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Architectural Design MArch

This programme explores the frontiers of architecture and design, with an emphasis on the latest technological advances, particularly computation and robotics.

About

Design is a crucial agency for uncovering complex patterns. This programme belongs to the school's suite of B-Pro programmes and explores the frontiers of advanced architecture and design and their convergence with science and technology.

Spending around two thirds of their time undertaking studio-based design enquiry, students work with internationally renowned researchers and practitioners towards a major speculative design project and thesis. The design modules are structured in groups known as Research Clusters, each with its own research specialism, and all underpinned by shared technical and theoretical resources and expertise.

Architectural Design MArch culminates in the annual B-Pro Show – an exhibition of student work, attracting thousands of visitors to the school’s central London home.

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Highlights

  • Gain an understanding of the role computation plays in complex design synthesis
  • Work with an international body of experts and students 
  • Be introduced to highly advanced coding, fabrication and robotic skills, and the latest approaches to AI, CNC fabrication, 3D printing, supercomputing, simulation and interactivity
  • Have access to B-made workshop facilities and fabrication expertise unrivalled in the UK

Read about the Architectural Design MArch Research Clusters and labs below


Modules

Over the course of twelve months of study, students undertake six compulsory modules to the value of 180 credits.

Architectural Design: Historical, Cultural and Theoretical Skills (15 credits)

Module coordinator: Mollie Claypool

In this module students learn the skills required to undertake theoretical, cultural and historical studies into the issues that underpin architectural design. Guided by their tutors, students focus on an individual research topic, which forms the basis of a literature review. Throughout this module, students will have the opportunity to develop their writing at a postgraduate level, analysing texts in depth to establish relevant content for their individual focus.

Architecture Skills Elective (15 credits)

Module coordinator: Alvaro Lopez

Taught through workshops, seminars and practical tutorials, students develop a suite of technical skills, which complement their design research. These may include fabrication, computation, graphic design and other multimedia skills.

Architectural Design Thesis Initial Projects (45 credits)

Module coordinator: Gilles Retsin

Working within a thematic Research Cluster led by two or more expert practitioners, students are introduced to theoretical architectural concepts to help develop their initial design projects and confirm the subject topic for their thesis. On successful completion of the module students will have an advanced understanding of the physical fabrication of designed elements and a knowledge of how to manipulate architectural concepts in a design context.

Architectural Design Thesis Final Project (75 credits)

Module coordinator: Gilles Retsin

Continuing to work within their thematic Research Clusters, students build upon the work completed in the Initial Projects module to develop a final speculative research project, which demonstrates an advanced and specialist knowledge of their selected research area, and is exhibited at The Bartlett B-Pro Show in September. By the end of this module students will have developed innovative architectural concepts in a design context, through the use of physical fabrication, graphic design and other multimedia skills.  

Design Thesis Report (30 credits)

Module coordinator: Mollie Claypool

Students complete an illustrated critical evaluation of their Final Project, referring to appropriate theoretical and technical sources and demonstrating how the information from these sources is synthesised in their design. This may be derived from science, cultural theory, technology, architectural history, philosophy or the psychology of perception. On completion of this module students will have an advanced understanding of how theoretical, technical and precedent sources can inform design work.


Key information 

Modes/duration

Full-time: one year, taught over 12 months

Entry requirements

A minimum of a second-class UK degree in an appropriate subject or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. Applicants with extensive experience in the field may also be considered. 

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 guidance for 2021 entry

Application deadline

Applications for 2021 entry will open on 9 November 2020 and will close on 31 May 2021.

We strongly recommend that you apply for a maximum of two programmes at The Bartlett School of Architecture. Multiple applications are less likely to result in an offer of admission.

We strongly advise early application, as our programmes are over subscribed and competition is high. 

Deferral

It is not possible to defer an offer at The Bartlett School of Architecture. If you wish to be considered for the following year then you must reapply in the next admissions cycle.

Tier 4 Student visa holders

Tier 4 Student visa holders are advised to meet the English language proficiency of their offer no later than the end of June, in order to allow sufficient time to obtain a CAS number and visa.

Accepting your offer

To accept your offer, you must pay the non-refundable fee deposit of £1,000 within 6 weeks and decline any other offers for programmes at The Bartlett School of Architecture. If you do not respond within 6 weeks, your offer will be withdrawn.

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

Programme staff

Gilles Retsin, Programme Director and Research Cluster 4 Tutor

Gilles Retsin is the founder of Gilles Retsin Architecture, lecturer at The Bartlett School of Architecture and co-director of the Design Computation Lab.

His work has been displayed internationally, including at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Art and Design in New York, the Vitra Design Museum in Weil-am-Rhein, Design Exchange Toronto and the Zaha Hadid Gallery in London. He has lectured and acted as a guest critic in numerous universities internationally. 

