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The Bartlett School of Architecture

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Labs

The MArch Architectural Design programme offers a number of research-focused Labs, all of which allow students to pursue a rigorous approach to architecture within a speculative and creative context.

Browse the sections below to find out more about our research Labs.

Wonderlab

Director: Alisa Andrasek

‘A new generation of artists writing genomes as fluently as Blake and Byron wrote verses, might create an abundance of new flowers and fruit and trees and birds to enrich the ecology of our planet. Most of these artists would be amateurs, but they would be in close touch with science, like the poets of the earlier Age of Wonder.’ Freeman John Dyson, referencing The Age Of Wonder by Richard Holmes

Wonderlab is invested in the search for and materialisation of the rare, the unseen and the unexplored. It believes that the poetic and aesthetic magic of wonder can be analysed, synthesised, engineered and designed. Architecture’s ‘superpower’ has always been the creative synthesis of a multitude of elements.

Historically, the most successful architecture has managed to capture cultural conditions, utilise technological advancements and answer to the pressures and constraints of materials, economics, ecology and politics. Today, this synthesis is increasingly open and accelerated with the introduction of computation and the evolving landscape of production. Design is the crucial agency for uncovering patterns and direct engagement with complexity, and this has never been more important. 

Wonderlab’s main area of expertise is in innovating new computational territories for applications in design and fabrication processes. Principal research trajectories include simulation and GPU-run supercomputing, in which large quantities of data allow us to traverse scales and disciplines, embed micro into macro, from the scale of material science to design applications at scale.

By encoding matter with algorithmic parameters – now widely practiced in the sciences and many industries such as automotive – we are working with what could be called 'materialisation prior to materialisation', designing not only form but possible material states, before they are materialised. Through its work with simulation, Wonderlab demonstrates how we can now design to a previously unimaginable level of performance and simultaneously uncover truly fresh aesthetic possibilities of this new ‘increased resolution’ fabric of architecture. 

One of Wonderlab’s main missions is to evolve thinking on what architecture and design could be. We aim to re-imagine the possibilities of architectural design research, engaging with territories that are not traditionally considered to be in the domain of architecture. 

People

Within the Lab we have gathered some of the most exciting emerging design talent working with a myriad of multidisciplinary technologies. Daniel Widrig is well known for his work with fashion designer Iris van Herpen and product design work with Zaha Hadid Architects. Gilles Retsin is published worldwide for his contributions to large-scale 3D printed houses.

The work of the Lab’s staff is held within the permanent collections of museums such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the New Museum in New York. Wonderlab also includes emerging talent in history and theory such as Mollie Claypool, and theoreticians and historians associated with the lab include Professor Mario Carpo, Professor John Frazer and Dr Luciana Parisi. A carefully curated combination and breadth of diverse talent in Wonderlab makes this the largest Lab in B-Pro at The Bartlett and an incredibly exciting place to be.

Culture

Apart from our own research, Wonderlab is engaged in constantly evolving the culture surrounding such work, through theoretical and curatorial activities, examples of which are prolific event series such as Bartlett Plexus and n_Salon, or external events we have curated or actively shaped such as Proto/e/co/logics International Architecture Symposium, ACADIA, ENHSA and the Beijing Biennial, amongst others. It has active agency within a larger international network of architects, designers, philosophers, mathematicians, epistemologists and scientists. 

Opportunities

Prospective students are invited to directly participate in wonder and new discoveries when they enter into uncharted territories of design under the guidance of our staff. Those who have studied in Wonderlab have gone on to successfully work in a wide range of employment, from top London practices such as Zaha Hadid Architects, Grimshaw and Foster + Partners, as well as continuing their research at PhD level as researchers at The Bartlett, and other universities worldwide.

Coming up

Wonderlab is building a network of industry collaborators from diverse areas such as the visual computing industry, advanced research labs of very large engineering companies, the film industry, business innovation and architecture. We are immersed in what is believed will bring massive revolution to many fields: the investment of the industry into robotics and artificial intelligence. We are also extending our collaboration to other research labs, especially in compatible scientific territories, such as computation, material science, robotics and nanotechnology, at UCL and beyond. We actively seek pilot projects as real materialisation opportunities to put the Lab’s advanced research to the test and accelerate innovation.

