Using our Photographic Studio

As many of you are now aware this year we have been able to open our own photographic studio for you to document your work before it leaves the building. So far this has proved a great success and the studio is seeing constant use as the academic year nears its end.

Andra Calin (4)

We currently do not have a booking system in place for the facility and would like to keep it this way to make life easier for people needed to drop by unannounced. In order to keep things the way they are we would like to ask you to follow these simple rules:

Please only use the studio to document your work and not for modelmaking. We are trying to maintain a clean environment for model display here. Any assembly or processes should remain strictly in the workshop space.

Please do not move or touch any work being stored in the room as this is either current project work or part of the University Heritage collection dating back nearly 45 years.

Please do not congregate in groups in the studio as their is little free space in the room and the potential for damage of work is fairly high. 

Once you are finished using the facility please let one of us know so we can ensure it is locked and tidy.

And that is it!

Don’t hesitate to ask if you are unsure about setting up specific photographs or any issues you may have with lighting. We are happy to help. Happy snapping! Jim and Scott

Exploded Model (3)

Elsewhere Park, an ‘Eco-Labratory’ in Egypt

On a recent trip to Egypt I was thrilled to be invited by friends to visit a unique ‘eco-labratory’ experiment on the banks of the Nile. Elsewhere park is a private plot of land owned, maintained and developed by ex-pat Jules Johnson and her husband Naser. The park was set up as a long time dream of Jules to be able to create a haven away from the manic pace of Cairo city life.

2014-04-21 16.51.16With limited experience of building Jules and Naser set out to build their ideal practical get-away for themselves and other ex-pats needing to escape. Jules had a very clear idea of how her ideas should look with certain aspects pending on material tests and availability. This gave a bespoke touch to the whole site which works fantastically. Even so Jules tried to define her ideas through designs in a professional manner. These designs met with confused local architects whom more often than not stick to a very generic set of bland construction rules that, to say the least, leave much to be desired.

With the usual stumbling blocks of building construction inevitable, things were made increasingly difficult by un-co-operative tradesman and a difficulty in sourcing good quality eco building materials.

Having heard of the difficulties in construction and seen the finished articles on site I was very eager to pass on the story of this fantastic place to yourselves and open up the possibility of a future collaboration on a live-project on the site! I thought it better that Jules tell the story so read my interview with her below to find out more.

With a little planning It may be possible for us to visit the site as a small group of students to take part in the experiments and contribute from our experience in MSA. If you are interested in finding out more please email me at

2014-04-22 16.19.29What is Elsewhere park and why did you decide to embark on such a project?

I am widely travelled and have watched the world go by from many a town square or roadside cafe. But not in Egypt.

After finding myself married to a local man, having a young son, very little income and living in a concrete sweat box in the middle of one the filthiest cities you will ever see, I decided to start exploring the countryside. We started to visit Nasers family more often in a village called Matania (meaning Germany) it’s a couple of miles south of the park. The poor conditions dissuaded us from using their toilets or considering staying overnight.

There are no centres or main shopping roads in any of the towns and villages and it’s inappropriate for women to be in a coffee shop. So. I needed somewhere close to build a proper, sit down Loo, At least we could spend more time there.

2014-04-19 11.52.17Was the park’s purpose always clear or has it evolved over time?

The park was not the first time we built but it was going to be the final time. We had intended to buy a piece of Nile River land, before it became illegal, to build our retirement house.

Naser envisioned a huge Roman style columned block with lawns and conifers!

I was thinking more along the lines of the Victorian Sea Front shelters with rockeries around the inevitable but inappropriate, lawns. The ideas involving Elsewhere are evolving all the time. I love other people to share their ideas and enthusiasm.

I was very conscious of the dreadful conditions the local Bedouin people live in and the delicacy of their customs. A kindly Hungarian lady asked what she could do to help them and decided to open a little school. We allowed her to build a small room (the red brick one) in the Park, rent and electricity, with use of the kitchen and bathroom. This is now the shed and the Nile River School has moved to its permanent location in a purpose built and larger school, just up the road.

2014-04-19 14.43.32 2014-04-19 14.39.18[Put simply] the park supports educational interests of both privately funded (Rich Cairo schools) and the Nile River School that survives on donations and volunteers.The park was created for rest, recovery and inspiration. It can be made available for education and certain types of entertainment. Private hobbies and dreams. I love the freedom to try anything and enjoy other peoples enthusiasm and experience that they have been willing to contribute.

