Glasgow Mackintosh School of Architecture MSA Stage 4

Floris van Manen (He/Him)

A common theme throughout my projects this year was that of modularity, specifically related to allowing people to adapt to changes within their lives, the community or even to world events such as the recent pandemic. This concept of a modular space would be explored within the context of an ever-increasing scale going from the design for single flat to a fully adaptable public building.

All our projects this year where set in the Barras, an area of Glasgow with a rich history, I tried throughout my projects to respect this heritage and preserve the physical history of the area and where not possible I tried find a respectful compromise.

Project 1 – ‘Cell’
Project 3 – ‘Urban Housing’
Project 4 – ‘Urban Building’

Project 1 – ‘Cell’

An aspect I wanted to explore with my P1 project was the way in which the COVID-19 pandemic messed with people’s work lives, especially for those who are involved in the creative sector and would lose access to the required specialised equipment and spaces required for their jobs. I wanted to explore if it was possible to provide a way in which these people could work from home without majorly disturbing their way of living and maybe even allow these individuals to work from home in the future allowing them more flexible work lives. The main goal was to ensure that despite the larger working space it would not interfere with the living space ensuring an efficient working environment.

For my proposal I took the example of a woodworker who would require a relatively large workshop to work in. I was inspired by the 50 x 50 House by Mies van der Rohe making the initial working area a large open space that could be configured by a series of moving partitions to create rooms as required by the resident. These same partitions would also allow the space to be closed off from the rest of the house ensuring there is a barrier between work and life. I also added an amount of adaptability to the living area of the project with an extendable dining table, a sofa bed in the living room and a murphy bed in the bedroom. This way the static space was provided with an amount of flexibility as well.



50 x 50 House by Mies van der Rohe

A couple of other possible layouts for the living space

Project 3 – ‘Urban Housing’



One of the main ideas behind this project is the clear separation of labour and domesticity to ensure neither interferes with the other. It also centers around the concept of modular and adaptable multipurpose spaces allowing the apartments in the Urban Housing project to be malleable to the inhabitants’ needs by giving them spaces of a less set use and identity, making it easier for those spaces assigned to labour, domestic or other uses to be separated. I hope that with this modularity the community will become diverse and allow for new skills to be brought not only the housing project itself but also the Barras and surrounding areas such as Calton. To facilitate this project also includes several green event spaces that can be used by those living in the surrounding area, the inhabitants of the project, either together or separate. Improvement of public transport in the area would also allow for a connection to be made to the Merchant City and the center of Glasgow, allowing for easy commuting for the residents who are not working from home. Finally rather then the low-cost approach we took during our District project I approached this project with the concept of energy efficiency, this mainly manifests in the form of adaptive reuse of the existing buildings on the site which would cost less overall energy then knocking them down and replacing them.


Separation of Labour and Domesticity allows for;

Mental Health – stress from work is less likely to carry over into domestic life

◊ An Efficient Work Environment – someone is less likely to be distracted domestic life during work

Prevents potential dangers from work carrying over (mostly applicable to the creative fields in which dangerous equipment might be used)

In an attempt to visualise the modularity and adaptability of these flat I decided to tell the hypothetical story of a family moving into the housing project and how their home is able to evolve and change over time in response to their changing lives, the surrounding community and even world events.

The Piersons move in before the pandemic, choosing the East End over the more expensive areas of Glasgow. The husband, Elliot works as at a realty company in the cities and uses his bike and occasionally the bus to travel into the city each day. As the slowly unpack all their belongings many of the still unopened box are placed in a storage area created in the modular space. The lack of scattered boxes allows them the use the rest of the open space to throw a house-warming party with family and friends.
As the pandemic arrives and Glasgow goes into lockdown, Elliot is able to keep his job being able to quickly transform part of the modular space into a home office. Over the duration of the lockdown Elliot’s wife, Nina, tries out a number of hobbies in order to stave off the boredom setting up her own crafting/hobby space next to her husband’s office. Even though the couple are forced to stay inside most of the time they are still able to use the small yard they have in front of their apartment to get some fresh air and are even occasionally able to communicate with passing neighbours at a safe distance preventing a total social blackout
As the lockdown starts to ease Elliot occasionally goes back to the office in the city but still largely work from home. Out of a combination of boredom and a desire for more financial security Nina finds a job at one of the shops that had recently reopened on the ground floor of the apartment building. The living room becomes a temporary guest bedroom as a close friend of Elliot’s moves in with them having lost his job and subsequently his home during lockdown.
As time progresses Nina managed to get a promotion at the shop resulting in her transforming Elliot’s office into her own space. Due to the improved financial situation Elliot decides to start his own real estate company renting out one of the office spaces on The Space’s top floor. During this time Nina’s grandparents decide to pay a visit so they can celebrate Christmas together. As the year comes to an end they all attend the neigbourhood New Year party held on one of the rooftop green spaces.
A few more years have passed, the couple has decided they want to have a baby, an area is partitioned off for their daughter’s bedroom. After a few more years Nina decides to retire after working almost a decade at the store, however as boredom returns her office is quickly transformed back into a hobby room in which both Nina and her daughter spend most of their free time. Her mother’s interest in art having rubbed off on her, Hadley enrolls into a local Art Course and eventually rents out one of the studio spaces in The Space, often going up to the top floor to bother her father or have lunch with him.

Project 4 – ‘Urban Building’

While I had visited the Barras on a number of different occasions before this project it had always been during the busy weekend markets and I had never noticed how desolate the area becomes during weekdays and this was something I wanted to prevent from happening in my project. To achieve this the design of the project is almost entirely flexible and adaptable.


The performance space is highly modular and can be broken up when not in use allowing it to function alongside the already existing venues in the Barras (The Barrowland Ballroom, BAad and Saint Luke’s & The Winged Ox) being able to fill in any gaps in demand or when the demand is not there preform a different function.

When the performance area is not in use the large empty space can be used as a gathering place for the local community working alongside the retail space on either side of the building which are intended to be run by local business owners harkening back to a time before the construction of the market sheds when the area consisted of mixed residential and commercial buildings. While these shops might not changes as much over time as the other modular parts of the building they can still adapt to changing conditions in the community, economy or even the world.

The last the three major components of the building are the adaptable event spaces on the top floor which can be used for anything like a cooking workshop to an after school study or extracurricular club. The moveable partition allow for the spaces to be easily rearranged and the large windows make it a well-lit versatile open space.