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Computational Methods in Architecture (MSc)

This course addresses the need for creative professionals who are equipped with the IT skills, digital fabrication skills, simulation software skills, or the ability to design custom-software development tools to solve unique design problems.

This course addresses the need for creative professionals who are equipped with the IT skills, digital fabrication skills, simulation software skills, or the ability to design custom-software development tools to solve unique design problems. Our multidisciplinary approach will provide students with the knowledge and skills to discover innovative computational methods for use in the creative and design industries. In particular, we will look at form-finding using parametric and generative methods, preparing digital information for further rigorous analysis, and integrating the logic of digital fabrication into the early stages of design.

You will be taught by experts across the subjects of architecture, computer science and engineering, which will give you a distinctly interdisciplinary approach to looking at design.

The ethos of the course is based on the concept of rigorous creativity where algorithmic thinking, systematic parametric design, analytic methods, creative intuition and tectonic sensibilities are integrated into a more innovative design outcome than traditional methods currently allow.

During the course, you will be able to develop and specialise in areas of interest to you through a range of optional modules and your choice of dissertation topic. Topics you may specialise in include algorithmic thinking in parametric design and form-finding, performance-based design and analysis, or design for digital fabrication.

Distinctive features

  • Study in one of the top Schools of Architecture in the UK
  • Learn innovative algorithmic design methods in architecture.
  • Build your own digital tools through visual programming and scripting.
  • Gain practical experience with our in-house advanced digital fabrication equipment, including a large industrial robotic arm.
  • Participate in multi-disciplinary teamwork that mirrors professional practice.
  • Benefit from multi-disciplinary expertise from research staff across the schools of architecture, computer science and engineering.
  • Tailor your learning to your own interests and needs and develop specific expertise through optional modules and a student-led research project.

Key facts

Next intakeSeptember 2019
Duration1 year
QualificationMSc
ModeFull-time
Other ways to study this course
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Admissions criteria

This programme is suitable for graduates in architecture, the built environment, civil engineering, architectural engineering, computer science, or for professionals who wish to develop a specialisation in computational methods in architecture. Applicants should normally hold a first or upper second class Honours degree. Students would be expected to show understanding of the field of computational methods in architecture and some initial experience in the use of digital tools, developing software-based solutions, or organising engineering information with digital tools.

Applicants should apply through the University’s online application system.

A minimum standard in English language of IELTS 6.5 or equivalent will be required for students whose first language is not English. The UK Border Agency requires minimum sub-scores of IELTS 5.5 across the four competencies of reading, writing, listening and speaking.

If your offer to study at Cardiff University is conditional on IELTS, we recommend that you take the ‘IELTS for UKVI’ test at an approved centre. This will give you greater flexibility regarding how to meet the English Language conditions of your offer. Please note that ‘IELTS for UKVI’ is the only test outside the UK that can be accepted for entry to Pre-sessional English Language programmes.

The University’s English language centre offers 10- and 8-week Pre-sessional Courses and a longer Bridge Programme and provides on-going support for international students.

Find out more about English language requirements.

Applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK must present an acceptable English language qualification in order to meet UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) requirements

This full-time programme is taught over one year, during which you will develop a project-based dissertation, supported by regular tutorials. Some module content will be delivered through intensive workshops during block weeks while other module content will be delivered weekly. The course will include core modules that present fundamental concepts and a series of more optional and advanced modules allowing you to specialise in one or more topics. We use a combination of individual and group work to assess your progress. The course will culminate in a student-led dissertation accompanied by a 5000-word reflective essay. 

 

 

 

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2019/20 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2019.

In each semester, you will sit a total of 60 credits, including both core and optional modules.

The student-led dissertation, from June to September, offers a unique and exciting opportunity for you to develop and pursue your own research agenda, discovering new knowledge and integrating several methods into new and innovative workflows. Working with a supervisor, your dissertation will comprise a computationally-based investigation that can have various deliverables including, but not limited to any combination of: visual presentations, computer code and scripts, digitally manufactured artefacts, video and animations, multi-media performances, or responsive environments and mechanisms. It will be accompanied by a reflective essay that explains the background, the thinking behind the project, the methodology, chronicles your investigation, and presents the main findings and conclusions of the research project. The reflective essay and the research project deliverables will be assessed by a panel of assessors. 

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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.
Our in-house robotic arm

How will I be taught?

We aim to provide an exceptional environment for computational methods in architecture education and reflect our current research strengths and interests. This programme has been carefully designed to enable you to realise your maximum potential. We aim to deliver expert teaching, and comprehensive pastoral care. 

The methods of teaching we employ will vary from module to module, as appropriate depending on the subject matter and the method of assessment. We teach using a mixture of lectures, seminars, workshops, and one-on-one and group tutorials. Lectures will explain overall concepts, seminars and workshops will guide you through the technical aspects of the module, and one-on-one and group tutorials will answer questions and help you with your project. Teaching also includes the provision of online learning materials as appropriate to the module. 

The dissertation element of the programme is conducted through the process of design, continuing on from your taught modules completed in the first part of the course. We advise that you continue to meet with your tutor on a weekly basis. 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?

