Founded in London in 1994, muf officially coins itself as 'a collaborative practice of art and architecture committed to public realm projects'. The practice was set up defiantly and explicitly as an alternative to what the founding members, Liza Fior, Katherine Clarke and Juliet Bidgood, saw as mainstream practice. As the clearest defining set of principles in setting up muf, Liza Fior mentions the 'bringing together of interesting women'. Feminism is not openly mentioned, yet there is an underlying and often explicit tenet of feminism within their work, in particular the notion of collaborative practice signals a commitment to 'mutual knowledge', and the context of the public realm indicates a social (spatial) ambition beyond the fixity of the building as object.
muf's work, includes urban design, buildings and strategic documents where the processes of planning are left open to include the voices of others; they are, in fact, all about the voices of others. Spatial arrangements and material resolutions are treated as the negotiation of interests that come about through consultation between public and private, communal and individual; often, muf suggests frameworks for action rather than determining specific outcomes. Decisions are guided by intuition, aspirations, rows; methodology comes out of doing and then reflecting at the end of doing. The idea of non-imposition informs all their work, with a continuous deliberation and conversation between process and product, and an implicit questioning of given briefs.
This approach allows muf to support marginal claims to space and they often privilege a multiplicity of small, modest proposals to an over-arching solution. They give emphasis to the specificities of each situation, whilst openly acknowledging that an architect's research methods leave out much, meaning that a project can hinge upon a chance encounter. Here the practice of the architect shifts from claiming complete authority to being a more reflexive and intuitive endeavour. On many occasions, muf have advised their clients not to build, an ethical position that may lose them work in the short-term but in the long-term results in lasting relationships that can engender more work. In recent years, muf have collaborated on large-scale regeneration schemes and have trod a difficult line between working with commercial developers and keeping true to their methods. Here muf's subtle subversions and persuasive powers have allowed them to cajole developers and council officials alike into providing much more than they had bargained for.
muf, "An Invisible Privilege," in Altering Practices: Feminist Politics and Poetics of Space, ed. Doina Petrescu (London: Routledge, 2007).
muf and Katherine Vaughan Williams, "How do you do 'what you do'
?," in Architecture and Participation, ed. Peter Blundell
Jones, Doina Petrescu, and Jeremy Till (London: Routledge, 2005).
Liza Fior, Katherine Clarke, and Sophie Handler, "It's all about getting what you want - what we want is to make work that fits," Architectural Design 75, no. 2 (April 2005).
muf, This Is What We Do: A Muf Manual (London: Ellipsis, 2001).
Alison Hand, "Out in the open [public art]," Blueprint (London, no. 216 (February 2004).
Zoe Ryan, "Barking Town Square: muf architecture/art," in The Good Life: New Public Spaces for Recreation (New Jersey: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006), 43-44.
Cordula Zeidler, "Hypocaust Building, St. Albans: Muf," A10: New European Architecture, no. 4 (August 2005).
"Barking Town Square, Barking [London, UK]," A + T, no. 27 (2006).
"Open spaces that are not parks: Town regeneration in London - one example," Archithese 34, no. 5 (October 2004).
Since 1996 muf has established a reputation for pioneering and innovative projects that address the social, spatial and economic infrastructures of the public realm. The practice philosophy is driven by an ambition to realize the potential pleasures that exist at the intersection between the lived and the built. The creative process is underpinned by a capacity to establish effective client relationships that reveal and value the desires and experience of varied constituencies.
Access is understood not as a concession but as the gorgeous norm; creating spaces that have an equivalence of experience for all who navigate them both physically and conceptually, muf deliver quality and strategical durable projects that inspire a sense of ownership through occupation.
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