Mr Tom Coward

Research project: Towards a conversational architecture


In today's contingent environment of commissioning buildings the architect's role is becoming recognised as negotiator, an enabled collaborator, rather than as an isolated author. The PhD explores the reciprocal role of participation and conversation within both the lived production and experiential realization of the architectural object.

Conversational methodologies are studied as a means by which an architecture can accrete value and meaning, thereby contributing to society and the discipline. The thesis explores this active role of the architect in space production and uses performances of architecture as research. The research focuses on the conversation manifest in the making and experiencing of architecture.

The contribution to knowledge is sited in the framing, contextualising and analysis of conversational practice. It posits the value of a 'performative turn' within architecture as a maker of a 'conversational' en-active architectural space; and its ability to reprioritize the value of the profession within the collective imagination.


I am an architect and a founding director of AOC Architecture Ltd, established in 2005. AOC is a RIBA award winning chartered practice. Our work is both beautiful and socially engaged. Gaining recognition for inventive inquiry, participatory practice and characterful buildings, we operate at diverse scales for demanding clients, with a reputation for high quality architecture in sensitive contexts.

I have taught at a number of architecture schools including Kingston, Westminster, London Metropolitan, the Architectural Association, Cardiff and Nottingham University. In 2011 I was a Louis I Kahn Visiting Assistant Professor at Yale School of Architecture and taught a design studio 'Re-storing Public Possessions' and a seminar series 'People Making Places'. 

Areas of research interest

  • Brief development with complex stakeholders and Institutions
  • Participation, collaboration and co-design
  • Community and social architecture
  • Working with museums and exhibition design
  • Place making
  • Engagement with archives
  • Architectural representation
  • Architectural form
  • Architectural process


  • Professional Practice RIBA Part III, London Metropolitan University
  • MA RCA Architecture & Interiors, Royal College of Art
  • BA (Hons) Architecture, University of Nottingham

Funding or awards received

  • RIBA Award 2017 - The Green Nunhead
  • 2017 RIBA JOURNAL MacEwan Award, architecture for common good - shortlist
  • Design Museum, Design of the Year nomination 2017
  • 2016 AJ Retrofit Best Cultural Building, Wellcome Collection - Reading Room
  • 2015 NLA Best Public Building, Shortlisted
  • 2014 Icon Interior of the Year, Shortlisted
  • 2013 NLA Don't Move, Improve - Interior Design, Commended
  • 2012 Brick Awards, Best Education Building, Shortlisted