Teach & Research
We continually push at the boundaries in our work, and this is embodied in our ongoing teaching and research programmes. Some of our research, carried out in partnership with other experts in the field, feeds directly into our design and construction activities. Our teaching expands our horizons and gives us a wider reach of engagement in the promotion of the poetry and practicalities of sustainable living.
Building & Life
Architecture is too important to be confined – whether in a designer’s mind, an architect’s office, or a single site. In the final analysis, the whole world can be said to be its context, in a series of unfolding, nested hierarchies from micro-climate to planet. Manifest therefore endeavour to engage with the world itself, through a programme of teaching and research, which allows us to debate and discuss how we should live.
In partnership with several other bodies and charities, we promote the goal of sustainable living through traditional craft, woodland education and academic investigation.
Grey Chalk Project
Manifest are delighted to be working closely with the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in our ongoing collaboration on research into “grey” chalks and other feebly hydraulic limes. Hydraulic limes have the property of being able to set under water, and while less flexible and breathable than pure (“air”) limes, there are several uses in traditional and natural building for which they are the ideal material. Although the island of Britain is blessed with a huge variety of limestones, none of these are used commercially to produce any kind of hydraulic lime: particularly conspicuous by its absence is the so-called feebly hydraulic, which as its name suggests fills an important niche where a requirement for stronger set meets that for maximum breathability.
Our research has taken us to a range of working quarries across England and Wales, searching for the best local stones (and individual beds within quarry faces) for suitable limes. Different test and field kilns burn (calcine) the stone, where we have also conducted research into traditional slaking techniques to produce putties, hot mixes and dry hydrates.
Cob – a mixture of earth and straw built in a monolithic structure – is something of a wonder material: it is easily obtainable, eminently instinctive to build with, non-toxic, beautiful and essentially zero-embodied carbon. While it performs well in storing heat and providing a stable internal climate, its ability to insulate against heat loss is perhaps its one downside. Manifest are working on a range of construction methods by which a fully natural and breathable set-up can provide cob construction with all the requirements of the modern Building Regulations, while losing none of its native beauty and charm. Work includes experiments with straw clay, earth renders and lime-stabilised soil construction.
There is wonder in a reciprocal frame, where no one element spans the full distance, yet each support the next, which supports the next in turn, passing the forces around in a never-ending circle. Manifest push the possibilities of these beautiful structures, with innovative connection details and new “herringbone” and “flower” structures, breathing life into these ancient forms.
Lectures & Publications
We are often invited to give lectures and talks, and have presented on behalf of the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and a range of local history societies and community groups. We have also made several presentations on the care of historic churches for churchwardens, and always appreciate the level of curiosity, enquiry and debate that these events encourage.
The Manifest Foundation is an exciting new venture, launched to widen the debate and disseminate ideas on the contexts for sustainable living. The Foundation offers courses, many based in Dragon Wood, in partnership with local groups and charities. These range from targeted green woodworking skills, coppicing and woodland management to broader curriculum-based activities and craft as therapy.
We offer education services in traditional crafts and the context of ancient woodland. We are delighted to be associated with the Fathom Trust in Wales, most recently acting as crafters for their Making Well course, teaching participants in the construction of a cob pizza oven and associated carpentry. You can find more about our projects with them here.
Would you like to learn more about woodland management, sustainable coppicing, and the uses for greenwood? Or are you interested in wild foraging, wayfinding, sundials and star-gazing? Get in touch with us to discuss how we might share our skills.