Architectural Design (MA)

This one year full-time MA in Architectural Design is aimed at students who are looking for a rich, engaging and design-focused post-graduate programme, but do not wish to qualify as a UK registered architect.

This one year full-time MA in Architectural Design is aimed at students who are looking for a rich, engaging and design-focused post-graduate programme, but do not wish to qualify as a UK registered architect.  It shares many of the design elements of our established MArch (Master of Architecture/ Part 2)  programme, but provides greater flexibility in terms of study choices, allowing you to engage with the interests of our research staff. 

In the programme, we will focus on using design-led research to inform your learning and investigation. You will develop your existing design skills by focussing on how design thinking might address current global challenges. This approach offers an intense and lively forum for the exploration and discussion of design issues. This is why we place particular emphasis on using design as a means to conduct research. Researching through design is a creative activity that closely integrates the process of designing with the act of researching, so that they can mutually inform each other.  You will explore problems by making and testing design propositions, introducing and developing established knowledge as and when required.  Through project work, you will draw on knowledge from many disciplines.

Students will have the options to develop their design thinking in the School’s principal research areas which currently include:

  • Low carbon/energy design and construction
  • Building performance, prediction and evaluation
  • Making/prototyping
  • Materials
  • Sustainable cities
  • Urban regeneration
  • Architectural practice
  • Asian architecture, art and culture
  • Building conservation
  • History and theory of architecture and urbanism
  • User-centred design of the built environment

You will work in small groups called ‘design units’ under the guidance of an experienced tutor and  also work independently to develop a research-focussed approach to your studies. This will require you to question and evaluate evidence and think creatively and iteratively. Emphasis will be on individual discovery and personal reflection as a learning process.

Distinctive features

  • Study in one of the top Schools of Architecture in the UK
  • Supported by the School’s award-winning Design Research Unit Wales (DRUw)
  • Learn from notable design-led practitioners; currently more than 50% of our design programmes are delivered by practising architects
  • Perfect for students who prefer a more practical/active approach to learning through our focus on investigation through design
  • Choose from a range of optional modules to supplement your learning in areas of interest to you and develop important skills in design-based research

Key facts

Next intakeSeptember 2018
Duration1 year
QualificationMA
ModeFull-time
Admission Tutor contact(s)

Admissions criteria

This programme would be suitable for graduates in architecture or a similar design-led subject (such as landscape architecture or interior design). Applicants should normally hold a first or second class upper division Honours degree. Students would be expected to show high levels of creative design thinking through their academic transcript and through the submission of an A3/A4 portfolio of academic project work.

Portfolios should provide evidence of imaginative & conceptual thinking, spatial sensibility, technical resolution and overall communication of ideas. Portfolios must be accompanied by endorsement from the student’s previous educational establishment confirming that the work is their own.

Applicants should apply through the University’s online application system. The School will then contact applicants directly to arrange for the portfolio to be sent.

Typical IELTS offer: 6.5, no sub score lower than 6.0

This programme is available on a one year full-time basis. You will be based in the Welsh School of Architecture for the duration of the programme.  The taught element of this programme is structured around a 60 credit design module, where you will use techniques of research through design to explore an issue of interest related to one of the School’s design units.  This will normally run between October and April and will conclude with a final presentation in front of a panel of reviewers. Your work in the design studio is complimented by a 30 credit module analysing architectural precedent, and a choice of optional study modules.

You will usually start the dissertation element of the programme in May and complete this  over the summer. The dissertation is the culmination of your design research throughout the programme.  The dissertation usually comprises of a documented design project, accompanied by a 5000 word critical commentary.  Support for developing the necessary skills of research through design will be provided during the taught elements of the programme.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2018/19 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2018.

During your year on the programme, you will  focus  on developing a design-research agenda, defining and establishing your own position in architectural design. The topics covered are usually  structured around thematic studios, or ‘units’ led by design tutors who have expertise and interest in specific areas of research and/ or practice. The themes are often related to areas of research expertise within the School and may be run in conjunction with the units offered on the MArch programme.

You will undertake analysis of architectural precedent within the studio environment and choose 30 credits worth of optional modules, chosen from a list of subjects based on the research interests of the staff in the school. This list is reviewed on an annual basis. You can choose  any combination of 10 and 20 credit modules for your option. 

