MArch 2 Thematic Studios

Thematic studios offered at MArch 2 vary each session, according to the size of the year and staff specialisms available. Each studio will have a maximum of ten students working together. Graduates may choose from a number of themes. We will try our hardest to ensure that each student has at least her or his first or second choice of studio. The elected theme will run throughout the thesis year and design theses will be developed against the background of this theme. The idea of a year group, or ‘cohort’, remains important in M.Arch 2. We meet together, sharing lectures, seminars and crits as appropriate, and work to the same timetable.

Following are sample prospectuses for thematic studios:

The studio is for those with an interest in urban form and the architectural project in the city. Cities are complex, layered, vital places. No two are the same: every city reveals in its form and human interactions the particular social, economic and physical characteristics that underlie it. A critical reading of the city creates an understanding of the forces that have shaped it, and in turn supplies a contextual framework for design. This studio will be working at both a strategic and detail scale to make a lever for change. Direct engagement and observation of the city is vital to test your thesis; it will allow you to develop a strategy informed by the reality of the place and to design a building that both adjusts to and transforms its context.

The Everyday
Architectural training puts distance between architects and the people they build for, educating them to have good taste on behalf of other people. Three inter-related themes inform work in the studio. The first looks at the politics of architecture, specifically how architects relate to the people around them, and how architecture can influence social relations. Second, it deals with questions of taste and the preferences of architects and non-architects. Third, it explores the architectural codings of familiarity and ordinariness. Previous projects have been diverse, dealing with allotments, nooks, the education of taste, ‘dirty’ resistant spaces, curatorship and the politics of learning construction trades.

Landscape and Place
The work of this studio will focus on the challenge of designing for protected landscapes (National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or their equivalent in other parts of the world). Apart from their obvious scenic value, these landscapes often support valuable but fragile ecologies, cultures, socio-economic groups and settlements. The purpose and future of these landscapes as at the heart of the studio which will build on the work started in the school's Design Research Unit. Applicants for this studio must be able to demonstrate an interest in the integration of architecture and landscape. High level skills in recording and analysing landscape and place as well as familiarity with some of the texts below will be required.

All architecture mediates our relationship with nature and this studio will offer an opportunity to address this from diverse starting points. You may wish to explore natural processes and forms as models for architectural invention; investigate how a building can be integrated into the ‘ecology of place’; focus on the nature and weathering of materials or quality of natural light; or consider the therapeutic value of contact with nature. Sites may be urban or rural (it is not about a Romantic rejection of cities or technology) and only one temptation will be actively discouraged – arbitrarily curvilinear forms as a cipher for all things ‘organic’.

This studio is for those who are interested in how buildings should be made. The connection between architectural form, space, culture and construction is explored and graduates working in this field should have an instinctive curiosity about these things. You will investigate a material or materials, examining how material properties and detail inform design, and how design can emerge from material and detail investigations. The studio work oscillates between large and small scale.

Architectural fabric has memory. The ageing and weathering of materials, successive changes to fabric over time, and traces of past inhabitation allow buildings to tell stories about their past. Cultural memory is both individual and collective - people and societies use stories about the past to justify who they are and how they behave. This studio will work at the intersection of architectural and cultural memory, fitting new work into old. You should have a passion for historic buildings, an inclination to carry out meticulous surveys, an appreciation of the passage of time, and a desire to pursue the ethical and philosophical questions involved.

The studio is concerned with producing stimulating, challenging architecture where people are paramount in the design process. Questions posed will include the following. How do architects design for people? How do occupants and building users act and interact in buildings? Are users influenced by the architecture they inhabit? Graduates in this studio will be required to develop an understanding of the body of knowledge which exists in the area of environment interaction. An overiding aim is to produce appropriate architecture which takes account of the requirements of particular occupants within a wide range of physical,cultural and social situations.

The physical presence of space is given power by the materials that form it. So much of architecture today is driven by the assembled industrial product and warranty periods that in some way emasculates the overt use of materials and consequently the senses of the visitor to the building. However some of our best architects have found ways to work with such constraints and offer back to those visitors a powerful sense of space. In this thematic studio we will attempt to explore and build upon what those architects have developed through our own explorations that offer critical reading of the building

The Workshop
Craft has been fundamental to the development of architecture since the ancient Greek Tecton, or master carpenter or builder. The process of making, or construction, has influenced and informed the laws of proportion, beauty and spatial distribution as much as art and drawing. In 1919, Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus, on this basis, bringing together art and technology and collaboration between artists and craftsmen as the basic training for architects. More recently, architects such as Le Corbusier, Jean Prouvé, Jørn Utzon, Alvar Aalto, Glenn Murcutt, Renzo Piano and Peter Zumthor have all shaped their architecture through an understanding of the nature of technology, materials, production techniques and design. The workshop, therefore, suggests the notion of ‘architect as builder’ proposing to bring together art and craft through the skills of making and drawing. Students will find themselves as much crafting prototypical designs in the workshop using a variety of materials and techniques as they do at their drawing board.


We also encourage students to make suggestions for alternative studio themes.