The Bartlett School of Architecture


MRes Architecture and Digital Theory

This MRes at The Bartlett allows students to explore digital theory, history and cultures at one of the leading global hubs for innovation in digital design and fabrication.

About this course

Programme of studies

  • This Master’s by Research programme caters for digital theory, history, and cultures, in all their aspects, from design and fabrication proper to many related fields and disciplines that are being affected and transformed by the new digital paradigm.
  • Conceived as a research laboratory, it offers a hybrid pedagogical format where learning and experiments, inspired by today’s evolving design technologies, are conversant with the culture of the design community, and informed by relevant recent scholarship in the arts and humanities. The core of the programme is a year-long research seminar where students develop an individual project of their choosing within the broad areas of interest outlined here below.
  • Students’ projects will be mentored by the programme’s leading instructors and by invited lecturers through individual tutorship and systematic teaching. Students will be encouraged to pursue a curatorial or research topic leading to an actual exhibition and/or publication.
  • Additionally, students will follow at least one lecture course on digital history and theory specific to this programme, as well as two courses chosen among modules currently taught in other Master’s programmes at The Bartlett, either in the design or in the technology fields.
Areas of interest – potential research topics

Specific research topics could be developed within the following areas of interests:

  • Digital design and fabrication: notational languages and design-to-production integration, from spline modelers to discretization.  History and criticism of design and fabrication software and of digital styles: from parametricism to computation. Designing with Big Data and the challenge of complexity: generative, agent-based design and cellular automata. Image theory and theories of digital replications.  From pixel to voxel: 3D scanning, 3D printing and voxelization. “New materiality” and structural design: granularity, variable properties materials, bio-technologies.  From Finite Element Analysis to the "new science" of simulation and optimization.
  • From machine to body: the new body-machine interfaces and prosthetic apparata; scanning, sensing, virtual and augmented reality, immersive and interactive environments, from wearables to the domestic, urban and territorial scales.
  • From bodies to collective intelligence: datascapes, real-time mapping, GIS and socio-political geography, landscapes and biotech control, space syntax and technologies of simulation for urbanism and planning. Geospatial cyberinfrastructure.
  • Cognitive aspects of design computing systems. Intelligent Support in Design and in the Built Environment.
  • The new political economy of digitally driven environments: from non-linearity and Object Oriented Ontology to the new markets, pricing, and business models of digital granularity.  Multi-Modal Applications and Data Analysis.
  • History of digital tools for notation and fabrication, from manual to mechanical to electrical to electronic; from Alberti's geometrical and number-based replication machines to early CAD-CAM in the 20th century. History of quantification in design and of design processes as cultural technologies: geometry and projections, numeracy and the rise of formalization in early modern architectural theory. The modern analytic approach to structural design, from Galileo to F.E.A.
More about the course and its origins

Digital tools for design and fabrication are inspiring contemporary architecture, reshaping the global building and construction industry, and upending the definition and roles of the design professions as we have known them in the West since the Renaissance. Now almost twenty years in its making, the digital turn in architecture can already be seen as a watershed in the history of building technologies, as important as stereotomy was in the Middle Ages, iron in the 19th century, or reinforced concrete in the 20th.

Since the early 1990s, schools of architecture have been at the forefront of digital innovation, and many ideas and technologies that were originally born or developed in design studios have already gone mainstream, and are prompting and and driving global trends. So, for example, digital mass-customisation and distributed 3D printing, of which the theory and practice can be traced back to architectural schools, are now being discussed by leading business schools around the world.

Politicians and decision-makers who are studying the global implications of digital technologies often refer to the pioneering work of a handful of architects and architectural critics, and critical categories that were first introduced and developed by the architectural avant-garde have been largely adopted by industrialists, sociologists and philosophers trying to come to terms with the new paradigms of a post-mechanical society.   

The Bartlett has played an important role in the history of the digital turn in architecture. It is one of the leading global hubs for innovation in digital design and fabrication, and students in this new MRes (Master’s by Research) programme will be able to profit and draw from The Bartlett’s outstanding resources in the field, both human and technical.  


    Core modules

    • History and Theory of Digital Design
    • Architecture and Digital Theory: Mini Research Project
    • Architecture and Digital Theory: Main Research Project

    Optional modules

    Students choose two of the following:

    • Design as a Knowledge-Based Process
    • Introduction to Programming for Architecture and Design
    • Architectural Design: Historical, Cultural and Theoretical Skills 

    Who should apply?

    This programme may be of interest to:

    1. Candidates oriented toward a career in the design professions, with a particular theoretical or critical interest in digital design and fabrication.  Architecture students may be admitted to the program either at a graduate level (holding a BS in architecture) or at a post-professional level (holding a MArch); or when holding equivalent overseas qualifications.
    2. Candidates holding a bachelor or a master degree in disciplines outside architecture, in the case of: - Architecturally trained curators and critics specializing in digital theory and aiming at furthering their careers in academia, museums, or publishing; - Students or professionals oriented toward a career in digital media, both within and outside architectural practice (visualization, scanning, new media and variable media, marketing, video-game design, software development, geographic information systems, construction industry consultants, apparel and wearables, food and drink design, etc).

    It is expected that some MRes students may continue their studies toward a PhD.

    Key staff

    Programme directors:

    More information

    About the Bartlett School of Architecture

    We are:

    • one of the most influential, exciting and innovative architecture schools in the world
    • located within the UK’s largest multidisciplinary faculty of the built environment, in one of the world’s top universities
    • the UK’s highest-rated department for architectural research (REF 2008, 2014), and ranked the best British school of architecture by AJ100 for 13 consecutive years
    • based in a new building at 22 Gordon Street in central London, close to world-leading architectural, engineering and creative practices, many of them partners. From 2017/18 we will also have new high-volume facilities for experimentation, making, and performance at Here East in Hackney Wick, East London
    • host to students from over 40 nations, many of them among the most sought-after in the world for their drive, creativity, and skills
    • the school where students have won a total of 6 Bronze, 3 Dissertation, and 10 Silver RIBA Presidents medals
    architecture digital