The Bartlett School of Architecture

Ms Julia Backhaus

Ms Julia Backhaus

Associate Professor in Architecture

The Bartlett School of Architecture

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
26th Sep 2005

Research summary

The focus of Julia’s work as an architect, educator and researcher interrogates connections between health and architecture.  She explores health not only as a question of access but as a socio- political and cultural tool that shapes the quality of our built environment. Both with realised and conceptualised work, she sees design research as a tool to speculate about future scenarios and as a platform where research-led practice can provide real world solutions. 

In her research and practice, Julia is strongly invested in interdisciplinary, experimental and collaborative research methods, advocating to holistically design a project’s ecosystem, including a supply chain that is sustainable and regenerative. This has involved close and direct collaboration with Prof Sir Magdi Yacoub OM, a pre-eminent heart surgeon and Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Imperial College London. Together, they have worked on several health projects in Ethiopia, Burundi and now Rwanda, creating new models of public healthcare and its delivery in the Global South. This work is complemented by UK based research with the NHS and focused on understanding hygienic boundaries that interrogate the uncertainties and contradictions in cultures, which have largely been influenced by Western medicine.

Her current work involves the design and built of the first cardiac teaching hospital in Kigali, Rwanda and the wider region. It is a mission-aligned project and foresees to conduct 800 free-of-charge cardiovascular surgeries per year. Its medical ambition is to transfer knowledge, skills and expertise across the region and help create a biomedical and innovation knowledge base, which can be exported to Africa and the world at large.

Teaching summary

In 2001, Julia was invited by Sir Peter Cook to join the Bartlett as a unit tutor and has been teaching Design Unit 5 alongside Marjan Coletti, Pedro Font Alba, Martin Tang and now Ben Hayes. Her research interests in health and environmental wellbeing have informed her teaching. The unit is a laboratory for imaginative re-thinking of health related architecture – the discourse critically interrogates how our profession responds to the use of natural resources, and the cultural identity of place in conjunction with provision of care for vulnerable ecosystems and  human wellbeing.

Julia is a passionate design tutor and nurtures interdisciplinary, innovative and research-based teaching methodologies. Her students have consistently produced work of exceptionally high quality, originality and rigour. The unit’s work has attracted national and international publicity, including publications and exhibitions such as the Royal Academy of Arts London and the Hong Kong Biennale. Students have received numerous internal, national and international awards, including five RIBA Bronze Medal nominations. 

Julia has extensively taught at undergraduate and postgraduate level and held positions as Teaching Fellow at Kingston University and as Visiting Lecturer at Oxford Brooks University.


Julia Backhaus is an Architect and Associate Professor at the Bartlett School of Architecture. Since 2011, Julia has been the Director for the internationally renowned Professional MArch Pt2 ARB/RIBA Programme at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL.  She is a member of the Bartlett Faculty Health Strategy Board and teaches the Design Unit 5.

Prior to founding Fluxarchitects, a design studio based in London, Julia worked internationally as an architect in various offices in Germany, France and London on high profile and award-winning built projects and has over 20 years of experience in practice. Her clients include the Ministry of Health of Rwanda, the Royal Opera London and the Sir Magdi Yacoub Foundation. She is also a co- founder and trustee of the Heart Care and Research Foundation, Rwanda - a platform that fosters a new delivery model of state of the art public tertiary healthcare to underdeveloped countries. Her work has been exhibited internationally and she has been invited to lecture and workshop activities in institutions like UTA University of Arlington Texas, USA, Chiba University in Tokyo, University of Hong Kong, Science for Africa, Ethiopia, International Paediatric Critical Care Conference, Germany.