A Systems Approach to Sustainable Sanitation Challenges in Urbanising China (SASSI)

Principal investigator

Project overview

SASSI (A Systems Approach to Sustainable Sanitation Challenges in Urbanising China) aims to enhance our understanding of complex human-environment interactions and their sustainability outcomes.

SASSI will define and advance a systems approach for sanitation which situates basic human functions within wider human ecosystems of critical social, economic and environmental resources and social institutions, cycles and order. 

The project studies sustainability outcomes across different sanitation systems, environments and temporal scales using various analytical approaches and state-of-the-art modelling.

SASSI addresses crosscutting issues in sustainable development.

It focuses on Shanghai (China) as a prime example of urban transformation, drawing on quantitative and qualitative data to understand the development of infrastructure over time and explore how possible context-specific policy- or design-focused interventions may contribute to sustainable development in the future.

Further information

An anthropology of/with axonometric drawings

Project details

Principle investigator:




Project overview

This project proposes an alternative methodology for the analysis of architectural drawings and other inscriptive practices.  The approach is grounded in the tradition of copying great masters’ work.  This is an approach taken in Japanese Calligraphy, the studios of great masters, and the beaux-arts tradition of architectural teaching and practice.  Such accounts of drawing are detailed in recent research by anthropologist Fuyubi Nakamura and visual artist Patricia Cain. This copying is intended to be a form of understanding native to the discipline of architecture, where many of the decisions and choices are expressed graphically through sketches, drawings, and plans.

I am studying architectural drawings from major archives and collections (primarily the CCA in Montreal and the RIBA in London) in order to replicate the drawing conventions and methods.  The aim is to provide a phenomenological account of the creative process in architecture, to understand the ways in which the lines are made, the order in which they are inscribed.  This approach is consistent with my earlier PhD research into notation as a creative practice, where elements of Laban notation were exploited in unusual circumstances such as the Tokyo Subway system, or a scene from Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. 

The key frameworks for the research are anthropologist Tim Ingold’s works on creativity and the line in particular.  Ingold’s pioneering of anthropology with creative practice stresses the engagement with the creative practice in question rather than simply sitting back and observing.  This necessitates a learning process in which the temporality of the inscriptive practice is examined.  Bergson’s work on creativity implicates this temporality as the key characteristic in determining the difference between artistic practices and speculative, scientific problem-solving. 

This research will be published as a monograph by Ashgate with the title 'Drawing Parallels: Knowledge Production in Axonometric, Isometric, and Oblique Drawings' and also feed into the BA Humanities teaching at Manchester School of Architecture, through the ongoing commitment to research-led teaching.  The research has focused on the following architects’ work:  Peter Eisenman, John Hejduk, J. J. P. Oud, James Stirling, and Cedric Price, and addresses the varieties of oblique drawing conventions.

An ethnography of design

Project details

Principal investigator: Albena Yaneva

Funding: Max Plank Institute for the History of Science in Berlin (research fellowship, 2001–2004), Harvard University fellowship (2004-2005), Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Chicago (2004); Stimuleringsfond voor Architectuur, Netherlands (publication grant, 2009).]

Project overview

The project provides an account of architectural design as taking place within the interactive networks of designers, models, paints and pixels, material samples and plans that all constitute the design world. By the means of an ethnographical approach that closely interacts with designing architects at the Office of Metropolitan Architecture the project:

  • furthers new knowledge about design invention and the nature of design process
  • redefines the role of the contemporary architect as an agent acting in the collective and versatile networks of design

The project sets a novel agenda by reconnecting architecture with the design materials and experiences, imagination and making, meaning and materiality. trajectorial nature of design as opposed to design as project realisation.



  • Yaneva, A. (2009) The Making of a Building: A Pragmatist Approach to Architecture, Oxford: Peter Lang AG, 227p.
  • Yaneva, A. (2009) Made by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture. An Ethnography of Design, Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 120p.

Articles and book chapters

  • Yaneva, A. (2005) “Scaling Up and Down: Extraction Trials in Architectural Design,” in Social Studies of Science, 35(6): 867-894.
  • Yaneva, A. (2005) “A Building is a Multiverse”, in B. Latour and Weibel P. (eds), Making Things Public, Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, pp. 530-535.
  • Yaneva, A. (2006) “Shaped by Constraints: Composite Models in Architecture,” in Hinterwaldner, I. and Buschhaus, M. (eds.) The Picture’s Image. Wissenschaftliche Visualisierung als Komposit, München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, pp.68-84.
  • Yaneva, A. (2007) “Towards a New Understanding of Architecture of Addition: The Unrealized Extensions of Whitney Museum of American Art”, in M. Swenarton, I. Troiani and H. Webster (eds.), The Politics of Making, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Books Ltd, pp. 159-168.
  • Yaneva, A. (2010) “A Building Trajectory”, in Gagliardi, P., Latour, B. and Memmelsdorff, P. (eds.), Coping with the Past. Creative perspectives on Conservation and Restoration, Venice: Leo S. Olschki, Civiltà Veneziana Studi, pp.17-45.

