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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 and decline any other offers for programmes at The Bartlett School of Architecture. If you do not respond within the given time indicated on your UCL offer letter, then 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

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. 

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. 


Research Clusters

RC0

‘The new normal?’, photograph by Alessandro Bava

Studio Mediterraneo

Alessandro Bava and Tobias Jewson

Digital technologies are radically reshaping how we work, and in turn how we inhabit the planet. If working from home – away from the office – is the ‘new normal’, how does the home have to change to accommodate it? If cognitive labour is the raison d'etre of the contemporary Western city, and its capacity to aggregate is no longer needed by this form of production, is the emergent condition of remote work going to engender new forms of governance and new forms of life?

Research Cluster 0 makes the case for a near future where workers can move away from the global metropolis towards the province, adopting an ethos of redistribution enabled by digital technologies. We will be working in the Mezzogiorno of Italy, where we will make hypotheses for new domestic and (sub)urban typologies suited to the needs of remote workers. We will explore the intrinsic formal and spatial qualities of algorithms, and design new domestic typologies, replacing the analogue standardisation of modernism with a computational (non)standardisation.

Image: ‘The new normal?’, photograph by Alessandro Bava

RC1

‘Decommissioning Svalbard’ by Team Logistics: Maaya Harakawa, Ran Mo, Nutthapol Pimpasak, Jin Wang, Research Cluster 1, 2020

Monumental Wastelands

Déborah López, Hadin Charbel and Joris Putteneers

Research Cluster 1 explores the imminent nature of the Anthropocene through the lens of ubiquity in the production of data, raw material, logistical processes and their impacts on contemporary scenes. This year’s focus remains on the context of the Arctic, where global warming has caused permafrost thaw, effectively disrupting and displacing existing modes of life through what has come to be known as ‘Cli-migration’. Understanding that such changes pose threats while simultaneously affording new opportunities, projects speculate on imminent realities and respond by proposing methods for radical preservation through adaptation. Research is conducted through a process of ‘decoding’ and ‘recoding’; a multi-directional workflow that combines research, machine learning, procedural and algorithmic processes that are tested between interactive world-building and narratives in the form of short films. 

Image: ‘Decommissioning Svalbard’ by Team Logistics: Maaya Harakawa, Ran Mo, Nutthapol Pimpasak, Jin Wang, Research Cluster 1, 2020

RC2

‘ELAbot’ by Valentina Soana, Autonomous Manufacturing Lab, UCL Department of Computer Science

Robotic Architecture

Georgia Kolokoudia and Valentina Soana

Research Cluster 2 explores the emerging design possibilities of autonomous systems. It investigates the role of robotics in architecture beyond their use as fabrication and construction tools, moving towards a novel concept of architectural robots. 

For a long time now, designers have envisioned building systems that could respond and adapt to multiple human, environmental and structural conditions. Recent technological advancements in robotics enable machines to be self-aware, plan and react to undetermined circumstances. The integration of robotic solutions into material systems can create novel structures that are able to self-form, reconfigure and achieve multiple states, operating and interacting at architectural and human scales. 

The cluster focuses on the development of novel material-machine-kinetic systems where robotic operations are embedded within material systems and controlled in real time by a cyber-physical network. Behaviours emerge, in turn, through negotiation between human, designer, material and machine interaction.

Image: ‘ELAbot’ by Valentina Soana, Autonomous Manufacturing Lab, UCL Department of Computer Science

RC3

‘Autonomous Robotic Tensegrity (ART) Prototype’ by Linlin Cao, Ziming He, Sizuan Ren, Ning Wang, Research Cluster 3, 2018

Living Architecture: Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Architecture 

Tyson Hosmer, Octavian Gheorghiu and Philipp Siedler

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 artificial intelligence. The cluster develops experimental design models embedded with the ability to self-organise, self-assess and self-improve, using deep learning to train assembly systems to negotiate shifting architectural objectives. In parallel, we develop architectural robotics and intelligent simulation models in a tightly coupled feedback loop for an architecture that is self-aware. We reappraise linear building lifecycles holistically, learning from living systems’ extraordinary scalable efficiencies of adaptive construction with simple flexible parts. 

In the face of the pandemic, this year we will rethink notions of ‘home’, ‘workplace’ and/or ‘factory’ as separate building typologies, and investigate new socio-economic models for distributed living, working and production, enabled by reconfigurable architectural systems.

