On Retaining Walls: Projects completed 2014-15

Holly Hatfield

The re-use of any architectural site, whether it be cleared and empty or still possessing the elements of previous occupation, creates a direct connection with the past. This adaptation of the existing situation is a strategy that establishes an explicit relationship with history and context, not just of the building and its immediate surroundings, but also with the society that constructed it. The reading of a building or site can uncover a layered and stratified narrative. The understanding of the inherent qualities and conditions of building or site can provide clues to the redesign of the place. This knowledge can be used to activate, liberate and instigate a new future for the situation. Kenneth Frampton, talks about the need for architecture to have the “…capacity to condense the artistic potential of the region while reinterpreting cultural influences coming from the outside”, for the building to show a great understanding of both place and tectonics, and to “…evoke the oneiric essence of the site, together with the inescapable materiality of building”.

Architecture is the mediator between the City and the Room. An act of translation occurs at the point where the outside meets the inside. The wall combined with the window, door or threshold transforms the nature of the exterior and moderates it to accommodate the interior. When viewed from the hostile environment of the outside, the interior can possess qualities that are perhaps ethereal, enchanting or reassuring. Imagine a crowd gathering in the town, the quality of the light in the streets, the coldness of the damp and windswept spaces, look through those twinkling windows of the enclosing buildings, what would be happening in these spaces?

I like to confer nobility on an interior, make sure that no window, door or sequence is taken for granted. Knowing how to construct space is fundamental. Sometimes positioning a wall at an angle is enough to capture and reflect more light. You can bring tension into an environment simply by adding something ‘out of scale’ like a door that’s bigger than all the others in the same room. You might draw attention to a door or window frame, or enhance the relationship with the exterior by inserting a carefully designed window. This is what nobility means to me: non-obviousness, care over detail, intelligent economy.
Umberto Riva

A Sword Decorated with Myrtle Leaves*
This year CiA pursued projects in two locations, one at home, the other away. The Sixth Year investigated the city of Granada in Southern Spain; a city situated below the imposing palaces of the Alhambra, on the confluence of four rivers at the foot of the permanently white-topped Sierra Nevada mountains. While the Fifth Year project was situated in the somewhat neglected Victorian seaside town of Colwyn Bay. It has evolved into a crushed conurbation compressed between the steeply sloping Pwllycrochan Woods and the massive transport and infrastructural links, which effectively cut the town off from the beach and therefore the sea.

Taken from “Buster Keaton Goes for a Stroll” by Frederico Garcia Lorca 1928

Continuity in Architecture 2014-15
Staff: Sally Stone, John Lee, Steve McCusker, Gary Colleran, Dominic Roberts, David Cox. Students: Laura Baker, Sarah Capper, Adrian Coelho, Helen Cross, Michael Crozier, Tom Dewey, Joe Fowler, Holly Hadfield, Laura Hayes, Adam Jones, David Rhys Jones, Bryony Lee, Paschalia Paschali, Viet Pham Tuan, Samuel Rutter, Zain Toma, Sam Beddingfield, Hannah Bellerby, Suzanne Coong, Kristian James, Jana Kefurtova, Doug Meadway, Raluca Pop, Bryony Preston, Ketil Rage, Dragos Silaghi, Alexandru Trofin, Katherine Valentine

More from Continuity in Architecture can be seen here

Projects in Grange and Venice


We’ve finished another extraordinarily rewarding year with our fine thirty-plus students on the 2013-14 MArch course. Under the umbrella title of ‘Littoral Inspirations: Encounters with the Lagoon’, Year 5 studied Grange-over-Sands in the South Lakes, while Year 6 engaged with an old friend: Venice. The year began with an Erasmus-funded international workshop in Venice (called HAULuP) working in the Arsenale district, collaborating with the Universities of Granada and Venice to produce 11 propositions for intervening in this unique industrial setting.

The aim of the year was to produce carefully considered projects set in an interstitial urban zone of saltwater marsh, where land meets sea, and where people connect the two realms economically, socially, and politically. Architecture can facilitate the exploration of identity through the examination of the specificity of the context in which it is embedded. The constructed environment is often charged with narrative content, certain elements come to the fore, while others are more modest, unassuming, but no less important. These mechanisms tell stories, engage the imagination, and enable through the construction of space, time and sequence the development of new forms and places.

