A studio-based programme bringing together designers and thinkers from around the world for long-term research on the challenges of global urbanisation and the creative potential of design.
Urban design is the study of cities, their form and nature, as well as the complex challenges and opportunities of global urbanisation. This programme belongs to The Bartlett School of Architecture's suite of B-Pro programmes, which focus on advanced digital design and computation.
Working collaboratively within teaching groups called Research Clusters, students explore new ideas in both design and theory, developing a complex understanding of the city as a place of human co-existence. Students are encouraged to use the school’s home in London as their primary ‘laboratory’, but also undertake other field work. The programme provides the opportunity to discover new design skills, using specialist tools and technology.
Urban 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.
- Work collaboratively to innovate and explore new ideas in design and theory
- Discover new design skills and techniques, critical enquiry and related technologies
- Gain an understanding of the city as a place of human co-existence and devise strategies and projects to guide its future development
- Explore and understand London, one of the world’s richest and most diverse urban centres
- Have access to B-made workshop facilities and fabrication expertise unrivalled in the UK
Over the course of twelve months, students undertake five compulsory modules to the value of 180 credits.
- Introduction to Urban Design Theory (15 credits)
Module coordinator: Emmanouil Zaroukas
Students learn the skills required to undertake theoretical, cultural and historical studies into the issues that underpin urban design. Guided by their tutors, students undertake an individual research topic, selected from a list of set readings, which explores the main issues of their Research Cluster. Over the duration of the module, students have the opportunity to develop their writing to a postgraduate level, analysing texts in depth to establish relevant content for their individual focus.
- Bartlett Architecture Skills Elective: B-Pro Programmes (15 credits)
Module coordinator: Maj Plemenitas
Through a variety of workshops, seminars and practical tutorials, students are taught a bespoke suite of technical skills for the practice of urban design, including computation and fabrication among others. At the end of the module, students produce an Individual Module Report and Code Book.
- Urban Design Thesis Initial Projects (45 credits)
Module coordinator: Roberto Bottazzi
Working within a thematic Research Cluster led by two or more expert practitioners, students decide an initial topic for their design project, using their knowledge of computational technologies and the cultural issues surrounding their project to develop their work. Projects can be sited anywhere in the world, examining pressing contemporary urban conditions and offering innovative and complex design solutions.
- Urban Design Thesis Final Projects (75 credits)
Module coordinator: Roberto Bottazzi
Students build upon work completed in the Initial Projects module and develop a final speculative design project, which may be selected for exhibition at the annual Bartlett B-Pro Show. Final projects typically display an advanced and specialist knowledge of urban, cultural, and material issues related to design, as well as an understanding of the use of computational tools to generate and analyse a piece of design. They demonstrate the design skills developed by students through experimentation and speculative research in an original approach to urban design.
- Design Thesis Report (30 credits)
Module coordinator: Emmanouil Zaroukas
In this module, students develop an advanced understanding of how theoretical, technical and precedent sources can inform design work. This is achieved through the completion of an illustrated critical evaluation of their Final Project, which refers to appropriate theoretical and technical sources and demonstrates how the information from these sources is synthesised in the design. This may be derived from science, cultural theory, technology, architectural history, philosophy or the psychology of perception.
Full-time: one year, taught over 12 months
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
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.
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.
- Roberto Bottazzi, Programme Director and Research Cluster 14 Tutor
Roberto Bottazzi is an architect, researcher, and educator based in London. Previously, he worked and studied in Italy and Canada and was Master tutor and Research Coordinator at the Royal College of Art from 2005 to 2015. Roberto's research analyses the impact of digital technologies on architecture and urbanism. His research has been exhibited and published both in the UK and internationally, with his latest publication being Digital Architecture Beyond Computers: Fragments of a Cultural History of Computational Design.
- Affiliated staff
Professor Frédéric Migayrou
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 Centre Collection and ArchiLab, the international festival of Prospective Architecture in Orléans. Apart from recent publications and exhibitions (Bernard Tschumi, Centre Pompidou, 2013; Frank Gehry, Centre Pompidou 2014; among others), he was the curator of Non-standard Architectures at the Centre Pompidou in 2003, the first exposition devoted to architecture, computation and fabrication. In 2012 he founded B-Pro, a suite of postgraduate programmes at The Bartlett.
B-Pro Deputy Director
Andrew Porter studied at The Bartlett and has collaborated in practice with Sir Peter Cook and Christine Hawley CBE. In 1998 he and Abigail Ashton set up ashton porter architects, which has 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 a guest critic at SCI-Arc, Los Angeles, and Parsons New School, New York.