Richard Beckett, Departmental tutor and Research Cluster 7 Tutor

Richard Beckett is Manager of The Bartlett’s 3D printing centre and Leader of Architecture MArch Unit 20 with Marjan Colletti. He is also co-creator of Syn.de.Bio with Marcos Cruz.

His research focusses on the impact of biotechnology on architecture and investigations into the use of living or semi-living materials in the built environment.

Stefan Bassing, Research Cluster 2 Tutor

Stefan Bassing has been involved in numerous national and international design projects. His work is focused on contemporary design methodologies involving computation and object-orientated research for the capacity to comprehend and respond to architecture at a multiplicity of scales.

Mollie Claypool, History and Theory Coordinator

Mollie Claypool is a writer, designer and theorist with research interests in mechanisation, production and fabrication, the philosophy of science and computational methodologies. She is a Teaching Fellow on Architectural Design MArch at The Bartlett, where she is also the Architecture BSc Programme Leader and runs Architecture MArch Unit 19.

Manuel Jimenez Garcia, Research Cluster 4 Tutor

Manuel Jimenez Garcia has taught at the Architectural Association, Universidad Politecnica Madrid and Universidad Europea Madrid. He also runs the Architecture MArch Unit 19, is co-curator of The Bartlett Plexus and co-founder of madMdesign, an architecture practice based in London.

Dr Guan Lee, Research Cluster 5 Tutor

Guan Lee is a lecturer in design with a degree in Architecture from McGill Montreal, and a Diploma and Master's in Landscape Urbanism from the Architectural Association. He holds a PhD in Architecture by Design from The Bartlett School of Architecture.

Guan's practice, Grymsdyke Farm, is based in the Chilterns in Buckinghamshire.

Daniel Widrig, Research Cluster 5 Tutor

Daniel Widrig founded his studio in London in 2009, after graduating from the Architectural Association. Prior to this, he worked for several years with Zaha Hadid.

Daniel has been published and exhibited internationally and is a recipient of the Swiss Arts Award, Feidad Merit Award and the Rome Prize.

Affiliated staff 

Professor Frédéric Migayrou, B-Pro Director

Frédéric Migayrou is Chair, Bartlett Professor of Architecture at The Bartlett School of Architecture and Deputy Director of the National Museum of Art, Centre Pompidou in Paris. He was the founder of the Frac Center Collection and of ArchiLab, the international festival of Prospective Architecture in Orléans. Apart from recent publications and exhibitions (De Stijl, Centre Pompidou, 2011; La Tendenza, Centre Pompidou, 2012; Bernard Tschumi, Centre Pompidou, 2013; Frank Gehry, Centre Pompidou 2014), he was the curator of Non Standard Architectures at the Centre Pompidou in 2003, the first exposition devoted to architecture, computation and fabrication.

More recently, he co-organised the exhibition Naturalising Architecture (ArchiLab, Orléans 2013), presenting prototypes and commissions by 40 teams of architects working with new generative computational tools, defining new interrelations between materiality, biotechnology and fabrication. In 2012 he founded B-Pro, a suite of postgraduate programmes at The Bartlett.

Andrew Porter, B-Pro Deputy Director

Andrew Porter studied at The Bartlett School of Architecture and has collaborated in practice with Sir Peter Cook and Christine Hawley CBE. In 1998 he and Abigail Ashton set up ashton porter architects, through which they completed a number of award winning commissions in the UK and prizewinning competitions in the UK and abroad. Andrew is co-leader of Architecture MArch Unit 21, and has been a visiting Professor at the Staedel Academy, Frankfurt and guest critic at SCI-Arc, Los Angeles and Parsons New School, New York.


Careers

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


Research Clusters and Labs

Architectural Design MArch students work collaboratively within teaching groups called Research Clusters, which allow them to pursue a rigorous approach to architecture within a speculative and creative environment. Find out more about this year's Research Clusters below. 

2019-20 Research Clusters

RC1

"Data moshed scenes from the Arctic", Research Cluster 01
Monumental Wastelands: Speculative Climate Immersions and Post-Anthropo(s)cenic Assemblages

Déborah López and Hadin Charbel 

This year, Research Cluster 1 will investigate the production of immersive narratives. Through mixing different representational and interactive techniques, we will explore what modes and forms of life will propagate in the near future. Using climate fiction as a vehicle, various realities will be researched, experimented with and projected. This year’s focus is on the arctic zones experiencing permafrost thaw as a result of warming temperatures.

