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Architecture & Historic Urban Environments MA

This programme pioneers a fresh and critical approach to architecture and historic urban environments at a world-leading architecture school.

Student work, Architecture & Historic Urban Environments MA, at The Bartlett B-Pro Show 2019. Photography by Ash Knotek.
About

We are living in a time of planetary crisis. Last century's 'great acceleration' and rapid urbanisation have placed enormous pressures on cities and their built heritage. For architects and other built environment professionals, this presents unique challenges in a world that has already largely been constructed. Rising to these challenges, this programme promotes a fresh and critical approach to creative interventions at all scales, aimed at reinterpreting, rejuvenating and rethinking historic urban environments in the 21st century.

Students examine cities from around the world, using London as an outstanding laboratory for learning. Working alongside historians and researchers from The Survey of London team, students learn the processes of urban surveying, recording, mapping and analysis alongside urban strategies and key issues concerning urban and cultural heritage. 

In tandem with developing a robust theoretical and practical understanding of different sites and critical methods, students have the opportunity to develop their own design practice, thinking creatively about how historic urban environments might thrive sustainably in an uncertain future.  

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Highlights

  • Work with a team of outstanding designers, researchers and historians to develop creative approaches to historic urban environments 
  • Learning from London’s multi-layered history, develop transferable skills for historical research and design practice
  • Develop a detailed understanding of urban surveying, recording and mapping, informed by field trips to world-renowned sites
  • Exhibit your dissertation or major project as part of the programme's annual exhibition

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Whilst studying this Master’s, I advanced my creativity and learnt new ways of thinking about and practicing architecture. The teaching was exceptional and allowed me to explore the interdisciplinary nature of architecture, exploring urbanism, conservation and heritage, ethnography, site writing, philosophy and art all in one degree.

Androniki Pappa, 2019 graduate and Architectural Assistant at Alexandra Steed Urban

I learnt to think about architecture as a diverse discipline, to break the boundaries of design and research, and to explore my career potential at a world-renowned institution.

Longhua Gu, 2019 graduate and architect at Benoy Ltd. London studio
 


Modules

Core modules

Issues in Historic Urban Environments (15 credits)

Module coordinator: Dr Eva Branscome

In this module students are introduced to the issues, approaches and questions related to historical research. They consider how architectural disciplines express concepts and theories regarding urban environments in case studies ranging from rapidly growing economies to developing nations. 

Design Research for Historic Environments (15 credits)

Module coordinator: Hannah Corlett

Students learn about the different design-based research methods they will need throughout the programme, including elements of design, architectural history and theory, cultural studies and urban theory. Students investigate contemporary architectural solutions, urban conditions and social, economic and cultural practices, and propose creative interventions that challenge, reinterpret, reuse and enhance the historic environment. 

Design Practice for Historic Environments (30 credits)

Module coordinator: Hannah Corlett

The work undertaken on this module builds upon the knowledge and skills gained in Design Research for Historic Environments. Students develop their own design proposals for either reusing and reshaping a chosen site or producing a broader design strategy for an urban environment. Students develop their skills in digital design and fabrication and can present their project in the form of a portfolio, or physical or digital models, a series of photographs or drawings, or an animation or film. 

Surveying and Recording of Cities (30 credits)

Module coordinator: Dr Sarah Milne

Through a series of lectures, seminars, practical workshops and walking tours of London, this module teaches students how to document urban historic environments in social contexts.

Using London as a case study, students also explore methods for the surveying, researching and recording of architectural heritage in cities, keeping in mind that urban fabric is an expression of social history. Students build a robust knowledge of how to read the city, its architecture and its topography with a view to understanding historic context, as well as techniques for assessing and investigating architectural heritage, such as fabric analysis and archival research, including the use of online resources. 

Dissertation/Major Project (60 credits)

Module coordinators: Professor Edward Denison and Hannah Corlett

Guided by their specialist supervisors, students draw upon the work carried out over the course of the year to produce an original research project in the form of a dissertation, design proposal, film, artwork, gallery installation or digital scripting. Students’ research projects can be sited anywhere in the world and examine how the historic architectural and urban contexts, or the role of design, theorisation implementation and management, can help to reinterpret and reinvigorate the existing urban fabric.  


