Now some seven billion bodies and counting, urbanisation leaves nothing untouched - it is a means without ends, a reproductive action without question or second thought. It is said that beyond a certain threshold, the inevitable force of urbanisation renders design inoperative - horizons replace cities in an expansion without limit or direction. Design becomes a matter of facilitation, the management of a process whose fundamental values remain beyond dispute. However, urban design carries an important potential beyond the consensus of practioners or the synthesis of expert knowledge, its ultimate vocation is to propose forms for our spatial and political co-existence.
As something that must be imagined before it can be realised, this proposition requires the cultivation of our creative and intellectual faculties as well as the time and space to project new possibilities. The Bartlett MArch UD is a space of experimental design and teaching located in central London that sets out to transform existing paradigms of urban design education. Currently, urban design conceives of relevance and experimentation in separate ways, either it repeats conventions of form and spatial organisation or it is swept along in a cycle of formal and aesthetic experimentation with little consequence. In an increasingly homogenised educational landscape, the challenge is to reconnect these two scenarios, to commit to an ethos of radical experimentation directed toward material social and political consequences.
The programme brings together a new generation of designers and thinkers from across the world in order to provide a rich and challenging space for long-term research on urbanisation and design. Alongside research on the city of London, every three years a single geo-political region will act as a common object of inquiry for the entire programme. Individual studios work collaboratively on projects located within this region. Studio inquiry ranges across an expansive set of scales and bodies of knowledge culminating with a design project and thesis. Environmental and ecological questions are prioritised within a critical structure that embraces the dispersed, often paradoxical nature of contemporary urbanism. The curriculum introduces students to various fields such as archaeology, anthropology, ecological history, governance, law, media, philosophy, planning and political theory. Cross-studio dialogue is emphasised, as is a collective work ethic.
Located within a permanent studio space in central London, graduates will develop rigorous research proposals through experimental design work. Students will learn to synthesise information across multiple bodies of knowledge and work collaboratively in complex environments. Students will also develop skills in advanced forms of analysis and representation and be asked to develop a high-level of literacy in political theory, history and architecture.
MArch Urban Design (UD) uses a module structure based on a credit system where the total number of credits over one year is 180 credits.
Early in Term 1, once the students have been allocated into Clusters students start working, with their allocated tutors, on the four key modules of the course. The History and Theory module, BENVGD05, is taught by six tutors who work with the students in Terms 1 and 2.
Strategic Urban Design
Assessment: Coursework Term 1+2
Detailed Urban Design
Assessment: Coursework Term 1+2
Urban Design Report
Assessment: Coursework Term 3 + summer term
History and Theory of Urban Design
Assessment: Coursework Term 1+2
BENVGD05 History and Theory of Urban Design
This is a lecture-based module which provides the students with a general introduction to the history and theory of urban design. The content of the lecture series varies to some extent from year to year, to reflect the evolution of design programme topics, but it typically includes lectures on the history of urbanism (focusing on the last 100 years and particularly on contemporary developments) and on current theories related to urban design, such as space syntax, generative systems and theories related to the issue of sustainability.
The pedagogical aim of this module is to provide the students with an introduction to the history and theory of urban design, with specific emphasis on contemporary issues and on fields of knowledge that are pertinent to their design investigations.
The intended learning outcome of this module is for students to acquire a knowledge and understanding of the history and theory of urban design, as well as their application to urban design project work.
BENVGD02 Strategic Urban Design
This is a studio-based module that leads the students, by means of a series of design programmes, through the successive phases of an urban design project, from the initial research and conceptual stage down to a strategic design proposal. This research and design project includes a field trip.
The pedagogical aim of this module is to make students develop comprehensive urban design projects that are both analytically rigorous and creative in terms of design.
The intended outcome is for students to acquire a knowledge and understanding of the range of urban design skills required for each stage of project development, from basic research to overall strategic design.
BENVGD03 Detailed Urban Design
This is a studio-based module that leads the students, by means of a series of design steps, from the strategic urban design level of module BENVGD02, to a detailed level of physical design.
The pedagogical aim of this module is to make students develop detailed urban design projects that are both analytically rigorous and creative in terms of design.
The intended outcome is for students to acquire a knowledge and understanding of the range of skills required to develop a detailed urban design proposal.
BENVGD04 Urban Design Report
This module provides the pedagogical context for the students to prepare the final element of the coursework, the Urban Design Report, which consists partly of a design component and partly of a written component. Students are expected, with the support of their tutors, to be highly self-motivated in the course of this module, proposing their own topic of investigation and design. This topic can either be a continuation of the design work that was initiated earlier in the year within modules BENVGD02 and BENVGD03, or a completely new design project. The subject of the Urban Design Report is negotiated between the student and his or her unit tutors, in coordination with the Course Director.
Design component The design part of the Urban Design Report is to be presented in the form of a pin-up presentation during the final end of year crit as well as in the form of a hard-copy portfolio.
Written component The written part of the Urban Design Report is a 5,000-10,000 word illustrated document. It must describe the initial ideas that underpin the urban design proposal, the design investigation and associated information that has been gathered during the process and a conclusion that summarises the way in which the design work informs the initial ideas. The pedagogical aim of this module is to encourage students to engage with analytical rigour and design originality in an individual piece of research and design development.
The intended learning outcome of this module is for students to acquire a knowledge and understanding of the research methods and design skills required to produce a major written and design thesis.
The MArch Urban Design course is run by a full-time Programme Leader, with Stream leader and a History and Theory Co-ordiantor. The design ‘Cluster’ (approximately 15 students per cluster for MArch Urban Design) is the basis of design teaching and learning. Each Cluster is taught by two design staff and with whom students have regular studio contact.