What follows is a selection of projects documenting the outcome of the exercises.

Lauren Green

Lauren Green 


Matt Arnold


Becky Prince


Charlotte Rosier 


Jenna Kinsey

Abdullah Umar 

Abdullah Umar 

Tom Bend

Tom Bend 

As ever, we have many people to thank – people who collaborated, cajoled and confronted, all with the shared aim of producing the best from tutor and student alike. Chief amongst those we’d like to thank are Gary Colleran, Gary Colligan, Laura Sanderson, John Lee, Dr Alan Lewis, and Prof. Margherita Vanore at IUAV.

We now look forward to 2014-15, with the exciting prospect of student work set in Granada, Spain and on the north coast of Wales.

Procession to Preston Bus Station




Despite the wind and the rain, the procession through the centre of Preston, from the Corn Exchange, into the Flag Market and onto the Bus station was an unforgettable experience, and in what was an extraordinary piece of luck, the sun came out just as the procession reached the Bus Station itself, thus, for a few minutes, the highly articulate modelling of the parapets was clearly expressed on both the building and the model. This project was a collaboration between MArch CiA and the 3rd Year unit: Processional Cities.

HAULuP: Heritage and Architecture of Urban Landscape under Production


 Continuity in Architecture have just returned from the 2013 Heritage and Architecture of Urban Landscape under Productions Workshop. This international project, which was based at the Università Iuav di Venezia (IUAV), was a collaboration between the schools of architecture in Manchester, Venice and Granada. It was completed between 16th September 2013 and 28th September 2013.

The basis of the design workshop was an examination of the still abandoned parts of Arsenale in Venice. The area, which until recently, was still used by the military, is gradually being assimilated into the city. Great discrimination needed to be taken with this absorption. The city of Venice has an incredibly distinct character, and any changes must take into consideration the qualities of what is there in combination with the needs and technology of the Twenty-First century: pastiche is not an option!

The Arsenale itself is an impressive and complex cluster of boatyards, armories, and wet and dry docks, assembled around two large harbours, all of which is protected by high brick walls. It was responsible for the bulk of Venice’s naval power during the middle part of the second millennium AD. It was one of the earliest large-scale industrial enterprises in history. Even Dante was impressed by the sheer presence of the place:

As in the Arsenal of the Venetians

Boils in winter the tenacious pitch

To smear their unsound vessels over again

For sail they cannot; and instead thereof

One makes his vessel new, and one recaulks

The ribs of that which many a voyage has made

One hammers at the prow, one at the stern

This one makes oars and that one cordage twists

Another mends the mainsail and the mizzen…

As always, we started with a thorough examination of the site, its surroundings and what can only be described as a Venetian coach trip; our own personal Vaporetto ride around the islands of the Lagoon. The visits were accompanied by a series intense lectures and talks by the curators of the sites. The passion of the conservation architect can not be overestimated; the enthusiasm that they held for their subject and the remains in their custody was inspirational.

The group of students was divided into small inter-nationality group, each containing one student from each institution. This inevitably initially caused much tension. The problem of language, difference in approach and differing priorities will create anxiety and disagreement, but it also encourages cooperation, understanding, compassion and eventually synergy. And so it was here, initial distrust was gradually replaced by firm friendship. There was a great amount of professional support for the workshop, and this involvement included the architects and conservators to the Arsenale, structural engineers, architects, conservation architects, as well as two or three academics from each participating university, almost an embarrassment of riches

The students were encouraged to analyse the qualities of each place before attempting to make changes. They looked particularly at the context, that is the history, topography, geology, the very nature of the place. From this analysis they developed an understanding of how the place could be activated. They needed to feel confident that the proposals that they were making were totally appropriate to the qualities of the sites. The students all worked hard to produce proposals of great quality and worth. They endeavoured satisfy all of the often conflicting demands of the conservators, users, consultants and academics, but what was created were truly context driven proposals, which explored the relationships between the water, the buildings, the climate and the place.