Clusters

Clusters 1, 4, 5 and 6 are part of Wonderlab. Visit our clusters page to find out more.

BiotA

BiotA Lab is an innovative design research platform that merges architecture, biology and engineering. It is based at the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London, one of the world leading research universities. The lab explores new modes of simulation and production in architecture, as well as advances in the field of synthetic biology, biotechnology, molecular engineering and material sciences, and how these subjects are leading towards an ever-increasing multidisciplinary approach to environmental design. The result is a new sense of materiality, new hybrid technologies and unprecedented living forms that are redefining not only building design, but our whole built environment.

Members / Collaborations:

BiotA Lab is run by Professor Marcos Cruz (Director) and Richard Beckett (Co-Director) and an interdisciplinary group of teachers and researchers. Current members include Dr Chris Leung (design and research engineering), DR Guan Lee (design and manufacturing / Grymsdyke Farm), Vicente Soler (design and robotics), and Javier Ruiz (design and simulations); and for the EPSRC-funded research Prof Bill Watts(environmental design and engineering / Max Fordhams) and Dr Sandra Manso (biology and material science / UPC Barcelona).

BiotA Lab also integrates students of RC5 and RC7 in the MArch Architectural Design programme, as well as PhD-by-Design students who form part of an international network of experts in environmentally led design and novel applications of advanced biotechnologies in architecture. Regular critics include leading academics such as Prof Frederic Migayrou (B.Pro Bartlett / Centre Pompidou Paris), Dr Martyn Dade-Robertson (Arch ID University of Newcastle), Alisa Andrasek (Wonderlab Bartlett / Biothing), Andrew Porter (Bartlett / Ashton Porter), Dr Yael Reisner (Yael Reisner architects), Manuel Jimenez (m(a)dM design), amongst many others; while thesis supervision is provided by Professor Mario Carpo (Bartlett), Natsai Audrey Chiesa (Central Saint Martins and UCL), Dr Brenda Parker (UCL Biochemical Engineering), Dr Sean Hanna (Bartlett Space Syntax), Oliver Wilton (Bartlett), and Paul Bavister (APL).

Academic collaborations of BiotA also involve ArchID Lab at the University of Newcastle UK; C-Biom.A at the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia / IaaC Spain; REX Lab at the University of Innsbruck Austria; and Grymsdyke Farm.

Research

BiotA Lab work is produced between the design studio and laboratory where innovative building systems are developed with the help of advanced computation. Modelling and simulation tools are implemented in parallel to material testing and organic growth in real laboratory conditions, providing feedback and data for the fabrication of construction components and prototypes.

Students and researchers design, grow and build bio-digital prototypes that explore a new ecological model for architecture, responding to specific climates based upon the relationship between environmental conditions and the interfacial properties of materials with mircro-organisms. In opposition to the traditional complexities and highly costly ‘green architecture’, BiotA explores an alternative symbiosis between buildings and nature that is more computationally sophisticated, and far less costly for buildings in high-dense cities.

Current research Computational seeding of bioreceptive materials is an EPSRC funded project in the UK done in collaboration with industrial partner Laing O’Rourke. It relies on the advisory support of the British Precast FederationMultiphase Flow and Porous Media Research Group / University of Manchester; green walls specialists Biotecture; and the UCL Centre for Nature-Inspired EngineeringUCL Institute of Making, UCL Algae and B-Made; along with expertise in landscape architecture, urban planning and environmental design.

Opportunities / Dissemination

Members of the BiotA Lab develop unique skills that bridge innovative computational design, materials, fabrication and laboratory protocols. This makes former students and researchers highly desirable in a wide range of architectural practices and laboratories with a particular focus on computational, ecological and bio-integrated design. The cross-collaborative nature of the work allows BiotA Lab students to work individually as cutting edge designers and as part of greater teams that are exploring new design agendas that respond to the increasing environmental challenges in our cities.

