MSc Spatial Design: Architecture and Cities
The MSc Spatial Design: Architecture & Cities (MSc SDAC) cultivates a unique mission for students who arrive from the UK, Europe and many parts of the world, and from all the disciplines of the built environment: to mediate between the desire of architects and urban designers to produce high quality designs, and the imperative of architecture to provide a better place for society. (Our current course brochure can be downloaded from here.)
Integrating theory, practice and design and the disciplines of architecture and the city with the analytical discipline of research, the course maintains a timely relevance to the contemporary world’s challenges of inter-disciplinary knowledge, sustainable urbanism, social inclusion and exclusion, informal settlements, architecture and computing, spatial cognition, the physical and immaterial dimensions of social networks, and a user-centred approach to design innovation. Two pathways (optional modules) are offered to students in the second term (from January to April): one for analytical research, and a second one for design research (studio). The two pathways-modules share a programme of seminars, lectures and related events constructing a rich environment for debate that integrates theoretical, analytical and design explorations. - read more
Whilst following this course you can expect to:
- develop an in-depth theoretical and practical knowledge of the built environment and its functions considered as spatial, physical and human systems
- acquire a high level of skill in research and analysis of the built environment and its role in support of better and more humane design
- receive training in space syntax methodology
- communicate this through clarity of argument and written expression
- acquire and demonstrate operational skills in managing their intellectual advancement
- set attainable goals and exercise imagination and creativity in the pursuit of an understanding of your field through demonstrating the capacity for hard work, both as an individual and as a member of a research team. - read more
Our MSc Spatial Design: Architecture & Cities attracts students with a background in architecture and
urban design, as well as graduates of other disciplines such as art
history, history, planning, geography, anthropology, mathematics,
computer science and engineering who wish to develop specialist
knowledge of architecture and the city. Read more about student work, community and the research ethos of the MSc SDAC here.
MSc SDAC staff are actively involved in academic and applied research, as well as the application of research to design through consultancy projects with architectural and urban design practitioners from the UK and overseas. As experienced teachers, these staff also lead seminars, give lectures, offer one-to-one tutorials and generally engage directly with the students on the MSc SDAC.
The staff and students of the MSc SDAC programme are closely linked to the Bartlett’s ‘Space’ research group, which was rated first in the UK in the last national Research Assessment Exercise (2008). - read more
Our MSc Spatial Design: Architecture & Cities programme is offered by the Bartlett School of Graduate Studies at Central House, on Upper Woburn Place, WC1, part of UCL’s core Bloomsbury-based campus and a stone’s throw from the School of Architecture at Wates House. Every effort is made to ensure that core teaching takes place at Central House so that students feel they have a definite base at the university. There are numerous cafés, bars and food outlets nearby.
course, London is a major hub of architectural and urban design and design
consultancy and home to Built Environment professional organisations and think
tanks such as the RIBA and the NLA to name just two. We think of London
as our ‘laboratory’ a
place where ideas about about cities and buildings can be tested and refined.
Reflecting this emphasis the programme includes a number of London-based site visits - read more
Our MSc Spatial Design: Architecture & Cities provides a comprehensive curriculum in the research and analysis of the built environment. This includes research aimed at identifying architectural and urban solutions as well as more traditional modes of academic research. It is not a studio-based course but one which builds on the studio-experience of the majority of its students by asking them to reflect critically on the knowledge-base of their design work.
The modules combine a range of teaching and assessment techniques,
including blogging, debating, visualisation and traditional essays with a
focus on project work during the term times. The final dissertation provides
students with an opportunity to conduct substantive and original research into
a specific subject of their own choosing. - read more
The MSc Spatial Design: Architecture & Cities (MSc SDAC) programme is primarily theoretical and analytically focused. It is taught through lectures, seminars, site visits and hands-on methodology workshops. Students are encouraged to use the curriculum to develop their theoretical knowledge and analytical skills and deploy these in pursuit of their own research interests. They are trained in using state-of-the art computer programmes for mapping, analysing and evaluating design choices as well as methodologies for capturing patterns of use and social performance.
