Mr Tom Coward

Research project: Towards a conversational architecture


This is a practice-based PhD that explores the reciprocal role of participation and conversation within both the lived production and experiential realisation of the architectural object.

In today's contingent environment for both the commissioning and construction of building the role of the architect is becoming more recognised as both an enabler and a negotiator, an enabled co-author, rather than as an isolated author, and these methodologies are studied as one of the means by which an architecture can accrete value and meaning, and thereby contribute to society and the discipline. The thesis explores this active role of the architect in space production and aims to use the performance of architecture as research. The research will focus on the conversation and dialogue manifest in the making and experiencing of architecture.

Using four comparative case studies, analysed at all stages from briefing to final completion and use, this PhD provides a critical assessment of the methods of conversation in design practice. These are compared and contextualized in the context of ‘conversational' practice within the modern movement of architecture. This methodology also allows critical moments of transformation within the design manifestation to be identified and analysed.

The PhD delivers an expression of performative research that contributes to the overall understanding of each project, and their value in comparison, and as a whole to practice.

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 in its ability to reprioritize the value of the profession within the collective imagination.


Tom Coward co-founded AOC Architecture Ltd. In 2005, gaining recognition for inventive inquiry, participatory practice and characterful designs for high quality public buildings, cultural institutions and residential projects in sensitive contexts. Tom studied at University of Nottingham and the Royal College of Art. He was the Louis I. Kahn Visiting Professor at Yale University in 2011. He is a Senior Lecturer on the M.Arch course at Kingston University, where he is also undertaking a PhD by practice. Tom sits on the GLA Architecture & Urbanism Panel, he is a RIBA Client Advisor and a member of the Southwark and Croydon Design Review Panels.

Areas of research interest

  • Architecture
  • Participation
  • Practice


  • MA RCA
  • BA Hons
  • ARB
  • RIBA
  • FRSA
  • FHEA