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MArch Urban Design


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.


BENVGD02 Strategic Urban Design
Credits: 40
Assessment: Coursework Term 1+2

BENVGD03 Detailed Urban Design
Credits: 40
Assessment: Coursework Term 1+2

BENVGD04 Urban Design Report
Credits: 60
Assessment: Coursework Term 3 + summer term

BENVGD05 History and Theory of Urban Design
Credits: 40
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:

Adrian Lahoud
Programme Leader
Send Adrian an email

Stream Leaders

Adrian Lahoud
Claudia Pasquero

Cluster Tutors

Ross Exo Adams
Peter Besley
Hannah Corlett
Zachary Fluker

Beth Hughes
Platon Issaias
Sam Jacoby
Ulrika Karlsson
Jonathan Kendall

Adrian Lahoud
Enriqueta Llabres
Claudia Pasquero
Maj Plemenitas
Marco Poletto
Eduardo Rico

Davide Sacconi
Camila Sotomayor

History and Theory Tutors

Ross Exo Adams
Mollie Claypool
Sam Jacoby
Godofredo Pereira

Lorenzo Pezzani
Emmanouil Zaroukas

Staff biographies

Programme Leader

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 by Routledge

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.

U11 2014 thumb 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...
RC12 2014 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...
RC14 2014 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...
RC15 2014 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...
RC16 2014 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...
RC17 2014 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 ...
RC18 2014 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

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.

The Urban

‘Urban Design as a profession and a science’

Sam Jacoby

The 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

What 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’

Adrian Lahoud

This 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

First 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’?


Tim Ivison

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 Sea

‘The Corrupting Sea’

Peregrine Hordern

The 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?‘

Cyprian Broodbank

Ever 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’

Lorenzo Pezzani

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’

Adrian Lahoud

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.

This 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’

Tim Ivison

This 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 power/knowledge.

‘The Life of the Archive’

Susan Schuppli

The 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’

Lorenzo Pezzani

This 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 of agency.

‘Scale as Apprenticeship, as Pedagogy’

Adrian Lahoud

Though 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?‘

Godofredo Pereira

This 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.

‘Vertical Territory’

Godofredo Pereira

Departing 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 circulations.

‘Jurisdictions and Sovereignty’

Lorenzo Pezzani

This 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 order.

‘Territorial Evidence’

Godofredo Pereira

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

One 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?‘

Sam Jacoby

Today 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’

Sam Jacoby

This 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’

Sam Jacoby

Since 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’

Godofredo Pereira

Although 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

This 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’

Paulo Tavares

“First 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 Earth-Political’

Paulo Tavares

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

Prior qualifications

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.