The Bartlett School of Architecture

Prof Sophia Psarra

Prof Sophia Psarra

Professor of Architecture and Spatial Design

The Bartlett School of Architecture

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
1st Jan 2011

Research summary

I have studied a diverse range of buildings, cities, places and spaces, from the history of Italian Renaissance cities to 20th century cities shaped by industrial production, and from the architecture of parliament buildings, homes, parks, museums, libraries, universities and shopping centres to the ways in which architecture is represented in cinema and literature. My research is transdisciplinary spanning the fields of architectural history and theory, spatial morphology, social sciences and cultural studies.

My book Architecture and Narrative (Routledge 2009) provides a unique account of architecture as a semi-autonomous object and as a spatial-social field of embodied vision as we encounter it in our everyday life (translated in Korean).

My most recent authored book, The Venice Variations (UCL Press 2018, open access) draws an original approach to the subject of architectural authorship by examining the intersection between authored architectural works and cities as the products of collective authorship.

My edited book, The Production Sites of Architecture, explores how architecture produces new knowledge by examining buildings, texts and additional media involved in their production.

I am the recipient of research funding from Leverhulme Trust; NSF (USA); The University of Michigan, UCL, the Onassis Foundation; UCL Grand Challenges; and industry. I have given more than 50 invited international lectures and keynotes in Australia, Austria, Brazil, China, Chile, Greece, Italy, Japan, the UK and USA. I have served as reviewer of research applications in the LAHP netowrk UK; the Domain of Social Sciences and Humanities of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, and the Research Council and IOF Council of KU Leuven.

Teaching summary

I have taught studio and history/theory at all levels from undergraduate to post-graduate and PhD. I have developed several modules and courses and directed educational programmes, such as the second year of the MArch and the third year of the BSc programmes (Cardiff University). I initiated (collaboratively) the first interdisciplinary course in the University of Michigan and taught students from diverse disciplines in this course (Creative Process). I was the director of the MSc Course Spatial Design: Architecture Cities at the Bartlett School of Architecture (2015-2018) in which I initiated one new theory module (Architectural Phenomena), one new design module (E-Merging Design Research) and an international field trip/seminar abroad. The E-Merging Design Research Module integrates a data driven approach with propositional design, interrogating analytical evidence from social, ethical and design perspectives, and vice versa.

My teaching has received recognition of excellence through multiple awards won by my students (RIBA Dissertation Presidents Medals Award 2013, shortlisted for RIBA Presidents Medal Awards for Research, and Wallenberg Studio Competition Awards, University of Michigan, 2008). My PhD students have obtained scholarships from the EPSRC, AHRC, the Swiss National Science Foundation and from home institutions. They conduct research into the architecture of informality in the libraries of Medellin; spatial cognition and navigation in museums and virtual environments using VR technologies; urban adaptability of the industrial housing schemes of Mulhouse; space and form in 19th century houses in Isfahan, Iran; the sociology of medical knowledge in hospitals; gender conceptions of open space in housing in relation to safety.

I have supervised 11 PhD students to completion (5 as first supervisor) and have served as external examiner in 13 PhD examinations internationally (Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden, USA and UK). I welcome PhD applications in the area of architecture, architectural theory and politics, space, power relationships and face-to-face informal interactions, parliament architecture and spaces of modern day politics, including innovative modelling methodologies for capturing the relationship between space and behaviour, culture, politics, ritual and social relations. 


University College London
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1997
University College London
Other higher degree, Master of Science (by research) | 1986
National Technical University of Athens
Other Postgraduate qualification (including professional), Diploma | 1985


I am Professor at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL where am also Director of the Architectural and Urban History and Theory PhD Programme. My teaching activities are in theories of knowledge, the history, theory and morphology of space, form and society. My research interests centre on how architectural and urban spaces are shaped and experienced through design as well as without unconscious design interventions through multiple social actions over long periods of time. I am a specialist of the intersection of spatial configuration with power relations, the spatial and political culture of buildings, cities and urban areas.

I have published three books and multiple articles on this subject and regularly advise organisations that engage the design and social performance of spaces as they are collectively used by people. I am currently researching the architecture of parliaments and parliamentary spaces in relation the formation of political culture in European and wider contexts, in collaboration with colleagues from the UCL European Institute. This work has led to two conferences on Parliament Buildings at the Bartlett, UCL (November 2020; February 2021) and a forthcoming co-edited volume.

I have participated in innovative educational initiatives, such as the first interdisciplinary course in the University of Michigan (Creative Process) and regularly guide education and research internationally as external examiner, evaluator of PhD degrees, courses, articles and book proposals in countries such as Austria, Australia, Greece, Italy, Sweden, USA, and the UK. As a practicing architect, I was part of a team that won first prizes in international architectural competitions (EUROPAN). My work has been exhibited in Venice Biennale, the George Pompidou Centre, NAI Rotterdam, London, Berlin, Milan and Athens in Europe.