Staff teaching on the programme currently include:
Send Adrian an email
Ross Exo Adams
History and Theory Tutors
Ross Exo Adams
Adrian Lahoud is an architect and teacher. He joined the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths in 2011 as Director of the MA programme; prior to this he was Director of post-graduate Urban Design at UTS. Currently he is leading the M.Arch Urban Design at The Bartlett, UCL. He exhibits and lectures internationally, most recently at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Tate Britain and Storefront for Art and Architecture. He has been a guest critic at the Royal College of Art London, Columbia GSAPP, Angewandte Vienna and TU Berlin. His doctoral research sets out a philosophical, scientific and architectural history of scale as a problematique, drawing on case studies of post-war urban planning, territorial governance and climate modeling. He has written extensively on questions of spatial politics and urban conflict with a focus on the Arab world and Africa. In 2010 he guest edited a special issue of Architectural Design titled ‘Post-traumatic Urbanism’. More recently, his work has been published in ‘The Journal of Architecture’, ‘Architecture and the Paradox of Dissidence’, ‘New Geographies 5: The Mediterranean’ and ‘Performing Trauma’
Professor of Urban Design
Peter Bishop graduated in 1976 in Town Planning from The University of Manchester where he was awarded The Heywood Medal and the RTPI prize. From 1985-2006 he was Director of Planning, Architecture, Engineering and Real Estate in four separate London Boroughs. During this time he worked on major development projects including the initial designs for Canary Wharf, the BBC campus at White City and the redevelopment of Kings Cross. In 2006 he set up, with Richard Rogers, Design for London, the Mayor’s architecture studio and was appointed London’s first Design Director. In 2008 he was appointed Deputy Chief Executive of the London Development Agency, where he combined Design for London with the responsibility for London’s regeneration, land development and environmental programmes. Projects responsibilities covered the initial work on the Olympic legacy, public spaces for London and the regeneration of London’s dock areas including the London cable car. In 2011 Peter was commissioned by The Design Council to carry out a review on behalf of the Government on Design in the Built Environment. The "Bishop Review" was published in October 2011.
Since 2011 he has been a director of the architecture practice Allies
and Morrison-Urban Practitioners and a consultant on cities to the law firm
Berwin Leighton Paisner. Peter is a visiting professor at the School of Built
Environment at Nottingham Trent University, an Honorary fellow of UCL, a fellow
of The Royal Society of The Arts and a fellow of the RIBA. He is also a design
adviser to the Mayor London, a trustee of The Building Centre and a member of
The English Heritage London Advisory committee. He has lectured
extensively and his book, jointly written with Lesley Williams, The
Temporary City, an exploration of temporary urbanism, was published in 2012
Assemblage has won a string of major international design competitions and commissions with the United Nations (UN-HABITAT) and governments of the Middle East. Peter Besley was born in Singapore, educated in Australia, and first registered as an architect in Edinburgh. Before launching Assemblage, Peter was a senior architect at Allies and Morrison, London involved with numerous leading urban design and architecture projects, including the London 2012 Olympic Games and legacy masterplan. Peter has previously run Units in the Master of Architecture (Urban Design) course at The Bartlett (UCL) and is a standing juror at the Department of Architecture, University of Westminster, London. Hannah Corlett studied architecture at the WSA and the Bartlett. Before setting up Assemblage in 2003 she worked on numerous celebrated projects with Will Alsop and Niall McLaughlin, including Peckham Library (Stirling Prize 2000), and the multi award-winning houses in Clonakilty and Hertfordshire. At Surface Architects she led the £9M London headquarters for Razorfish Inc.. Hannah is a standing juror at The Bartlett School of Architecture and the University of Westminster.
Ross Exo Adams is an architect, urbanist and researcher. His work looks at the
political and historical junction between circulation and urbanization. His
writing has been published in journals such as Environment and Planning D:
Society and Space, Radical Philosophy and Log, among others, and has been
commissioned for book chapters, essays and various other formats. He has taught
at the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam and Brighton University, and currently
lectures at the Architectural Association. His work has been exhibited
in the Venice Beinnale, the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York and
the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam. As an architect and urban
designer he has worked in offices such as MVRDV, Foster & Partners, Arup
Urban Design and Productora-DF. He is presently completing a Ph.D at the London Consortium where he
holds the 2011 LKE Ozolins Studentship awarded by the RIBA
ecoLogicStudio ecoLogicStudio is an architectural and urban
design studio co-founded in London by Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto. In
the past few years the studio has built up an international reputation for its
innovative work on ‘systemic’ design; ecoLogicStudio’s method is defined by the
combination and integration of systemic thinking, bio and socio-logic research,
parametric design and prototyping. Completed projects include a public library,
private villas, large facades and eco-roofs; ecoLogic has developed prototypes
and installations for the most important Architectural Biennales, including Venice
in 2008 and 2010, Seville, Istanbul and Milan Fuorisalone; the metaFOLLY
pavilion has been recently acquired by the FRAC Center in Orleans for their
permanent collection. The work of ecoLogicStudio has featured in many
international architectural books and magazines like the New Arcadians:
emerging UK Architects by Lucy Bullivant.
