Saturday, 27 November 2010

Northern Quarter: Britain's Best Neighbourhood?

Afflecks Palace. Image from the Manchester Evening News.

The Academy of Urbanism, a think-tank that aims to "extend urban discourse beyond built environment professionals", has awarded Manchester's Northern Quarter the Great Neighbourhood Award in the 2011 Urbanism Awards. At a ceremony in London the Academy, whose members include architects, planners, engineers, developers and designers, announced the Northern Quarter as the winner from an initial short-list that included Belfast's Cathedral Quarter and Glasgow's Pollokshields. The 450 Academicians who make up the organisation were asked to pick a winner from each category based on the results on an assessment visit to each location last summer. Key to the nomination and assessment method was how improved and enduring that urban environment is.

Speaking about the Awards John Thompson, Chairman of The Academy of Urbanism, said: "The Academy of Urbanism created these awards precisely to recognise places ... which have helped transform local quality of life through good design and planning ... the high standard and broad spread of nominees ... inspires confidence in the widespread community-led regeneration that continues to take place across the UK and Ireland." (The Press Release available here). Speaking to BBC Radio Manchester, Mr Thompson added that the Northern Quarter is "one of the most interesting places in the country."

The award has sparked a debate in the city and the country as a whole as to what exactly constitutes a great neighbourhood. Some critics have cited that the Academy, by its very nature of dealing with Urbanism' excludes certain communities however the response from Mr Thompson to this has been to define Urbanism as the "footprint we collectively leave on the planet." Comments on the Manchester Evening News article responding to the award were mixed but on the whole reaction from Mancunians has been positive

Manchester City Council's Pat Karney, speaking to the BBC, said he was "pleased as there's a real community feel to the place [and] the warmth of the people  that live and work [there] and the cluster of small business has created a very desirable neighbourhood."

Vaughn allen, chief executive of Cityco, Manchester's city centre, also speaking to the BBC was keen to point out how the Northern Quarter "has transformed itself and diversified, creating an eclectic mix of fashion designers, independent shops, bars, cafes and restaurants, creative agencies and private galleries."

However, Dave Haslam, author and DJ (he DJ'd over 450 times at the legendary Hacienda club) was quick to disagree as to him "a neighbourhood' should be a fertile, intriguing, comfortable mix." He went on to add that "it's increasingly become a spill-over from the Printworks in the evening and some of that arty bohemian thing was part of what made the area special is draining away ... the fact is you never see children in the Northern Quarter - or old people. I imagine a perfect neighbourhood to have a school of a nursery, a park, somewhere for old people to sit and watch the world go by, and so on."

What is clear here is that the term neighbourhood is a loaded one, with different meanings to different people depending upon their own personal experiences of the urban space that makes up their own past, present and visionary (future) neighbourhoods. Something which can not be denied has been the ability of the Northern Quarter to regenerate, re brand and reinvent itself without little private capital investment which has come to symbolise city-centre regeneration projects of the last 20 years.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Cornerhouse and Library Theatre to Share New Home

Cornerhouse Entrance (from Cornerhouse Website)

Two of Manchester's leading institutions for the visual arts have announced plans this week to share a purpose built facility in the City Centre. Cornerhouse is a centre for contemporary visual arts and film in Manchester, located on a prominent and busy site at the intersection of Oxford Street and Whitworth Street, with Oxford Road Station nestled in behind. The Manchester Library Theatre Company has, over the past 58 years, produced high quality seasons of drama, musical theatre and plays with a growing education programme in the basement of Manchester Central Library.

A new "major cultural facility" will become the home for both Cornerhouse and Library Theatre Company. The City Council hopes that the new £19 million purpose-built facility - boasting five cinemas, 600 sq m of contemporary gallery space, a 500-seat theatre and smaller studio/education spaces - will help "unlock" up to 10,000 jobs in a key regeneration area in Manchester city centre - The First Street development.

Dave Moutrey, the Cornerhouse Chief Exectuive, had this to say on his blog: "Clearly the arts do have real hard economic value and can make a very positive impact on people's lives so it is a credit to Manchester that public and private sectors recognise this and are still prepared to act." Whilst Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said: "These highly imaginative proposals will be a win-win for Manchester. They support existing jobs and will help attract others to this important gateway site. In the aftermath of the recession and facing unprecedented public sector cuts this is exactly the sort of scheme we need to get people into work, get our economy moving even faster, and show the world that Manchester is still an ambitious city still on the up."

