Introduction, Origins & Overview

Alternative Practice

This investigated other forms of organisation of architects' offices based around the concept of cooperative working and shared equity. Several members went on to establish their own practices adopting such models. A pre-eminent example was Support Community Building Design, which emerged from a small group of graduates from the Architectural Association which went on to create a cooperative practice focused on potential client groups in society which traditionally were not the beneficiaries of the architectural profession which, we would have said, was essentially the handmaiden of capital. These groups eventually included local authority tenants, women's groups including refuges, ‘black’ i.e. racially self-defined groups.


Many NAM members were engaged in the field of architectural education, either as staff or students, and pursued new ideas for course content and pedagogy, reassessing existing course structures and priorities in conventional architectural training. The concern to focus on socially necessary buildings and to find new and meaningful ways of engaging with building users and the wider community - both central NAM themes - illuminated much of the discussion.

Feminist Group

This developed a feminist agenda within the NAM critique. Alongside feminist consciousness raising and other feminist political groups, women within NAM came together to develop a feminist understanding of the built environment and building industry. The group acted to advise women in a range of campaigning issues. A special issue of Slate on feminism was produced in July/ August 1978. Emerging from the group was a' Feminist Design Collective' which became ‘Matrix' in 1980, producing the book ‘Making Space - Women and the Manmade Environment', which has been on architecture booklists for 35 years, and the design practice and Technical Aid Centre.

The majority of this archive is held at the Bishopsgate Institute.

Professional Issues

A cohort of NAM members became engaged with the professional registration body, standing as elected councillors on the Architects Registration Council and its various committees. Hitherto entirely dominated by the RIBA bloc, the Council began to yield to a new dynamic through NAM's involvement, enabling fresh perspectives on such issues as mandatory fee scales, greater lay representation on the body, ethically-based standards of professional conduct, etc.

Public Design Service

As it was only through the public sector that the majority of people could have access to the land and resources needed for housing, education and other essential services, the task was therefore to reform the practice of architecture in local councils to provide an accessible and accountable design service to local people and service users. The following 6 Interim Proposals were developed which were later initiated and implemented in Haringey Council 1979-1985 by NAM members.


To help promote its work and reduce dependence on the established professional press, NAM created its own newspaper SLATE. The editorial group met bi-monthly to gather together latest events, activities and ideas emerging from radical critiques and challenges to the established order of architectural practice and education. The content of each edition was collated, and cut-and-pasted into layouts of the magazine which typically ran from 16 to 28 pages. Each edition included a brilliant cartoon by Andrew Brown who emerged as a clever graphic artist synthesising NAM's radical ethics. SLATE's production ran to 17 issues in total.

Unionisation & Architecture

Themes included action on asbestos and Health & Safety, and involvement with Direct Labour Organisations and Building Unions. Following comparative research of possible options, NAM encouraged unionisation of building design staffs within the private sector, negotiating the establishment of a dedicated section within TASS. Though recruitment was modest the campaign identified many of the issues around terms of employment and industrial relations that underpin the processes of architectural production.