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.
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.
- Roberto Botazzi, Programme Director and Research Cluster 14 Tutor
Roberto Botazzi 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.
- Zachary Fluker, Research Cluster 18 Tutor
Zachary Fluker is an architectural designer with a background in industrial design and cabinet making. He is a graduate of both Emily Carr University of Art and Design and the Architectural Association. His research into interfacing digital and physical environments and computational fabrication has led to him collaborating with several practices in the UK and Canada, including Philip Beesley Architect.
- Enriqueta Llabres Valls, Research Cluster 18 Tutor
Enriqueta Llabres Valls is an architect, social scientist and researcher with an MSc in Local Economic Development from the London School of Economics. In 2009 she founded the award-winning practice Relational Urbanism. She is a design critic in Landscape Architecture at Harvard and has collaborated with institutions worldwide as a critic and lecturer.
- Filippo Nassetti, Research Cluster 16 Tutor
Filippo Nassetti is a member of the Computation and Design team (ZH CODE) at Zaha Hadid Architects as well as Tutor at The Bartlett's Urban Morphogenesis Lab. As part of his current practice and academic commitments, Filippo is pursuing his research interest of generative method and emergent technologies.
He has taught and worked internationally, including as architect at Plasma Studio Architects and SPAN Architecture&Design. Filippo co-founded MHOX, a practice focused on generative design and 3D printing, where he explored their potential for the design of wearable products. Filippo has lectured at The Royal College of Arts, University of Bologna, and the Architectural Association Visiting School Jordan.
- Claudia Pasquero, Research Cluster 16 Tutor
Claudia Pasquero is an architect, author and educator. She is Co-founder and Director of ecoLogicStudio, Director of the Urban Morphogenesis Lab, Lecturer at The Bartlett, and Senior Tutor at the IAAC in Barcelona. Her work is carried out at the convergence of disciplines such as biology, computation and urban design; her projects have been exhibited internationally in Karlsruhe (ZKM Collection, 2015), Milan (EXPO, 2015), Orleans (FRAC Collection, 2014), Paris (EDF Foundation, 2013), London (Architectural Association, 2011), Venice (Biennales 2006, 2008, 2010, 2015, 2016) and Astana (EXPO, 2017).
Claudia is co-author of 'Systemic Architecture: operating manual for the self-organizing city', published by Routledge in 2011. Claudia was the Head Curator of the Tallinn Architectural Biennale 2017, titled bioTallinn.
- Luke Pearson, Research Cluster 12 Tutor
Luke Pearson is a designer who has taught at The Bartlett since 2009. He is a founding partner of You+Pea, a design research practice that was part of a collaborative team from UCL that designed and fabricated the Universal Tea Machine for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Their recent work has been exhibited at the RIBA and Peckham Levels, and they were the curators of UP-POP at the 2015 London Festival of Architecture.
Luke has been a recipient of the RIBA Bronze Medal and a Leverhulme Trust Grant. He is currently undertaking a PhD in Design in Architecture at The Bartlett, exploring video games and architecture, and was awarded the UCL Graduate Research Scholarship for this work. As part of this research, he is developing a video game in collaboration with games studio Shedworks Interactive. Luke’s work has been exhibited in the Royal Academy as well as being published in journals and magazines such as ARQ, Architects' Sketchbooks, CLOG, The RIBA Journal and Interstices.
- Dr Tasos Varoudis, Research Cluster 14 Tutor
Tasos Varoudis is a Senior Teaching Fellow, professional architect and computing engineer with research focusing on hybrid architecture, computational analysis and machine intelligence. He has considerable teaching experience with UCL, the Architectural Association and the Royal Academy of Arts.
Since 2011 he has been instrumental in the spatial and architectural computation research for the Space Syntax Laboratory, where he develops new methodological and computational innovations combining spatial data-driven models with machine learning and agent-based models. He is the lead developer of 'depthmapX' spatial network analysis software, the most widely used tool in research and practice, and he is part of UCL's new Urban Dynamics Laboratory.
- Sandra Youkhana, Research Cluster 12 Tutor
Sandra Youkhana is an architectural designer practising in London. She has worked as Research Assistant at The Bartlett for a number of years and since graduating in 2014 has taught on various programmes including Urban Design MArch and Architecture MArch. She is one half of the design and research practice You+Pea with Luke Caspar Pearson. Their work challenges various media as methods of engagement, ranging from immersive drawings, public installations, participatory video games, interactive devices, architectural ‘toys’ and 1:1 experiments.