Cornerhouse has drawn up a number of plans for expansion in recent years, most recently there was Arca's black rubber-clad box (2008) and David Chipperfield's reworking of the former Kinemacolour Palace cinema (1998). However, it appears that the constraints of the site and the current building have meant that a move to a new purpose-built facility, with the increased potential to expand its creative programme, is too attractive to turn down.Nothing has yet been announced about the redevelopment of the Cornerhouse's current home but occupying such a key site in the City Centre careful consideration should be given to programme this takes.

The Library Theatre, as part of the ongoing refurbishment work to Manchester Central Library (by Ryder Architecture), was investigating the potential of moving to the Theatre Royal in Peter Street (being worked on by Stephenson Bell) however these has been scrapped on cost grounds.

'Functional model and outline design concept'
by RHWL for developer of the site, Ask (from Architects Journal)

The new site, close to the former Hacienda club on Whitworth Street, could be open by 2014. An international design competition will be launched for the project which already has £16 million of financing ring fenced (as part of the Library Theatre relocation deal) and a further £3 million expected to come from third party contributions and future capital receipts.

Read the full 'Report for Resolution - First Street Cultural Facility' by Manchester City Council here.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

MSSA Talks: An Exploration of Timber Structures by Malcolm McGregor

MSSA Talks  - the new name for the Manchester Student Society of Architecture Lecture Series - hosted it's second event of the 2010-11 academic year on Thursday 18th November 2010 with an interesting and thought provoking presentation by Malcolm McGregor, a Director at London based Pringle Richards Sharratt (PRS). Entitled 'An Exploration of Timer Structures' Malcolm McGregor outlined how the practice's research into the structural and aesthetic qualities of timber in a range of building typologies - principally in the form of Cross Laminated Timbers (CLT).

The talk began with McGregor outlining his own personal experiences in the architectural industry which included an explanation of his architectural education at Bath University where he was schooled in principles of CIAM modernism and by Peter Smithson (during his Part 2). These rational, pragmatic influences could be seen in the later projects where he often referred to creating a 'modern' design. He also spent 8 years working in Germany after the fall of the wall, before joining PRS.

Sheffield Winter Garden. Image Copyright PRS

After setting up his own frame of view for the audience McGregor proceeded by talking about a number of 'failures' - projects he felt didn't adequately resolve the use of timber in either their design or construction - by the practice. These included the Westend Housing proposal for Berlin and the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford. The reasons given were wide ranging but were effectively due to cost and the perceived risk of timber structures during a fire. Shrewsbury Music School, the first CLT project built in the UK with an acoustically sealed and naturally ventilated performance space, and the Sheffield Millennium Galleries and Winter Garden were highlighted as the first non-failures. The Sheffield project in particular seemed to be highly successful in creating a new public space in the city, an aspiration the practice would appear to duplicate in later projects.

Interlaced with the projects McGregor referred back to several design processes and methods of inquiry used by either himself or the practice, including the important part a sketch plays in these processes as a tool for quick consultation and expanding ideas. He also touched on notions of prototyping, testing with both computer and built models, research and developing a critical position. The acknowledgement that certain projects are simply a reiteration of earlier design concepts, albeit refined with each iteration, was a refreshing statement for the students in the room to hear, as was the importance to understand the critical relationship between architecture and the client/funding institution.

TfL West Ham Bus Garage. Image Copyright PRS

The rest of the talk was devoted predominately to two projects - the TfL West Ham Bus Garage, London and Hull History Centre, Hull. The first project grew out of a need to relocate three bus garages from the Olympic site to a new, consolidated, location for 350 buses. A series of vaulted sheds form an "acoustic shield" to protect neighbouring residential properties from the busy (and often late running) operations of cleaning and managing buses. The vaulted forms are made possible by a structure of timber arches (laminated glulam beams on this occasion) that aimed to be everything an "a tin Ikea-like shed" isn't. A high level of natural light is allowed to permeate into the workshop spaces to improve the working environment. The environmental credentials of the scheme include a 100kW tall wind turbine , CHP, biomass, water harvesting, recycled aggregate in construction and a green roof to promote biodiversity have resulted in the site generating 27% of its energy demands through on-site renewables.

Hull History Centre, Hull. Image Copyright PRS

The Hull project saw the creation of an innovative new centre that holds the joint local studies archive of Hull City Council and Hull University. Resonating with the Sheffield project the practice sought to create a new public route through the city that became a "public court" under an ETFE promenade. The project marked a shift for the practice in that the timber structure was manufactured locally, by Kingston Craft Centre, whereas previous projects have used German/Austrian/Swiss firms. A striking and challenging design, that posed some issues for the manufactures who were not equipped with CNC equipment of their European counterparts, has been excellently detailed and the final solution offers a facility "the envy of archivists everywhere" (in the words of Dan Snow, historian and broadcaster).