Beth Hughes has worked on projects of all scales around the world. Educated in Australia, she graduated with first class honours from the University of Technology Sydney where she later taught. She worked for several design practices in Australia managing a variety of projects including the City of Sydney Public Library. In 2004 Beth joined the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, (OMA — Rem Koolhaas) in Rotterdam, where as an Associate she was responsible for a number of projects in London (White City, BBC masterplan, Commonwealth Institute), Latvia (Riga Contemporary Art Museum, Riga Port City) and the Middle East (Al Faisaliah Riyadh, City in the Desert, Jebel Al Jais Mountain Resort). In 2009, after twelve years of professional experience, Beth joined as a partner at Point Supreme Architects in Athens, Greece. In 2011 Beth established her own practice now based in London. Her work has been extensively published and awarded in several international competitions including Europan 10 Norway and the Nordic Built Challenge Denmark.
Platon Issaias graduated in 2007 from the
Faculty of Architecture of the Aristotle University, Thessaloniki-Greece
with honours. He holds a Master of Science in Advanced Architectural
Design (MS AAD) from the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and
Preservation-GSAPP, Columbia University (2008). In the current academic
year, he is completing his dissertation at ‘The City as a Project’ PhD
Program, launched by the Berlage Institute/Rotterdam in collaboration
with TU Delft. The theme of his thesis is the urban development of
Athens. In the academic year 2010-2011, together with Pier Vittorio
Aureli, Maria S. Giudici and Elia Zenghelis, co-tutored the 2nd year’s
post-graduate research studio ‘Labour, City, Architecture: Towards a
Common Architectural Language’ at the Berlage Institute. He has lectured
and published essays in Greece and elsewhere, most recently in DOMUS
and the Greek entry on the 13th Venice Architectural Biennale.
Sam Jacoby is a chartered architect with a diploma from the Architectural Association and a doctorate from the Technical University of Berlin. He has worked for varies architectural and planning offices in the UK, USA, and Malaysia, and trained as a cabinet-maker in Germany. He has taught since 2002 at the AA, where he is currently the director of the Projective Cities postgraduate programme. He further taught at the University of Nottingham and the University of Technology, Sydney. Jacoby co-edited Typological Formations: Renewable Building Types and the City (2007), co-curated Urban Futures: Ideas of the City (Sydney, 2009), and guest-edited an Architectural Design special issue on urbanism, ‘Typological Urbanism: Projective Cities’ (2011).
Ulrika Karlsson is principal of servo Stockholm, a design collaborative invested in the development of architectural environments integrating synthetic ecologies with shifting material states and electronic information infrastructures, working in close collaboration with its affiliate servo los angeles. As the name servo suggests, the practice engages sites where information and energy is transposed as it crosses from one system or circuit, to another, producing an architecture that acts as a spatial interface between physical locales and more extensive information flows. servo’s work has been exhibited at the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Centre Pompidou, Archilab, Artists Space, the MAK Center for Art and Architecture, the Storefront for Art and Architecture and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA) and is in the permanent collections of SFMoMA and the FRAC Centre.
Jonathan Kendall is a Partner and the Director of Urban Design at Fletcher Priest Architects, where he is responsible for masterplanning and urban design projects within the practice. He is an architect by training, having studied at the University of Manchester and the Bartlett, and is registered in both the UK and Latvia. He has worked on a number of large-scale urban projects from initial concept and feasibility stages through to the successful achievement of planning permissions. Most significantly, he has worked for more than a decade on the Stratford City masterplan, one of Europe’s largest regeneration projects, the residential district in which has formed the Athletes Village for the 2012 Olympics. Having won the international design competition for the new urban centre of Riga, he established and continues to lead a studio for the practice based in Latvia. He has also led projects in Brussels for the European Commission and in Abu Dhabi, St Petersburg and Bangalore. Jonathan has taught on the MSc/MArch Urban Design programme at Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, where he is a Senior Teaching Fellow, since the course was founded in 1999.
Claudia Pasquero is an architect, engineer, author and educator. She worked in London as architect for international offices such as Ushida Findlay Partnership and ErickVan Egeraat Architects before co-founding the ecoLogicStudio in 2006. Claudia has completed a public library in Cirie’ (Turin) among other projects and she has been exhibiting ecoLogicStudio work at the Venice Architectural Biennale in 2006, in 2008 and 2010, where she has been presenting three different interacting prototypes, investigating the boundaries between architecture, science and tradition. Claudia has lectured and taught internationally; Claudia has been Unit Master at the AA in London from September 2007 to September 2012; Visiting Lecturer at the IAAC, Barcelona since 2006; Hans and Roger Strauch Visiting Critic in Cornell University, Ithaca, NY in 2011/2012; director of CyberGardening the City AAMilan from September 2010; Director of Digital Fabrication: Fabrication Ecologies at the IAAC in Barcelona since October 2012 and Research Cluster Tutor for the Urban Design course at the Bartlett, UCL London since October 2012.
Claudia has curated many workshops and cultural activities like the Architectural Machines Symposium at the AA, the Fibrous Structures workshop in Istanbul&London, Prototyping the city in Turin, ICAMP in Messina, Tropic Playground in Linz, to name a few.
She has published independently booklets like the cyber-Gardens and the AA INTER10 09/10 book titled “World Dubai Marine Life Incubators”. All her research work has been published in 2012 by Routledge is a new book titled “Systemic Architecture”.
Marco Poletto After graduating with Honors from Turin Polytechnic in Italy, Marco moved to London to study at the Architectural Association. He worked in London as environmental designer with Battle McCarthy before co-founding the ecoLogicStudio in 2006. Marco has lectured and taught internationally, has been Unit Master at the AA in London from 2007 to 2012 and Visiting Lecturer at the IAAC, Barcelona, and Cornell University, Ithaca. After writing many essays and articles he is co-author of “Systemic Architecture: operating manual for the self-organising city” by Routledge. In 2012 Marco co-founded the new AA Italy Global School in Milan and is now Research Cluster Tutor in the Urban Design program at The Bartlett - UCL in London and Director of the Fabrication Ecologies research line at the postgraduate laboratory for advanced architecture, IAAC in Barcelona.