Professor Peter Bishop
Professor of Urban Design
Peter Bishop was Director of Design for London, advisor to the Mayor and Deputy CEO of the London Development Agency. He has worked on regeneration projects including Kings Cross and the Olympics. He is a director at Allies and Morrison and author of 'The Bishop Review and The Temporary City', an exploration of temporary urbanism.
The Bartlett School of Architecture is one of the world's top-ranked architecture schools and our graduates enjoy excellent employment opportunities.
Urban Design MArch students work collaboratively within teaching groups called Research Clusters, which allow them to pursue a rigorous approach to architecture within a highly speculative and creative context. Find out more about this year's Research Clusters below.
2020-21 Research Clusters
- AI & The Future of Central Business Districts
Philippe Morel, Julian Besems and Soungmin Yu
In 2000, when speculating about the architecture and urban planning of the future, it seemed that the future of the city would be ‘post-urban’. The built environment would no longer be made up of entities identifiable as architectures, but would be reduced to only three types relevant to a global production system: 1) the vertical box (the skyscraper), 2) the horizontal box (the shed) and 3) the individual cubic box (the house). All human or non-human activities could find their place among these elements.
Today, the replacement of intellectual tasks by extraordinary artificial intelligence (AI) tools forces us to question the very existence of skyscrapers and central business districts whose economic rationality is no longer evident. Through a study of these districts around the world and a case study of Europe’s largest (Paris La Défense) we will speculate about AI’s impacts. By making extensive use of deep learning techniques, we will design the future of the central business district.
Image: Courtesy of Philippe Morel and Paul Poinet
- Videogame Urbanism: World Game 2.0
Research Cluster 12 challenges the media of urban design, using videogames as an alternative model of computation to address contemporary global issues. Our methods explore the critical agency of interactive game structures as new platforms for people to engage with the design and production of urban space.
This year, we will draw from Buckminster Fuller’s plan for a ‘World Game’, where the entire globe would become the platform for a collaborative game, redistributing the world’s resources. The cluster will investigate how games can compress, intensify and abstract information to make it intelligible for new audiences. We will compare this to contemporary discourse on the emergence of the ‘metaverse’, a massively networked virtual online environment, bridging across different software, political and social divides.
Using the Unity game engine and multiplayer networking technologies, students will build fully functioning online videogames that investigate urban concepts through experimental virtual worlds, with logics and politics to be uncovered through their playing.
Image: ‘ODDWorld’, by Research Cluster 12 students Yuting Pu and Zichun Yang, 2020.
- Machine Thinking Urbanism – Cities Beyond Cognition
The availability of data radically changes how urban designers can read and intervene in cities. Our scale of analysis can extend to the whole planet, whilst maintaining precision and granularity at a local scale. Issues such as climate change, massive urbanisation, and the everyday experience of cities can be investigated and questioned through data and algorithmic approaches.
This year, Research Cluster 14 will continue to reimagine the role of public spaces in age of thinking algorithms, focusing on the typology of the university campus. How can data redefine how knowledge is distributed and accessed in physical and digital space? How can university campuses adapt to rapid changes both in education as well as in how we experience public spaces?
Part of the UCL Data Campus Group, we will first tackle these questions by making extensive use of Machine Learning algorithms both as a means to analyse global conditions and to support the creative process.
Image: ‘In | Between’, by Research Cluster 14 students Eirini Tsouknida, Xinzhuo Zhao, Chia Hsun Chiang, Krishan Sharma, 2020.
- Pervasive Urbanism: Reprogramming the Urban Commons
Tutors: Alican Inal and Annarita Papeschi with Ilaria Di Carlo
The evolution of ubiquitous computing has radically reshaped the way we interact with each other and the environments we inhabit, with the exponential diffusion of smartphones resulting in a broad offer of augmented urban experiences. But while we all relish the opportunities that data-sharing offers to the governance of urban space, the practice continues to raise critical issues linked to ownership, privacy, and equality of access.
This year, Research Cluster 15 will draw on a post-humanist reconceptualisation of our relationship with the environment, where a shift from the human-centred perspective will entail an approach to space production as devised by the multiple agencies of its living and non-living co-inhabitants. We will explore ideas of grassroots sensing and how the targeted collection of specific datasets can empower and give voice to marginalised agencies. We will look at collective feedback, proposing the radical reimagination of urban commons as participatory hybrid infrastructures, localised but at the same time interconnected and global.
Image: ‘Inferential Fields’, courtesy of FLOW Architecture
- DeepCity: The Co-Evolution of Artificial and Biological Intelligence in Urban Design
This year, Research Cluster 16 aims to design a collection of radical urban design visions that will be entirely virtual and yet profoundly material. We will explore specific material transactions in real-world cities, as relayed by remote sensing technologies. We will evolve artificial intelligence through accelerated co-evolution with real living organisms, relayed in 3D by means of collective web-based virtual reality platforms. We will examine the notion of DeepCity, a design philosophy that encompasses all the processes and systems – human, animal, microbiological and digital – that are currently accelerating the transformation of our urbansphere.
