The Bartlett School of Architecture

Miss Emma Kate Matthews

Miss Emma Kate Matthews

Lecturer in Architecture

The Bartlett School of Architecture

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
28th Sep 2015

Research summary

My research is concerned with discovering & exploiting creative reciprocities between music as constructed sound, & architecture as constructed space. I aim to establish a mode for transdisciplinary practice between the interconnected fields of architecture, acoustical engineering, music composition & performance.

Historically, architectural space has played a highly active role in influencing the experience & composition of music. The Dutch renaissance composer Adrian Willaert is famed for having supposedly invented polychoral, antiphonal music as a response to the spatially-opposed positioning of choir lofts in St Mark’s Basilica in Venice. Conversely, architects & engineers have long acknowledged the desires of music in space. Long before Acoustics was a formally recognised discipline, Roman architect & engineer Vitruvius discusses a method for enhancing the sonic character of theatres & performance spaces by embedding echea or acoustic vases in the walls. Despite these examples, only a small handful of spatiosonic practitioners have managed to rigorously explore interactive parallels between musical space & physical space in their work. American composer Henry Brant produced many spatial compositions, with a view to exploring the idea that aspects of physical space (particularly distance & direction) are as compositionally active as the musical elements of tone & timbre.


Teaching summary

Since September 2016, Emma-Kate has been running a Masters in Architecture design unit with teaching partner Nat Chard (unit 25).

"The core of our unit involves helping each student develop their own experimental practices, both in their approach to design and in the media through which they think and work. In our experience an experimental approach fosters rich design potential while also providing a productive educational method. We value the way that working experimentally through materials and processes can open up possibilities that might elude us when working with more conventional design methods. We encourage speculative risk and not knowing where the idea will end. To operate like this we look for rigour when nurturing the relationship between idea and technique, looking for ways in which each student might develop or invent their own media and be in control of it on their own terms. We are much more interested in the literal and figurative manifestation of the idea than in the diagram."

- Nat Chard & Emma-Kate Matthews


London Metropolitan University
Other qualification, Professional Practice | 2013
University College London
Other higher degree, Master of Architecture | 2011
University College London
Other Postgraduate qualification (including professional), Diploma | 2011
University of Nottingham
First Degree, Bachelor of Architecture | 2008


"Spare and intense, ... this music is more about timbre and texture than pitch" - Robert Hugill 2021

Emma-Kate (b. 1986) is an architect, composer, musician and researcher at UCL. Her work explores creative reciprocities between sonic and spatial disciplines through the composition and performance of site-specific and spatialised projects. In addition to composing on the London Symphony Orchestra’s Panufnik scheme (2022), her work has been performed internationally at acoustically distinctive sites such as the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, London’s Southbank Centre the Barbican Centre and Brighton Festival.

Emma-Kate’s approach to composition combines electronic and acoustic methodologies and instrumentation, by using a range of bespoke digital tools and physical instruments that she codes and designs herself, respectively. Her electronic music presents a rich tapestry of field recordings alongside synthesised and recorded acoustic instrumentation, often using binaural and ambisonic recording tools to enable immersive 3D playback.

She has released a number of solo electronic and classical-fusion works including  ‘Similis’ on Musicity Global (2019) ‘Far Flung’ on Algebra Records (2020), and ‘Remote Overlap’ on NMC Records (2021). In addition to being a multi-instrumentalist, she also designs and makes her own sonic instruments: In 2021, she was nominated for the Lumen prize for Art and Technology for her project ‘Resonant Bodies’ and she has also been nominated for the Aesthetica art prize 2022. Her bespoke instruments are exhibited at the Works + Words Architecture Biennale at the Roundtower in Copenhagen, and she recently produced an audio-visual piece for the Cities and Memory Polar Sounds project, using recordings of sea ice from the Antarctic. Throughout 2022, she was working in collaboration with _Underscore on a site-specific opera for Birmingham’s Moseley Road Edwardian bath house. Her composition for the Royal Academy of Music's '200 Pieces' project is also was released in early 2023.

Her work has been exhibited internationally and her research has been published in journals including Architectural Design (Wiley) and Organised Sound (Cambridge University Press) and HSSCOMMS (Nature). In 2019, Emma-Kate organised and presented at the ‘Sound of Space Symposium’ funded by the Australian Research Council.

She is currently working on a large-scale publication for Routledge, which is due for release in 2024

She hosts an eclectic radio show on RTM.FM called Hunter Gatherer.