- 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.
2019-20 Research Clusters
- Computationally Intelligent Architecture for Emotionally Intelligent People
Philippe Morel and Paul Poinet
Houses and homes can symbolise freedom, ownership, privacy and intimacy, and have come to epitomise consumer society. However, the increasing number of households is now widely considered as one of the most challenging problems, with approximately 138.5 million housing units in the US alone, and predictions that another billion houses must be built by the end of the century.
On top of this, and thanks to the home computer revolution, homes recently became fully fledged units of production. They are now integral parts of our a global and distributed ambient factory. They are also iconic architectural objects, but unfortunately, as technological objects, homes are primitive. This year, Research Cluster 11 will attempt to solve this critical issue, not only analytically but computationally.
Image: Courtesy of Philippe Morel and Paul Poinet
- Videogame Urbanism: Playing the Machine Zone
Research Cluster 12 challenges the media of urban design by using videogames as an alternative model of computation to address real conditions. Following Roger Callois’s assertion that ‘the destinies of cultures can be read in their games’, our research explores 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 study games as architectures of communication, where advanced computation is combined with visual arts and user interface systems to produce synthetic worlds that are only fully formed by human interaction. We will compare this to real-world urban planning principles that have turned buildings and even entire cities into giant ‘machine zones’.
Using the Unity game engine to design virtual worlds, students will examine the agency of game structures in relation to contemporary society, and will respond to real urban issues by developing experimental virtual worlds with logics and politics to be uncovered through their playing.
Image: 'Kintsugi City', by Research Cluster 12 students Yu Qi and Ziyi Yang, 2019.
- Machine Thinking Urbanism – Cities Beyond Cognition
Research Cluster 14 explores the role of algorithms in order to mine, analyse, visualise, and design with very large datasets to create innovative urban environments. This approach was developed in response to the complex, large scale issues that affect cities globally. From climate change to massive urbanisation, the speed and scale of these transformations calls for a conceptual approach, and design methods that are able to both capitalise on technological development and conjure up new methods for design.
This year, Research Cluster 14 will use computation to expand design conversations to include urban elements that are either beyond human perception or have not yet been fully integrated in the design process. Students will use algorithms to augment the categories we use to interpret space. The consequences of these observations can be profound, allowing us to reassess the received notions of type, programme, site, representation, and inhabitation to give rise to more complex, fluid, open, incomplete, and embracing urban proposals.
Image: ‘Lo-Fi City’, by Research Cluster 14 students Nefeli Georgantzi, Shucheng Guo, Jiazhen Lu and Jingzhou Wang, 2019.
- Post-Natural Cities
Contemporary design is plural, collective and mutant. In times of global climate change, we are told no ecosystem is unaffected by human actions, but which kind of change are we referring to? Aren’t change, transformation and adaptation all inherent qualities of the planet we inhabit? Our current stage of technological evolution is opening scenarios where the traditional dichotomy of the natural versus artificial becomes obsolete. If we look at large growing cities from a satellite, we realise that it is becoming increasingly difficult to define what is natural and what is artificial.
From this perspective, global cities — despite being large artificial systems often depicted as the antithesis of nature — develop patterns of growth (or shrinkage) that recall natural formations of a radically different kind. Cities appear as complex synthetic organisms.
This year, Research Cluster 16 will explore how biotechnology and AI design are enabling a new vision of urbanity in which fungi, bacteria, spiders, swarm machines, and other forms of intelligence become 'bio-citizens', contributing to a new urban morphogenesis.
Image: ‘Entonomo City’, by Research Cluster 16 students Yumeng Sun, Hao Ye and Lixi Zhu, 2019.
Bridging Across Mass Customization: Fab and Media Urbanism
The over exhaustion of environmental systems has intensified our reliance on technology as an environmental substitute. In contemporary urban design, Research Cluster 18 believe the solution revolves around the construction value in the space of time through a symbiosis between different forms of intelligence.
This symbiotic relationship widens the boundaries of how we conceive architecture and its role in city making. Within this relationship, architecture can sense and respond, playing an active role in a design process that is continuously revisited and reprogrammable.
This year, Research Cluster 18 will investigate the new paradigm, which links digital fabrication and social media as an opportunity for urban hacking. Specifically, students will explore how social media is used to bridge the mass customisation of user products to pursue a collective project.
- 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.