In summary the talk offered a fascinating insight into how the practice has worked to provide "harmony in timber" to deliver their beliefs in an architecture that is "modern, elegant and sustainable."

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Year Out Diary: Part 4


Finding work is difficult at the best of times, but what does one do when the work needed to progress is unavailable, and to work outside of the field doesn’t aid your career path significantly. Of all the architectural students that graduated with me in the summer, very few have found themselves work in an architect’s office. Several have chosen that the profession is no longer suited for them, others are taking time out to decide, not worrying about the need for a job, but several are stuck in an endless trap.

Unable to progress with what they want students have to succumb to pressure and delve in to other jobs as a necessity. These jobs will offer support and a means to an end, but are simply an extension to the waiting.

All through university you are paying to design, with guidance. Part 1 sees a student arrive at a notable level of maturity, sufficient enough to work in the professional environment, still with guidance. Ascertaining the degree enforces the conclusion that we are capable of designing, however lack the knowledge to transition to a built form. This all means that although we are unable to be independent architects, we can still practice and design architecture.

Luke Tyson, a student at the MSA, has found himself in this predicament that is the architectural professions sever lack of positions. Instead of retreating from the battle of finding work, he worked out a way around it. With the help of old tutors and a generous amount of people plans have been laid out for a new architectural community to be set up in the heart of Manchester.

Stepping away from the typical business environment of an architect’s office, Y4 plans to offer Part 1 students the opportunity to gain the relevant year out experience needed to progress in a cooperative work scheme. Competitions will be the main focus, but the workshop-based group will be able to decide what it is they want to design. They will be practicing architecture in a modern adaptable system. Unpaid means the project will be self sufficient, contributors just work the 20hrs needed a week over a few days, leaving the rest of the work for paid work.

The fact that something like this is able to happen only helps to support the importance of adaptability and elevates the study of architecture to a new area of ethics.

The scheme is still being finalized, however Luke has begun to run a blog for the project. Job vacancies, competitions and other news will be posted on the site. If you are interested in the scheme Luke can be contacted at Any support available will go a long way.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Part 1 Year Out: Diary Entry 3


Finding a year out placement is proving to be more difficult that first envisaged. Practices seek to interview potential employees, but then wait until the work is in, providing them with a wide variety of choice, but leaving prospective students waiting indefinitely. I have attended countless interviews, only to return home having no idea when a decision might be made. This problem isn’t that of the companies, more just the bad luck current architectural student’s have in graduating into a difficult period. The practices themselves cannot afford to risk the employment of people without security of work and pay. So we simply have to persevere and wait until the time is right.

What is one to do? Knowing that work is not readily available we have to adapt to the current environment. If nothing is happening, make it. Look to competitions online for student entries, use your knowledge of the architectural field and branch out. Employer’s look for people who have expanded out of their original limits, and ventured further a field to different areas of work that still relate to the profession. Design is a humungous area, with architecture just a small percentage. Graphic design is heavily apparent in Architecture, working with that will only benefit you.

RIBA have adjusted their guidelines to allow for the disposition we find ourselves in. Although an architectural placement is preferred, you can branch out while staying under the bracket of year out experience. Work on a construction site is allowed, as is work in a planning office. If you are thinking of working in these areas double check with whomever you are doing your PEDR with, as they have the final say.

Through the contact of a friend and a boredom of no success, I managed to get work as an intern at an international architectural magazine down in London. Unpaid, and only a sofa promised for a short period, I decided to move down simply to escape the trap of finding work in an environment of little work. 3 days a week, 10 – 6, the job was different to say the least. Although an architect’s magazine, the work was far from it.

Publishing is an interesting profession. The experience I gained while there was more than useful. It wasn’t architectural, rather administrative work. Except architect’s work in that environment, to be able to fit right in at a company is tremendously beneficial. I also learnt that just asking can get you along way. So much is available to those who ask. What I received always varied, but it still was something. It showed me that you can achieve anything at any scale; you just have to be in the right place at the right time.

I have now got a job, at a new practice in Manchester. I start soon, and although I am glad to be out of the internship and London, it was still a critical tipping point to my architectural career. The people I met, and the contacts made will always be available to me. I also would never have got this job if I hadn’t been down there. Finding work is difficult, and the unknowing prospects of it are a pain to deal with it, but learn to turn it on its head and use that spare time to accomplish other things.

by Jack Penford Baker

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Outstanding Research at MARC

Dr Albena Yaneva of the Manchester Architecture Research Centre (MARC) and the Manchester School of Architecture (MSA) has been awarded the RIBA President’s Award for Outstanding University-located Research for her work An Ethnography of Architecture.