Davide Sacconi studied Architecture at the Università degli Studi di Roma Tre where he graduated with honors in 2006. In 2004 he founded Tspoon, a research based office that has been awarded in several national and international competitions for architecture, landscape, urban design and editorial projects. In 2011 he completed his postgraduate research at the Berlage Institute of Rotterdam, where he focused on territorial and large scale projects in different cultural and geographical context, such as Los Angeles, Beijing, Moscow and Athens. His final thesis project, developed at the Berlage Institute within a studio lead by Elia Zenghelis and Pier Vittorio Aureli has been published on Domus.
In 2012 he worked at MVRDV (Rotterdam) on several urban design and large scale architectural project and in 2013 he co-curated the exhibition "The Competivie Hipothesis" at Storefront art gallery in New York. Since 2012-13 he's teaching at Bartlett School of Architecture in the MArch Urban Design program, focusing on the Mediterranean as a field for investigation of urban design theory and practice.
Lately he founded UGO, a critical practice that explores the potential of architecture to frame urban transformations through space and over time, that has been recently awarded with the first prize in the European 12 Competition in Oslo.
Camila Sotomayor explores ruins as contemporary zones of architectural reanimation. Her work experiments with the processes of material transformation and visual representation. Having studied in Chile, New York, Italy and Canada she completed her Masters in Architecture at the Bartlett, UCL. Camila's projects have speculated on the effects of time at scales ranging from the accumulated virtual decay of a domestic interior to the phased reconstruction of post-civil war Bolivia. She runs the Department of Decay at UCL, a platform that integrates the fields of art, architecture, science and fiction to explore all matters of material ageing. Her current PhD in Architectural Design at the Bartlett is investigating the concept of time-based design further by focusing on material decay at the microscopic scale, as an architecture that emerges from simultaneous growth and death. In 2013 she was invited to the Canadian Centre for Architecture where she completed a residency researching the estate and selected works of Gordon Matta-Clark. She has been a Studio Unit Tutor for the Bartlett School of Architecture’s MArch Urban Design programme since 2010.
Clusters and Showcases
The MArch Urban Design programme offers a large number of research-focused design units, all of which allow students to pursue a rigorous professional approach to architecture within a highly speculative and creative context.
MArch Urban Design Cluster 11
Adrian Lahoud, Sam Jacoby - On Contradiction - In the war against contradiction, consistency is the secret affinity that ties all to all. To be against consistency is to be against reason itself, to deny coherence perhaps...
MArch Urban Design Cluster 12
Jonathan Kendall - Assemblage - We are interested in how the city can be understood as a field of stakes and protagonists, rather than the conventional conception as a grouping of disinterested objects. This stance...
MArch Urban Design Cluster 14
Ross Exo Adams, Beth Hughes, Davide Sacconi - Coastlines: Urbanisation of the Sea - The history of the Mediterranean is a history of the relation between land and sea. The distinction between land and sea is one...
MArch Urban Design Cluster 15
Camila Sotomayor, Platon Issaias - Monsters of the Subsoil/Ruins on the Ground - The cluster seeks to investigate ideas and theories on cultural heritage and art production in relation to urban phenomena, and...
MArch Urban Design Cluster 16
Claudia Pasquero, Marco Poletto - Bio-Urban Design - The research cluster on BIO-Urban Design pursues a non anthropocentric understanding of the urban landscape, intended as a territory of self-organization...
MArch Urban Design Cluster 17
Ulrika Karlsson, Maj Plemenitas - Mess-Match - Mess-match is an ambiguous concept, having simultaneous irreconcilable positions, that fluctuates between something inclined to muddle, to interfere ...
MArch Urban Design Cluster 18
Eduardo Rico, Enriqueta Llabres, Zachary Fluker - Relational Urbanism - Relational Urbanism explores how digital design techniques influence the ways in which we think and design conditions of...
History Theory Seminars
This seminar program sets out toward four areas of inquiry: the Mediterranean, the urban, the typological and the territorial. Each of which are understood as a series of problems organised according to scale. At the beginning of each series, an introductory lecture will present the dispute over the terms that make its title. A continuous lecture program drawing on a wide range of disciplines is scheduled for every academic year. This program draws heavily on the opportunities afforded by the program’s location in Central London to generate an intense culture of debate around urban design.
‘Urban Design as a profession and a science’
second half of the nineteenth century saw the scientific urbanism of Cerdà
pitted against a culturist city planning by Sitte, which were both later
absorbed by the Modern Movement. With the Modernist urban planning doctrine
charged with the decline of cities, the concept of urban design as an
alternative reasoning of the processes involved in physically shaping cities
consolidated in the 1960s. While in America its proponents, such as Kevin
Lynch, Jane Jacobs, and Christopher Alexander, propagated practical
architectural solutions with the aim to influence urban renewal through the
design of public spaces and changes in policy, the European Neo-rationalist
sought to recover the historical city, with Rossi formulating a new urban
science that remained indebted to Modernism.
‘To Fill the Earth: Political Ontologies of Urbanization’
Ross Exo Adams
is ‘urbanization’? More than any other theory, project or treatise, Cerdá’s
General Theory of Urbanization can retroactively be seen as the most prescient
paradigm for describing contemporary urbanization. This lecture will examine
his work, covering both textual and visual materials, exposing his remarkably
prescient theory in which he proposed to replace what he saw as the
‘anachronistic’ ciudad (city) with the ‘modern’ figure of the ‘urbe’, a
generic, scaleless template of territorialization engulfed in expansive ‘urbanización’—a
term he coined. It will examine the extent to which, as Cerdá had anticipated,
urbanization has actually eclipsed the city, imposing an epistemological
fracture between the two and effectively consigning the ‘city’ to a historical
vestige. Central to the theory of urbanizacion is the concept Cerdá calls
‘vialidad’. This lecture will show how this term not only formed the basis of
his entire theory but also provided the outline for a new configuration of
modern power to emerge within it.