Image: ‘Autonomous Robotic Tensegrity (ART) Prototype’ by Linlin Cao, Ziming He, Sizuan Ren, Ning Wang, Research Cluster 3, 2018

RC4

‘Public Parts’ by David Doria, Keshav Ramaswami, Xuan (Kiko) Zhang, Research Cluster 4, 2020

Architecture and Automation: Platforms, Homes and Housing

Manuel Jimenez Garcia, Sonia Magdziarz, Gilles Retsin and Kevin Saey 

This year, Research Cluster 4 continues its agenda on housing and automation, with a specific interest in platforms based on automation with discrete design and fabrication technologies. Mindful of the social and political consequences of automation, students will develop community-driven platforms for homes and housing. They will develop everyday automated workflows, set in the present, while being invested in radical spatial and aesthetic agendas for the future. At the same time, students will develop new narratives for community, work, life and domesticity in an increasingly automated world. We will question life with autonomous entities, robots and artificial intelligence, mobile robotic mini-factories, viral platforms and activism. 

This Research Cluster is affiliated with Automated Architecture Labs

Image: ‘Public Parts’ by David Doria, Keshav Ramaswami, Xuan (Kiko) Zhang, Research Cluster 4, 2020

RC5 & 6

‘Fabric Hewn’ by Tai Jung Lee, Jiqi Qu, Xin Xie, Xinge Zhu, Research Clusters 5 & 6, 2020

Fragment

Adam Holloway, Guan Lee and Daniel Widrig

Our brief this year uses fragmentation as a device for design to assume the critical responsibility of revealing and questioning the demand for coherent material assembly. In a conceptual sense, the fragmented – be it already ‘broken off’ or simply potentially separable – always retains logical traces of the whole: a part of something greater. When is the fragment a facet of architecture? Is it during the conception of a design? Is it the moment building components take shape? Are fragments instances of incongruous experiences of space? Or are they pieces of architectural ruin, excavated out of solidified history? The fragment is necessarily incomplete but not always subservient to the whole that completes it. The primary meaning of the term differentiates between the essential and the accidental. While architectural fragments often lend themselves to such reduction, they are just as often able to challenge the expected unity. 

This Research Cluster is affiliated with Material Architecture Lab.

Image: ‘Fabric Hewn’ by Tai Jung Lee, Jiqi Qu, Xin Xie, Xinge Zhu, Research Clusters 5 & 6, 2020

RC7

‘LigaPrint’ by Liu Xiangyu, Xiaoyan Zhou, Chenshu Li, Research Cluster 7, 2020

Biospatial Design II

Richard Beckett, Barry Wark and Levent Ozruh 

Research Cluster 7 considers how advances in biotechnology, life sciences and engineering are affecting architecture. This year students will explore the integration of non-human agency within architecture, exploring novel conditions of space, concepts of inhabitation and building performance. These ideas will influence building typologies and offer new strategies for resilient cities in the face of accelerating climate change. Our aim is to question how machine learning can be applied alongside principles of ecological systems for simulation and digital fabrication of building prototypes. Proposals will look to provide radical solutions around issues including urban growth, smart buildings and healthy infrastructure. Computational approaches integrating machine learning will be developed as design tools alongside sustainable material exploration and bio-digital fabrication. Topics this year will revolve around themes including bio-augmented design, resilient infrastructure, novel architectural tectonics and large-scale fabrication. 

Image: ‘LigaPrint’ by Liu Xiangyu, Xiaoyan Zhou, Chenshu Li, Research Cluster 7, 2020

RC8

‘3D-Printed Multi-Polymer Envelope for the New Euston Station’ by Team Metaplas: Betty Chavez Angeles, Wisnu Hardiansyah, Prapatsorn Lertluechachai, and Marwah Osama, 2020

Recycling and Mixing

Kostas Grigoriadis, Lizy Huyghe and Martina Rosati

In Research Cluster 8, our main research focus is multi-material design and the wider implications that the use of multi-materials will have on architecture and building construction. More specifically, we explore new procedures of designing and building with material gradients, aiming to rethink component-based assembly and the standard practice of twentieth century mechanical connectivity. The first two cycles of this year’s research agenda are targeted towards the rethinking of the building envelope, namely of curtain walling and its part-based buildup. The corresponding design research projects investigate the use of robotic fabrication for the in-situ 3D printing of building facades, and more importantly the fusion of metal and glass to generate component-less, materially continuous envelopes. Students will then research the multi-material design of large span structures for transit hubs in London, specifically the main concourse roof of King's Cross Station. We will consider the origins of the materials that make up the larger multi-material topologies from recycled sources.