The judges said: "This type of sociological and anthropological research into design practice is significant for architecture, adding a new perspective to the way we understand architectural processes. The two books are enjoyable to read, linking through hypertextual narratives an impressive quantity of historical information and technical data, stories and anecdotes, theoretical research and empirical observations."

Dr Yaneva describes her work as being “intrinsically transdisciplinary” crossing “the boundaries of science studies, cognitive anthropology, architectural theory and political philosophy.” Her current research projects are Moving Networks: Architectural Tools for Tracing the Social and The Architectural Presentation: Techniques and Politics. Her work also includes the Mapping Architectural Controversies project. The two books that formed part of the research output by Dr Yaneva, “Made by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture” and “The Making of a Building: A Pragmatist Approach to Architecture” were both published in 2009 and are available for purchase.

Dr Ralf Brand, also of MARC and MSA, was also short listed for the same award for the project “The Urban Environment – Mirror and mediator of Radicalisation?”

For full details of the RIBA awards read the full press release here.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Look Up Manchester has been nominated. The kind folks over at Manchester Blog Awards have released the short list to this year’s awards, and we have been put up in the “Best City and Neighborhood Blog” category.

We are up against 4 other brilliant blogs; Manchester Daily Photo, Love Levenshulme, In a Town So Small and Parklover. All are fantastic blogs that post mesmerising articles to do with the great city of Manchester.

You can vote for your favorite, and all other categories, at . Winners will be announced on the 20th of October at Manchester’s Deaf Institute. So please vote for us.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Manchester This Week

Week commencing the 27th of September.

Look Up Manchester seeks to relay architectural news to the masses, but things are to change. We will set ourselves free from the containment of architecture and look to bring you the news of design and architecture in and around architecture. As with the likes of Zaha Hadid and her fashion orientated designs, or even Mies Van Der Rohe’s Barcelona chair, architects have always sat themselves right in the middle of the world of design, it only felt natural for us to do the same.

This week see’s 2 events in Manchester capitalising on the ever growing art and design culture scene. First is the opening of a new exhibition in the EASA HQ named 36 EXP. The second is a retrospective look at Puma’s design history, cleverly housed in a single van that transformers into an outdoor showroom.

36 EXP describes itself as a photographic exhibition involving 36 artists and 36 contact sheets. Taking the original properties of an original film that takes 36 exposures, artists were invited to submit their personal response to an entire film of photographs. The step back to older techniques offered the entrants to mix an amalgamation of modern ideas with old process.

The work on show expresses a missed art, the softness of old film is heavily underestimated in todays digitally centered world. Film’s use is decaying more as each day passes, cinemas are beginning to retract 35mm projectors in favour of modern digital projectors, and the art of the projectionist is almost extinct. 36 EXP will hopefully show the contrast of film to the sharp unnatural digital alternative through the artists’s carefully created exhibits.

The exhibition opens on the 30th of September at 6:30pm till 9:00pm and looks to be an interesting display of photographs. Find out more at

PUMA are currently in Manchester with their REWIND FORWARD van. The scheme looks to showcase an archive of designs in a contemporary way. Once in location the van disassembles then reassembles as a multifunctional “Pop-Out” shop. Included within the space once erected are seating, storage and TV screens. Music is to be played to passers by and there will also be a chance to win archive products of Puma.

The van will be present at the NCP on Bloom Street between the 28th and 29th of September. Find out more at

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Sheppard Robson's Design For Manchester Eye Hospital

Image courtesy of Sheppard Robson

Images have just emerged for the design of an extension and refurbishment to Manchester's Eye Hospital, situated on Oxford Road. The design looks to link the current grade 2 listed building with a new contemporary structure directly behind, the two will then be joined by a large glass atrium.

The £21million project generates are beautifully crafted facade which takes elements of the old victorian hospital brickwork, and works it in to a matching stencil detailing. The new build looks to revolve around a centre for bio-medical research, which includes laboratory space, offices, cliniacal testing wards, teaching facilities and other specialist space. 100,00 sq ft in total will be added to eye hospital.
Image Courtesy of Sheppard Robson

The design follows a recent flurry of new builds within the oxford road health campus. Recently St Mary's hospital was demolished to reveal the recently built children's hospital, and current ground works are taking place.

Overall Sheppard Robson's design works well as a modern approach to a traditional style, helping to keep to the Mancunian masonry style, but with a modernist twist.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Next Step

Only a crisis can bring change, and we are not in a crisis, yet.