Various technologies will be hacked and synthesised using sensors, actuators and hybrid materials in producing a new series of sentient machines for scanning, sorting, organising, conditioning and producing in context. These small-scale prototypes will be appropriated and subsumed into larger speculative architectural assemblages, putting forward new potential forms situated between performance, sentience and intelligence.

Image: 'Data moshed scenes from the Arctic', Research Cluster 1

RC2

‘Pentocasting’, by Research Cluster 2 students Guan Bohua, Chen Jiang, Pablo Maldonado and Tianlin Wang, 2019.
Architectural Production: Manufacturing-led Design

Stefan Bassing and Frederico Borello

Research Cluster 2 focuses on the utilisation of industrial manufacturing techniques for the development of architectural products. 

With digital tools and access to new forms of automated manufacturing, the role of the architect extends into that of the designer, engineer and entrepreneur, empowered to build their own production line to create new breeds of products suitable for architectural application. These new objects evolve in the form of architectural prototypes, designed at human scale, considering haptic qualities, lightness and strength, performance and assembly.

This year, students in Research Cluster 2 will explore how design and geometric development are driven by materiality, manufacturing constraints and fabrication sequences. They will hack into existing industrial manufacturing techniques and develop their own, learning how process becomes an important driver in delivering data from the design file to the machine, establishing a direct relationship between digital input and physical output. 

Image: ‘Pentocasting’, by Research Cluster 2 students Guan Bohua, Chen Jiang, Pablo Maldonado and Tianlin Wang, 2019.

RC3

‘Adaptive Tensegrity’, by Research Cluster 3 students, Siyu Chi, Jiachen Lei, Shiyu Kan and Meng-Yi Lin, 2019. 
Living Architecture: Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Generative Design

Tyson Hosmer, Valentina Soana and Octavian Gheorghiu

Research Cluster 3 interrogates the notion of 'living architecture' as a coupling of living systems with the assembly and formation of architecture. Our research focuses on developing autonomously reconfigurable buildings with situated and embodied agency, facilitated variation, and intelligence.

This year, students will develop experimental design models embedded with the ability to self-organise, self-assess, and self-improve, using deep learning to train assembly systems to improve at negotiating shifting architectural objectives. They will build architectural robotics and intelligent simulation models in a tightly coupled feedback loop for an architecture that is self-aware. 

Buildings have enormous costs, energy consumption, and potential for errors, require years to build, and often become obsolete before completion because they are designed in layers and planned with linear life cycles. Rather than optimising individual segments of this unsustainable life cycle, Research Cluster 3 will reappraise it holistically, learning from living systems’ extraordinary scalable efficiencies of continuously adaptive construction with simple flexible parts. 

Image: ‘Adaptive Tensegrity’, by Research Cluster 3 students, Siyu Chi, Jiachen Lei, Shiyu Kan and Meng-Yi Lin, 2019. 

RC4 

‘ALIS’, by Research Cluster 4 students Estefania Barrios, Joana Correia, Evgenia Krassakopoulou, Akhment Khakimov and Kevin Saey, 2019.
Automated Living

Gilles Retsin and Manuel Jimenez Garcia

Research Cluster 4 believes in the agency of architecture for change. Automation is not only about robots – it is first and foremost a design project. We are decisively critical but optimistic about automation. Aware of the political consequences of our tools, we develop platforms for automated living that increase access to high-quality housing. 

This year, students will build everyday automated workflows, set in the immediate here-and-now, which allow radical new spatial and aesthetic agendas. At the same time, they will develop new narratives for work life and domesticity in a fully automated world. They will question autonomous life, from smart washing machines and HVAC units, to mobile robotic mini-factories, viral platforms and activism.  

Image: ‘ALIS’, by Research Cluster 4 students Estefania Barrios, Joana Correia, Evgenia Krassakopoulou, Akhment Khakimov and Kevin Saey, 2019. 

RC 5 & 6

Making of Balustrade Garden, Material Architecture Lab, 2019 
Organic

Guan Lee, Adam Holloway and Daniel Widrig

What is an organic form? What can we learn from natural organisms? Can something that is digital be organic? Green design strategies and material performance aims must emphasise the ways in which our future architectural development can mitigate local resource depletion, global climate change and environmental degradation. 

This year, Research Cluster 5 & 6 will examine naturalness in material forms and design systems. Our students’ design projects will respond to the urgent call for a greener and more thoughtful approach towards the environmental implications of our actions as architects and inhabitants of our natural world. 

We will investigate and discover novel material processes and their architectural application though playful investigation and critical design experimentation. Through prototyping and computational simulation and modelling we will engage with digital processes across a variety of scales, from furniture to large scale public art and architecture.

