Campus Architecture:

Science and the City

Course Leader

Ben Blackwell

According to the Architects’ Journal, in the five years leading up to 2019, UK Universities have spent £8.8 billion on capital projects (Waite, 2019). Topping the list of university spending on building developments is the University of Manchester, who put an enormous £625 million into 47 projects, including a £350 million engineering campus project designed by Mecanoo, the Masdar building (home of the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre) designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects and the National Graphene Institute designed by Jestico + Whiles. Meanwhile in the Abu Dhabi desert, an entirely new ‘science-city’ (named Masdar City) is being created with the aim of innovating and testing new renewable energy technologies, and bringing Abu Dhabi into a new post-oil future. Far from the image of science being conducted in functional and boxy buildings hidden away on university campuses, science and technological development now act as a significant driving force in the development of cities, producing magnificent and ‘starchitect’ designed buildings which aim to accelerate innovation and foster new relationships between users.

This MArch course is conceived as a visual and analytic chronicle of the new spaces of science and Higher Education that are reshaping cities in what has been termed the ‘knowledge economy’. What conceptions of the role of science and the University have led to this surge in developments? How do the new spaces of science and Higher Education differ from those they replace? And how do cities make a difference for knowledge production?

In this course, students were asked to explore ethnographically the buildings of various generations, and typologies, across both the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University Campuses. From laboratory facilities, libraries, studios, study spaces and atria, the students explored how shifting conceptions of the university’s place in society, changing expectations and requirements of students, and attempts to brand institutions globally, contribute to the altering of the spaces which academics and students learn, study, interact and research. The output of the course was an ‘ethnographic sketch-folio’, combining research into specific typologies, building histories and ethnographic observation of the use and daily rhythms of space.


Abbigayle York

Asma Fouz

Cheng Tianmo

Deenesh Gungaphul

Froilan John Palacio

Guney Topal

Jasmine Turner

Olivia Walton

Riyan Chowdhury

Rushil Alpesh Shah

Shaan Singh

Shen Xinyu

Vikas Parekh

Wu Yicheng

Zheng Haoyu