The green way of life has been present for decades. An imminent and possibly devastating problem sits on our horizon. We are all aware of it, we discuss it daily, money is poured into it, and endless hypothetical solutions are devised, except we are still the same. We have become comfortable and carefree. Of course our society is changing, and companies worldwide are parading their green credentials, and a fight against carbon emissions. We all recycle, some of us grow our own food, and the odd house is decorated in solar panels, a step in the direction, yes, but still no overall change. 40 years ago recycling wasn’t popular, and companies hadn’t heard of climate change, but 40 years ago not everyone regularly flew abroad, or owned electronics made 1,000s of miles away, nor did they buy fruit from the other side of the world. We have a problem in ourselves that needs to be addressed before we can progress, a problem of sustainability.

Our definition of the word has become tainted, we see it as a direct approach to climate change not as a way of life. At the root of being sustainable is following the rule that one must meet it’s needs without effecting the needs and resources of future generations. Climate change is one element in a much larger equation of being sustainable. A relationship needs to be generated that enforces the present with a respect for the future, only then can we achieve targets, and successfully stop climate change.

Carbon neutrality is the final goal, but not a means to achieve it, that is done by carbon negative. To only achieve neutrality is to only care about the present, disregarding the past and what effects we did create. Take for example government targets for all new houses to be carbon neutral from 2016, then overlay the fact that at current rates 0.8% of homes are new builds a year, thus equating to 125 years to replace just the homes we currently have with carbon neutral ones. How is it that carbon neutrality can be sold as a positive change? The change needs to happen to those new builds and existing ones. The adaptation of the old and the negative carbon of the new will help us achieve neutrality more efficiently, benefitting the present whilst repairing the past’s damage for a sustainable future.

We face a drastic change, but that change needs to occur in order for us to become sustainable, but how can we change a society comfortable with the way they are. Ideas and schemes need to accommodate for the majority’s reservation against change and help to develop achievable and practical solutions to our non-sustainable way of life.

Below is a scheme I generated with the help of Manchester City Council’s data on their green spaces spread across the city. It looks at taking the next step towards sustainable life, focusing on food production. In no way is it groundbreaking or revolutionary, rather a little more of something that has been around for over a thousand years. Food production in the UK only meets 2/3s of our demand. We therefore import from other countries at an economic and carbon cost. Why don’t we become a sustainable food producing country? If we were to generate all the food we needed, in a sustainable manner, the current costs would be eradicated and food would become cheaper.

Allotments: the next step. We have them already, they are in demand, they cost little to both maintain and use, and they generate ample food. My scheme simply expands the amount of allotments present in Manchester. By occupying 2/3s of the Green space in Manchester an annual saving of £1,809,392 is made, plus the rental cost of provides the council with a substantial financial reason to do so. As for the residents of Manchester they receive the benefit of cheap food for themselves, and an opportunity to trade with others to generate extra income. All round the scheme works, makes sense economically, and is an achievable next step towards a sustainable country.

If you have nay further questions about my work or this scheme in particular feel free to contact me at

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Part 1 Year Out: Diary Entry 2


Occasional articles refer to a practice I am yet to contact, I immediately write an email, attach my CV, send, and then wait. The quick rush and thought of an opportunity is almost simultaneously diminished as I return to waiting for any reply that may come my way.

Degree is finished, amazingly gained a first, something yet to reveal it’s true benefit, still to graduate, and undoubtedly waiting. I have countless lists of architects, ones for Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Scotland, London, and all others. The lists contain contact details for each one, and the current status. The lists probably amount to around 250 practices, each one has a flurried “sent” written next to their name, reminding me that I have contacted them. The lists fill my desktop and as I sit waiting emails begin to come through. Although the majority of them are straightforward “ Thank you for sending your CV, unfortunately…” they are still replies none the less, and may qualms about the existence of architects are resolved.

Something that people keep asking me is whether the perpetual rejection is demoralising, the answer; no. I’ve always known that finding a job would be hard and all I can do is carry on searching. So as replies trickle in to my email box I simply acknowledge them, happy for the polite reply, briefly seeing a secretary’s name, or sometimes a directors and updating their status on one of my many lists. All you can do is try,

The most frustrating part of job searching process isn’t the waiting, or in fact the rejection, it’s the not knowing. I resorted to moving back in with my parents, as it seemed the most financially sensible option, and pursued my life in Leeds. I do not mind the return to my old pre-university life, rather if someone could just tell me what my future beholds. It could be that in a weeks time I get offered an interview, then a job and suddenly find myself living in London. Where I live, or the practice, I don’t mind just someone please tell me.

Out of nowhere I received a phone call from a firm, inviting me down for an interview. At last an opportunity. However the date they wished to see me I couldn’t make and the lady on the phone politely said she would call me the next day with a new date. Looking back I should have taken the original set day then and there, but I asked to change it, and again I started to wait. She didn’t call back the next day, or in fact the day after that, nor the next. I tried calling her but she wasn’t in. I began to give up, but thankfully at 5:30pm on a Friday she rang. She apologised and set about arranging a new date.