This is the fourth collaboration that CiA have made with IUAV, and the second with Granada. Every year the students work incredibly hard, they put in long hours in the studio and then always an enjoyable night in the squares, bars and restaurants of Venice. And again, this year all of them embraced the project with enthusiasm and plenty of intellectual inquiry, and all were a credit to their own institution and the project. Everyone travelled an enormous distance; physically, intellectually and emotionally. The manner in which architecture is taught and discussed varies from one institution to another and certainly there were often great divides between the approaches of each nationality, but of course, there were also great similarities. This was a project that served to bring together the North and South of Europe. It showed how a love for storytelling combined with an understanding of history and technology could bind together a group of disparate and distinct individuals into a forceful united team. This was a project that ventured to create something appropriate, distinct and contemporary from the variously eccentric approaches of our enormous continent.

The design proposals can be viewed here:


Architecture can facilitate the exploration of identity through the examination of the specificity of the context in which it is embedded. The constructed environment is often charged with narrative content, certain elements come to the fore, while others are more modest, more unassuming, but no less important or carefully considered. These mechanisms tell stories, they engage the imagination, they enable, through the construction of space, time and sequence, the development of new forms and places.



Continuity in Architecture will examine two sites; each has an entangled relationship with the fluctuating environment on which it is situated. Grange-over-Sands sits upon the inconsistency of the River Kent at the northern edge of the vast and treacherous mudflats of Morecambe Bay, while Venice was formed upon the mosquito ridden muddy promontories which appeared and disappeared within the watery safety of the silent Lagoon.

Year 6: Projects in Venice

The sixth year projects this year will be based around sites within the Arsenale area of the city. The area provides a rich context for the exploration of an urbanism born of crisis, an experimental architecture responsive to challenging environments, a dense fabric of building and memory. As part of the ERASMUS funded project entitled HAULuP, CiA will be exploring historical sites in the Venice. This will provide the basis for much greater exploration and the definition of the final year project. Current sixth year students are in Venice attending a workshop concerned with the interpretation and protection of the Arsenale area. A choice of these sites, and others in Venice, will form the basis of their final project. Students wishing to join CiA in sixth year will have the same choice of sites and the opportunity to visit Venice.


insula /in·su·la/ (in´sdbobr-lah) pl. in´sulae [L.] 1. an islandlike structure

Insulation (cf latin) is the purposeful enclosure, conditioning and modification of a structure to allow habitation. We will explore core architectural concepts with technical roots – protection, layering, shelter, threshold – and by solving problems similar to those of past generations we will further link building propositions to history and context.

Reading List: Tafuri, M. Venice and the Renaissance. MIT Press 1995. Mancuso, F. Bruttomesso, R. Veneto Italian Life Style Scenario. Process Architecture 109 1993. Goy, R. Venice. The City and its Architecture. Phaidon 1997. Morris, J. Venice. Faber and Faber 1983. Huber A. The Italian Museum. Edizioni Lybra Immagine. 1997. Janson, A. Bürklin, T. Auftritte Scenes. Interaction with Architectural Space: the Campi of Venice. Birkhåuser 2002. Frascari, M. The Tell-the –Tale Detail. VIA 7: The Art of Architecture 1984. Los, S. Carlo Scarpa, an Architectural Guide. Arsenale Editrice. 1995

Year 5: Projects in Grange-over-Sands and Venice

It is proposed that fifth year students use the small town of Grange-over-Sands as the starting point for a series of projects, and, through the development of ideas about the relationship of public and private, the city and the interior, propose buildings for home and for social life on chosen sites in the town.

Project 1 Finding the Place: A Lexicon of Grange

Project 2 Social Performance: we will collaborate with the planning, design and then partake in a procession

Project 3 Being There: Travel to Venice. Engage in empirical research. Examine, analyse and record key elements of the city

Project 4 Buildings for Home and for Social Life in Grange

How can the relationship between the citizen and tourist be managed within the form of the town? What models and precedents exist for the architectural expression of the relationship between the private and public life of the citizen? How do we build in an environment of density, inundation and collapse?

