The Bartlett School of Architecture

Mr Gilles Retsin

Mr Gilles Retsin

Associate Professor

The Bartlett School of Architecture

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
28th Sep 2015

Research summary

My research is cross-disciplinary, working across computational design, fabrication and construction systems, automation, digital theory, AI and robotics, as well as housing and economic platforms. I have developed a novel approach to digital design and automation in architecture, based on the use of simple, modular building blocks as architectural parts. This approach, referred to as ‘Discrete Architecture’, enables a higher degree of automation in architecture, combining the efficiency and scalability of modular prefabrication with the complexity, open-endedness and adaptability of digital design. My research challenges the lack of digitisation in the construction industry today, and addresses some of the most prescient issues today, such as the climate and ecological crisis and the global housing shortage. I have developed technical and computational methods, design methods and theoretical basis for this approach. I have demonstrated these systems through built 1:1 prototypes, most notably with an 2019 installation at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. My research has been acquired for the permanent collection of the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Museum of Arts in Philadelphia. Through competitions and commissioned architectural projects, I have scaled up this research to full-scale, viable architectural projects such as a design for a timber concert hall in Nuremberg, Germany.  I edited a special issue of the journal Architectural Design titled ‘Discrete: Reappraising the Digital in Architecture’ (Wiley, 2019) which gathered an entire generation of architects, theorists and researchers working on the Discrete. Following this publication, I co-authored the book  Robotic Building: Architecture in the Age of Automation (Detail Verlag, 2019), to further emphasise the notion of automation as an alternative framework to understand the use of digital technologies in architecture. In addition to these books, I have written 3 book chapters, 17 peer-reviewed academic papers and 8 articles for some of the discipline’s most respected journals. My work has received funding awards for installations and demonstrator projects in Europe, the US and China. Together with my colleagues at AUAR Labs we have secured larger grants, both from industry partners such as Epic Games, but also funding from UCL Innovation and Enterprise, UKRI and Innovate UK. I act as a peer reviewer for a number of international conferences, while I was also on the Board of Directors for Association of Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) from 2017-2019.

Teaching summary

My teaching is situated at the intersection of design and technology, while bringing a critical lens to the social and political consequences of digital tools and technologies. The work of RC4 is intrinsically connected to my research, exploring automation in the context of housing and the global housing crisis. I bring together critical thinking and an interest in social and political issues with technical research on AI and robotics. I have supervised  161 postgraduate Design Thesis and 55 research papers (5000 words). The design work of my students has been published in mainstream press such as Wired Magazine, and exhibited internationally at museums such as the Vitra Design Museum. My students also successfully presented their work at peer-reviewed academic conferences, such as the recent paper Rawbot: A digital system for AR fabrication of bamboo structures, which was presented at ECAADE in Lisbon. Building on their design thesis in RC4, my students have continued as PhD candidates at TU Delft, ETH Zurich, MIT and Tongji University.


I am an architect, designer and educator working at the intersection of automation, digital technologies and architecture, including economic platforms, housing and future living scenarios. My research is cross-disciplinary, working across computational design, fabrication and construction systems, automation, digital theory, AI and robotics, as well as housing and economic platforms. I am a lecturer a the Bartlett School of Architecture (BSA) where I am also Programme Director of the M.Arch Architectural Design (B-Pro). I am co-director of Automated Architecture Labs at the BSA, and director of Automated Architecture ltd (AUAR). I also run my own architecture and design practice Gilles Retsin Architecture in London, working on projects internationally. 

I studied architecture in Belgium, Chile and the UK, where I graduated from the Architectural Association. I recently edited an issue of Architectural Design (AD) on the Discrete and have co-authored the book Robotic Building: Architecture in the Age of Automation, with Detail Verlag. I am currently a fully-funded PhD candidate at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. My design work and critical discourse has been internationally recognised through awards, lectures and exhibitions at major cultural institutions such as the Museum of Art and Design in New York, the Royal Academy in London and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.