The Bartlett School of Architecture


Prof Marcos Cruz

Professor of Innovative Environments

The Bartlett School of Architecture

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
25th Sep 2006

Research summary

Neoplasmatic Architecture / Syn.de.Bio

NEOPLASMATIC ARCHITECTURE investigates the impact of innovative technology on current design practices, in particular what concerns the advent of synthetic life in architecture. It looks at advances in new digital media and biotechnology within a design context that is increasingly more interdisciplinary, while simultaneously focusing on a new spatial, programmatic and linguistic dimension of architecture.

SYN.DE.BIO (co-edited with Richard Beckett) is a forum that disseminates bio-digital work in the emerging crossroad of design, biology and engineering. It promotes a new network of designers, artists and scientists who employ novel design methods and innovative fabrication techniques to explore biological material in the built environment. Advances in the field of synthetic biology, biotechnology, molecular engineering and material sciences, as well as new modes of production and simulation in architecture, product and textile design, are leading towards an increasing complex approach to design. The result is a new sense of materiality, new hybrid technologies and unprecedented living forms.

The Body in architecture 

This research is dedicated to a future vision of the body in architecture. It questions our ‘human flesh’ and its altered relationship with a new contemporary ‘architectural flesh’. Different body conceptions are analyzed in historic and aesthetic terms, helping to recognize the emergence of a present condition known as Cyborgian Body - a widely accepted new existential condition that still needs to be redefined. The underlying argument of this investigation is that 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, especially in art, has led to politics of abjection, changing completely traditional aesthetics, and is now giving light to an alternative discussion about the body in architecture. Through the comparative analysis of a variety of 20th century and also contemporary projects, along with the design of new building typologies, 'flesh' is proposed as a concept that extends the meaning of skin, one of architecture's most fundamental metaphors. Hence, in a time when a pervasive discourse about the impact of digital technologies risks turning the architectural skin ever more disembodied, the aim is to put forward a ‘thick embodied flesh’ by creating architectural interfaces that are truly inhabitable.

Teaching summary

Unit 20 is one of the most emblematic, forward-thinking and experimental MArch units at the Bartlett. It puts great emphasis on the application of novel digital technologies and environmentally-sensitive solutions to building design.

The research developed in the unit, which Marcos Cruz has been running since 1999 with Prof. Salvador Perez Arroyo (1999-2003), Marjan Colletti (2004- ), Hannes Mayer (2012) and Richard Beckett (2013-), is focused on crossing boundaries of the traditional architectural practice. It investigates advances in a wide range of sciences, art - i.e. bio-technology, cyborg phenomenology, small-scaled intelligence, interactive environments, new materials, digital

tectonics, as well as baroque and bio-art - with the aim to create innovative conditions in architecture and the city. Objects in our daily life are also under reconsideration leading to an understanding of buildings and urban environments that are created by many different strata, scientific knowledge, artefacts, and micro-worlds; of architecture that is in its conceptual, spatial, and technological dimension multifaceted, hybrid and interdisciplinary.

The work of  Unit 20 has been 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. Unit 20 was also recurrently chosen the Best-Unit-in-Show at the Bartlett Summer Show with award given by Thom Mayne in 2002, Paul Finch in 2006, Richard Rogers in 2007 and Claude Parent in 2013.

Cruz is a PhD supervisor at the Bartlett UCL. Students include:

- Pablo Gil

- Michael Wihart (VIVA June 2014)

- Alessandro Ayuso (VIVA February 2015)

- Jaime Bartolome'

- Niccolo Casas

- Richard Beckett


University College London
PhD, Architecture | 2007
University College London
MArch, Architecture | 1999
Escola Superior Artistica do Porto (ESAP), Porto
LCT, Architecture | 1997


Marcos Cruz is an architect and Reader at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. His research has focused for many years on the design and creation of innovative environments in architecture. He has developed a people-centric approach by reconsidering the contemporary body in its broader social, aesthetic and technological dimension. He has also taught and worked on many projects that utilize living matter in buildings, most of all the utilization of bacteria and algae. As co-editor of Syn.de.Bio he has investigated design that is driven by advances not only in computation, but also in bio-technology and synthetic biology, fields that are radically changing the future of architecture.

Cruz was the Director of the Bartlett between January 2010 and January 2014, having been responsible for a major transformation of the school in terms of its internationalization and uncontested reputation as the number one school in the UK. His varied teaching activity as an investigator, tutor and critic has been carried out in numerous international universities, including the University of Westminster and University California Los Angeles (UCLA), but most of all at University College London where he runs MArch Unit 20 for over 14 years. In collaboration with Marjan Colletti and Richard Beckett, this unit continues to be one of the most emblematic and forward-thinking at the Bartlett, with great emphasis on the application of novel digital technologies and environmentally-sensitive solutions to building design. He is also regularly invited as an adviser to academic institutions as well as a jury member of International competitions.

Cruz studied at the Escola Superior Artística do Porto (ESAP) from where he graduated in 1997, while frequenting courses at the Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Barcelona (ETSAB/UPC) where he was an exchange student in 2003-04 and 2005-06. After moving to London he gained a master’s degree with distinction in Architectural Design at the Bartlett in 1999 and a PhD by Design research sponsored by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) finished in 2007. His investigations about Neoplasmatic Architecture won the RIBA President’s Research Award for Outstanding PhD Thesis in 2008.

In 2000 he was part of the design team with Peter Cook and Colin Fournier for the Kunsthaus Graz competition (first prize). In the same year Cruz co-founded the atelier marcosandmarjan, whose work has been extensively exhibited, including the Venice and Sao Paulo Biennale, along with two major solo exhibitions in Hamburg and Braunschweig. marcosandmarjan also designed the 75th Lisbon Book Fair, several winning competitions and, most recently, an experimental pavilion commissioned by the London GLA on the occasion of the London Olympics. Their work was featured in major international publications, including Digital Architecture Now (Thames and Hudson 2008), Chernikov Prize (ICIF / Tatlin 2011), Futuristic – Visions of Future Living (DAAB Media 2011) and Archilab – Naturalising Architecture (FRAC 2013).

Authored and co-edited publications include:

- El cuerpo habitable de la arquitectura (FARQ, 2015)

- Unit 20: poroCITY (LISt Lab, 2014)

- The Inhabitable Flesh of Architecture (Ashgate, 2013)

- Bartlett Book 2013 (Bartlett UCL 2013)

- Bartlett Book 2012 (Bartlett UCL 2012)

- Bartlett Book 2011 (Bartlett UCL 2011)

- PhD Research Projects 2009 (Bartlett UCL, 2009)

- AD – Neoplasmatic Design (John Wiley & Sons, 2008)

- marcosandmarjan – Interfaces/Intrafaces (SpringerWienNewYork, 2005)

- Unpredictable Flesh (Mimesis, 2004)

- Unit 20 (University of Valencia/ACTAR, 2002)

- Flesh and Vision (Forum da Maia, 2000)