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 between 1997 and 2020.


Helen joined the MSA as an Associate Lecturer in 2005 and 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 co-led BA3 until 2020. She is currently the Architecture Departmental Education Lead and has recently joined the RIBA NW EDI committee. 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 (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 the M.Arch admissions for the school.


In 2017, Helen challenged the school to allow a specifically feminist research group and atelier to be developed and she set up PRAXXIS a feminist architectural research collective with Emily Crompton, Sarah Renshaw and Kat Timmins. PRAXXIS has built a consultation station, four gossip spaces at a school in Trafford, created some feminist architectural wallpaper and is planning to manufacture some Engagement Top Trumps. This led to the launch of PRAXXIS, a feminist atelier in both BA3 and the M.Arch in 2018. PRAXXIS is an explicitly feminist teaching atelier aiming to stimulate a positive intersectional feminist debate within the school.


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 consistently 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).


Between 1997 and 2020 she also ran a small architectural practice iballastonarchitecture, formed in order to draw on and develop creative 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 provided a working platform for the development of socially driven ideas and principles, undertook innovative consultation and participative design approaches, developed a series of design games for all client age groups and helped others to build. On a personal level Helen and Ben undertook a self-build project to build a micro-house in Appledore, North Devon using cement SIPS panels.

She is currently co-convener of the multidisciplinary conference and research network ‘How Women Build?’ (https://www.msa.ac.uk/howwomenbuild/), which is supported by the Women’s History Network and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

Prizes and awards

RIBA Ethel Day Award // July 2018 

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

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

blackpool travellers play space

The project began with a number of engagement events building up relationships with the community and understanding what their needs and desires were. While the initial commission was for a playground, the proposals have developed into a coherent set of interventions to change the perception of all the existing community facilities on the site, which are little used. The current play area is nicknamed “the compound” by the local children and this play-structure along with decorative and landscape interventions around the site are intended to make both external and internal communal areas into personalised playscapes for the residents’ children. Due to the nature of such sites the equipment has to be designed to stimulate the imaginations and movements of a full range of ages and the design team has attempted to fold in as many playful allusions as possible into the form and detail of the construction: caves, forts, shipwrecks, merry-go-rounds, water-falls and
a ‘wall of death’.

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

Conference organisation

'How Women Build?' 2020 (postponed to June/Sept 2021) https://www.msa.ac.uk/howwomenbuild/

Grants

2019 Paul Mellon Centre Event Support Grant for the Conference ‘How Women Build?’ £2900 (PI)

2019 Women’s History Network Conference Grant for the Conference ‘How Women Build?’ £500 (Co-I)

2019 MSARC £2500 plus matched funding £2500 from Stretfrod Grammar School for Stretford Builds... a series of gossip pavilions at Stretford Grammar School (Project Leader)

2016 Arts Council £20,000 plus £5000 match funding from St Mary's Primary School for St Mary's Phase 2 playground build (Co-Leader in collaboration with TASC)

2015 Arts Council £40,000 for St Mary's Phase 1 playground build (Co-Leader in collaboration with TASC) and the Travellers Playground in Blackpool (Co-Leader in collaboration with TASC) and (Co_leader in collaboration with Stefan White)

2014 Arts Council £15,000 plus £10,000 Primary School matched funding from all schools involved for Den City and Living Here Living There exhibitions, builds and participative workshops (Co-Leader in collaboration with TASC)

2013 St Ambrose Barlow Installation Hope and Promise £1000 from School for materials for the installation

2012 £125,000 Arts Council and £2000 Ideas Foundation for Atelier Zero (Co-Leader in collaboration with Tom Jefferies, Laura Sanderson and OSA) 

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., iballastonarchitecture, 2019. 'H7 a micro house in Appledore', Appledore, North Devon.

Aston, H., Renshaw, S., 2019. 'Stretford Builds... a series of gossip pavilions at Stretford Grammar School', Stretford Grammar School.

Aston, H., Renshaw, S., Crompton, E., 2018. 'A Great Knowledge Give Away: 100 feminist architectural texts for International Women's Day 2018', Manchester School of Architecture.

Aston, H., Timmins, K., 2017. 'Feminist Architectural Wallpaper', Praxxis.

Aston, H., McCusker, S., 2017. 'Stretford Streetscapes 2017 Pop-Up Shop and Participative Design Event at Stretford Public Hall', Stretford Public Hall, Stretford, M32 0LG.

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, Phase 2', St Mary's Primary School, Moss Side Manchester.

Aston, H., McCusker, S., 2016. 'Stretford Streetscapes 2016, Pop-Up Shop and participative design community engagement event at Stretford Mall', Stretford Mall, 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., White, S., 2014. 'Sharing the City', Noiselab Gallery, Manchester.

Aston, H., White, S., 2014. 'Sharing the City Pop-Up Shop', Trafford Centre, Manchester.

Aston, H., 2013. 'Installation Hope and Promise.', 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., iballastonarchitecture, 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.

Books

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

Reports

Aston, H., 2020. 'Can community engaged research in architectural education influence citizenship?'.

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'.

Journal Articles

Aston, H., Crompton, E., Renshaw, S., Timmins, K., 2020. 'PRAXXIS: Always Personal, Always Political, Always Pedagogical', Journal of Architectural Education, 74 (2).

Conference Papers

Aston, H., 2021. 'Feminisms Conversations: feminist way of exploring vertical dialogues across the intersectional issues of class, race, sexual orientation, age, disability and gender.', ACTION. Feminisms and the spatialization of resistances. Lisbon (online), Lisbon, Portigal, 21/4/2021 - 23/4/2021.

Aston, H., 2019. 'High Street as Host', ESRC Festival of Social Science, 2019. A nationwide celebration of social sciences., MMU, 7/11/2019.

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

Aston, H., Crompton, E., 2019. 'PRAXXIS: A Feminist Design Atelier', Fielding Architecture: Feminist Practices for a Decolonised Pedagogy, Brighton School of Architecture, Brighton University, 24/6/2019 - 25/6/2019.

Aston, H., 2019. 'PRAXXIS: an inclusive approach', Liveable City, Mayfield Station, Manchester, 18/11/2019 - 20/11/2019.

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., Renshaw, S., 2021. 'All these things Praxxis // a conversation', SHEBUILD #2 series of online talks with Urbanistas NorthWest.

Crompton, E., Aston, H., Valentine, K., Guerbet, S., 2020. 'Does Architecture Make You Anxious?', Manchester Lecture Theatre, All Saints Building.

Aston, H., 2020. 'The F Word: a celebration of a feminist inclusive approach.', Women In Planning IWD 2020 Event, Manchester.

Aston, H., 2020. 'These feminist things...', An interdisciplinary Network of Events celebrating all things feminist, all things women and policy for Baby Week across Manchester, Leeds and Bradford.

Whittow-Williams, R., 2019. ''Archi-culture': Exploring (innovations in) contemporary studio culture', Westminster School of Architecture, Westminster University.

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.

Posters

Aston, H., Crompton, E., 2019. 'PRAXXIS: Always Personal, Always Political', European Association of Architectural Educators Annual Conference 2019, Antwerp.

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.