Recently, a group of ladies I teach with needed somewhere at the Park to stay, instead of putting up tents. This is the building we are currently working on and you Scott, are the only bloke that has been allowed to do anything creative on it!

2014-04-19 14.40.01 2014-04-19 18.22.59What inspired you to lead the design the buildings on your site?

I had to design the buildings myself as I spent 15 years in the Logistics field which always comes first in my considerations. I have no faith in the engineering judgments of most architects here and they would only communicate with Naser because 1. He speaks Arabic and 2. He is a Man.

Women have no business interfering in such things in Egyptian society.

What problems did you encounter and how did you overcome them?

Everyone here thinks and says you can’t do that, that’s not possible. So I go ahead and start the job myself.

There are many bribes to be paid at intervals but there were many more when we started. The Authorities take their share. River Authority, River Land Authority, Land Authority, Road Authority, Electricity Authority, Building Authority. Because I am foreign, all of our paperwork to do with the Park, is all perfectly legal to ensure we don’t lose it.

The first thing we did was build the road down to give vehicle access to the land.

The walls collapsed and the road fell down.

Next doors road also fell down and at this point I decided to take all building under my wing.

The first building had to be pulled down four times before we managed to get a license for electricity. This would then prove it was a lived- in building and therefore could not be demolished. This was the normal process. The law has changed since then and the Authorities are starting to pull down the swarm of buildings that have been put up since the other Authorities have been otherwise occupied.

2014-04-18 18.00.19There are always problems with the quality of materials, all of the roof beams are twisted and most wood is full of knots and bark. The electricity is normally connected from the street lights and it runs your single light bulb via the window. Elsewhere Park has more light bulbs than the whole Ezbah (Hamlett) put together and more double sockets too. There have been so many problems!

Does the ‘try it and see’ attitude to building lend itself to the locality given the uncertainty of Material supplies? And do you find testing/prototyping beneficial?

I love to try it and see. I am not familiar with some of the local materials so I research their uses and  use their transferable properties with my own transferable skills, to create an object with meaning and multipurpose. I am proud of some of my triumphs in the control of temperature and I can’t wait to put the roof on the Burrow (Cob) to see how I have performed with daylight.

2014-04-19 14.35.25 2014-04-19 14.35.06We encourage people to collect as much data from the Park as they can. If you need our help, just ask.

Does the eco/ethical consideration behind Eleswhere Park have potential to expand to other areas in the locality or Egypt as a whole?

Oh Yes. There are a few organisations that dabble in the recycling field but not many dabbling in Permaculture. Most countryside folk don’t have hot water. They have very poor ventilation but no insulation. (The Arabs invented air conditioning with a roof modification)

There is a need in the British Education Private Sector for workshops/presentations and other educational tools on eco-friendly subjects as we have no public parks, forests or accessible countryside. Many students attending these schools have architects and interior designers in their families and are ready to learn some common sense. Rich land owners prefer lawns and columns. Where nature is organized and trees cut into cylindrical shapes. Check out the history of the place and you can see Islamic ceramic influence in many things.

2014-04-21 21.16.15 2014-04-19 18.20.27What do you hope to do with the site in the future?

I would love to see the Park full of little ongoing experiments, set up by some and monitored by many. We will continue to build. The next building may be from river reeds with the potential to pass this knowledge on to the local lads so they possibly make sun shades commercially.

2014-04-22 16.31.30 2014-04-21 17.00.33 2014-04-19 15.54.03The next project (after the Burrow) will be to make a hot water system for the Castle showers. I would like to make this out of recycled materials and use solar power.

My dream for the Park is to make approximately 8 more buildings, using more and more local and renewable materials as possible. Here are some of the plans:

There will be a more extravagant Cob guest room,

Straw bale guest room,

Natural Tee Pee,

River reed shelter with the possibility to extend this technique to the surrounding communities for roofing or animal shelter.

Wooden shed on stilts overlooking clay lined pond that may possibly be for aquaponics.

Jetty to moor boats.

Probably, a metal chassis floating caravan.

Workshop for my art stuff, tools and future projects. I would like to make a wood turning lathe.

Open kitchen on the end of the Castle block.

2014-04-22 11.37.00As the power will be unreliable this summer, I would like to start more seriously with renewable energy installations.

The cost of electric will be rising 25% shortly too.

2014-04-19 17.29.00 2014-04-22 13.43.10Have you considered collaborating with architectural institutes in Egypt to help develop and experiment with the site?