Image: ‘3D-Printed Multi-Polymer Envelope for the New Euston Station’ by Team Metaplas: Betty Chavez Angeles, Wisnu Hardiansyah, Prapatsorn Lertluechachai, and Marwah Osama, 2020

RC9

Architecture for the Augmented Age

Alvaro Lopez Rodriguez, Igor Pantic and Jose Pareja Gomez

As we immerse ourselves into rapidly developing Extended Realities (XR) the barriers between humans and machines are becoming increasingly blurred, with portable devices such as smartphones and tablets augmenting our perception of the environment. Research Cluster 9 explores how XR technologies can change the ways in which we design, build and interact with the environment. Traditionally, the cluster has explored a hybrid approach to making that is neither purely analogue nor purely automated, through application of alternative strategies for fabrication, utilising cutting-edge head-mounted devices to holographically assist designers and makers in the design and manufacturing process. This year, we will broaden the research to areas which are not strictly limited to the construction industry, by exploring the concept of the gig economy and development of digital platforms for multiplayer design and distributed manufacturing, as well as immersive experience and interaction with the built environment and the metaverse. 

RC10

‘Housing Voxel Encoding and In-place Generation of Architectural Geometry’, courtesy of Zaha Hadid Computation & Design Research Group (ZHCODE), Zaha Hadid Architects

Habitat Tectonics

Vishu Bhooshan, Federico Borello, Henry David Louth and Provides Ng 

Architectural Geometry focuses on the synthesis of shapes that guarantee optimal structure and fabrication. It is also closely aligned with the development of robotic and digital fabrication technologies and design methods. In Research Cluster 10, we explore the relevance of this state-of-the-art design and construction paradigm applied to computational housing projects that adapt to local contextual aspects, including supply chains and fabrication technologies in concrete and timber. 

This year, students will use the methods and algorithms used to produce Architectural Geometry in the design of modular, fast-to-assemble residential spaces. From this geometric basis and using the computational speed of Architectural Geometry methods, students will build browser and game-platform configurators that allow non-expert end users to personalise and assemble prefabricated building components into custom homes. The content and tools used are representative of the imminent future of the industry as it shifts from building information modelling for documentation to a ‘design for manufacturing and assembly’ paradigm. 

Image: ‘Housing Voxel Encoding and In-place Generation of Architectural Geometry’, courtesy of Zaha Hadid Computation & Design Research Group (ZHCODE), Zaha Hadid Architects

Labs

AD Labs

B-Pro Labs are research and teaching environments affiliated with The Bartlett School of Architecture's suite of B-Pro programmes.

Automated Architecture Labs

Lab Directors: Mollie Claypool, Manuel Jiménez Garcia, Gilles Retsin

Automated Architecture (AUAR) Labs is a consortium of research streams at The Bartlett School of Architecture, operating at the intersection between architecture and technology. Our projects bring advanced technologies, design, people and communities together to radically rethink architectural production. 

The work of AUAR Labs focuses on architecture, automation and issues of social justice such as housing, platforms, the future of work, localised manufacturing and circular economies. We believe in the future of architecture being one that is inclusive and equitable, and which centres the role of automation simultaneously with people, their values and lived experiences of the built environment. We engage automation to create a more inspiring built environment for all. We advocate for horizontal, participatory and equal social practices in architecture and technology where individual autonomy and freedom, supported in a structure of care, lead to more creative, inspired and empowered people and more just built environments. This embodies a fundamental shift in architecture and technology that is unique to our research and projects.

AUAR Labs is affiliated with Architectural Design Research Cluster 4.

Material Architecture Lab

Lab Directors: Guan Lee, Daniel Widrig

In Material Architecture Lab, our research starts by asking questions about materials through design, both digitally and manually. With the prevalence of digital tools, the capabilities of industrial production have migrated from factory floors to smaller-scale workshops, laboratories and research facilities everywhere. When this recent development is coupled with advances in material science at microscopic scale, and the availability of specialist tools to customise materials, the prospect of a new kind of architecture is now imminent. 

We encourage making without preconceptions, allowing the characteristics of the material, and fabrication techniques, to inform and enrich the outcome. We encourage students to be adventurous in questioning established modes of production. The nature of our experimentation is grounded in cyclical processes of making prototypes with rigorous and iterative refinements of products or processes. Our work is as much about traditional making as it is about computation and digital technology.

Material Architecture Lab is affiliated with Architectural Design Research Clusters 5 & 6.

 


Contacts

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

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