Work produced in the BiotA Lab is also regularly exhibited and presented in international events, including Syn.de.Bio (2014), Biofabricate (2015), Biosalon (2015) and the forthcoming Ecobuild in London (2016). Projects have been disseminated in publications such as The AtlanticCo-Design / Fast Company MagazineB.Pro catalogues and the forthcoming edition on architecture as synthetic biology in Architecture Quaterly / Cambridge University Press.

Interactive Architecture Lab

Director: Ruairi Glynn

The Interactive Architecture Lab is a multidisciplinary research group interested in the behaviour and interaction of things, environments and their inhabitants. Areas of current research include adaptive responsive environments; kinetic design and robotics; multisensory interfaces; wearable computing and prosthetics; the ‘internet of things’; performance and choreography. Situated within the new 15-month Masters programme, MArch Design for Performance & Interaction (DfPI), the Lab gives students an opportunity to exploit the potential of new sensing, computation, networked and responsive technologies to imagine, build and test new spaces of interaction.

Research Culture

The Bartlett School of Architecture provides an exciting critical environment within which to question the social, environmental and spatial impact of emerging interactive technologies. The course welcomes people from all backgrounds to participate: in recent years it has attracted students not only from architecture and urban design but also product, fashion and graphic design, dance, mathematics, computing, environmental engineering, robotics and digital media. We like to describe the environment of the Lab as ‘anti-disciplinary’, encouraging freedom for the students and staff alike, to develop their own unique methods of working, their own unique agendas, and ultimately to create a new generation of creative leaders who can design, code, make and think imaginatively about the future of the built environment.

Reputation

Bridging the worlds of computational and interaction design with kinetic and spatial design, the Lab has gained an international reputation for building provocative experimental work. 

Student projects are widely published in design and technology publications. Recent examples include:

William Camilleri & Danilo Sampaio: DesignboomViceCreative Applications
Syuko Kato & Vincent Huyghe GizmodoWMMNA 
William Bondin: ArchitizerMashableWired 
Ollie Palmer: BBCNew ScientistDazed 
Chryssa Varna: Creator ProjectSuckerpunch
Ling Tan: DezeenProtein
Felix Faire: Creative ApplicationsGizmodo 
Lin Zhang and Ran Xie: CNETPSFK 
Bijing Zhang & Francois Mangion:We Make Money Not ArtFastCompany 

Many students’ projects go on to be exhibited in festivals and gallery exhibitions, recent examples include Kinetica Art fairRoyal Academy of Arts 'Sensing Spaces', FutureEverythingAlpha-villeMoogfest, and Hyperlink at Tate Modern. 

Together with Lab staff, students annually publish work in international peer-reviewed conferences including ACADIA, RobArch, SimAUD, aCAADe and journals including Architectural DesignVolumeKyberneties and Cybernetics & Systems.

Beyond the Lab

Where our graduates go after the programme, is set by the agenda they develop within their time at the Lab. Annually graduates go onto work for well known global architecture firms such as Foster + PartnersZaha Hadid and Thomas Heatherwick, and we also see many go on to work for renowned interaction design firms, such as Troika, Jason Bruges StudioSuperflux and Umbrellium who work with innovative technology companies like Google, Samsung, and Nike. For those interested in further academic opportunities beyond graduation, students regularly win funded doctoral study awards and have taken teaching positions at leading schools of architecture and design. Outside the Lab, regular socials bring alumni together with current students to share expertise, develop future projects and build a thriving community.

Core skills training

To design, code, make and think imaginatively about the future of the built environment, students are instructed in a fundamental set of skills, some common to architectural design education, such as 3D modelling, simulation and digital fabrication, others coming from further afield, including coding, electronics, robotics, lighting and environmental engineering, material science, cognitive psychology, and performance arts. 

Collaborators

The Interactive Architecture Lab works closely and regularly collaborates with London’s world leading design practices, engineering firms and research institutions. A selection of them includes Foster + Partners; Arup Foresight & Innovation; Buro Happold; Alma-nac Architects; Marshmallow Laser Feast; Create London; Studio Roso; the Royal Academy of Arts; Tate Modern; Kings College Centre of Robotics Research; Textile Futures Research Centre, Central School of Speech & Drama; Medical Research Council; Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council; and the BBC.