‘Spatialising Co-existence and the Problem of Unity’
seminar will explore the twin-sided myths of unity and difference as they apply
to urban discourse, where unity typically names the totalizing excess of
modernism and difference names the attempted remediation of the city in the
name of pluralism. It proceeds from a simple but important premise: questions
of difference cannot be reduced to formal appearance. Beginning with the legacy
of Rowe and Koetter’s Collage City in
which questions of form, spatial reasoning and political rationality are
severed, this seminar will turn to a forgotten high-modern urban project in the
northern Lebanese city of Tripoli by Oscar Niemeyer in which multiple
rationalities addressing the formation of a modern nation state co-exist within
a supposedly unified formal setting.
‘Utopia as a Structuring Principle of Modernity’
Ross Exo Adams
published in 1516, Thomas More’s Utopia has given the modern world a
lasting structure in which to project our horizon of expectation in imagining
possible ‘elsewheres’. Within recent architectural discourse, the idea has
become a kind of catch-all phrase to either refer to fantastical counter-worlds
or to condemn supposedly irrational thought. In either case, ‘Utopia’ loosely
persists as the non-real; that which cannot be realized. Proposing a more
problematic understanding of the term ‘Utopia’, this lecture will trace a
genealogy of political spaces and Utopian responses to them, from More’s work
to contemporary understandings of the notion. In this way, it will look to
reveal a tight unity between space, time and politics that operates at the core
of any Utopian projection. Utopia, in this sense, does not just embody an
‘elsewhere’, but also carries with it traces of an ahistorical and, most
importantly an apolitical frame. From here, another way to understand
the term ‘Utopia’ emerges as u-topos, suggesting the negation of topos.
Rejecting the ideologically loaded use of the term, Utopia today may be
more effective if understood by Carl Schmitt’s notion of ‘spaceless
universalism’. We will therefore look to expand our scope to interrogate
not only ‘utopian’ projects per se, but also projects which have been realised
that expose a certain tendency within modernity to liberate life from the
concrete, material world. Far from referring to the ‘non-real’, is it not
possible to conceive of Utopia as the condition approximated today as life is
evermore integrated into a single, techno-economic (urban) continuum of
movement, connectivity and ‘non-places’?
Biopolitics and biopower are concepts developed by Michel Foucault in the late 1970s to describe various strategies of the state to quantify and regulate the biological life of citizens through a paradigm of discipline and security. In this lecture we will revisit Foucault’s various reflections on biopolitics in his Collège de France lectures from the period, as well as the definition he provides in The History of Sexuality Vol. 1, the Will to Knowledge. We will try to situate Foucault’s theory in relation to his own political moment, as well as introduce some of the key latter theorists of biopolitics and its relevance for contemporary social thought.
‘The Corrupting Sea’
Corrupting Sea is a history of the relationship between people and their
environments in the Mediterranean region over some 3,000 years. It advocates a
novel analysis of this relationship in terms of microecologies and the often
extensive networks to which they belong. This is the first major work since Braudel’s
The Mediterranean to address the problems of studying the area as a whole and
on a long time-scale. The authors emphasize the value of comparison between
prehistory, Antiquity and the Middle Ages. They draw on an exceptionally wide
range of evidence - literary works, documents, archaeology, scientific reports
and social anthropology. The themes addressed include past conceptions of the
Mediterranean, its historiography, the history of primary production, the
rhythms of exchange and communication, the pace of environmental and
technological change, the geography of religion, and the contribution of
Mediterranean social anthropology to an assessment of the region’s unity. The
book offers a provocative and innovative approach to the history of the Mediterranean,
explaining what has made Mediterranean history distinctive.
‘What is the Mediterranean?‘
since the appearance of Braudel’s first classic work and, recently, The
Corrupting Sea by Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell, the scope and quality
of large-scale interpretative syntheses of the Classical to early modern
Mediterranean have stood in stark contrast to the lack of similarly integrated,
up-to-date study of the basin’s immensely rich prehistory. This is despite the
fact that almost all the fundamental social, economic, cultural and
technological developments in this cockpit of world history originated and
started to coalesce at a notably earlier date, and are therefore primarily
accessible only through archaeology. The Making of the Middle Sea is conceived
on an ambitious temporal and spatial scale that embraces a time-span stretching
from the earliest Palaeolithic colonisation to the threshold of the Classical
world, and addresses the African, Levantine and European sides of the
Mediterranean in equal measure. It identifies a cluster of key features that in
combination make the Mediterranean a genuinely unique theatre, distinct from
other inland seas and ‘mediterraneoid’ environments, and weaves these together
with the impact of climate change to explain the long-term human divergences
and convergences in and around the basin that brought the cultural, social and
political world of the ancient Mediterranean into being.
‘Mapping the Sea: Thalassopolitics and Spatial Practices’
Space is always registered
through a medium. Many of the forces that condition the environment are poorly
perceived, a critical question then, is how to make visible currently
imperceptible phenomena able to transform the way in which we think and operate.