The date set was my graduation, and the day before I went on a 2 week holiday. But I couldn’t say no again. I attended my graduation ceremony, threw my mortarboard and then jumped on a train to Birmingham. Arrived in a city I had only ever driven past, and entered the Bullring immediately outside the station. Thankfully the practice was situated near by and their rather prominent logo helped me to discover their office.

The interview went well, I think. They spoke, I spoke. We casually discussed each other’s approaches to architecture, what we were interested in, and was finally given a tour of their practice. They said they would let me know once I returned from my holiday. When asked how it went, as I returned back home, I replied; “Really well”. The truth is I don’t know, it was my first, I have no precedent to go against, and I received no feedback. I guess all I can do is, well wait.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Part 1 year Out Diary: Entry 1

The exact date of when i finished my first degree has already escaped my head, or perhaps it wasn't there in the first place, the countless deadlined accumilating in a final exhibition has managed to remove my sense of time, and the unknown factor of each submission confuses me as to when my degree actually did terminate, all I know is that it now has.
The degree show 2 weeks away is something of a full stop to my 3 years at manchester School of Architecture, climaxing in what I hope to be employment. 2 weeks of no deadlines, 2 weeks of freedom, possibly. Or 2 weeks to make a head start on my future career. Although is it a head start? I endlessly asked myself and those around me when to start applying for Part 1 jobs. Christmas, Easter, just before portfolio submission, or once deadlines are finished. The answer I still don't know. In hindsight maybe at Easter, or just after, but then you don't have al your finished, and probably best, work, an essential section of one's CV. In reality there is no correct time to begin the search, just be aware of when it's best for you, as the added pressure of employment amidst final year deadlines can be a lot to handle.
I decided after the Synoptic. All work was finished and I could spend my time solely on my future. The CV was the first on the list. I already had one of sorts, although it included my year 6 SAT's results, and my previous employment looked to promote my 3 year stint as a paperboy, something practices aren't particularly looking for. A new CV was needed. The design was first. Architecture is design, if you can design a building to the most precise detail, but your CV was done on Microsoft Word and uses Comic Sans as a font, the bin will be where it will reside. M
y design is coherent with with my portfolio work and follows a simple hierarchy layout designed on InDesign. As for the content this is where you have to strict, concise and ruthless. My cousin, who is coincidentally an architect, has seen countless CVs come through her office. She quickly scans the pages before making a decision in a matter of seconds. The document is a foot in the door, keep it simple and to the point, don't be afraid to not include previous jobs if they bare no relation to architecture, but remember you can always bring it up in an interview, where they make a decision about you.
The CV was finished, and now the task of applying. Unsurprisingly there aren't many jobs at the moment. About 7 appear on both the RIBA Appointments site and BD Online Jobs section. In my searches I have come across several other advertised positions, but they appeared directly on their own site. So the next thing to do is send your CV with a covering letter to whoever you can find, and now is not the time to be picky. A job is better than no job and the type and location of firm should be irrelevant. As for how to contact the practices I used various ways.
Firstly firms that I knew of, and of whom I particularly liked their work, I sent hardcopies with individual covering letters. This is expensive however. Roughly costing £2 per copy (including postage). The rest I sent by email. Something I don't particularly like to have done but time and money is of the essence. As for who to contact you have to utilise the available information from journals/ articles/ magazines. Always use RIBA's "find an architect" here you can search all cities for chartered architects. Contact information is provided and is probably the best source. However when you begin to search London the list explodes and another source has to be found. Here I turned to the AJ. It's newstream gives a vast source of architects that have recently won competitions or schemes, meaning they have work and now maybe the time to send a CV. The site also has the AJ100, a list of 100 architects with the greatest turnover last year Back. Other sources are those featured in awards and nominations, and by all means ask people you know, a personal attachment is unbelievably useful.
To the End of Year Show. In previous years it is where local architects would come and traditionally leave their business card on the work of which they liked most, with the opportunity of a job at the end. Times however have changed and very few are present at my year's show. BDP being the exception, they lay a few cards out on people's work and are planning on hiring 6 people this year. The night ends and although a great send off, and joyful night, a job is no closer than before. Proving that the CV and personal correspondence is the most beneficial. All I can do now is wait.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The Future

LOOKUP Manchester has just entered it's second year of existence, miraculously the blog has excelled beyond what I ever thought it could. With a little help from fellow students and a city full of architecture it has managed to position itself in the blogging culture, both nationally and internationally.

Most readers of the blog are occasional internet trawlers looking for specifics on architectural news. However there are a few loyal followers out there, and this year I hope for that group to expand. Our team looks to grow, already new members are appearing and anymore who wish to get involved need but contact me.

