The Bartlett School of Architecture


Engineering and Architectural Design MEng Adds New Collaborative Design Studio

24 November 2021

The new studio will see Bartlett academics working with The Norman Foster Foundation and Advanced Nuclear and Production Experts Group (ANPEG) to explore how mobile nuclear technology could enable communities to live sustainably.

Image: Hy-Brasil, a mythical Island off the coast of Ireland

The new studio, titled ‘Atlas of Nuclear Islands’, challenges students to research and design the potential contribution of nuclear batteries (NB) for tackling global warming and the future of the built environment. 

In 1912, Henry Mosely demonstrated an electric current could be obtained by a charged radiation particle. The first nuclear battery was installed in the 1950s in the ship USS Sturgis, which safely powered the Panama Canal from 1968-75. As “plug-and-play” nuclear micro reactors, nuclear batteries could offer the ultimate off-grid power source for communities seeking to live more sustainably, independent of rigid fossil-grid power infrastructures. They provide an extremely mobile alternative to static power grids and associated pipelines. They can be deployed quickly to any location and can be used to power developments, facilities and communities in extremely remote locations – independent of national boundaries. 

Students will design detectors to reveal energy usage in local urban morphologies; identify, imagine and design off-grid, island communities that would “co-exist” with a single nuclear battery; and research nuclear battery technology, with classes and workshops augmented by input from Lord Foster and his team, Prof Iain McDonald (ANPEG) and other guest lecturers. They will visit and research Channel Sea Island and the remote ecological island of Lundy, and at the end of the course, produce three minute films synthesising their proposals for sustainable island communities built around micro nuclear technology.

The unit has achieved full sign-up, with 11 students working on the brief.

Luke Olsen, Director of Engineering & Architectural Design MEng, commented:

This unique collaboration between cutting edge technology leaders (ANPEG), leading designers (NFF) and our pioneering eleven integrated design students (EAD MEng) in Unit 5 provides an extraordinarily fertile ground for speculative, sustainable and creative design solutions to emerge and face the challenges of today and tomorrow towards achieving a net-zero carbon, imaginative and brighter future. I wish I was one of the lucky eleven!"

ANPEG and Lord Foster also commented: 

My team at the Norman Foster Foundation and I are proud to be working with The Bartlett School of Architecture within this unique, multidisciplinary programme and offering our expertise in this partnership. Co-founded by the Norman Foster Foundation, ANPEG promotes an innovative nuclear technology called the Quantum Battery, which represents an adaptive and new clean energy system with potential to help us overcome the ongoing global energy crisis. We look forward to informing, empowering and inspiring students within the unit to employ their creativity and its transformational power to reshape our built environment for a more sustainable future."

- Lord Foster, Norman Foster Foundation 

The transition to a digital data driven economy is throwing up many design and technical challenges for architects, engineers and industry. Providing a supply of intense localised, zero-carbon electricity and heat means that the nuclear battery can be a step change for an evolving type of modular advanced production which we hope will inspire students participating in this exciting collaboration."

- Iain Macdonald, ANPEG 

Norman Foster Foundation

The Norman Foster Foundation promotes interdisciplinary thinking and research to help new generations of architects, designers and urbanists anticipate the future. Founded by architect Norman Foster, who serves as its president, the Foundation works to connect architecture, design, technology and the arts to better serve society, encouraging a holistic education that encourages experimentation through research and projects. The Norman Foster Foundation is based in Madrid and operates globally.


Advanced Nuclear and Production Experts Group is a global consortium dedicated to developing low-carbon energy systems based on Nuclear Batteries to provide flexible, resilient, and cost-effective energy solutions that support advanced production activities, energy equity and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

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