THE EXCHANGE: Manchester's Feminist School of Intercultural Communication

Situated in the heart of an ethnically diverse city, my project seeks to build cultural bridges of understanding, allowing citizens to overcome their ethnocentrism and cherish the plurality of voices. Borrowing on Tania Bruguera’s School of Integration for the MIF 2019, my school reinforces that communication and learning are two-way streets. ‘Others’ do not know less than us, we simply know different things and the more we exchange our knowledge, the richer our understandings of people and society become, leading to more inclusive and equitable spaces.

The Exchange provides the backdrop for intercultural learning to occur whether formally or informally. The school questions who a teacher or student can be. The answer? Everyone. A range of adaptable learning spaces are offered to suit user needs and the curriculum is limited only by the talents, knowledge, and skills that the people of Manchester have to offer. These spaces open onto a public display of learning to widen the reach of the school, further expanding the cultural exchange taking place and creating a shared Mancunian culture.

Feminist theories are interwoven throughout the design to create inclusive spaces that reflect the diversity of people they seek to accommodate. These include accessible design, safety, intuitive wayfinding and provision of spaces of varying intimacy levels for different types of intercultural communication to occur. Architecturally, the scheme can only provide the stimulus for communication to take place and does so through curating a multi-sensory public learning experience.

Respecting the sensitive nature of the Pankhurst Centre was addressed through the provision of an accessible sunken reflection garden, an oasis within the bustling city, to pay homage to Emmeline Pankhurst. Overall, the design strategy was dictated by passive environmental design and increasing the social and community value of the space.