MSc SDAC students must complete and pass 180 credits, made up of 120 credits of approved taught modules, and 60 credits of the MSc SDAC Dissertation. At present all 120 credits of approved taught modules must be selected from the core course curriculum.
BENVGAAD Design as a Knowledge-Based Process
Module tutor: Dr Sam Griffiths, Dr Sean Hanna
Assessment: coursework - debate and report
BENVGAAE Building, Organisations and Networks
Assessment: coursework - blog diary
BENVGAAJ Adaptable Cities
Module tutor: Professor Laura Vaughan
Assessment: coursework - take-home exam
BENVGAAF Principles of Analytical Design
Module tutor: Dr Kayvan Karimi
Assessment: coursework - group project and individual project
Terms 1 and 2
BENVGAAG Spatial Cultures
Module tutor: Dr Sam Griffiths
Assessment: unseen written examination
BENVGAAI Architectural Phenomena
Module tutor: Dr Sophia Psarra
Assessment: coursework - class-based exercises and poster
BENVGAAH Spatial Justice
Module tutor: Professor Laura Vaughan
Assessment: take-home exam
BENVGAAP E-merging Design Research
Module tutor: Dr Sophia Psarra
Assessement: coursework-studio project
BENVGAAK MSc Dissertation (Spatial Design: Architecture & Cities)
Tutor: Dr Sam Griffiths
Term 3 and summer vacation
The MSc Spatial Design: Architecture & Cities (MSc SDAC) provides a comprehensive curriculum in the research and analysis of the built environment. This includes research aimed at identifying architectural solutions as well as more traditional modes of academic research. The modules combine a range of teaching and assessment techniques with a focus on project work during the term times. The final report (dissertation) provides students with an opportunity to conduct their own original research into a specific subject of their own choosing.
Design as a Knowledge-Based Process introduces
theories of design as a knowledge-based or evidence-based process and provides a
range of concepts that suggest how the nature of design may itself become the
object of research. The course explores contrasting perspectives in
architecture, theories of scientific knowledge, linguistics, social theory and
theories of technology via student debate on issues of design practice, the
nature of collaboration, machine intelligence and creativity. The module is
intended to get students reflecting on what they do as practitioners by asking
them to consider design as a knowledge domain with a particular knowledge base - rather than simply in terms of a tacit community of practice.
BENVGAAE Building, Organisations and Networks establishes a distinctive theoretical framework for the research and analysis of the relationship between architectural morphology, organisations and social networks in complex buildings such as hospitals, offices and laboratories. This framework is brought to bear on the consideration of a range of contemporary, historical and cross-cultural case studies that explore themes such as emergent organisational behaviours, innovation and sustainability. An important component of the module is a programme of London-based site visits which provides students with a range of examples to encourage them to reflect on the theoretical arguments and themes presented in the seminars.
BENVGAAF Principles of Analytical Design provides a well-defined methodology for the description and analysis of form-function relations in architecture at all scales from the individual dwelling to the urban region. It introduces 'space syntax' research methods aimed at investigating spatial morphology and its social implications by a practical, hands-on programme of lectures and workshops. A series of lectures based on case-study examples will show how these methods have been deployed in architectural practice. The curriculum combines grounded qualitative methods with quantitative descriptive methods of spatial and configurational analysis and observation. Research methods from allied disciplines, such as geographic information systems (GIS), social anthropology and sociology are also introduced.
BENVGAAG Spatial Cultures introduces a series of important concepts intended to provide students with the theoretical basis for researching the relationship between space and society - with an emphasis on the urban scale. It draws on theoretical perspectives from a range of disciplinary domains and explains the contribution each has to make. The module investigates the theoretical possibility of developing a distinctive spatial ontology of society through a range of case studies of different spatial cultures.
BENVGAAH Spatial Justice examines the interface between urban form and social outcomes. To explore these issues, the module offers an overview of the key factors in social exclusion and presents research into the relationship between urban design and crime, poverty, health and other issues of 'disurban' space.