Excerpts from reviews

  • “This book is an important experiment in describing and understanding architecture and design, precisely because of the significance Yaneva allocates to day-to-day practice: designing is largely a mundane activity, and this book is almost revolutionary in analysing that.” Robbert van Strien in Items #1 2010
  • “Yaneva arrives at convincing conclusions that can indeed make you look at the work of OMA in another way. The way in which models are used and qualities and characteristics are ascribed to them is hilarious. Yet Yaneva convincingly concludes that the model can have a mind of its own.” Joost Zonneveld at Archined, 23 March 2010
  • “Finally, an ethnography of design! Banham would be pleased to read Yaneva’s ethnographic account of the ‘tribe’ of architects housed in their ‘tribal longhouse’ on the Heer Bokkelweg.” Edwin Garner at, 29 March 2010.
  • “In her book, Made by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Albena Yaneva reveals how an interest in the latter, the processes of making and the mechanisms by which ideas and models can migrate within an office environment, has informed some of the most influential architecture of the 21st Century so far.” Blueprint, OMA Remakes Architecture” by Adrian Friend, 23 February 2010.


RIBA President's Award for Outstanding University-located Research (2010).

Anthropology of Geometry

Project details

  • Principal investigator:  Ray Lucas
  • Dates: April 2017, January 2018
  • Funding: University of Manchester / University of Aberdeen, Journal of Development Studies & Global Development Institute / ERC £2,250 Workshop Grant + Matched funding from KFI

Project overview

This two-day workshop has been followed by a second event in January 2018.

The aim was to look at different forms of geometry and how they inform cognition. A group of artists, architects, anthropologists and mathematicians gathered to discuss various themes from bodily geometries through to robotics and LIDAR sensing. A keynote was given by Tim Ingold, and practical workshops led by Jaime Refoyo; Ricardo Nemirovsky and Tam Dibley; Stephanie Bunn, Mary Crabb and  Geraldine Jones; and Valeria Lembo.

Talks included work by:

  • Stephanie Bunn (St Andrews)
  • Ricardo Nemirovsky (Manchester Metropolitan University)
  • Elizabeth de Freitas (Manchester Metropolitan University)
  • Don Duprez (University of Edinburgh)
  • Ester Gisbert Alemanay (University of Alicante)
  • Dermott McMeel (Auckland)
  • Beth Shotton (University College Dublin)
  • Mike Anusas (University of Edinburgh)
  • Dan Dubowitz (architect)
  • Robin Schaeverbeke (KU Leuven).

The workshop is aimed towards publication and opening up new avenues of investigation parallel to Design Anthropology and Architectural Anthropology.

The next event will be a panel at the Association of Social Anthropologists in Oxford in September 2018.

Architecture and urban planning in socialism and after

Project details

Principal investigator: Łukasz Stanek

Funding: Stimuleringsfonds voor Architectuur (research fellowship and travel grant, 2006); the Berlage Institute (two conference grants, 2009), Jan van Eyck Academie (two conference grants, 2009), Adam Mickiewicz Institute (2014), Erste Stiftung (2014)

Project overview

This is a comparative study of “real existing modernism”, that is to say post-Stalinist architecture in socialist Europe. I am studying the development of modernism in the condition of state socialism (with de-commodification of land, socialist governance models, and strategies of dissidence) but also the continuities in architectural culture in the region since the late 19th century.

Main publications

  • Łukasz Stanek ed. Team 10 East. Revisionist Architecture in Real Existing Modernism, Warsaw: Museum of Modern Art, distributed by Chicago: University of Chicago Press (2014), 250 pages, ISBN 978-83-64177-03-3
  • Łukasz Stanek, Aleksandra Kędziorek, Architecture As a Pedagogical Object: What to Preserve of the Przyczółek Grochowski Housing Estate by Oskar & Zofia Hansen in Warsaw? Architektúra & Urbanizmus, no. 3—4 (December), 2012, 2—21, peer-reviewed

Centring Africa Project

Principal investigator: Łukasz Stanek

The Africanization of Ghanaian Architecture: The Labor of Comparison at the KNUST Campus in Kumasi, 1952-1979

The aim of this research project is to study and re-conceptualize the process of Africanization of Ghanaian architecture, or the emergence and emancipation of indigenous actors and institutions in charge of architecture, planning, and construction in the wake of Ghana’s decolonization. Africanization had been initiated during the shared Ghanaian-British rule (since 1952), but this process accelerated and its dynamic changed after Ghana’s independence from Britain under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah (1957-66).