I have just finished my 3rd year, and successfully graduated with a BA Arch degree. Resulting in my future being uncertain. Currently on the prowl for any available architecture work, I have come to realise a missing tangent of an architecture degree. What is a Year Out? As much as the 7 year course is profoundly unified and the initial transition between architectural university life and architectural practicing life seems rather abrupt and significantly different, especially the initial months. Therefore I plan to document my 1st year out as a RIBA Part 1 Student right here on this blog. Hopefully it will be a useful tool for those in my position and for the future students whom find themselves initially unsure by their future.

As it currently stands I am yet to find work, something I never hoped for but an inevitability I was expecting. However all is not lost and I still believe employment is achievable. I plan to write an entry every 2 weeks portraying my experiences in the real world.

by Jack Penford Baker

Thursday, 17 June 2010

3rd Year MSA Student's Exhibition

Opening this friday, the 18th of June 2010, is Manchester School of Architecture's 3rd Year Degree Show. The work on show summarises a year long project that each student has completed. The exhibition opens at 6:00pm in the Chatham building on the MMU All Saints Campus.
Jack Stewart's Work

The Exhibition is spread over 2 floors and contains student work from each of the 5 units currently taught in third year. Each unit is devised by groups of tutors, and then picked by the students at the start of the year. SYNC offers a look to the future of sustainability, structures evolve from nature, resulting in new and innovative forms. Continuity in Architecture, run by Sally Stone, is the child of the BA Unit by the same name. Here history and context stand as the biggest influence in the student's designs. U + L expands the student's approach to possibility, realising schemes that look to drastically change the built environment with influences from today's society.
Jack Penford Baker's Work

Other units in the show include Emerging Topographies and Making Public Space, help to cement the MSA's position at the forefront of future architecture. The exhibition itself is a great opportunity for younger years to get a feel for the units taught, and a chance for the BA students to see what their future competition are producing.
Last Years Exhibition

Although a public exhibition, the main purpose is for architect firms to see the work on show and hopefully decide to employ the majority. Times are difficult at the moment thus making this exhibition a crucial event for prospectus employees and employers.
Ben Hale's Work

The show opens at 6:00pm this friday, and will be open till the following wednesday. I urge people to take a look at whats on show and spread the word about the future of architecture.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Feilden Clegg And Bradley's Observatory Gets The Green Light

Feilden Clegg and Bradley presence in the north of england has exploded over the past few years. They seem to be first choice for universities, which is unsurprising as Broadcasting Place, which they designed for Leeds Metropolitan University, recently won a regional RIBA award. Other projects in and around Manchester include the new Business School and an extension to Chatham, neighbouring MMU buildings.

News appeared in the month of march about a new visitor centre designed by FCB at the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire. The design looks to create a new tourist hotspot in the countryside. Already a world famous observatory, the visitor centre hopes to generate £26 million over the next decade in the area. Initial funding has now been granted by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and the Northwest European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), a further £600,000 has been added by the University Of Manchester. Now that funding is secured work plans to start immediately, and is pencilled in for a 2011 finish.
A relatively minimal design with regards to the complex mechanical radar dishes in the vicinity, but overall a complimenting idea. FCB presence in the UK is becoming a formidable force, a welcoming sight as their quality and fresh designs help to elevate architecture in the country.

all images copyright of Feilden Clegg and Bradley

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Can Aesthetics Improve Social Disorder

Approach From Chorlton Road - Image Copyright of 2e

News has just arrived that Manchester based 2E architects have landed the job of re-cladding 4 existing residential tower blocks on Chorlton Road, at the edge of Mancunian Way. The designs look to clad 3 in a dark chocolate terracotta on 3 facades and a rust proof metal facia on the last facade. The other tower, St Georges, smaller in size, will be cladding with a much lighter shade of terracotta on all four sides. The designs bring a refreshing look to the rather dated and typical looking tower blocks.

St Georges Tower Design, Image Copyright to 2e

As much as this news offers a face lift to a centralised area of Manchester, it brings the question of whether it is suitable. Tower blocks sprung up throughout the UK post World War 2 as an idealistic view on future living. Terrace housing was replaced with cities in the sky. People flocked to the new builds and a time of prosperity blossomed. 20 years later and deterioration began to appear. A lot of occupants left for a better life in houses where the concrete corridors were replaced for a traditional house with a garden of their own. The buildings slowly gained a bad reputation and their presence in modern society has begun to be questioned.

