Manchester School of Architecture
Manchester 1824

How To Study Architectural Controversies?

The students are invited to follow, document, and map (analyse & visualise) a controversy surrounding a particular building. This may involve a design project, a technological or building material innovation, or an architect or community concerned by architectural design.

To follow requires being able to trace the dynamics of the controversy in time: the actors (individuals, groups or institutions), their arguments, the different positions and how they change and progress over time, the spaces in which they develop, the many ways of closing and re-opening the debates, the extent of public involvement and participation in the process.

To document the controversy: collect a variety of materials and compile a research dossier that includes press clippings, images, interviews with architects, clients, and investors, public bodies, concerned citizens and users; include materials and extracts from the literature related to other buildings of similar type; seek information from governmental papers and archives; examine and compile architectural plans, drawings, and diagrams.

To map (analyse & visualise) - to present the chronological development of a dispute surrounding a building, a design project, a master plan, but also to represent it with visuals; to capture the dynamics, visualise the time line, the chronology of the controversies, the weight of the different actors. Provide visualisation of how their positions disperse or converge, and how a personal position might change the whole configuration of arguments, and the timing and spacing of these arguments. Thus, to map means being able to visualise and analyse an argumentative space, an issue-oriented space, triggered by the controversial architectural object which may be a building, artefact, design proposal, master plan, or urban network, or otherwise may take the form of controversial statements or declarations.