The guiding hypothesis of this research is that Africanization of Ghanaian architecture did not mean closing Ghana to the outside world. In order to take control over architecture and construction, Ghanaians accepted foreign loans, technology, and expertise from Western Europe and the United States, as well as the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites, the Non-Aligned Movement, and China. In this cosmopolitan environment, a fundamental experience and obligation of Ghanaian actors consisted of comparing ideas and resources from various places, their assessment, modification, and appropriation for the needs of the country. This research will speculate that this “labor of comparison” defined the core dynamics of the Africanization of Ghanaian architecture. Comparison was an empowering experience for Ghanaians as it challenged hierarchies of power and prestige inherited from the colonial period, but it was also a frustrating one, as they needed to compare across often incommensurable traditions and technologies.

This hypothesis will be tested by focusing on the campus of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), constructed since 1952 in Kumasi. After independence, British designers and educators on campus were joined by others, including the Ghanaian architects John Owusu-Addo and Samuel Opare Larbi as well as many Eastern Europeans. They included Hungarian architect Charles Polónyi; Czech architect Jan Skokánek; and Yugoslav (Croatian) architects Niksa Ciko, Miro Marasović, Berislav Kalogjera, and Nebojsa Weiner, and engineer Zvonimir Žagar. Besides working as designers, they contributed to the revision of the British-based curriculum and to the development of research at the School of Architecture. British, Ghanaian, Eastern European and African-American staff were circulating between KNUST and architectural schools in Nigeria (Ibadan, later: Zaria) as well as other countries in the region, both anglophone and francophone.

By focusing on the Development Office and the School of Architecture, this research will study the shifting dynamics of architectural production and education in post-independence Ghana. What were the continuities and ruptures in the conditions of architectural labour, including its division, remuneration, and everyday experience in a design office, on a construction site, and in a classroom? In what way Ghanaian and foreign architects, often trained within various traditions, substantiated their choices concerning design, technology, and education? How were lessons from large-scale, Nkrumah-era projects, such as the Volta River Resettlement Program, incorporated into the design work and the curriculum? Was comparison an opportunity for innovation when, for instance, British-era technologies were merged with Yugoslav concrete technology in the Unity Hall (1963-68)? How was comparison employed to learn from the development of rural areas in socialist Hungary (Charles Polónyi) or from Polish regional planning (Wiktor Richert), and to modernize vernacular technologies (Hannah Schreckenbach)?

Graphic Anthropology of Sanja Matsuri, Tokyo

Project details

  • Principal investigator: Ray Lucas
  • Dates: May 2014 - May 2018 (ongoing)
  • Funding: European Research Council (as part of KFI)

Project overview

This project began as an ad-hoc investigation during a visit to Chiba for the IUAES conference in 2014 and has been supported by further funding from the ERC project, Knowing From the Inside.

The project involves an investigation of the ways in which the festival and processions of Mikoshi (portable shrines) take over an entire district of Tokyo for three days every year as a kind of embodied urbanism.

The project covers:

  • temporary occupations of the city
  • the material culture of the festival
  • transformations of everyday space
  • the collapse of sacred and profane space
  • neighbourhood bonds and belonging
  • portable buildings
  • interactions between legitimate and illegitimate authority.

Outputs have been exhibition-based so far, with two chapters in edited volumes due in 2018.

Materialising the right to the city: Social infrastructures in Ecuador

Project details

Principal investigator:  Leandro Minuchin

Funding:  National Research Council (Ecuador, Senecyt)

Project overview

The project examines the conceptual trajectory of the right to the city in Latin America and describes the limits and tensions of the current normative phase. The research revisits Lefebvre’s original theorizations to illuminate the role infrastructures of proximity play in the unfolding of everyday practices in popular settlements. The research investigates alternative construction systems for housing provision in Ecuador.

Working together with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development in Ecuador and a local NGO in Guayaquil, the research developed a housing typology for Monte Sinaí, that included the following characteristics:

  1. standardised panels for affordable progressive adaptations,
  2. local production of building components, and
  3. visual methods to register local construction practices.

As an output, a housing prototype in Guayaquil was built and a contract between MIDUVI and the local NGO to construct 320 additional units has been signed.

