Mr Tom Coward

Research project: Towards a conversational architecture


All architecture is communication: Structuring our relations and shaping our stories. In our media-social world so much of that communication no longer requires a physical architecture. Does this suggest a need to develop more conversational buildings? The idea that architecture might be in dialogue; contextual; regional; part of, or in contrast to a history; is well exercised.  Stated relations to old space, found space, everyday space, users and communities - are all current ways for modern designers to make relational work. However, a conversation is different from other forms of communication; a nuanced interchange of information between equal and engaged persons; a social interaction. The study provides a consideration of conversation in defining a project, in participation with its development, in its construction and in its use. Architects are often in intense and nuanced dialogue with their architecture, but does this translate into a conversational experience for the occupant?


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