Image: Making of Balustrade Garden, Material Architecture Lab, 2019 

RC7

‘AntiMatter’, by Research Cluster 7 students Yang Gao, Joy Georgi, Wanqui He and Jingwen Zhu, 2019. 
Biospatial Design 

Richard Beckett and Barry Wark 

Research Cluster 7 considers how advances in biotechnology, life sciences and engineering are affecting architecture. We explore new modes of biodesign workflows and digital fabrication methods, as well as advances in the field of synthetic biology, genetic engineering and material sciences. Our work questions modern approaches to integrating living matter into architecture, through a multidisciplinary approach to design for future cities in the Age of the Anthropocene.
 
This year, students will explore novel approaches to integrating living matter into architecture. They will investigate new notions of space, concepts of inhabitation, and building performance for a range of building typologies that offer new strategies for resilient cities in the face of accelerating climate change. 

Our aim is to pursue architecture that uses computational methods and principles of biology for simulation and digital fabrication within real time environment engines. The outcome is to create building prototypes that look to provide radical solutions around issues including urban growth, smart buildings and healthy infrastructure.

Image: ‘AntiMatter’, by Research Cluster 7 students Yang Gao, Joy Georgi, Wanqui He and Jingwen Zhu, 2019. 

RC8

‘Structural Optical Envelopes’, by Research Cluster 8 students Mincen Dong, Yize Liu, Yuchen Wang and Yuanming Zhao, 2019.
Material Mixes

Kostas Grigoriadis and Martina Rosati with Sheng-Yang Huang

This year, Research Cluster 8 will continue to explore new procedures for designing and building with material gradients, eschewing component-based assembly and the standard paradigm of 20th century mechanical connectivity. 

We will first explore the manufacturing of multi-material samples consisting of two or more fused sub-materials. The assimilation of graded information digitally and the simulation of material fusion will feed into, as well as be informed by, the physical material studies. We will then draw from these initial studies and use optimisation routines to design and build large-scale segments of building envelopes, rethinking this quintessentially component-based building element through the use of continuous materiality. 

The result will be prototypes and structures that are more than just a collection of individual parts, initiating a new type of non-discreet architecture for the near future. 

Image: ‘Structural Optical Envelopes’, by Research Cluster 8 students Mincen Dong, Yize Liu, Yuchen Wang and Yuanming Zhao, 2019.

RC9

‘BrickChain’, by Research Cluster 9 students Ignatius Christianto, Changshu Dong, I Gede Eka and Di Zhu, 2019.
Architecture for the Augmented age

Alvaro Lopez and Igor Pantic

As we immerse ourselves into rapidly developing mixed realities the barriers between humans and machines are becoming increasingly blurred. While rapid advancements in automated construction give architects an unprecedented level of precision and control over the materialisation of their designs, the distinctive nuances and subtleties of traditional craft are absent from the artefacts of robotic production.

Research Cluster 9 envisages a hybrid approach to making, that is neither purely analogue nor purely automated. We propose alternative strategies for the fabrication of digitally designed architectural structures, utilising wearable AR devices to holographically assist workers in the manufacturing process. 

This year, students will explore the balance between the roles of machines and augmented labour within the 'all-inclusive' approach to automation, aiming to develop new models for design and construction in the 'Augmented Age', resulting in 1:1 working prototypes of architectural elements.

Image: ‘BrickChain’, by Research Cluster 9 students Ignatius Christianto, Changshu Dong, I Gede Eka and Di Zhu, 2019.


Labs 

Design Computation Lab

Chair created by the Design Computation Lab, part of the MArch AD programme
Co-directors:
Mollie Claypool, Manuel Jimenez Garcia and Gilles Retsin


Design Computation Lab is a research laboratory that develops design methods which use computational technologies in architectural design, fabrication and assembly. 

We believe that architecture should be wholly digital on every scale from the particle to the building. Our work closes the gaps between the way in which architects design and the way in which objects, buildings and infrastructure are fabricated and assembled.

This enables architects and designers to think creatively about engagement with other disciplines, industries and professions, including robotics, construction, computer science, manufacturing, policy making, and material sciences.

Research areas of current projects:
Modularity; pre-fabrication; robotics; additive assembly; computational methods; 3D printing; open-source; user interaction and participation. 

Material Architecture Lab

Material Architecture Lab
Co-Directors:
Guan Lee, Adam Holloway and Daniel Widrig


Material Architecture Lab is a design-led research platform with particular emphasis on materiality. The lab works across several disciplines and methodologies, including: art and science, design and architecture, computational and manual work. Our core interest is the development of design aesthetics through material explorations, with our most recent focus being on the synthetic.


Contacts

Programme Director: Gilles Retsin
Postgraduate Admissions: Emmanuelle Gold
Programme Administrator: Tom Mole

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