On Air: Television and the Construction of Postmodern Spaces (1970s to 1990s)

Principal investigator

Léa-Catherine Szacka


  • SEED Strategic Research Support Funds 2018-19 – Early Career Call
  • Monash Art Design & Architecture (MADA) 2019 creative residencies

Project overview

Using the frame of mass communications and technological development, this research explores the cultural history of television in its intersection with notions of space and architecture, in the period spanning from the early 1970s to the late 1990s. Concerned more broadly with popular culture and its impact on architecture during the period commonly called “postmodernism”, this project looks not so much at the ways in which architecture has been portrayed in television, but rather at the impact of television - and the apparatus behind it - on the shaping of cities, on architecture and interior spaces, as well as on the production and consumption of aesthetics, though notions of display, performativeness and spectatorship.

On Air: British Television and the Construction of Postmodern Space, 1970s to 1990s aims to investigate the commercialisation and diversification of television from the 1970s onwards. Starting from studies concerned with the introduction of television in the post-war era, this historical and theoretical investigation will go beyond the impact of television as a catalyst for renewed domestic values and familiar togetherness in the 1950s and 1960s, to provide new ways of approaching the relationship between private and public, the home and the city, consumer culture and spectatorship, a couple of decades after the introduction of television.

Pathways, Practices and Architectures: Containing Antimicrobial Resistance in the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic

Project details

  • Principal investigator:  Professor Nik Brown (University of York)
  • Co-investigators: Professor Sarah Nettleton, Dr Daryl Martin, Dr Alan Lewis
  • Researcher: Dr Christina Buse
  • Funding: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

Project overview

Antibiotics may suppress infections without eliminating them, giving rise to antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) bacteria and cross-infection between people.

This project is both timely and important because of the increasing numbers of bacteria acquiring resistance to existing antibiotics.

Our research compares the way three outpatient lung infection clinics attempt to control AMR and cross-infection through the design, practices and architectural layout of their built environments. It further seeks to learn lessons from this to limit AMR in wider healthcare settings.

Further information

Putting the Body of Manchester on Display

Principal investigator


  • The John Rylands Research Institute and Library

Project overview

Throughout history, the human body has influenced systems of belief, which have in turn found numerous means of cultural expression, including through architecture.

The hypotheses for this project is that these architecture-body interconnections have affected the architecture and urban fabric of Manchester; that examples can be identified using historical maps of the city and other information (including images and newspapers, supported by secondary sources); and that changes in attitudes towards the human body can be traced and visualized across time using Digital Humanities techniques.

There are two, interconnected objectives for this project, one academic and one technical.

These relate to two broad research questions: how has the (human) body has been controlled and ‘displayed’ by and in the city, its growth and fabric? How can Digital Humanities techniques, in turn, display these issues as they have developed over time, and open the topic up to new insights and analysis?

South of east-west: Post-colonial planning, technology transfer and the Cold War

Project details

Principal investigator: Łukasz Stanek

Funding: Funded by ETH Zurich (research fellowship, 2010), Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw (research fellowship and exhibition grants, 2009—2011), Berlage Institute (conference grant, 2010), Mondriaan Fonds (exhibition grant, 2010), CASCO Utrecht (travel fellowship, 2012), Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University (2014)

Project overview

I am studying the emergence of modernism as the techno-cultural mode of urbanization becoming a global phenomenon during the Cold War. Global modernism was produced by multiple, and often competing, networks of world-wide cooperation, which, besides Western “globalization”, included socialist internationalism, the Non-Aligned Movement, and Pan-African cooperation. With case studies from Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East, I am interested in distributed authorship, network analysis, planetary urbanization, and new products of architectural labour since the 1960s.

Main publications

  • Łukasz Stanek, Miastoprojekt Goes Abroad. Transfer of Architectural Labor from Socialist Poland to Iraq (1958—1989), The Journal of Architecture (London), Vol. 17, No. 3, 2012, pp. 361—86, peer-reviewed
  • Łukasz Stanek, Second World’s Architecture and Planning in the Third World, introduction to the volume Cold War Transfer. Architecture and Planning from Socialist Countries in the “Third World”, edited by Łukasz Stanek and Tom Avermaete, The Journal of Architecture (London), Vol. 17, No. 3, 2012, pp. 299—307, peer-reviewed
  • Łukasz Stanek, Postmodernism Is Almost All Right. Polish Architecture after Socialist Globalization, Warsaw: Fundacja Bęc-Zmiana (2012), 96 pages, ISBN 978-83-62418-14-5

Further information

Strategic Network: Data and Cities as Complex Adaptive Systems

Project details

Principal investigator: Deljana Iossifova



  • Panagiotis Angeloudis (Imperial College London)
  • Shidan Cheng (Wuhan University)
  • Daniel Graham (Imperial College London)
  • Jun Luo (Wuhan University)

Non-academic partners:

  • Association of Greater Manchester Authorities
  • Future Cities Catapult
  • Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce
  • Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)

Funding: Economic and Social Research Council (2015), £100,799

Project overview

The ESRC Strategic Network ‘Data and Cities as Complex Adaptive Systems’ (DACAS) seeks to progress an integrated approach to the study, planning and design of cities.