For your dissertation you will work independently using the skills that have been developed during the taught programme to develop a critical research argument through design.  This will involve completing a design thesis project. You will be expected to supplement this with a 5000 word critical written commentary.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Architectural Design and ResearchART70160 credits
Analysis of PrecedentART70330 credits
Design Thesis (Dissertation)ART70460 credits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Issues in Contemporary ArchitectureAR300310 credits
Design Principles and Methods 3AR300610 credits
Earth and SocietyART02210 credits
Low Carbon BuildingsART03510 credits
Climate Comfort and EnergyART04120 credits
Architectural Technology 3AART70210 credits
The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

How will I be taught?

Most of your time in the School will be spent in our design studio. Our key teaching method in the studio is the traditional one-to-one tutorial, supported by lectures and group assignments into which all aspects of the subject are integrated. We offer a range of working spaces, workshops and computer aided design facilities to support this. The studio is the location for design teaching, model-making tutorials, workshops and debate. It is also used for exhibitions and “crits” – at which students display their work for critical discussion and assessment by staff, fellow students and visiting critics.  Working both formally and informally with your fellow students in the studio provides opportunities for valuable peer-review and discussion around your work.

You will be taught both by permanent academic staff and tutors from local and leading UK practices, providing an exciting mix of design approaches and experiences. As the leading school of architecture in Wales, we have good links with the Welsh Government, construction industry bodies and professional practice locally, and we also have strong international links.

The School encourages effective student-led and independent learning, whether through site analysis, library research or “reflective practice”.

Your studies will also include lectures and seminars as part of optional modules, and as support for the design module. Teaching also includes the provision of online learning materials, such as briefs, bibliographies, readings and precedents, as appropriate to the module. We aim to make appropriate use of audio-visual support to aid learning and development of subject-specific skills. You will be given access to relevant teaching materials through the University’s virtual learning environment, Learning Central.

The dissertation element of the programme is conducted through the process of design, continuing on from your taught design project completed in the first part of the course. We advise that you continue to meet with you design unit tutor on a weekly basis until the end of June. This is usually followed by a period of reflection and writing where you will work independently under the guidance of your tutor and under the supervision of the programme leader or another member of the academic staff.

How will I be supported?

Contact time with staff is high and you will receive regular feedback on your progress throughout the course though your weekly tutorials. The Programme Convener is responsible for overseeing student progress. You will also have a personal tutor with whom you can (in confidence) discuss any concerns that may affect your progress.  Regular progress reviews are held throughout the year with the year team, and an open-door policy exists throughout the School.

The School provides opportunities for you to reflect on and define your individual learning needs.  This generally takes the form of a reflective diary or sketch book.  Increasingly these take the form of online journals.

The architectural library is located in the same building as the School and provides easy access to resources and support. Electronic course materials are also generally held on the University network.

Modules within the programme make extensive use of the University’s virtual learning environment, Learning Central, where you can access discussion forums and find course materials including recordings of lectures, and links to related materials.

The University also offers a range of services for students to access, including the Careers Service, the Counselling Service, the Disability and Dyslexia Service, the Student Support Service, and excellent libraries and resource centres.

Feedback

Feedback on coursework is usually given using a standard feedback pro-forma or can be given orally, in a similar way to design project work.

You will usually receive your feedback from the module leader. If you have questions regarding your feedback, module leaders are usually happy to give advice and guidance on your progress.

How will I be assessed?

Design projects and related exercises are assessed continuously, often through pin-up reviews and symposia where feedback is given. At the end of the year, a portfolio of all design-related work is presented for formal examination by panels of reviewers.

Optional modules are usually assessed through written examination and coursework submitted during the semester. Please read the module descriptions for your chosen optional modules to find out more about they ways they are assessed.

The criteria by which assessments are made are contained in the School’s Teaching Handbook, in project and coursework documentation, and explained at introduction to the various modules and design projects.

What are the learning outcomes of this course/programme?

The Learning outcomes for this Programme describe what you will be able to do as a result of your study at Cardiff University. They will help you to understand what is expected of you and academic staff will focus on precisely what they want you to achieve within each Module. 

