The Courtyard Project at The Manchester Museum

The Courtyard Project is a collaborative project involving The Manchester Museum and 5th Year Architecture students from the Re_Map and Prototype studio units at Manchester School of Architecture.

A competition invited the students to design an environment within the Courtyard space at The Manchester Museum to align with the summer programme and exhibitions. A shortlist of five proposals were selected and developed further, a summary of which will be exhibited at the Museum from March 2010.

The Museum have selected Reflective Room to be taken forward and the project will be constructed in the Courtyard in June 2010. The student design team from the Prototype unit is led by Matthew Mills and will be assisted by unit tutors Nick Tyson and Ming Chung, along with Neil Thomas of Atelier One.

The Reflective Room will be fabricated and assembled by all students involved in the project in collaboration with technical assistance from Manchester Metropolitan University, The University of Manchester and The Manchester Museum.



Design Team statement:

The Team are inspired by the changes that unfold in the Courtyard over the course of the day; by people passing, ambling and drifting through almost unaware of their surroundings. The aim is to utilise the ordinary to create the sublime.

A room is to be fabricated within which people can re-engage with the Courtyard and as well as the space itself, to sit and relax, contemplate and reflect. The concept aims to revive an awareness of the environment by taking an off-the-shelf product in the form of a standard black glazed ceramic tile and to harness its material qualities.

The replicable nature of the tile component is explored within a plywood skin and structure to create an experiential space. The inherent qualities of the standard tile are offset by the subtle and delicately distorted reflective surface when viewed against the contrasting untreated plywood carcass.

By enclosing the public space within a room, the courtyard is revealed in a less direct way and is presented to the observer as an abstraction of the surroundings. Edges, materials, weather and the surrounding environment are made apparent through subtle reflections, reducing the large scale to an accessible human scale.

The student Design Team, made up of students from the Prototype studio unit, have overseen the development and early progression of the Reflective Room project. The members include: Adam Atraktzi, Anna Parker, David Kent, Mark Bonshek, Matthew Mills and Spencer Fretwell.

 Prototype unit statement:

The Prototype studio unit takes material as a primary resource from which to develop the possibilities of tectonic assembly and the exploration of architectural space. Experimental workshop processes are utilised to investigate ways in which ‘analogue’ hands-on making can inform the use of ‘digital’ contemporary technologies, in the development of a material practice that connects thinking and making. The reductive deployment of resources, materials and fabrication methodologies are regarded as opportunities in relation to a sustainable culture.


The Manchester School of Architecture was formed in 1996, as an innovative collaboration between Manchester Metropolitan University and The University of Manchester.

This blog has been set-up to document the process of taking the winning scheme and making it real and built on site. The blog will also document all the individual submissions and the group submissions.

To view the progress and daily updates of the Reflective Room, see the ‘Home’ page. For individual and shortlisted submissions, see ‘Individual submissions’ and for the 5 group submissions see ‘Group submissions’.

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