Optional modules

Students complete 30 credits from modules either on this programme or other programmes at The Bartlett School of Architecture. Options include, but are not limited to:

Histories of Global London, 1900 to the Present: Part I (15 credits) & Histories of Global London, 1900 to the Present: Part II (30 credits)

Module coordinators: Professor Ben Campkin and Dr Clare Melhuish

Taking London as our primary case study this module focuses on understanding how the city’s built environment has been shaped by its global connections and associated population flows, from 1900 to the present. It considers the changing framework of planning and community development legislation at a number of definitive moments, such as the publication of the County of London Plan (1943). The module draws on ethnographic, literary and visual sources to analyse key changes in the built environment in relation to the cultural representation of minority social groups.

Representations of Cities (30 credits) 

Module coordinator: Professor Iain Borden

The module introduces the idea that to understand cities we have to attend to the ways that they are produced through varied cultural experiences: experiences of time, space, social identity, economics, technology, etc. Furthermore, it proposes that these different experiences can be explored in relation to certain kinds of architecture and urban space at different scales, ranging from particular city places or spatial typologies of building to specific sub-elements of buildings. Students successfully completing the module will be will be equipped with the intellectual tools to analyse cities as both physical entities and cultural artefacts which provide the setting for manifold social experiences.

This module is part of Architectural History MA. 

Multiple Modernities Architecture (15/30 credits)

Module coordinator: Professor Edward Denison

This module is aimed at students interested in critically engaging in social and cultural architectural practices across historical, theoretical and design disciplines in a global context. It advocates a reassessment of architectural historiography in the twenty-first century, by providing a historical, critical and scholarly approach to interdisciplinary studies of modernity in relation to architectural encounters both outside the West and outside conventional Modernist discourses. Students are encouraged to question established architectural histories and dominant historical narratives, especially those founded in the twentieth century and associated with encounters with modernity globally.

This module is part of Architectural History MA. 

Critical Spatial Practice: Site Writing (30 credits)

Module coordinators: Polly Gould and Professor Jane Rendell

Through discussion of texts and projects, and the production of a piece of site-writing in the form of an installation and/or artist’s book, this module examines the relationships between critical spatial practices and theories from a transdisciplinary perspective.

This module is part of Situated Practice MA.

History and Theory of Digital Design (30 credits)

Module coordinator: Professor Mario Carpo

This seminar will assess the present state of computer-based design by situating today's digital turn within the long duration of the history of cultural technologies. It will first describe the technical logics of hand-making, mechanical reproductions, and digital making, and highlight the differences between digital variability, manual and artisanal variations, and the mechanical mass-production of identical copies.

This module is part of Architecture & Digital Theory MRes.

Materialist Ecological Architecture (15/30 credits)

Module coordinator: Professor Peg Rawes

This module examines understandings of a modern history and theory of ecology from a materialist perspective. It aims to develop students’ ability to identify how architectural histories and theories of ecology are informed by discourses in architecture, art, philosophy, scientific and environmental disciplines. Students will develop the capacity to define and evaluate a specific ecological ‘site’ (building/place/artefact), and to develop critical ways of engaging with ecological discourses in architecture.

This module is part of Architectural History MA.

Practices of Criticism (15/30 credits)

Module coordinator: Dr Robin Wilson

This module explores interdisciplinary theories of criticism, the practice of criticism within architecture and its related disciplines, and the role of the photographic image within, and as, critical practice. Students examine how these approaches inform the writing and imaging of architectural and urban historiography today.

This module is part of Architectural History MA.

 



Key information

Modes/duration

Full-time: one year
Flexible: two to five years. 

Entry requirements

A minimum of a second-class UK degree in an appropriate subject or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. Candidates who hold either a professional or other qualification, obtained by written examinations and approved by UCL, together with at least three years of appropriate professional experience may also be admitted.

A design/creative portfolio is also expected. Applicants will be asked to submit a portfolio of their design work once their completed application has been received, and should not send or upload work until it has been requested.

Application deadline

Applications are now closed for 2020 entry.

Fees and funding

  • Tuition fee information can be found on the UCL Graduate Prospectus.
  • For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding section of the UCL website.

Staff

Professor Edward Denison, Programme Director

Professor Edward Denison has been Programme Director since 2016 and has taught at The Bartlett School of Architecture since 2010. His wide-ranging research, combining academia and professional practice, is motivated by the notion of ‘otherness’. He explores the role, practice and imperative of, and resistance to, non-canonical architectural histories, especially outside the West and in relation to modernity.

He has worked extensively on heritage projects in different global contexts, including Asia, Africa and Europe. He was awarded the RIBA President’s Medal for Research in two consecutive years: in 2016 for his work on the UNESCO World Heritage Nomination of Asmara, the modernist capital of Eritrea; and in 2017 for his work on ultra-modernism in Manchuria. He was shortlisted in 2018 for his research on modernism in China.