Essays: Diverse architectural approaches to the creation transformation of space

Reading List: Site Projects by David Leatherbarrow. Critical Regionalism by Kenneth Frampton. Contextualism: Urban Ideals and Transformations by Thomas Schumacher. The Architectural Uncanny by Anthony Vidler. Let the Trumpets Roar! – The Roman Triumph by Richard Brilliant. The Rights of Retreat and Rites of Exclusion: Notes Towards the Definition of Wall by Robin Evans.

“Make way!” cried Krespel; and then running to one end of the garden, he strode slowly towards the square of brick-work. When he came close to the wall he shook his head in a dissatisfied manner, ran to the other end of the garden, again strode slowly towards the brick-work square, and proceeded to act as before. These tactics he pursued several times, until at length, running his sharp nose hard against the wall, he cried, “Come here, come here, men! break me a door in here! Here’s where I want a door made!”

The Cremona Violin. E. T. A. Hoffmann

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller…

Projects in Cartmel and Venice

This year we have studied two locations, one home and one away. Both have a direct connection with sanctuary and with water. It is fabled that Cartmel Priory was founded in a place where fresh water flowed in opposite directions, and Venice, for whom water is not a problem but a theme, was originally a refuge for those locals who were driven into the muddy lagoon by barbarism, brutality and heresy.


See more CiA work here 

The aim of these projects was to find a formal solution to a site specific problem through the medium of contextual analysis, choice and manipulation. Ordinary things contain the deepest mysteries and the architect needs to have the capacity to condense the artistic potential of the region while reinterpreting cultural influences, for the building to show a great understanding of both place and tectonics, but also to be totally relevant to the twenty-first century; an architecture that uses contemporary technological and is suitable for the needs of today. This means not resorting to pastiche, but designing buildings and interiors that are visually and operationally applicable to the present day. It is almost thirty years since Kenneth Frampton wrote of the importance of Critical Regionalism, Rowe and Koetter composed Collage City and Rossi recorded The Architecture of the City, and although these ideas, which emerged as a reaction to Modernism, are more than a generation old, they are now more relevant than ever. One of the most pressing concerns for today’s society is how we engage with the existing situation in an appropriate, environmentally friendly and sympathetic manner. The pursuit of strategies for carbon-neutral buildings and places combined with issues of sustainability and heritage are central to all forms of design practice. The vernacular can offer great possibilities, after all, we have for centuries dwelled upon the problem of how to create controlled and conditioned environments for social relationships in buildings. We live under the same sun, shelter from the same rain, and resist buffeting from same wind as our ancestors, and yet within contemporary architecture we devote ever more resources and seek ever more complexity in solving these problems. We believe that less attention should be paid to the gratuitously flamboyant one-off project and more focus placed upon the appropriate. We search for inspiration in the normal and we take encouragement from the familiar. We seek to enhance rather than to overwhelm, we are inspired by the strangeness of the everyday, the unfamiliarity of the commonplace. We seek to establish our position as individuals in a dialogue with the common ground. We look, not just at the design of buildings, but also at the territory around them; public space, shared space, collective space. We investigate how a relationship between constructed form and controlled space can be established. The development of form is a one-by-one practice, a building is composed of diverse concerns and different horizontal connections can be uncovered, using the situation as the compositional driver. Programme evolves from the specific character of the site; it is something that emerges as the form of the building develops. Within a school of architecture, to construct has two different meanings, the first is the more obvious concentration upon the technology of the design, to understand the nature and ontology of the construction, to be aware of how and why a structure is built as it is. The second meaning is the production of the methods of communication. Evans claimed that “recognition of the drawings power as a medium turns out, unexpectedly, recognition of the drawing’s distinctness from and unlikeness to the thing that is represented, rather than its likeness to it, which is neither as paradoxical nor as dissociative as it may seem.” We believe that it is important that intent is shown as well as proposal. Context has dominated the design process; therefore it should play an important role in the communication. If the proposal is one element among a structure of objects and moments, situation will command.

Remember Reveal Construct




Continuity in Architecture is almost twenty years old. It is something that we would like to celebrate and we fully intend to mark the occasion with some sort of jamboree or other such event. Look out for further posts.