BENVGAAI Architectural Phenomena is a theory module that explores theoretically, morphologically, and politically the evolution of ideas that have influenced architecture and its relationship with the city from the 1960s to the present. It looks at the conceptual frameworks that attempted to radically rethink what it takes to produce architectural and urban projects, and how these frameworks fit within the disciplines of architecture and urbanism. The module equips students with skills for radically re-thinking canonical texts and contemporary ideas on how buildings and cities are produced, and the role of various agents in their production (from Alexander’s ‘A City Is Not A Tree’ and Koolhaas’ ‘City of Congestion’ to Latour’s ‘Actor Network Theory’, ANT, and Aureli’s ‘Absolute Architecture’). It is organised around a series of themes such as 'space', 'form', ‘design intuition’ and ‘design logic’, 'function', 'cognition', 'perception', 'consumption', 'power', 'narrative' and 'cultural meaning', and developed from a range of contrasting or complementary theoretical perspectives, historical and contemporary examples, live research and design projects. More than addressing what constitutes successful designs, it engages students in thinking how to redefine the discourse of architecture and urbanism.
Note: Architectural Phenomena is complementary with E-merging Design Research, BENVGAAP, which a studio-based module. It has no prerequisite modules and can be taken independently of BENVGAAP.
BENVGAAJ Adaptable Cities
explores the evolution of urban concepts, layouts and theories at all urban
scales, from neighbourhood layouts to the organisation of entire towns and
cities. It considers the ideas of sustainability as adaptability in the face of
changing socio-economic and environmental conditions. Drawing on both the
sociological literature of urban design and a range of real projects, it compares
and contrasts the key morphological features of towns and cities in different
parts of the world and relates this to the underlying cultures and functioning
BENVGAAP E-merging Design Research Contrary to the disciplinary separation of architecture and urbanism, this programme advances a new studio-based model that integrates both fields. It prepares participants for a comprehensive design domain in which architecture, the social, and the city are framed as one thing. The module engages design as a form of research and interacts with theoretical and analytical modules in the SD:AC MSc. It takes the view that design innovation comes from the diversity of knowledge held by buildings, cities and the multiple actors involved in their production, rather than a-priori ideas of novelty and a tabula rasa approach, or nostalgia for an urbanity that mimics the old. More than training students how to produce expressive buildings, it embraces design as a catalyst of urban change, and a dynamically changing field. The module consists of a design studio, which debates its findings in individual tutorials, juries, exhibitions, publications, workshops, and feedback reviews. It is accompanied by a detailed programme of lectures, seminars, and a network of academics and professionals from the rich design industry in London, the UK and across the world. A one-week field trip to a city abroad forms a platform for exploring the key issues related to the course. During the field trip students investigate life styles and modes of production in situ that help broaden individual perspectives through global issues, while also focusing on a specific contemporary context.
Note: E-merging Design Research is complementary with Architectural Phenomena, BENVGAAI, a theory module, which explores the evolution of theories that have influenced the relationship between architecture and the city from the 1960s to the present. Architectural Phenomena or any other module in the SD:AC MSc are not prerequisites for taking the E-merging Design Research module.
BENVGAAK MSc Dissertation equips students to plan and conduct a research topic of their choosing. Students following the MSc SDAC are required to submit a 10,000 word dissertation on a subject agreed with the course director and assigned tutor. Dissertations are produced between March and September and will be supervised by the most appropriate member of staff for the topic in question.
MSc Spatial Design: Architecture & Cities (MSc SDAC) staff are actively involved in academic and applied research,
as well as the application of research to design through consultancy projects
with architectural and urban design practitioners from the UK and overseas.
Staff teaching on the programme currently include:
Dr Sam Griffiths – Lecturer
and Course Director
Sam is a member of the Space Research Group at UCL BSGS and a Co-Investigator on two EPSRC sponsored projects into the relationship of morphology and social sustainability in the suburbs. His research addresses questions of 'historical space' from an architectural perspective.
