The Bartlett School of Architecture

Prof Marcos Cruz

Prof Marcos Cruz

Professor of Innovative Environments

The Bartlett School of Architecture

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
25th Sep 2006

Research summary

Bio-Integrated Design

The design of urban habitat today is being shaped by the outcomes of two key revolutions, biotechnology and computation, and our exposure to the long-lasting effects of climate change. Bio-Integrated Design takes these life-changing phenomena as the foundation for radically new, yet also critical design solutions that help developing our future built environment. Nature plays a central role that goes beyond being a simple environmental regulator, model or inspiration; it is in itself the medium of a multi-layered design approach that is biologically, materially and socially integrated.

Bio-Integrated Design is a collaboration between the Bartlett and UCL Biochemical Engineering (Dr Brenda Parker) that embraces a wide range of expertise, including advanced design and computational simulations; algae-laden hydrogels; multifunctional cementitious materials; robotic fabrication. It combines in unique way scientific methods with design experimentation, looking for new modes of production, and how  biotechnology, synthetic biology and material science are leading towards a truly interdisciplinary design.

Poikilohydric Living Walls

The research investigates ways to increase biological growth in architecture. It responds to the urgency of our current climate crisis to improve biodiversity and the environmental quality of cities. The aim is to integrate growth systems directly on buildings facades in which algae and mosses can switch on and off their photosynthetic activity without the need for additional maintenance and mechanical irrigation, while also creating a new design aesthetic for ageing buildings. Bioreceptive materials are being developed to increase water retention to create scaffolds for bio-material substrata that feed small-scale poikilohydric plants. The research is structured in three main parts that reflect different types of material and biological explorations.

Phase 1 – EPSRC-funded Robotic Seeding of bioreceptive materials, 2015-17
Team: Prof M.Cruz (PI), B.Watts (co-I), R.Beckett, Dr S.Manso, Dr C.Leung 
Fabrication: B-Made
Industrial Partner: Laing O'Rourke
Sponsor: EPSRC

Phase 2 - St Anne’s Catholic Primary School; East Putney Station, 2017-2020
Team: Prof M.Cruz (Concept, design, project lead) with J.Ruiz (computational design), R.Beckett (concept)
Manufacturing / Industrial Partner: Pennine Stone Limited
Sponsors: Transport for London; London Borough of Lambeth

Phase 3 – Poikilohydric corkcrete, 2018-20
Team: Prof M.Cruz (Concept, design, project lead), Dr B.Parker (Synthetic Biology)
Manufacturing / Industrial Partners: Pennine Stone Limited, Amorim
Academic Partners: UCL Biochemical Engineering; University of Coimbra; IST Tomar

The Body in Architecture

The research questions our human flesh and its altered relationship with a new contemporary architectural flesh. The analyses of different body conceptions in historic and aesthetic terms helps to recognize the emergence of a Cyborgian Body. Today's architecture has failed the body with its long heritage of physical detachment, purity of form, and aesthetics of cleanliness. But a resurgence of interest in flesh has led to politics of abjection, changing completely traditional aesthetics, and is now giving light to an alternative vision of the body in architecture. Flesh is seen as a concept that extends the meaning of skin as one of architecture's most fundamental metaphors, putting forward a 'thick embodied flesh' by creating architectural interfaces that are truly inhabitable.

Teaching summary

Marcos Cruz's varied teaching activity as an investigator, tutor and critic has been carried out in numerous international universities, but most of all at University College London where he is academically active since 1999. He is the Programme Director of the newly established 21-months MArch/MSc in Bio-Integrated Design, which is the only one of its kind offered by a world-leading architecture school that embraces design experimentation, while applying real biologic growth in the built environment. The MArch is entirely design-focused, while the MSc is more science-driven and conjointly run between the Bartlett and the Department of Biochemical Engineering (co-director Dr Brenda Parker).

Cruz previously run MArch Unit 20 (1999-2018), which he was initiated with Prof. Salvador Perez Arroyo in 1999. Marjan Colletti joined in 2004, with other tutors including Hannes Mayer (2012), Richard Beckett (2013-15), and Javier Ruiz (since 2017). The unit focused on crossing boundaries of the traditional architectural practice, investigating building design that was influenced by advances in a wide range of sciences, with the aim to create innovative conditions in architecture and the urban environment. Objects in our daily life were under reconsideration leading to an understanding of buildings and urban environments that were created by many different strata, scientific knowledge, artefacts, and micro-worlds. The unit searched for architecture that was in its conceptual, spatial, and technological dimension multifaceted, hybrid and interdisciplinary.

The work of Unit 20 was extensively published and exhibited and many projects awarded national and international prizes. In 2002 Cruz was co-editor of the book Unit 20, published by Universidad de Valencia / ACTAR, which presented a comprehensive documentation of the unit’s research. It was followed-up with two other publications published by LISt Lab 2014/16. Unit 20 was also recurrently chosen the Best-Unit-in-Show at the Bartlett Summer Show with award given by Thom Mayne (2002), Paul Finch (2006), Richard Rogers (2007), Claude Parent (2013), and Ross Lovegrove (2017). 

Cruz previously ran  rC7/BiotA Lab in the 1-year MArch AD, focused on advanced computational design with a strong emphasis on novel bioreceptive materials. The cluster was co-tutored with Richard Beckett and Javier Ruiz.

Cruz is a PhD supervisor in the Research-by-Design programme.