The Course Coordinator is assigned as your Personal Tutor and will be able to provide you with advice, whilst maintaining an overview of your learning and educational experiences. If you are experiencing difficulties, your Personal Tutor will be there to listen and where possible provide professional guidance or else direct you to the appropriate source of support. At a minimum, Personal Tutor meetings will take place at least once per semester. This meeting can also serve as an opportunity for the discussion of your career goals, employability and professional development. 

All of the academic staff in the Welsh School of Architecture are experienced researchers in their respective fields and are passionate about sharing their knowledge and expertise with students. 

The primary interaction with academic staff will be during lectures, workshops or small-group tutorials. 

Lecturing staff are contactable at teaching sessions or by email, and operate either an ‘open door’ policy for students who have specific queries about course material, or a system of booking meeting times. Our Teaching Office is located in the Bute Building with friendly and experienced professional staff who can answer most administrative queries. 

Feedback

Feedback on your study, work, and progress will take many forms, from formal written comments on your submitted work to more informal conversations and advice during classes and practicals, or from your Personal Tutor. Throughout the course, we will provide detailed feedback on all assessed coursework. This is normally provided online through the ‘Feedback Studio’ system, allowing you to conveniently access your feedback via a computer or tablet device. You will also have the opportunity to discuss your academic and personal development progress with your Personal Tutor, and to discuss your work in order to improve your performance. During the research project, you will receive additional regular feedback from the supervising academic.

 

 

How will I be assessed?

The modules are normally assessed through a combination of coursework and examinations. Coursework assessments may take the form of written practical reports, structured reports, class tests, structured answer tests, group work, poster and oral presentations and computing problem-solving exercises. Assessments may be summative and count towards the final module mark, or formative, helping you to learn and practice key skills and knowledge through feedback. Final examinations at the end of each module may comprise a structured answer section (assessing breadth of knowledge) and/or a written answer section (assessing depth of knowledge in specific topics). Your dissertation project is assessed by a supervisor’s evaluation and a written report.

What skills will I practise and develop?

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

Knowledge & Understanding:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to:

  • Understand and critically evaluate theories of computing and computational methods.
  • Understand and critically evaluate the role of computational methods in the design process.
  • Understand and critically evaluate the role of computational methods in the digital fabrication process.
  • Understand and critically evaluate the role of computational methods in the construction process.

Intellectual Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to:

  • Think algorithmically, systematically and creatively about integrating computational methods in the design process.
  • Think algorithmically, systematically and creatively about integrating computational methods in the digital fabrication process.
  • Think algorithmically, systematically and creatively about integrating computational methods in the construction process.

Professional Practical Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to:

  • Master practical methods in software development.
  • Master use of software for computational methods in design, digital fabrication, and building construction.
  • Effectively and creatively present abstract computational processes and their integration into a larger context.

Transferable/Key Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to:

  • Lead and work in teams efficiently.
  • Set learning goals and identify resources for learning in a process of lifelong learning.
  • Identify and critically review relevant literature.
  • Recognise and respond to opportunities for innovation.
  • Develop and critically advance an individual research agenda to be concluded and presented in an original, academic work – written and/or design.

What are the learning outcomes of this course/programme?

 

 

Whilst many of our graduates may choose to undertake a career within architecture or other built environment professions (e.g. engineering and construction, landscape, interior design), the programme provides a large number of transferable skills which will be of benefit across a wide range of professions. 

The knowledge and skills gained in computational methods such as 3D modelling, rendering, animation, parametric design, digital fabrication, and building information modelling (BIM) are highly desired by employers from various industries who are seeking experts with IT skills. Examples include: furniture designers, jewellery design firms, graphic design firms, computer game development firms, and even movie and theatre set design firms. These companies regularly need IT skills, digital fabrication skills, simulation software skills, or custom-software development tools to solve unique design problems. 

The focus on independent, project based learning as well as the ability to solve complex problems individually and in groups is often welcomed by employers in that it provides graduates with skills in creative thinking, conceptual organisation, critical reflection and taking initiative. 

 

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2019/20)

Tuition feeDepositNotes
£9,350None

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

EU students entering in 2019/20 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 2020/21 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.

Students from outside the EU (2019/20)

Tuition feeDepositNotes
£20,950£1,000

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

Additional costs

The University will cover any additional costs that are essential for you to pass the programme.  For this reason you will be provided with a small financial allocation as required.  The details of this will be provided by your Programme Lead throughout the academic year.

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

This master’s is an intensive programme that relies heavily on computational tools and methods. You should therefore have some existing knowledge or interest in computational methods in architecture (e.g. parametric design, digital fabrication, visual programming methods). It is highly recommended that you possess an up-to-date laptop capable of handling complex 3D graphics. If you do not have a laptop, the school has an IT lab with several workstations that you may use for your work. Most software will need to be run using the Microsoft Windows operating system. However, Mac laptops can run Windows software through emulation. The software essential for this programme is available with a free student license or provided by the School. The following is a minimal initial list of software that is needed: 

  • Rhinoceros 3D + Grasshopper 3D 
  • Autodesk Revit + Dynamo 
  • Autodesk 3ds Max 

We will provide students with student licenses for additional specialist software (e.g. energy simulation etc) we use on the course, however we can currently only guarantee that these work on computers with a Windows operating system. Other software downloads will be given to you by your module leader. 

You will have access to a suite of PC computers running the necessary software and use large-format plotters, a digital laser cutter, CNC router, large industrial robotic arm and a well-equipped workshop. We will provide any additional equipment that is essential to the course.