Over the years we have conducted projects in many different locations: Palma, Venice, Barcelona, Dubrovnik, Dublin, Manchester, London, Valencia, Sant Sadurni, just to start with. But there is one location that we keep coming back to, it is a place that through position, evolution, history and neglect has a huge amount to offer us in Continuity in Architecture: it is of course: Preston. We have produced some marvellous proposals for the place, from bridges to tunnels, new urban squares to department stores, almost non-existent interventions to massive demolition works, all of which have their basis in the understanding and translation of the qualities of the area.

 Remember – Reveal – Construct

So it is with great anticipation that we notice that another institution has also recognised the worth of the place. The RIBA have just launched their FORGOTTEN SPACES competition in the engrossing city of Preston. Why not have a go? Why not have a look at the project that you’ve already designed? Let us remember some of your fabulous work. See extract from the competition brief below and competition call here

“Preston is full of potential for development, with proposals for major investment across the city. However, there still remain pockets of obscure leftover land and neglected plots that could- with imagination and new thinking- accommodate a host of functions, respond to local needs and provide a counterpoint to these wider investment proposals.

Held for the first time in the North West, this design competition asks architects, planners, artists, engineers and landscape designers to nominate an existing over- looked site in Preston and propose an idea for its improvement.

A ‘forgotten space’ could be small or large – a grassy verge, a wasteland, an unused car park, a derelict building, an empty unit, an underpass or a flyover. The proposal could be simple or complex, a commercial or public facility, a piece of public art or a new building. The main requirement is that it responds to the surrounding area and serves a function for the local community.”


Gate 81: Workshop at the University in Antwerp


Link to student projects 

“…I would say that even in historic times documents are not always available, and buildings (monuments, vernacular constructions and public works) are themselves important texts, often providing the first and most lasting impression of a culture.”*

antwerpinterrupted2blog.jpg  antwerpinterrupted1blog.jpg

The voids in the urban landscape, which are created by virtue of the enclosing nature of the surrounding buildings, have great value. These gaps, spaces or holes are important, for it is these that are occupied, that the visitor or resident will visit, pass through or inhabit. The structures that surround these squares contribute to the quality of the environment. Many buildings are deformed to accommodate the purity of the square, however some can exist as pure elements even within a complex system of buildings and voids. Ideal forms can exist as fragments, and can be viewed as mere collaborative elements to be“collaged” into an urban environment, and thus, rather than exist exclusively as landmarks, can contribute to the composition of the city.

In December 2012 Preston City Council voted ‘in principle’ to demolish Preston Bus Station and replace it with a surface car park. This building is a major cultural landmark and it should be preserved and creatively adapted to serve the city. It could act as a key building and public space to make Preston accessible and temper the decay that is affecting our city, and so many other city centres across the UK.

We will explore the nature of the fragment within an historic city, we will bring the Bus Station to Antwerp, it will occupy a definite place within the urban environment, it will:

 INTERRUPT the city

 “The bricoleur is adept at performing a large number of diverse tasks; but, in contrast to the engineer, he does not subordinate each one of them to the acquisition of raw materials and tools conceived and procured for the project: his universe of tools is closed, and the rule of his game is to always make do with ‘what’s available’, that is, a set, finite at each instance, of tools and materials, heterogeneous to the extreme, because the composition of the set is not related to the current project, or, in any case, to any particular project, but is the contingent result of all the occasions that have occurred to renew or enrich the stock, or to maintain it with the remains of previous constructions or destructions.”#

 *VIA 8 Architecture & Literature, Form, Modernism & History ed. A. von Hoffmann, Harvard 1996 (* quotation from Interactive Realms by Jorge Silvetti). #Lévi-Strauss, C La Pensée Sauvage Librairie Plon, Paris, 1962, ch 1, p 31 [Ref. 59, p 17]

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller

hand1.jpg        cartmel-sign1.jpg

Projects in Venice and Cartmel 

This year Continuity in Architecture will offer two projects, one at home and the other away, but both have a strong connection with water and with travel.