Despite increasing attention on the application of new information flows to the design and development of ‘smart’ cities, our understanding of the interconnections between ‘hard’ infrastructure and economic, ecological and social systems in urban areas remains limited.  

DACAS brings together an international group of researchers from a range of different fields to support the development of an innovative and cross-disciplinary set of tools to gather, integrate and interpret a wide range of emerging data sources. Findings will benefit policy-makers, academics and other actors seeking to develop evidence-based responses to urban issues using open data.

The project develops in a series of events and workshops in Manchester, Sao Paulo and Wuhan:

  • Cities as Complex Systems, Launch, Manchester Metropolitan University, 1-3 February 2016
  • Modelling Urban Systems, Workshop, Sao Paulo State University, 20-24 June 2016
  • Understanding Urban Transformations through Data, Summer School, University of Manchester, 12-16 September 2016
  • Digital Tools for Urban Challenges, Workshop, Wuhan University, 24-28 October 2016

Further information

The Architecture, Culture and Identity of the Travelling Fairground

Project details

  • Principal investigator: Stephen Walker
  • Funders: RIBA Research Trust Award

Project overview

This project explores the architecture of the street fair.

Everyone has some experience of fairs; it is an accessible topic of interest to a wide range of people. Less obvious is how the fair and market — the events around which many towns and cities grew up — influenced the formation of permanent architectural and urban fabric. When the fair returns, this fabric disappears into the apparent (and willingly accepted) chaos of fairground experience. Underlying this, though invisible to the public, there are extensive influences and multi-layered rules governing the fair’s environment.

Working mainly with examples from the ‘Backend Run’ of English fairs, this project examines the spatial organization of the street fair as a whole, with the aim of understanding various aspects of the environment itself, and the relationships it enjoys with its socio-political, legislative and physical contexts, and with its public.

Towards Sustainable Sanitation in India and Brazil (TOSSIB)

Principal investigator

Project overview

TOSSIB (Towards Sustainable Sanitation in India and Brazil) studies sustainability outcomes across different sanitation systems, geographical contexts (India, Brazil) and temporal scales using multiple analytical approaches and state-of-the-art modelling. Scenario building will support decision-makers in uncovering plausible futures.

The project will enhance our understanding of complex human-environment interactions and sustainability outcomes.

It hopes to enable change in addressing multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 

  • reducing inequalities in promoting sustainable sanitation for low-income areas (SDG10, SDG12); 
  • supporting the development of sanitation infrastructures that are culturally appropriate, more inclusive, economically viable and less wasteful (SDG6, SDG11); 
  • helping to reduce common health risks associated with the lack of sanitation (SDG3);
  • progressing the improvement of living standards for the poor (SDG11). 

The project focus is on the watershed region containing Greater Mumbai (India) and on the Rio das Velhas Watershed (Brazil), which is home to Belo Horizonte.

Beyond densely populated urban centres, these watershed regions contain formal and informal communities of different sizes, villages, as well as swaths of sparsely populated agricultural land, forests and mangroves. 

The municipalities and communities in these regions face fundamental sanitation challenges (such as the universal collection and treatment of sewage).

They offer unique opportunities to study the entanglement of co-evolving urban, peri-urban and rural systems at varying stages of infrastructural development.  

Further information

Warren & Mosley: Art and Architecture

Project details

Principal investigator: Stephen Walker

Project overview

As part of my ongoing research into the relationship between art and architectural practice and theory, I am currently working on the Bristol-based interdisciplinary practice Warren & Mosley.

Aspects of their work concerning their project “Rogue Game” (2010 and ongoing) were presented as part of the research project 'Is Architecture Art?' funded by a Discovery Grant of the Australian Research Council (ARC) and based at the Centre for Architecture, Theory, History and Criticism (ATCH), at the School of Architecture, University of Queensland, in partnership with Ghent University at a conference organised in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Arts (KASK), Ghent.

More recently, this work is developing by considering the mediation of utopia as this operates in their works Utopian Building Consent; Beyond Utopia; and Utopian Talk Show.