Professor Laura Vaughan
Laura Vaughan is a member of the Space Research Group, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a member of the Space Syntax Limited Scientific Advisory Committee. She has been Co-Director of the UCL Environment Institute since 2010. She studied the relationship between different scales of urban form and society and has been collaborating with geographers, historians and social scientists for nearly a decade. She has an extensive track record of funded research into settlement patterns, poverty areas and suburban town centres and has published over seventy articles, book chapters and papers on these subjects.
Dr Sophia Psarra – Reader in Architectural and Spatial Design
Sophia is the editor of the Journal of Space Syntax and has taught at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning , University of Michigan, US and at the Welsh School of Architecture in Cardiff University. Her research focuses on the area of conceptual and perceptual spatial characteristics and their relationship with patterns of movement, use and cultural contents.
Module: Architectural Phenomena
Dr Kayvan Karimi – Senior
Kayvan is a member of the Space Research Group at UCL BSGS, and a Director of Space Syntax Limited, a UCL Spin-off company. Kayvan is an architectural and urban designer with more than twenty years of academic and professional experience. Kayvan has been developing advanced methods for evidence-based design and planning as a consultant and his parallel research activities involve organic cities and naturally-evolved urban systems, informal settlements and slum regeneration, as well as strategic planning and large scale developments.
Module: Principles of Analytical
Dr Kerstin Sailer – Lecturer
Kerstin is a trained architect and has developed as a professional a business process examining links between space and effectiveness in the workplace at Spacelab Architects. Kerstin's research interests include complex building and workplace environments, organisational theory and organisational behaviour, Social Network Analysis, and evidence-based practices.
Kinda Al-Sayed – Teaching
Kinda teaches on the MSc Spatial Design: Architecture & Cities at UCL, and is a research associate on PROXIES. She has studied in Damascas University, University of Applied ArtsVienna, the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, TUWien and UCL. Her main research interests fols into developing a model of city groeth and modelling cognitive and drawing activities in design process. Kinda's research record exceeds twelve publications in areas that are predominantly centered on complexity modelling of artificial and natural phenomena as well as design behaviour and communications.
Modules: Principles of Analytical
Design, Design as a Knowledge Based
Additional staff who regularly teach on modules
Sean Hanna – Lecturer
Module Leader: Design as a Knowledge Based Process
Professor Bill Hillier
Modules: Introduction to MSc SDAC, various MSc SDAC modules
Professor Alan Penn –
Dean of the Faculty
Modules: various MSc SDAC modules
Occasional teaching staff
The MSc Spatial Design: Architecture & Cities programme is also able to draw on the expertise of a wide range of other academics and guest lecturers who give occasional talks and advice on student work.
Students also benefit from expert guidance and support from BSGS postgraduate research students, many of whom have substantial teaching and/or professional experience.
External examiners for the programme have similarly been drawn from a variety of renowned institutions, architectural practices and individuals. In recent years these have included Sue McGlynn and Sarah Chaplin.
MSc SDAC staff are actively involved in academic and applied research, as well as the application of research to design through consultancy projects with architectural and urban design practitioners from the UK and overseas. As experienced teachers, these staff also lead seminars, give lectures, offer one-to-one tutorials and generally engage directly with the students on the MSc Spatial Design: Architecture & Cities.
Please click through to the UCL graduate prospectus page for this course, from where you can find information on application fees, eligibility, tuition fees, scholarships, and then complete the online application process.
Applicants should also review the faculty specific admissions information and the FAQ on admissions.
A second-class Honours degree from a UK university or an equivalent
overseas qualification in an architectural or urban design related
subject is usually required, although consideration will be given to
applicants from other fields, particularly: Human Geography,
Anthropology, and Archaeology.
A second acceptable qualification
is a degree of lower than second-class Honours standard, or an
equivalent overseas qualification, in a subject appropriate to the
programme, plus extensive background and experience in the field. The
latter implies considerable experience as a professional at a senior
For applicants without a first degree or full professional membership, but with relevant and substantial work experience in the field, a special qualifying examination may be set. Details are available from the Bartlett's Graduate Faculty Office.