At the moment, I have no plans to involve the architectural institutes in Egypt as the Tutors are notoriously jealous of their powerful positions and the dated styles that they personally believe in. (They may even try to close the Park down, in case our ideas become popular with the rich and famous)

Architects and Tutors here are not usually willing to cooperate with any alternative styles or concepts, especially from women or foreigners as they see this as doing themselves out of a job. They also earn huge amounts of commission from the suppliers and manufacturers of the raw materials and from contractors and sub-contractors.

They also encourage the use of materials that are produced in Egypt, (by the military)but that have a high carbon footprint, such as cement, metals and plastics.

There are several historical and social influences to consider when wondering about modern day buildings. One thing that bothers me most is the complete lack of common sense when planning rooms, buildings and community areas. I believe that this complacency has had a long term effect on moral and society and I am finding that this problem is still being ignored , even in the high class areas.(we have 7 different classes of people in Egypt)

2014-04-19 14.35.49 2014-04-22 11.38.13 2014-04-22 11.12.01So. What are you waiting for?

The sun shines every day, its either warm or hot.

We have an almost constant northerly wind.

We have the longest river in the world which runs at about 5 knots.

We must be able to do something with all of that?

All the best, Jules

(Interview Between Scott Miller and Jules Johnson 2014)

Final weeks of term

As I’m sure you are all aware the end of term and your submission dates are fast approaching. The workshop has been a hive of activity recently with our photographic studio seeing regular use.
Events Month General (3)

At present the laser cutters are heavily booked for next week with only a hand full of slots remaining at the start of the week. If you need to book the cutter I would advise doing it as soon as possible as these slots will get snapped up no doubt.

Events Month General (2)

Before coming into the workshop it should be in your interest to find out what materials you need and if they are in stock. Our list can be found online here and whilst we endeavour to keep all items well stocked it is inevitable at this busy time of year that we will run out of some things so avoid disappointment come in to check.

So far this term we have seen some great final projects and we hope to see many more in the show prep period.

Keep up the hard work! Scott and Jim

1:1 Facade Detail Model, Henry Faulkner

[Re_Map] student Henry Faulkner has created this 1:1 detail model demonstrating the variable solar shading facade concept he has designed.

facade section1These two renders show how the facade would appear with shades open (above)and then closed (below)
facade section2Henry describes the project for us:

The overall project has resulted in a mixed use development which aims to provide housing and an educational facility for academic refugees from around the world. The vast majority of refugees entering the UK in recent years have been from the middle east and northern Africa, from countries such as Iran, Afghanistan and Syria. Taking influence from their history and culture, I developed a facade component that adopts an Islamic geometrical pattern, using its rotational symmetry to create a dynamic solar shading device. (Henry Faulkner 2014)

Henry FaulknerHenry cut the gearing for the model using acrylic to create the components which he had developed through test models previously. The refined design was then drawn up in cad and the component profiles laser cut – fabric included. When cutting fabric or any material you are unsure of it’s always a good idea to run some tests on a scrap piece to ensure the finish you wish to achieve.
Henry Faulkner Re_Map (3) Wire was used as a former and support for the fabric ‘fans’ which when stretched out want to fold under their own weight.

Henry Faulkner Re_Map (2)Henry Faulkner Re_Map (5) Henry Faulkner Re_Map (7)

Henry Faulkner (8) Henry Faulkner (9) Henry Faulkner (11)

‘In Limbo’ Presentation Site Model, Laura Minca

Laura SiteIntimate Cities student Laura Minca has designed an ever changing settlement within the city centre. The site, on the corner of Whitworth Street and Princess Street in Manchester has been a site of a stalled project for some years now. Laura’s concept would allow the site to continue to expand and develop as required with a construction crane remaining on site to build as the site needs evolve.



Laura gives us a description of her project below:

The project aims to initially investigate the city of Manchester under a temporal lens, focusing on the spaces ‘in-between‘ worlds, ‘in-between’ stages of development that resulted following the economic downturn. At the heart of the city’s commercial and conservation area lies Origin – unfinished, incomplete, abandoned, hiding behind faded slogans of glamour and projected fantasies of luxury living and work opportunities.

The research and output developed as part of the [Intimate Cities] Atelier will be focused on the current condition of the Roma groups that have targeted the United Kingdom ever since Romania’s entrance in the European Union in 2007. Although their ‘nomadic’ condition is debatable and its deriving taxonomy should be reassessed, the Roma groups provide a fascinating case study in terms of a traveling community’s continuous struggle to adapt within fluctuating social, political and economic climates. 