This seminar will take the maritime environment as its main focus. In recent years, architects
and spatial practitioners at large have often worked with activists groups and
non-governmental organizations to map complex events and denounce new forms of
spatial injustice. The vast majority of these endeavors, though, have focused
on the bounded territories that define land and have largely ignored the ocean,
often considered by classic geopolitical approaches as a placeless, and hence
unchartable, void. Nevertheless, as the ocean started to emerge as a field of
activity and research for military forces, global capitalism and scientific
research, attempts to “know” the ocean have multiplied and have provided
various actors with new oceanographic tools. In this seminar, we will look at
how certain novel forms of reading and measuring the ocean by expanding the
aesthetic and technological conditions of what can be considered (evidence of)
a crime, have brought to the fore novel legal and political issues, transforming
the sea in an arena of conflict.
‘The Mediterranean: A New Imaginary’
What is the Mediterranean? Every discipline will answer this question in its own way. A Mediterranean story told according to kinship structures and small communities for anthropologists; micro-regions or biotopes for environmental historians; naval technologies, charts, and sea routes for oceanographers; surveys, vernacular building types, and colonial master plans for architects and urbanists. Not to mention the significant disagreements within disciplines, or for that matter, those forms of knowledge transmitted through oral rather than written traditions, such as the migratory routes of pastoralists, the cultivation practices of farmers, or the navigation of fishing vessels. Within each frame of knowledge, a different distribution of relevant and irrelevant points will be plotted, and in each case the outline of a different Mediterranean will unfold.
seminar will explore a large-scale and contemporary problem currently reorganizing
the space of the Mediterranean, the nexus formed between climate change, desertification
in the Sahel, trans-Saharan migration and European securitization of the sea. In
doing so the presentation argues that issues of scale bound to concepts of
regionalism or locality must be reconsidered and replaced in order to allow for
relations that are no longer proximate.
‘History of the Present’
lecture will address some of the key concepts in the critical method of Michel
Foucault, dealing primarily with The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969). Renowned
for his unique form of historical epistemology, The Archaeology of Knowledge is
a key moment in the development of Foucault’s methodology and the larger
project of a ‘history of the present’. Controversial amongst historians and
philosophers alike, Foucault’s often-radical arguments on historiography and
theory are still debated today and this lecture will only be able to introduce
the broad outlines of Foucault’s operative methodological categories. Some of
the concepts covered in the lecture will include historical a priori, episteme,
problématique, archaeology, discourse/discursive formation, archive, and
‘The Life of the Archive’
archive is not, suggests Michel Foucault, the repository to which artefacts and
documents are consigned in order that “they might settle and collect dust” on
the contrary it is a site of regeneration that refuses the inclination towards
torpor through the sustained “miracle of potential resurrection”. Artefacts
when strategically extracted from the archive are likewise inclined towards
deviance in the sense that they can testify against their previously authored
histories — becoming in effect hostile witnesses to the past. Antoinette Burton
author of Dwelling in the Archive argues that: “all archives are provincial,
interested, calcified in both deliberate and unintentional ways; that all
archives are in the end fundamentally unreliable.” Whereas Foucault’s reading
of the archive insists that its tendency towards revivification is precisely
that which constitutes its inherent vitality; a dynamism he locates within the
very condition of unreliability that Burton finds problematic. “Far from being
that which unifies everything said in the great confused murmur of a discourse,
far from being only that which ensures that we exist in the midst of preserved
discourse, it is that which differentiates discourses in their multiple
existence and specifies them in their own duration.”
‘Distance and Proximity: New Forms of Critical Engagement’
seminar looks at (spatial) practices that have tried to go beyond a modern idea
of critique as a practice of distance (the critical distance that would allow
the critic to detach himself from the situation at hand and see things from
afar) and have instead made of proximity/complicity a form of research and
intervention in the real. To put it in
Bruno Latour’s words, “the critic is not the one who debunks, but the one who
assembles. The critic is not the one who lifts the rugs from under the feet of
the naive believers, but the one who offers the participants arenas in which to
gather.” By looking at various practices dealing with space and its
representations, I will try to investigate what it means to produce “images,
languages and signs are constitutive of reality and not of its representation”
(Lazzarato) and what it entails for architects to engage with shifting networks
‘Scale as Apprenticeship, as Pedagogy’
it is both implied and brought into question with every form of inquiry, scale
is a concept that has avoided conceptual examination in its own right. Thinking
scale implies thinking a correlation of knowledge and practice to an object
according to some proportion, where proportion always guides the scalar
correlation according to some set of values. The conventional, ready to hand
character of these conventions often obscures the values on which they are
based and the conditions of their formation. Within architecture for example,
disciplinary concerns have historically coalesced at a particular scale as a
result of the questions asked, not because they are inherent to architecture as
a kind of natural property. By attending to the formation of scale in response
to conditions of material complexity, this presentation establishes a structure
for re-thinking the formation of knowledge - not as a closed, ordered and
unified body - but rather as a sequence of ongoing questions that radically
conflate traditional scalar divisions of thought.
‘What is Territory?‘
lecture will introduce the ambiguous and often contradictory uses of the term
"territory" across several disciplines, differentiating it from the
similar concepts of land and terrain but also body-politic and commons.
Exploring territory’s different genealogies, the lecture will be divided in
three sections: territory as sovereignty, as process and as network. Finally,
by bringing these different strands together it will show how the term’s
current ambiguity is in fact the reflection of a wider debate on the
geopolitics of globalization.
from 19th century influence of geological and mineralogy discourses
to political narratives and legal regimes, this lecture will introduce the
notion of “vertical territory”, as a conceptual shift that foregrounds not only
the importance of material agency to politics and history, but also the
relevance of evolving technical and scientific modes of representation.