Society has changed, the ideas behind tower blocks have become outdated and a different approach to mass residential living is needed. Or perhaps there is no problem, maybe a a building's physical existence has direct correlation to the bad reputation. Maybe 2E's facelift will give the towers the change they have needed. A building's visual appearance overweighs that of it's function with regards to public opinion. Tower blocks used to flourish, so why can't they now?

Hopefully the design will work and become a precedent for all future council's to look at before they jump to demolition. It certainly offers a more sustainable approach to buildings. Why demolish and rebuild, when you can improve what is already there.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Reflective Room

The Courtyard Project is a collaborative project involving The Manchester Museum and 5th Year Architecture students from the Re_Map and Prototype studio units at Manchester School of Architecture.

A competition invited the students to design an environment within the Courtyard space at The Manchester Museum to align with the summer programme and exhibitions. A shortlist of five proposals were selected and developed further, a summary of which will be exhibited at the Museum from March 2010.

The Museum have selected Reflective Room to be taken forward and the project will be constructed in the Courtyard in June 2010. The student design team from the Prototype unit is led by Matthew Mills and will be assisted by unit tutors Nick Tyson and Ming Chung, along with Neil Thomas of Atelier One.

The Reflective Room will be fabricated and assembled by all students involved in the project in collaboration with technical assistance from Manchester Metropolitan University, The University of Manchester and The Manchester Museum.

Follow the progress of the project here:

Monday, 17 May 2010

£1 Billion Manchester City Expansion Proposed

image copyright of Neil Sowerby

Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour plans for a £1 Billion expansion to the current stadium. The plans look to incorporate new leisure facilities whilst a new training facility will also be included. It is believed that New York based Rafael Vinoly has been appointed as the chief architect, however early reports suggested that Manchester based BDP are also involved, as to what level it is unknown.
image copyright to Emily Zoladz | The Grand Rapids Press
Perhaps the most intriguing part to this development is that the development will be connected to the current regeneration of Ancoats next door. Now known as New Islington the area has rapidly grown in the past decade, however there are still a vast amount of vacant properties, around 14%. This news may boost the desirability of the area, and draw in the much needed occupants.

No designs have been revealed and are unlikely to for sometime, but the once chosen site for a super casino may now get it's americanised leisure complex it once lost out on. However it's acceptance by the public is yet to be heard, and an interesting debate will surely unfold in the coming months, and indeed years.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

MADF 2010

Last year saw MADF emerge from a desire to elevate architecture and design within the urban fabric. Groups from all parts of the architectural spectrum collaborated to help achieve the final product, a month long festival. CUBE gallery offered up their space and time as a platform for several events, including the Travel Awards. Manchester School of Architecture ran month long workshops under the title “Event Month” that resulted in a final exhibition at the close of the festival. The Manchester Society of Architects provided an exhibition of their awards that focus on congratulating the fantastic architecture that is pouring out of the city. With countless workshops and lectures from architects all of the country, MADF 2009 was the start of something spectacular.
MADF 2010 sees it’s events list boom after the success of last year. 34 events have so far been finalised, ranging from lectures like BDP’s David Ritter‘s Sustainable Design Futures where he looks at their first year inhabiting a “green” office building, to Architruk – RIBA North West’s mobile exhibition pavilion that will park up all over the city centre. Workshops and tours have also been organised, such as John Sutcliffe’s tour of Stockport and Murat Tabanliogu's Complex City – Instanbul workshop. Whatever your interest in architecture there is something available for you.
Perhaps one of the most substantial events of the festival is that of the MSA Student Travel Awards, that are to be held on Tuesday the 27th of April at 18.30 at CUBE. The event is free and looks to be an interesting night with the previous years winners presenting where their awards took them, and this years winners being announced, but to round the brilliant night off RIBA President Ruth Reed will be presenting the awards. Her presence cements the importance of student involvement in the world of architecture and emulate the benefit that traveling has on a students development in the field.

Manchester School of Architecture again this year will be running Event Month as part of MADF. Undergraduate Architecture Students from first and second year choose a workshop to take part in, which this year are created and run by BA Architecture Students at the MSA, and after a month will have their work exhibited at the closing event of MADF 2010. The workshops cover a vast spectrum of architectural styles and theory, ranging from Google Street-(Re_)-View push to map and fill in the gaps left by our virtual relationship with reality, to Biomimecry: Learning from the Eden Project, where students will not only attend a lecture by a current Grimshaw Architect, but also visit and see the Eden Project in real life, accumulating in a project influenced by the building to be displayed at the final exhibition, to be held from the 13th to the 15th of May.

Overall this year’s MADF looks to be a significant event on the architectural calendar in the UK. The collaboration between all sectors of Architecture have helped to produce an architectural festival by everyone, for everyone.

Information on all events can be found at MADF 2010’s website:

All images property of MADF