Knowledge & Understanding:

On completing the programme you should be able to: 

  • critically understand how knowledge is advanced through design-led research to produce clear, logically argued and original written and design work relating to architectural culture, theory and design;

Intellectual Skills:

On completing the programme you should be able to: 

  • Pursue a personal research agenda within the context of the School’s research portfolio;

Professional Practical Skills:

On completing the programme you should be able to: 

  • generate complex design proposals showing understanding of current architectural issues, originality in the application of subject knowledge and, where appropriate, ability to test new hypotheses and speculations;
  • evaluate materials, processes and techniques that apply to complex architectural designs and building construction, and to integrate these into practicable design proposals;

Transferable/Key Skills:

On completing the programme you should be able to: 

  • demonstrate problem solving skills, professional judgment, and ability to take the initiative and make appropriate decisions in complex and unpredictable circumstances;
  • identify individual learning needs and understand the personal responsibility required to prepare for work within the architectural profession;
  • evaluate and apply a comprehensive range of visual, oral and written media to test, analyse, critically appraise and explain design proposals;

Whilst many of our graduates will choose to undertake a career within architecture or other built environment professions, the programme provides a large number of transferable skills which will be of benefit across a wide range of professions.  The focus on independent, project based learning is welcomed by employers in that it provides graduates with skills in creative thinking, conceptual organisation, critical reflection and taking initiative.

Master's Excellence Scholarships

Scholarships available worth £3,000 each for UK/EU students starting a master’s degree in September 2018.

Find out more

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2018/19)

EU students entering in 2018/19 will pay the same tuition fee as UK students for the duration of their course. Please be aware that fees may increase annually in line with inflation. No decisions regarding fees and loans for EU students starting in 2019/20 have been made yet. These will be determined as part of the UK's discussions on its membership of the EU and we will provide further details as soon as we can.

Tuition feeDepositNotes
£8,950None

More information about tuition fees, including for part-time and continuing students.

Students from outside the EU (2018/19)

Tuition feeDepositNotes
£19,950£1,000

Additional costs

The School covers the cost of everything that is an essential part of the programme, this will be clearly detailed in all programme information and in any verbal instructions given by tutors. A financial contribution towards the travel and subsistence costs of the field trip is provided

The University considers that the following costs do not need to be covered by Schools as they are either not essential or are basic costs that a student should be expected to cover themselves:

  • Laptop computers
  • Calculators
  • General stationery
  • Text books (assumed to be available in the library)

If there are optional costs/fees to be covered by the student, these are not a requirement to pass the degree.

Architecture is a creative discipline and many students choose to spend more on materials than might be regarded as an absolute essential to pass the degree. It is difficult to place a figure on this, as the amount spent can vary significantly between students. Similarly, whilst the school covers the cost of a minimum number of visits to project sites, some students choose to return for additional visits. The cost of will vary depending on the site location.

Students in the past have told us that in the past they have incurred a range of non-essential costs in the order of £450 to cover additional large-format plotting, additional visits to sites and additional materials. This is provided for your information only as an estimate of likely additional costs. It is important to note that these are additional costs and will not be required to pass the degree.

Will I need any specific equipment to study this course/programme?

You are asked to bring basic drawing equipment. A laptop computer with appropriate software is highly recommended. Much of the software typically used is available through educational agreements at zero or reduced cost.

Any other equipment needed will be provided by the School. You have the opportunity to work within the School’s design studios, have access to a suite of PC computers running the necessary software and use large-format plotters, a digital laser cutter and a well-equipped workshop.

We will provide any equipment that is essential to the course. However, we recommend that you bring a laptop computer with appropriate software (e.g. word processing), USB or a hard drive, general stationary and some basic drawing equipment.

We provide students with student licenses for most of the specialist simulation software we use on the course, however we can currently only guarantee that these work on computers with a Windows operating system.

During the course, you will have access to the specialist Architecture Library, and other University libraries, and study spaces across campus. Within the School, you may work in our design studios, use our computing suites, and use our facilities which include large-format plotters, a digital laser cutter and a well-equipped workshop.

During the course we go on a range of study trips in the UK, Europe, or further afield. On these trips we will organise guided visits to buildings that demonstrate how principles taught in the programme are applied in revolutionary large-scale eco-buildings. You will also have the opportunity to meet architects and built environment professionals who collaborate with the School. In the past, students have travelled to Barcelona, Venice, Rome and the Ruhr Valley, amongst other places.