Introducing the notion of ‘anthropocene’ as the discovery of a new global
stratigraphic horizon, this lecture will address the growing relevance of
territory’s vertical dimension as the manifestation of an epistemic
shift whereby territory is no longer conceived in relation to the management of
population, but instead in relation to the management of complex material
‘Jurisdictions and Sovereignty’
seminar starts from the analysis of the transformation of the Mediterranean
into an extended border zone and focuses on the sea as a contested spatial
arena or as a paradigm of the friction between "notions of
connectivity" (the sea as the space of capital expansion and global trade)
and "spatial discontinuities" (the sea as extraterritorial space).
Carl Schmitt famously described the sea as an anarchic space in which the impossibility
of drawing long-standing and identifiable boundaries made it impossible for
European States to establish any durable legal order or found any claim of
sovereignty. Far from being a claim of commonality though, the concept of the
“free seas” has been used during the centuries both by established and emerging
powers to claim freedom of competition and the right to dispose of a space of
commerce. It was, in this sense, a problematic but effective notion that had to
be maintained thought active intervention of the various powers that claimed
it. “Freedom requires policing and mobility requires fixity, and both of these
activities require continual efforts to striate the ideally smooth ocean”.
Nevertheless, with increasing interaction across oceans and with the growing
drive to consider maritime areas themselves as resources, the sea itself has
been more and more divided by various forms of legal and spatial enclosure.
This process has been also closely related to the technological and scientific
possibility to “know” the oceans, as the current interest in mapping the extent
of continental shelves to determine states’ jurisdictions over Arctic resources
has shown. As a result of this drive to subdivide the ocean, partial boundaries
have been established to delimitate areas of decreasing sovereignty,
hydrocarbon exploration fields, fishing regions, zones of responsibility for
the search and rescue of persons in danger at sea, etc. The seminar will
analyse this conflictual territory as a matrix of the contemporary spatial
In recent years several legal conflicts emerged where the main witness
on trial weren’t people but material entities: samples of mud, oil or water,
amongst many others. This lecture will discuss the production of “territorial
evidence” as the investment of things
with a power to speak in the name of a territory. Based on my own research of
Venezuela’s recent shift in territorial politics and its reliance on heavy-oil
classification, remote sensing and forensic procedures, I will show how techno
scientific production of evidence is mobilized to substantiate political
actions and legal transformations, thus intervening in complex epistemic
conflicts over the control of land, natural resources and modes of living.
‘Circulation, Traffic, Nomos’
Ross Exo Adams
of the fundamental structuring principles of environmental design (from
architecture to urban design to ‘global planning’), this concept is often taken
for granted as a self-evident category of spatial thought. Its appearance as an
neutral, passive category belies a far more intimate history this concept has
with modern political form. This lecture will trace a history of the concept of
‘circulation’ from its roots in ancient thought, as a mark of divine order, to
its introduction as a cognitive model to be deployed in the organization of the
material world, to its centrality as a principle within the construction of the
modern, territorial state and its economic disposition. Its ‘emergence’ as the
fundamental principle of the modern city, seen as a liberating notion, will in
turn be problematized as a depoliticized historical aberration useful for the
construction of a far more totalizing spatio-political order.
‘What is typology?‘
we commonly understand typology as a formal classification according to use and
morphology, with the origin of this functionalist-formalist thinking attributed
to Durand’s didactic teaching at the École Polytechnique. An architectural
theory of type, however, was only first formulated by Quatremère de Quincy in
1825 and derived from an encyclopedic systematization of knowledge and an art
historical discourse. Despite their fundamentally different understanding of
architecture, Quatremère’s theory and Durand’s method both conceptualized and
utilized abstraction, and shared the desire to define a system of architecture
with a new disciplinary knowledge. The epistemological similarities and
differences between Quatremère and Durand are perhaps best understood through
Le Roy’s first distinction between the history and theory of architecture.
‘Motive and Transformation: Semper’s Style and Unger’s Morphology’
is a discussion of two historical lecture series that were formed by the
dichotomy emerging with Quatremère and Durand. Semper’s London Lectures of
1853–54 rethought type as a means to analyze history through a critical method
of comparison and considered the evolution of artistic motives expressed in the
formation of styles. Based on his theory of dressing (Bekleidung) and material transformation (Stoffwechsel), the lectures anticipated the arguments of the Style in the Technical and Tectonic Arts
(1860–63), an ambitious compromise between a material and conceptual reading of
culture and its history. In the Berlin Lectures of 1964–65, Ungers developed a
morphological classification of museums intended to be absolute and seemingly
applicable to all formal and spatial types. However in his later theories, he
shifted to an argument of morphological transformation and fragmented
complementarity justified by metaphors and themes.
‘The Typo-diagrammatic and the Dispositif’
Le Roy in the eighteenth century, typology can be defined as a diagrammatic function
that is made specific to the discipline of architecture through drawing. This
position was affirmed, yet simultaneously reversed, when in the late 1990s the
diagram displaced typology in providing a generic organisation and the
possibility of structural specificity. While the diagram remains
formal-structural, and is often interpreted as a homogenizing process,
Foucault’s dispositif or ‘apparatus’
suggests a heterogeneous system of relations that encompasses all human
discourses and knowledge.
‘From Sustainability to Radical Ecology’
recent years have seen ecology and sustainability emerge together within
architectural discourse, this lecture will stress their distinct political and
spatial implications. Departing from a critical analysis of the ‘Stern Review
on the Economics of Climate Change’, this lecture will distinguish concerns
with the “protection” of nature and the “sustainable” management of natural
resources, from conceptions of ecology where nature emerges as a political
epistemological problem: not only it can no longer be divided from culture, but
also there are not one but many conceptions of nature. Drawing on the parallel
emergence of ecology and cybernetics, and from the writings of Bateson,
Guattari and Escobar, a critique to hegemonic forms of development will be
developed to argue how a radical conception of ecology isn’t one concerned with
the sustainability of nature-as-resource, but one concerned with the rights to
different practices of living.