“It is very old, and very grand, and bent-backed. Its towers survey the lagoon in crotchety splendour, some leaning one way, some another. Its skyline is elaborate with campaniles, domes, pinnacles, cranes, riggings, television aerials, crenellations, eccentric chimneys and a big grain elevator. There are glimpses of flags and fretted rooftops, marble pillars, cavernous canals. An incessant bustle of boats passes before the quays of the place; a great white liner slips towards its port; a multitude of tottering palaces, brooding and monstrous, presses towards its water-front like so many invalid aristocrats jostling for fresh air. It is a gnarled but gorgeous city… the whole seems to shimmer – with pinkness, with age, with self-satisfaction, with sadness, with delight.”           James Morris, Venice


“I have written about the Britons who first hid themselves here from their Roman invaders, of the Viking sailors who crossed the northern seas in search for homes, of their Anglian and Norman-French overlords, of the monks and Canons who with a call from God came here to teach and to build, bringing with them a stable Christian civilisation. Those who followed have made many mistakes, they have quarrelled and suffered and found happiness; they quarrelled about religion and politics, they suffered from flood, plague, hunger and fire, and each generation as it grew up has found countless homely pleasures, cheerful friendships, the love of their homes and work on the sands, in the fields and woods, even as many of us do today.”         Sam Taylor, Cartmel: People and Priory


The story adjusts its gait to the slow progress of the iron-bound hoofs on the climbing paths, towards a place that contains the secret of the past and of the future, which contains time coiled around itself like a lasso hanging from the pommel of a saddle.   Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller


Remember Reveal Construct 

Exhibition Opening

apcu-exhibition-2012.jpgContinuity in Architecture is delighted to announce the opening of an important exhibition of twelve projects from the Erasmus Intensive Workshop held in Venice in Autumn 2011. The show features the work of post-graduate students from the CiA Unit of Manchester School of Architecture, collaborating with students and professors from Granada and Barcelona (Spain), Venice and Catania (Italy), and Oulo (Finland). The programme is in its third year and was established to explore the adaptation of archaeological sites for modern purposes. This year extraordinary sites of ancient civilisations in south-west Sicily – in Scicli, Syracuse, Paliké and Camarina – were the inspiration for dramatic design interventions in the landscape that redefined and reinterpreted place.The exhibition will be in the RIBA Hub, Cube Gallery on Portland Street from 26 April – 18 May 2012.

the City: the Building: the Room

Sally Stone has just returned from the Winter School at the University of Antwerp. This important annual event invites academics and architects to run projects upon a specific theme, this years was Transformer.

 Antwerp, an important city in northern Belgium, in the north of Europe, has been sought after and fought over for centuries thanks to its sheltered position on the estuary of the River Scheldt, the mild climate and the tolerant people. The legacy is a patchwork of ancient and modern architecture in which baroque rubs up against art deco, the traditional adjacent to the contemporary and the scarified next to the ephemeral

Look, said the voice … “A vacant lot at dusk” … “Long blurry beach” … “Sometimes you’d think he’d never use a camera before” … “Crumbling walls, dirty terrace, gravel path, a sign that says Office” … “A cement box by the side of the road” … “Restaurant windows, out of focus” … I don’t know what the hell he’s trying to get at.”


Roberto Bolaño


the City: the Building: the Room

“One could look from the campiello through openings, balustrades, screens, and discern the garden at the other side … and behold something at once a mystery and reality.”*

Architecture is the mediator between the City and the Room. An act of translation occurs at the point where the outside meets the inside. The window, door or threshold transforms the nature of the exterior and moderates it to accommodate the interior. When viewed from the hostile environment of the outside, the interior can possess qualities that are perhaps ethereal, enchanting or reassuring.

Imagine a crowd gathering in the Grote Markt, the quality of the light in the square, the coldness of the damp and windswept space, look through those twinkling windows of the tall imposing buildings, envisage what would be happening in these spaces, picture the character of the rooms behind the facades, create this interior.

*Carlo Scarpa talking about the Fondazione Querini Stampalia



The City: We examined the particular qualities and characteristics of routes from the Grote Markt to the edge of the central area, and then back again. This analysis led us to create proposals for the transformation of the journey into a narrative; that is a collection of forms and spaces that communicated the essence of this excursion.


The Building: We analysed the particular qualities and character of the Guild-Houses that face the Grote Mark. We looked at the size, scale, materials, construction, occupation and most importantly the quality of the light.


The Room: We translated the ideas that were developed for the abstract space into a real proposal for the interior design of a space or collection of spaces within the Guild-houses.