to draw on and develop experiences to date. This has resulted in a number of small community and housing projects being undertaken, one of particular note being the 5th Urmston Scout Group new Head Quarters. The practice provides a working platform for the development of our ideas and principles, undertakes innovative consultation and participative design approaches, has developed a series of design games for all client age groups and helps others to build. We are at the end of a long process of a self-build house in Appledore, North Devon using cement SIPS panels.

Projects

PRAXXIS

PRAXXIS is a feminist architectural collective with Emily Cromton, Sarah Renshaw and Kat Timmins.
It has three key aims...

INSPIRE: be a woman centred and woman led organisation with an open, honest, supportive and transparent working practice

CHALLENGE: be a learning organisation encouraging creativity and the sharing of knowledges through engagement, participation and partnership to promote inclusive design

IMPACT: influence the built environment professions using our voices to value diversity and champion equality
We are currently building a series of consultation stations, designing a feminist architectural wallpaper and creating some engagement Top Trumps cards.

Next project

the architecture school for children

Business modelling, funding stream development, knowledge exchange, designing, masterplanning and re-constructing the outdoor spaces of each school's playgrounds in collaboration with one manchester alongside the hub primary schools in Moss Side and Hulme

Next project

den city

A collaborative project with Places- The Architecture School for Children. Designing and building dens in All Saints Park with year 4 and 5 childrens from various schools in Manchester and Salford.

Next project

living here living there

In collaboration with Places and Webster Primary School, Moss Side year four children explored model making, drawing and photography to propose areas of the city.

Next project

tatton allotment 2013

When a shed is not a shed but a wall to a community arts allotment at the Tatton RHS show 2013, including a participative allotment poetry wall. Achieved a highly commended RHS award.

Next project

atelier zero

A collaborative project between the MSA, Office for Subversive Architecture, curator Jane Anderson and Ecole Speciale, Paris. Designing and building a collection of art huts in Picadilly Basin, Manchester. March-Sept 2012

Next project

iballaston architecture

Since 1997 I have run a small architectural practice – iballaston architecture, formed in order to draw on and develop our experiences to date. This has resulted in a number of small community and housing projects being undertaken, one in particular being the 5th Urmston new Scout HQ.

Our practice…
_provides a working platform for the development of our ideas and principles
_undertakes innovative consultation approaches
_has developed a series of design games for all client age groups
_helps others to build

Next project

it doesn't just end at the walls

It doesn't just end at the walls explores the artefacts, activities and users of a sustainable suburban dream. It aims to understand and challenge established views of British Suburbia and the future relationships with sustainability.

Next project

research with bedzed

BEDZED HOUSING SCHEME, 1999 (INCOME £40,000): Project managed the live research, development and design project in association with the Peabody Trust, Bill Dunster Architects, and the Bio-Regional Development Group. The research project offered design proposals for eco-kitchens through minimisation of and locally sourced materials, proposed a business plan for car-pools, and explored ways of minimising energy consumption through researched ventilation strategies.

Next project

other projects

Next project

Research

Exhibitions

Aston, H., Places Project/TASC, 2015. Living here living there exhibition, Cube Gallery, Manchester, 2015.

Aston, H., 2015. Places Projects - den city and living here, living there, CUBE Gallery, Manchester, 2014-15.

Aston, H., Places Project/TASC, 2014. Den City, Cube Gallery, Manchester, 2014.

Aston, H. and Dr Stefan White, 2011. Sharing the City: MSA_P exhibition, CUBE Gallery, Manchester, September-October 2011..

Aston, H. and Dr Stefan White, 2011. Sharing the City: MSA_P pop-up shop, Trafford Centre, January 2011.

Aston, H. and Dr Stefan White, 2010. MSA_P exhibition, NoiseLAB, June 2010.

Kingston School of Architecture, 2000. Project House 2000, Wates Built Homes, Kinsgton University, 2000.

Aston, H., 1998. Postcards from Whiby, RIBA HQ, Portland Place, 22/6/1998.

Aston, H., 1998. Postcards from Whitby, Royal Institute of Architects, London, July-September 1998.

Artefacts

Aston, H., Aston, B., 2019. 'H7 a micro house in Appledore', Appledore, North Devon.

Aston, H., Renshaw, S., 2019. 'Stretford Builds... a new pavilion at Stretford Grammar School', Stretford Grammar School.

Aston, H., 2016. 'St Mary's Primary School, Phase 2', further development of the outdoor spaces with and for the children at key stage 1, St Mary's Primary School, Moss Side Manchester.

Aston, H., TASC, 2016. 'St Mary's Primary School, Phases 1 and 2', St Mary's Primary School, Moss Side Manchester.

Aston, H. and Dr Stefan White, 2015. 'Blackpool Travellers Playground', a playground for a traveller community in Blackpool - the playground was designed along with the children. It was developed and constructed alongside Maddi Mooney and Matt Shanley, 2015.

Aston, H., TASC, 2015. 'St Mary's Primary School, Phase 1', St Mary's Primary School, Moss Side Manchester.

Aston, H., Places Project/TASC, 2014. 'den city', All Saints Park, MMU.

Aston, H., 2014. 'Living here living there', In collaboration with Places and Webster Primary School, Moss Side year four children explored model making, drawing and photography to propose areas of the city., 2014.

Aston, H., Places Project/TASC, 2014. 'Living here living there', All Saints Park and Webster Primary School.

White, S., Aston, H., Shanley, M., Mooney, M., Minsky, J., 2014. 'Playground for Chapel Road Travelers site, Blackpool', Chapel Road Travelers site, Blackpool, UK..

Aston, H., 2013. 'A celebratory installation in the entrance atrium of the new academy building for St. Ambrose Barlow Secondary School', St. Ambrose Barlow Secondary School, Salford.

