Manifest are chartered architects and oak framers, specialising in historic conservation and environmentally conscious new buildings across the south of England, the Midlands and Wales.
Who are Manifest?
Manifest Design Workshop Ltd is a multi-disciplinary architects’ practice and craft workshop based in Eynsham in west Oxfordshire, on the edge of the Cotswolds. As both conservation architects and oak framers, we weave together architectural design experience with practical craftsmanship and philosophical research in our informed approach to building.
Specialising in the conservation of historic buildings, we also delight in new designs carried out with traditional craftsmanship and natural, breathable, low-carbon materials. We are trained oak-framers, working in the English tradition of scribed carpentry, specialising also in earth and straw constructions, able to design, specify and build. History informs the new, and our experience of the new informs the conservation of historic fabric and anatomies.
For us, architecture begins with an intense involvement with people on the ground, and the materials to hand, combining our practical skills and extensive knowledge of historic building techniques with excellent design abilities, to produce buildings which lie close to the earth and lift the human spirit. We believe that our relationship with the natural world is full of poetry and meaning, and that architecture can show the way to enjoying this relationship to an ever closer degree.
What is our approach?
Manifest’s approach is to let those techniques developed in the age before oil, and perfected over millennia, to inform new ecological and community-led design. In a new era dedicated to the transition from an oil-based economy, more emphasis is placed on locality. This means not only the use of local and appropriate materials, but more particularly the local human community.
Manifest’s architecture draws inspiration from what is literally the hand-made architecture of the past. Thus the local landscape is the basis for design: not merely the physical landscape, but that which grows out of the locality: culture, history, folklore and people are essential and vital parts of this building activity. We design and work close to the earth, in the paradigm of “natural building”.
What is Natural Building?
Natural building is eco-building, achieving the high performance of thermal insulation and air-tightness, while reducing the embodied carbon and energy of the building by using materials which are left as close to their natural form as possible. The skill in designing and working many of these materials is based on traditional crafts. Such things are naturally low in embodied energy, since they were developed in an era before cheap oil and machine power: natural building materials include cob, earth, timber and stone. Even where some processing is involved, for example in the production of limes, these use far less energy than their modern equivalents like cement.
Recent years have seen a resurgence of the use of such materials, and the addition of new forms to add to the mix: the invention of the baling machine has allowed us to build houses out of straw bales – the oldest of these date back to the 19th century. (Of course, straw, reeds and other plants have been used for millennia as thatch as well.) Later developments include wood-fibre insulation boards and sheepswool insulation, lime-hemp mixes, cork boards and natural paints.
It is vital that we build in an environmentally responsible manner – but we also need to build beautiful, tactile and human buildings to house our bodies and our spirits. Natural building tends to encourage handcraft, and great care and love in construction. Such materials are healthier for all – not only the natural world, but for buildings’ human occupants and builders – even at demolition, most of these materials can be re-used, recycled, or simply composted.
Manifest are experienced in the detail, design and specification of these materials: most are breathable, contributing to healthy internal environments, and working excellently with adjacent historic building fabric when carefully designed. In this, their similarity to traditional construction materials are key to their use in the repair and extension of older structures. We have achieved several Full Plans approvals for schemes through the Building Regulations, without the need for plastic membranes, artificial insulation or cementitious components, and have several successful projects in our portfolio.
Meet our team
Hugh Conway Morris