Muf Diverse

By Teal Triggs, 10 March 2002

Amongst the recent slew of oversized books on the philosophies of architectural and design practices, it is refreshing to find a user-friendly paperback pragmatically titled, THIS IS WHAT WE DO: A Muf Manual.

The simplicity of the book’s design (one column, black and white images, no trendy typefaces) reflects the attitude of this all-female multi-disciplinary collective of urban strategists who playfully call themselves MUF. However, MUF is no ordinary architectural practice. They have seen few of their designs actually built and have become a curiosity for the design press – for whom they refuse to highlight gender as an issue. Accordingly, over the course of their seven-year working life, MUF have become a myth.

The book is thus a timely piece of documentation which clearly defines and explains their working practices. It features a series of contextualising essays and project strategies for commissions ranging from the Museum of Women’s Art, The New Art Gallery, Walsall to the Local Zone at the Millennium Dome (a job from which they were fired). The processes of research, creativity and practice are disentangled, revealing an inspiring methodological and strategic approach to the design of public spaces. In other words, the strategies become the product.

This working process is described by MUF enigmatically as ‘d/s = D’ or ‘detail/strategy = DETAIL’ and this equation is used to describe their interest in the particular (e.g. personal views) and its relationship to more general social and political contexts. For example, their experiences as women are clearly very important, and notions such as collaboration, community, networks, motherhood, and the ‘personal is public’ feature throughout. But MUF is also about creating dialogues between different disciplines, and strategies that clearly take into account the individual as well as the collective. This is a ‘how to do it’ manual which should be read by all.

Teal Triggs <bunker AT> is Director of Postgraduate Studies, Faculty of Art, Design & Music, Kingston University

This Is What We Do: A Muf Manual // text by MUF, contributions from Katherine Shonfield and Adrian Dannatt, edited by Rosa Ainley // Ellipsis// London // 2001 // ISBN 1 84166 058 2 // £18