Aston, H., 2013. 'Tatton allotment', When a shed is not a shed but a wall to a community arts allotment at the Tatton RHS show 2013, including a participative allotment poetry wall. Achieved a highly commended RHS award..

Aston, H., 2013. 'when is a shed not a shed?', Tatton Park.

Aston, H., Aston, B., 2012. '5th Urmston Scout Group new Head Quarters', Urmston Manchester.

Sanderson, L., Jefferies, T., Aston, H., 2012. 'Atelier[zero]', Manchester.

White, S., Aston, H., Manchester City Council, 2011. 'Sharing the city: Generations Together', Manchester.

Performances

Aston, H., McCusker, S., 2015. 'Stretford Streetscapes 2016. Pop up shop community engagement event at Stretford Mall with MSA Praxis and Loop Systems. Participative Design Event at Stretford Public Hall in response to the Trafford Masterplan for Stretford with 24 BA3 students and eng', Stretford Mall, 10/2016.

Aston, H., White, S., 2014. 'Sharing the City', Noiselab Gallery, Manchester, 2010.

Aston, H., White, S., 2014. 'Sharing the City pop up shop', Trafford Centre, Manchester, 2011.

McCusker, S., Aston, H., 2001. 'Participative Design Event at Stretford Public Hall in response to UA92 with 24 students, local residents, key stakeholders from Stretford Public Hall and Year 8 ambassadors from Stretford Grammar School', Stretford Public Hall, Stretford, M32 0LG, 14/10/2017 - 14/10/2017.

Aston, H., Crompton, E., Renshaw, S., 1999. 'A Great Knowledge Give Away: 100 feminist architectural texts', Manchester School of Architecture, 8/3/2018.

Books

Farmer, J., 1999. 'Green Shift: changing attitudes in architecture to the natural world', Architectural Press.

Reports

Aston, H., Hammond, M., White, S., 2014. 'Manchester Compendium of Spatial Inclusion'.

Aston, H., 2003. ''Sustainability in the curriculum''.

Aston, H., 2003. 'Designing for Sustainability Research Group, 2000 - 2003'.

Royal Institute of British Architects, 2001. 'sustainability special interest group', CEBE/RIBA.

Aston, H., 2000. ''The Business Case for Sustainable Property','.

Aston, H., 2000. 'BedZED housing scheme'.

Aston, H., 2000. 'Project House 2000', Wates Built Homes.

Aston, H., 1999. 'Developer's Guide to Green Buildings'.

Conference Papers

Aston, H., 2019. 'PRAXXIS and the Feminist School of Architecture', The Unequal Architect Conference, Glasgow School of Architecture.

Boys, J., White, S., Aston, H., Partington, Z., 2017. ''Collaborating with disabled artists to 'do inclusion differently'', Architecture Connects AAE Conference, Oxford Brookes University, 6/9/2017 - 9/9/2017, in https://aaeconference2017.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/aae-2017-architecture-connects-proceedings_180706_low-res-online-sharing.pdf, pp. 408-413.

Sanderson, L., Aston, H., 2012. 'Atelier[zero] Negotiated Dialogues', The Production of Place, University of East London.

Aston, H., 2002. ''Future Sustainability Teaching and Learning'', Sustainability and Architectural Education Conference, RIBA, 6/9/2002 - 6/9/2002.

Aston, H., 2002. ''Red, Amber, Green: 75 Years of Communicating Sustainability'', Sustainable Urban Design Conference, Kingston University, 1/4/2002.

Aston, H., 2001. ''From Green Fingers to Green Goddess'', British Interwar Suburbs, Dorich House Symposium, Kingston University.

Aston, H., 2001. ''The Business Case for Sustainable Property'', Construction Confederation Annual Conference, Construction Confederation, London,.

Aston, H., 2001. ''Why green is the new pink or why architects wear black'', CUDE 2001 Conference, Cardiff University School of Architecture,, 7/7/2001.

Aston, H., 2000. ''Reacting to the Ground Force'', CUDE 2000 Conference, Sheffield University., CUDE 2000 Conference, Sheffield University., in The paper was published on the CEBE conference website.

Presentations

Aston, H. and Sanderson, L, 2012. 'Atelier[zero] Negotiated Dialogues', The Production of Place, 2012, University of East London School of Architecture, December 2012.

Aston, H., 2002. 'Future Sustainability Teaching and Learning', Sustainability and Architectural Education Conference, Royal Institute of British Architects, June 2002, in CEBE website.

Aston, H., 2002. 'Red, Amber, Green: 75 Years of Communicating Sustainability', Sustainable Urban Design Conference, Kingston University, February 2002.

Aston, H., 2001. 'From Green Fingers to Green Goddess', British Interwar Suburbs, Dorich House Symposium, Kingston University and Design Historians Society, May 2001.

Aston, H., 2001. 'The Business Case for Sustainable Property', Construction Confederation Annual Conference, Construction Confederation, London, March 2001.

Aston, H., 2001. 'Why green is the new pink or why architects wear black', CUDE 2001 Conference, Cardiff University, September 2001, in CEBE website.

Aston, H., 2000. 'Reacting to the Ground Force', CUDE 2000 Conference, Sheffield University, April 2000, in CEBE website.

Other Outputs

Aston, H., 2016. 'the architecture school for children', business modelling, funding stream development, knowledge exchange, designing, masterplanning and re-constructing the outdoor spaces of each school's playgrounds in collaboration with one manchester alongside the hub primary schools in Moss Side and Hulme.

Aston, H., 2003. 'the wider architectural forum'.

Aston, H., 2001. 'Sustainability Special Interest Group', Sustainability and Architectural Education.