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Cambridge Uni Architecture

MPhil in Architecture and Urban Design

Phd symposium 2013

In the 2014 Research Excellent Framework, Cambridge Architecture’s research work was ranked 1st in the UK, achieving the highest proportion of combined World Leading research. 88% of the research produced by the Department was rated as World Leading or Internationally Excellent (Unit of Assessment 16: Architecture, Built Environment and Planning). This consolidates our top ranking established in the previous Research Assessment Exercise of 2008.

This two year course uniquely combines a professional course; that is, an ARB/RIBA Part 2 course with a Cambridge Master’s degree in Philosophy. It provides advanced teaching, research and practice opportunities in environmental design, including the social, political, historical, theoretical and economic aspects of architecture, cities and the global environment.

The course is a hybrid of independent research through design and a structured technical learning resource. It is designed for mature students that join the program with a distinct area of interest and provides guidelines to their scientific research, access to specialists of various fields relevant to their studies, and a matrix of deliverables that foster an informed body of work underpinned by a sophisticated set of design and presentation techniques.

The main outcome is a design thesis consisting of a detailed design proposition, supported by a written argument of up to 15, 000 words. This is preceded by four essays or design exercises equivalent of 3, 000 - 5, 000 words. The course is closely connected with research interests within the Department’s Martin Centre for Architectural and Urban Studies. A number of the academics and researchers teach and supervise on the course.

The programme propagates a twofold understanding of environmental design and mediates between its technical/architectural, and social/political aspects. Both trajectories are studied within a specific geographic area/region, its local set of conditions and global entanglements setting the parameters for each student’s research. Based on the area/region’s characteristics, students speculate on the expansion and adaptation of one of its specific traits and its environmental performance. The outcome of this first part of the course is an experimental adaptation of an indigenous typology, producing a speculative environmental prototype. This prototype is examined scientifically and tectonically, using real and virtual modelling alongside various other media and serves a particular demand and a specific set of site conditions. Complementing this tectonic first part, the design direction of the second part of the course is broader in scale and highly speculative in nature. It draws upon the technical findings of the initial research, but focuses on the socio-political conditions and cultural traditions shaping the area of focus in order to build a set of far-reaching proposals. Together, both parts of this research through design result in a heightened understanding of the performance/efficiency/specificity of a certain environmental issue and the environment it is embedded in.


The course is structured by two terms focusing on design and detailed technical analysis (residence in Cambridge), an interim field work period (elsewhere), and a third term focusing on regional analysis/research (residence in Cambridge). These complementary term components, together with the practice placement, provide an opportunity to explore distinct interests within design practice in various settings, whilst offering a sound framework to pursue meaningful research.

Candidates are free to choose a geographic area/region of their interest that frames their study throughout the programme. Following an initial familiarization with their chosen specific locality and a global assessment of the given environment at hand, students are expected to identify a technical/architectural issue that is indigenous or characteristic to the area/region of interest and holds potential to develop.

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