Current students include:

- Pincipal Supervisor: Ram Shergill (Secondary Supervisor Dr Brenda Parker/BiochemEng)

- Principal Supervisor: Johan Steenberg (Secondary Supervisor Prof Yoannis Papakonstantinos/Electronic Engineering)

- Principal Supervisor: Nina Jotanovic (Secondary Supervisor Prof Marc-Olivier Coppens/CNIE) 

- Secondary Supervisor: Malica Schmidt (Principal Supervisor Prof Marc-Olivier Coppens/CNIE)

- Principal Supervisor: Shneel Malik (Secondary Supervisor Dr Brenda Parker/BioChemEng)

- Secondary Supervisor: Niccolo Casas (Principal Supervisor Prof Marjan Colletti/Bartlett)

Past students include:

- Principal Supervisor: Jaime Bartolome (Secondary Supervisor Prof Peg Rawes/Bartlett; 2018)

- Principal Supervisor (up to MPhil level): Richard Beckett (Secondary Supervisor Prof Mark Miodownik/Mechanical Engineering)

- Secondary Supervisor: Pablo Gil (Principal Supervisor Prof Stephen Gage/Bartlett; 2016)

- Principal Supervisor: Alessandro Ayuso (Secondary Supervisor Prof Jonathan Hill/Bartlett; 2015)

- Secondary Supervisor: Michael Wihart (Principal Supervisor Prof Neil Spiller/Bartlett; 2014)


University College London
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 2007
University College London
Other higher degree, Master of Architecture | 1999
Escola Superior Artistica do Porto (ESAP), Porto
Other qualifications at first-degree level (including professional), Licenciatura | 1997


Marcos Cruz is an Architect and Professor of Innovative Environments at the Bartlett, UCL. His main research focuses on bio-integrated design in buildings. He runs Bio-ID with Dr Brenda Parker, a multidisciplinary research platform and Masters programme that investigates design that is driven by advances in bio-technology, computation, materials and fabrication. He was co-editor of Syn.de.Bio and founder of the BiotA Lab (2014-18).

Cruz was the Director of the Bartlett from 2010-14, having fostered its uncontested reputation as the UK's leading architecture school. His varied teaching activity as an investigator, tutor and critic has been carried out at the University of Westminster (2008-10), UCLA (2010), and IAAC (2014- ), but most of all at UCL where he ran MArch Unit 20 for 19 years, as well as MArch AD RC7 for 4 years. In addition, he is regularly invited as an adviser to academic institutions and jury member of International competitions.

Cruz studied at the ESAP Porto and was an exchange student at the ETSAB Barcelona. After moving to London he gained a Masters with distinction and a PhD degree sponsored by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology in 2007. His investigations about Neoplasmatic Architecture won the RIBA President’s Research Award in 2008.

In 2000 he was part of the design team for the Kunsthaus Graz competition (P Cook and C Fournier, first prize). In the same year Cruz co-founded MAM-ARCH London (former marcosandmarjan), whose work has been extensively exhibited, including the Venice and S.Paulo Biennales, along with solo exhibitions in Hamburg and Braunschweig. MAM-ARCH built buildings and pavilions and won several competitions. Their work is part of the permanent collection of the FRAC Orleans.

Selected books and articles:

- Cruz M. 'Poikilohydric Design', in Design with Life: Biotech Architecture and Resilient Cities, Terreform ONE / ACTAR (2020)

- Malik S., Hagopian J., Mohite S., Lintong C., Stoffels L., Giannakopoulos S., Beckett R., Leung  C., Ruiz R., Cruz M.*, Parker B.*. 'Robotic Extrusion of Algae‐Laden Hydrogels for Large‐Scale Applications', in Global Challenges, Wiley (2019)

- Vivaldi J. 'Bio-integrated Design - Interview with MCruz', in Black Ecologies, IaaC Bits (2019)

- Cruz M. 'Paramateriality', in Architectural Materialisms: Nonhuman Creativity (Edinburgh University Press, 2018)

- Cruz M, Colletti M. 'Advancing the Vernacular: Hi-tech Meets Low-tech', in HABITAT, Thames and Hudson (2017)

- Cobas M. 'La Imperfeccion Como Oportunidad', in Entrevistas 3, FARQ (2017)

- Colletti M, Cruz M (eds.). Unit 20: Hyper-Articulated Morphologies, LISt Lab (2016)

- Cruz M, Beckett R. 'Bioreceptive Design', in ARQ Vol. 20 Issue1, Cambridge University Press (2016)

- Cruz M. El Cuerpo Habitable de la Arquitectura, FARQ (2015)

- Paz Agras L. 'M Cruz - Arquitectura como Ecologia', in Dardo Magazine, (2014)

- Cruz M. 'Architectural Education Today, The School of Tomorrow', in Dealing with Change, ENHSA (2014)

- Colletti M, Cruz M, Beckett R (eds.). Unit 20: poroCITY, LISt Lab (2014)

- Cruz M. The Inhabitable Flesh of Architecture, Ashgate (2013)

- Cruz M (ed.). Bartlett Books – Summer Show catalogues, UCL (2011, 2012, 2013)

- Cruz M. 'Lateral Design', in Archithese (2010)

- Cruz M, Colletti M. 'The Return of the Figural', in Beyond (2010)

- Cruz M, Pike S (eds.). AD - Neoplasmatic Design Vol. 78 No. 6, Wiley (2008)

- Cruz M, Colletti M. marcosandmarjan - Interfaces/Intrafaces, Springer (2005)

- Furtado G. Cruz M - Unpredictable Flesh, Mimesis (2004)

- Perez Arroyo S, Cruz M (eds.). Unit 20, University of Valencia/ACTAR (2002)

- Cruz M (ed.). Flesh and Vision, Forum da Maia (2000)