A contemporary structure celebrating new work from writers, artists and thinkers



An invited list of around 30 artists and architects were invited to submit expressions of interest to create a bespoke mobile contemporary teahouse and reading room to tour Hadrian’s Wall in 2016.

While referencing the original Roman mansios and the occupation of the borderland region through which Hadrian’s Wall runs, the design criteria were written to be as open as possible to allow for maximum creative input and interpretation.

Within this open brief, a number of key requirements defined the project, including a desire to commission an extraordinary and accessible piece of design; the need to provide a fully accessible venue; the ability for it to be transported between venues; and the potential for the structure to be reused after the tour.

From the original submissions of interest, four architects and one artist were shortlisted for interview.


  1. Neon

  1. Sean Griffiths

  1. Matthew Butcher Associates

  1. FleaFolly Architects

  1. Krijn de Koning

Our selection panel that included Professor Graham Farmer, Head of Newcastle University School of Architecture and Carl Hutton from English Heritage selected Matthew Butcher’s ‘mobile ruin’ proposal as the winning design.


Their design team is formed of:

Matthew Butcher, Owain Williams and Kieran Thomas Wardle.

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Matthew Butcher works across the fields of architecture, art and performance.  Recent projects and exhibitions include ‘Stage City’ (exhibited at the V&A Museum and the Prague Quadrennial) and ‘2EmmaToc/Writtle Calling’ a temporary radio station in Essex, which was voted in Art Forum as one of the best events and projects of the year. Matthew is a lecturer in Architecture and Performance and BSc Programme Director at the Bartlett School of Architecture. He is also co-founder and editor of the architectural newspaper P.E.A.R.: Paper for Emerging Architectural Research.

Kieran Thomas Wardle is an architect focusing on the relationship between the built environment and politics. He studied at the Liverpool School of Architecture and the Universidad Europea de Madrid before graduating with distinction from the Bartlett School of Architecture in 2013. Kieran teaches at the Architectural Association and has exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Shows.

Owain Williams graduated with distinction from the Bartlett School of Architecture having studied for degree at the University of Brighton, where he was nominated for the RIBA Presidents Medal. Owain was also the recipient of the National Eisteddfod Architecture Prize in 2012, and received a scholarship from the Design Commission in recognition of his work as a student of architecture.  Owain was also the designer of a bronze medal winning garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2014, exhibiting his drawings at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition during the same year.

The Mansio consists of three distinct spatial elements. 

The Gatehouse - a space to drink tea, read and view the landscape, The Vessel - a mini cinema running a series of short films about the authors and poets who have been working in residence throughout the region as part of Hexham Book Festival’s 2016 programme, and The Signpost – a tower that signals the Mansio’s presence within each venue it travels to. The Mansio will also feature a second screen located on a large hinged external panel that will allow visitors sitting outside the structure to enjoy a programme of additional video works that take inspiration from landscape and borderland areas. 

The forms of the structure are inspired by the industrial architecture and heritage that the Mansio will encounter along its journey through the north east and north west of England as well as the broken and fragmented forms of the ruins around Hadrian’s Wall. 

Made from an semi transparent white polycarbonate, the fully accessible structure could be seen as a kind of ghost, with light and shadow permeating its surface giving the appearance of something that is both present and absent. The overall effect is of a vulnerable monumentality that sustains a distinct dialogue with its surroundings.

Filmed by Rory Thomas, A level student at Charter School, East Dulwichhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoPgDEzoYco
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