The temporal context of the project is set starting with January 2014 when the transitional controls on free movement adopted by the UK will end. Following the lift of the travel restrictions and free access to the UK labor market, a high influx of Romani groups are expected to arrive and settle within British and implicitly, Mancunian territory.

Drawing on dichotomies of spatial purity and impurity, on notions of boundary, transience and spatial justice, the scheme proposes a temporary, modular structure that plugs into the existing site infrastructure – a contemporary Roma camp, aimed to provide the incoming community with a set of architectural and spatial principles that develops incrementally.

The focus on temporary, adaptable, shared spaces challenges the sedentary predisposition specific to Western architecture and its affinity towards grand, enduring structures. The approach is driven by the idea that architecture functions as an ideology in built form, that homes are more than just fixed dwellings, more than just sheltering devices: they are tools that enable the communities that use architecture to carve their identities and redefine visions of themselves and their collective subconscious.

This is not a scheme about pristine, perfectly aligned spaces and sleek technologies, but an exploration of imperfection, of the random and the improvised. A breathing, ever-changing structure that echoes the unconventional ways of the Romani people and their ability to adapt in any given environment. (Laura Minca 2014)

Concept renders of how the site would look.

E1 R3_Context2

The scaffold construction that makes up the bulk of the design was represented by engraving the framework on acrylic sheeting and rubbing in acrylic paint to the define the details. This effect is much more efficient that attempting to construct each scaffold piece or laser cutting the frame at this scale.
Laura Minca  (6) Laura Minca  (8) Laura Minca  (9)Laura used wood stain to define the site from the surrounding area. this was achieved by masking the edges and applying more coats of stain to darken her site footprint.

Laura Minca  (11) Laura Minca  (12) Laura Minca  (15) To create the tent like canopy above each area of the site Laura used a vac-formed sheet to create the draped fabric aesthetic desired. This was achieved by creating a former using Ureol Modelboard which was sanded to the correct shape then placed on a base to sit on the bed of the vac former.Laura Minca  (18) Laura Minca  (19) The vac forming process involved heating up styrene vac-forming plastic which is then suction formed around any given shape.Laura Minca  (20)

The completed form is then taken from the bed and trimmed to size for use on the model. Laura Minca  (21)

Laura Minca  (25)Further detail was added to the internal floor spaces using laser cut cardboard fixed to plywood floor plates. This plates were then assembled and slotted into place into the main framework before having the roof canopies fitted above.

Laura Minca (3) Laura used brass etched scaled figures to convey the use of the spaces with figures dotted around the site and near the context. Small pine cones were used to represent trees which always works well with wooden based models. These can be found on various trees and bushes around campus! Laura Minca (4)

Once all scale elements were added and surround massing models were made using Jelutong block, the model was moved into the studio for photographing.

Laura Minca (3) Laura Minca (19) Laura Minca (24) Laura Minca (45) Laura Minca (84)

Deansgate Locks, Manchester Site Presentation Model By Aayu Malhotra

This site looks at a stalled site on Deansgate Locks. 6th Year MAarch student Aayu was asked to regenerate the development and look at potential future uses of the space. He decided to introduce small business’s to the site which would over time, expand and bring further investment to the area. The building form allows for expansion of the development by leaving the top of the building open for additional floors, formed around the core, to be added at a later time.

Aayu (5) As with Aayus other projects, he preferred to convey his design by making a highly detailed model, predominantly by hand, to emphasise the craftsmanship of the individual spaces in the development. Aayu much preferred this method over digital renders which he believed to be more corporate.

Aayu (9) The design is made of lightweight materials to allow for quick construction of additional areas. This idea was carried over into the design of his model with the main materials being paper, card, timber and fabrics.Aayu (11) The majority of the 1:100 scale model was designed and built by Aayu at home. Another benefit of using simple lightweight materials is the ability to make parts without the need for machines and specialist facilities. Aayu (13)

Scale figures were added along with items of furniture that indicate the potential use of a space. These items help to avoid repetition across the model and really bring out the intended mixed use concept. Aayu (12) Aayu (19) Once scale detail had been added the model was photographed in our studio and is now ready for the end of year show.Aayu (24)

Aayu (2) Aayu (15) Aayu (19) Aayu (20) Aayu (21) Aayu (22) Aayu (23)It’s very refreshing to see a model so lovingly hand crafted using minimal input from CAD driven machines. More like this please everyone!