Each proposal will embody scenarios where these systems are interfaced to conjure novel, bio-digital, self-sustaining assemblages. Students will develop strategies that encourage the emergence of distributed systems rather than centralised ones, of transcalar systems rather than zoned ones, of heterogeneous cyborgian systems rather than techno-centric ones. The final proposals will be ubiquitous in nature but must be actualised as visionary design scenarios on sites in London’s Docklands.
Image: ‘Bryopolis’, by Research Cluster 16 students Catherine Anand, A K M Saleh Ahmed Anik and Praveen Govindarajan, 2020.
- Kiss the Ground 2.0*
Two-thirds of Planet Earth's habitable land, 124 million square kilometres, has been altered by humans. Despite the increasing urban population, cities occupy a small margin of this land, but our efforts to feed ourselves and our disregard for waste have an overwhelming impact on global ecosystems, climate, and biodiversity. In the context of climate change and nature emergency, Research Cluster 18 investigates cities’ performance at the planetary scale and the impact that urban lifestyle, culture, and consumption patterns are having on the planet’s land; specifically, those related to food, waste and energy consumption.
Our design methods look at intelligence and knowledge creation processes to readjust and rebalance the relationship between human and non-human entities. We reconnect and recalibrate human experiences of urban environments through computational design tools. We investigate the transformation of land use, exploring how information systems, media, and international production systems reconfigure material and energy across the planet.
*Title co-authored with Netflix machine learning algorithm
Image: ‘Agritecture: A New Pattern for Agrarian Urbanism’ by Jingyun Zhao, De Yu and Zhenyu Sun, Research Cluster 18, 2020.
- Compression: Excursions on Media Ecologies
Tutors: Corneel Cannaerts and Michiel Helbig
Research Cluster 19 explores the intersection between urban design and media ecologies, looking into the impact of communication and information technologies on the environments we inhabit. We will use compression as a lens to grasp the complexity of the contemporary moment. Compression, defined in data science as the reduction of file size or bandwidth needed to store or transfer information, can be understood more broadly as having societal, political, economic, experiential, aesthetic and spatial dimensions.
This year, the cluster will research these notions through theoretical reflection, drawing from media theory, urban design and architectural theory. We will build a collective body of references through hoarding examples, mapping and data visualisation. Interfacing with media ecologies through computational techniques such as data scraping, web crawling, image processing and computer vision. Students will develop speculative design propositions, concretising different dimensions of compression, using narrative time-based and computational media and learning from media arts as a means of telling stories and undertaking excursions on media ecologies.
Image by Fieldstation Studio
- Monumental Wastelands
Tutors: Haden Charbel and Deborah Lopez Lobato
This year, Research Cluster 20 will examine the anthropocene through the lens of ubiquity – the production of data, raw material, logistical processes, and its impacts on contemporary scenes. We will use climate-fiction (Cli-Fi) as a vehicle for researching, experimenting with and projecting imminent realities. Located in Arctic zones, where modes of life are disrupted as of permafrost thaw and warming temperatures, projects will experiment with ‘autonomous ecologies’, devising ways to imbue non-human entities with sentience, intelligence, and autonomy.
Through a methodology of decoding and recoding, projects will emerge as strategies of preservation through adaptation. Researching value systems while recognising change will result in novel approaches to navigating the inevitable. Students will explore interactive world building, as a tool for archiving, decision-making and communicating the multi-layered effects of these changing scenes. Their work will culminate in the production of immersive narratives, mixing different representational and interactive techniques, projecting alternative realities through non-linear outcomes.
Image credits: ‘ACRE, Autonomous Colonising Robot Ecosystem’ by Team Non-Human: Jialei Huangfu, Mingyang Li, Ke Liu, Wen Luan, Research Cluster 1, Architectural Design MArch, 2020.
- Urban Morphogenesis Lab
Filippo Nassetti and Emmanouil Zaroukas
The Urban Morphogenesis Lab is a research and teaching environment, affiliated with The Bartlett School of Architecture's suite of B-Pro programmes.
We experiment with the application of scientific findings within unconventional computing, at various scales. The aim of our research is to mobilize artificial and biological intelligence in search of a new mode of reasoning, seeking to transform the act of design into the possibility to hack into natural and artificial morphogenetic processes.
We adopt synthetic design methods to stimulate negotiations between strategic and tactical forms of intervention. Algorithmic coding enables both autonomous speculative computation and the study of biological models, by experimenting with adaptive and resilient design solutions applicable to a broader eco-social domain. In this sense, we generate a range of responses at various scales from the molecular to the territorial.