‘Ecological Urbanism and the Immunization of Nature’
Ross Exo Adams
lecture will problematize the ‘eco-city’ as a renewed attempt to imbue the
crisis-ridden process of urbanization with a theological urgency: Here the
‘eco-city’ stands in as a figure effectively endowed with the power of staving
off the end of the world. Indeed, what is truly new about the ‘eco-city’ and
its various ‘sustainable’ cousins is not in its form, but rather in its
rhetorical/aesthetic promise to incorporate ‘nature’ itself as an
infrastructure whose ambition will inevitably push urbanization once again to
the background of human consciousness—a fated processes of nature which can
only be tamed by the good deeds of liberal reform.
‘The Development Doctrine’
create need, then help” (Trihn
Mihn-ha, in Reassemblage). The most powerful ideological construction we have
inherited from the twentieth century is neither capitalism nor communism; it is
“development”. No other form of perceiving and framing the world was able to
command such universal consensus and gather partisans from all sides; left and
right, revolutionaries and conservatives, liberals and totalitarians. Whether
it was designed in the form of international aid from North to South or
nationalist projects in the post-colonial world, governments from all factions
and from all parts of the globe have claimed development as a
political-historical objective. Religious missionaries, philanthropists and
humanitarians have adopted development, on behalf of ethical imperatives, as
their central mandate. Moreover, being ideologically consensual, development is
also a “classless” belief, and enjoys unanimity among different social strata.
While the rich consider it a moral duty towards fellow humans, the poor claim
it as a right that has been historically expropriated or denied. Like any other
event in the history of ideas, however, development is neither natural nor
neutral but a well-crafted artificial construction. During the last seventy
years or so, it has occupied a central position in the concerns of foreign
aid-agencies of powerful states, global NGOs and the technical bureaus of the
United Nations. It has mobilized huge amounts of capital and labour, and
eventually generated its own circuits of knowledge production --- “development
studies”. Given its moral righteousness, it is somewhat comprehensible that
development enjoys such unquestionable hegemonic position. But its history
tells us something completely different: development is an idea informed by a set
of exclusionary cultural constructions that served specific political interests
and economic goals and, in fact, development has contributed to expand rather
than alleviate world poverty. What follows is a brief archaeology of the
concept from its colonial origins to its modern elaborations, and some insights
in one of its most powerful avatars: architecture and urban planning.
The history of modernity could be narrated as a longue-durée process of environing the earth. What we call globalization – that moment in history when financial markets, communication networks, energetic technologies, and ecological accidents turned into ‘world-objects’- is the last snapshot of that movement by which the planet was surrounded, up to a point in which that process has practically reached the totality of life, at least in relation to what concerns the life of the human species and to that on which it depends: ‘global nature’. After the terrestrial globe initiated with early modernity/colonialism, the bio-spherical globe that emerges with late nineteenth century with bio-geography, and the eco-systemic turn of the 60s and 70s, we maybe experiencing the formation of new sensibility towards the planet, more geo-logical than territorial or biological, and therefore, a new reality in which the political terrain is no longer only the geo- or the bio-, but something I would tentatively call the earth-political. In the 70’s, when the ecological discourse was surfacing, geo-political power was disputed as a matter of reaching the outer space — escaping the Earth. Today’s crucial problem is that power will engage much more intimately and forcefully with the materiality of the planet, drilling deeper into the earth, scanning its hidden surfaces, trying to uncover sources of material wealth under melting glaciers and new discovered terrains — extracting, sectioning, dividing the materials that form our planet, re-articulating local and global ecologies. If ecology can be thought as political, its most urgent problem is not so much safeguarding nature, but challenging the hegemonic notions of nature itself and questioning the forms and means by which the earth is translated into the space of the political.
Application procedures, fees, funding and scholarships
Please visit the UCL Postgraduate Application and Entry page for information on how to apply.
Programme-specific information follows below.
Latest news: Full fee bursaries and paid work
experience for UK and EU applicants
Application deadline: 2 August 2013
The course provides a forum for graduate students from a variety of backgrounds - architectural design, the social sciences, planning, engineering, transportation, landscaping, geography and art history are all examples. However, prospective students should be prepared to engage with a course which has a strong emphasis on the design and visual representation of urban form, and so a background in a related design or visually-orientated field will be an advantage.
Candidates applying to the programme are expected to have excellent design skills; a familiarity with historical and contemporary debates on the city, well developed analytical abilities and a serious work ethic. Entry to the programme is highly competitive, priority admission is granted to students with exceptional portfolios.
As well as this diverse disciplinary background, the student cohort of 50-60 individuals also comprises a dynamic mix of UK, EU and international participants from all parts of the world.
Should you have any query on this programme, please contact the Programme Administrator.
The MArch Urban Design provides the skills required in order to prepare students for further academic studies or for practice.
A student having completed the course will be equipped to undertake research in the field of urban design, and be able to evaluate or develop work in practice. Graduates of the course have gone on to pursue careers in a wide variety of fields, including:
- Further PhD studies and academia
- Urban design and planning practice
- Politics and policy
- Film-making, photography and creative practices
Graduates of the MArch Urban Design have, for example, gone on to become eminent urban designers in their own right as well as partners and practitioners of renowned architectural and urban design practices.