His publications include: Architecture and the Landscape of Modernity in China before 1949 (Routledge, 2017); Ultra-Modernism – Architecture and Modernity in Manchuria (HKUP, 2017); Luke Him Sau, Architect: China’s Missing Modern (Wiley, 2014); The Life of the British Home – An Architectural History (Wiley, 2012); McMorran & Whitby (RIBA, 2009); Modernism in China: Architectural Visions and Revolutions (Wiley, 2008); Building Shanghai: The Story of China’s Gateway (Wiley, 2006); and Asmara – Africa’s Secret Modernist City (Merrell, 2003).

Bill Hodgson, Departmental Tutor

Bill Hodgson

Afra Van't Land 

Afra Van't Land 

Dr Eva Branscome

Eva Branscome is an Austrian-American architectural historian and writer based in London. Her research and teaching work has two main strands. The first engages with the links between built heritage and cultural practices in contemporary Western cities, and the second focusses on the 19th and 20th century architectural history of Central Europe. Here, she concentrates particularly on the intersections of architecture and media, such as exhibitions, publications and photography, as well as on museum architecture as a cultural and urban hinge and driver for regeneration.

Eva’s extensive knowledge of and experience in British architectural heritage, places her at the forefront of determining the future preservation of the ‘modern historic’ environment in Britain, with around 50 buildings (including the Barbican and Lloyd’s Building) now under historic protection following her successful applications for statutory listing.

Previously, Eva taught Architectural History and Theory at Queen Mary University, Oxford Brookes University and the University of Westminster. She has also been involved in exhibitions at the MAK Gallery in Vienna, the ICA in London and the Museum Abteiberg in Germany as a researcher and co-curator.
 

Hannah Corlett

Hannah Corlett is the founding Director of HNNA (formerly Assemblage), a studio of urban designers and architects who combine practice and research to reconsider how we design cities. Key projects by the studio include winning schemes in the international competitions for the $1billion Iraqi parliament complex and 50-hectare masterplan, and the UN-HABITAT (United Nations Agency for Human Settlements) fully integrated, economic housing settlements in Iraq. Currently HNNA is leading the new Design District at the heart of the Greenwich Peninsula Masterplan.  

Prior to leading design at MA-AHUE, Hannah led a Master's Unit in Urban Design at The Bartlett, undertaking long-term research of the challenges of global urbanisation. Prior to HNNA, Hannah worked with Niall McLaughlin and Will Alsop and studied at The Bartlett. Hannah also lectures and debates internationally, including being a keynote speaker discussing cultural heritage at the recent RIBA International Conference, a programme of events exploring the United Nation’s New Urban Agenda. In 2014 Hannah was highly commended at the Architects Journal’s International Awards for Women in Architecture.  

Dr Sarah Milne, the Survey of London Team

Dr Sarah Ann Milne is an architectural historian at the Survey of London. She trained as an architect before completing a PhD in Architectural History at the University of Westminster, where she became Lecturer in the History and Theory of Architecture. In recent years, she has also taught at New York University (London), the Sapienza University of Rome, and with the Attingham Trust on their London House summer course. 

Sarah takes a micro-historical and interdisciplinary approach to buildings in order to contribute to broader conversations about how cities change in the long term. She has published articles on London as a global city of exchange in the late sixteenth century, and as a divided city where the ‘colour bar’ was in operation in the mid twentieth century. Since 2016, she has worked on the Survey of London’s experimental Histories of Whitechapel project, which brings ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ stories of place into dialogue online.

Sarah is a council member of the London Records Society, and is a Project Manager at the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain. She is currently producing a series of short films on London’s Black History for young men involved in the RISE Leadership Academy.

As module co-ordinator, Sarah is supported by the Survey of London team, and by Peter Guillery and Colin Thom in particular. Both are highly experienced editors of Survey of London volumes and widely published architectural historians. Peter is the author of The Small House in Eighteenth-Century London (2004) and co-editor of Mobilising Housing Histories: Learning from London's Past for a Sustainable Future (2017). Colin is the author of Researching London’s Houses: An Archives Guide (2005) and edited Robert Adam and His Brothers: New Light on Britain's Leading Architectural Family (2019).

Professor Ben Campkin

Professor Ben Campkin

Dr Clare Melhuish

Dr Clare Melhuish


Careers

The Bartlett School of Architecture is one of the world's top-ranked architecture schools and our graduates enjoy excellent employment opportunities.


Contact 

Programme Director: Professor Edward Denison
Postgraduate Admissions: Marlene Cullen
Programme Administrator: Thomas Abbs

architecture history urbanism