Relevant Work Experience:
Relevant work experience would normally be as a built environment professional in architecture, urban design and planning, or in a related field such as public policy or design consultancy. We are looking for experience that demonstrates an aptitude and enthusiasm for built environment research, as well as practice, and for examining the role of architecture in society.
The international reputation of the MSc Spatial Design: Architecture & Cities (previously MSc Advanced Architectural Studies) at the Bartlett School of Graduate Studies is reflected in the wide range of nationalities of its student cohort. The course offers knowledge and skills that can enable students to develop successful careers in a wide range of fields from architecture, urban design and planning, to journalism, public policy, management and consultancy. For those wishing to pursue an academic career it provides a foundation for a PhD degree and for research into the theory and analysis of architecture and urbanism.
Over the past decade members of the BSGS Space Group, Space Syntax Ltd (a UCL spin-off practice), and SDAC (previously MSc AAS) students have worked on major projects with some of the world's leading architects including Terry Farrell, Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, Rick Mather and Richard Rogers, as well as a number of internationally acclaimed academics.
The course's success is measured by a large number of SDAC (previously MSc AAS) graduates forming an international community and an open-ended laboratory that debate regularly in the biennial space syntax symposia, events and international workshops.
Student Work and Community
The ethos of our MSc Spatial Design: Architecture and Cities programme is reflected in the range of topics explored by its students and their membership of an active research community supported by the alumni of the programme (previously MSc Advanced Architectural Studies) over nearly four decades.
This page is divided into four sections:
- Alumni event
- Student Work
- History and Ethos of the programme
The MSc Advanced Architectural Studies has been running since the mid 1970s. To celebrate its 40th birthday and formally announce the change of name to MSc Spatial Design: Architecture and Cities, the current course team held an alumni social event on Tuesday, 3rd September 2013. Many previous alumni and 'friends' (for example PhD students, colleagues, guest speakers) attended.
MSc SDAC (previously AAS) students address a wide range of built environment topics from domestic architecture to urban regional analysis. A selection are available for download here; a list of all dissertations can be downloaded here.
Architectural Phenomena posters
As part of the assessment for the
Architectural Phenomena module students are asked to produce posters that
present a visual-written argument about an architectural theorist or theme.
A sample of
posters are available by clicking on the thumbnail images below.
Nicolas Orellana - Spatio-Formal Intellibility
Pheereeya Boonchaiyapruek - The Relational Effect
Abhimanyu Acharya - Panopticism
Buildings, Organisations and Networks site visits
Site visits are an integral part of the Buildings, Organisations and Networks module, they are also good opportunities to get to know your fellow students. Photographs of some previous site visits are available here.
Architectural Phenomena Exhibition
The history and ethos of the MSc Spatial Design: Architecture & Cities
Since it began in 1974, as the MSc Advanced Architectural Studies (MSc AAS), the MSc Spatial Design: Architecture and Cities (MSc SDAC) has provided a stimulating programme focused on the research and analysis of buildings and cities as patterns of space inhabited by individuals, communities and organisations. Instead of confining architecture to the role of designing iconic buildings - and the city to economic development and policy - leaving the question of the public realm unanswered, the MSc SDAC course takes a conjoint theoretical and analytical approach to architecture, urban design and planning in the service of building a better built environment for society.
Integrating theory and practice and the disciplines of architecture and the city with the analytical discipline of research, the course maintains a timely relevance to the contemporary world’s challenges of inter-disciplinary knowledge, sustainable urbanism, social inclusion and exclusion, informal settlements, architecture and computing, spatial cognition, the physical and immaterial dimensions of social networks, and a user-centred approach to design innovation. The MSc SDAC cultivates a unique mission for students who arrive from the UK, Europe and many parts of the world, and from all the disciplines of the built environment: to mediate between the desire of architects and urban designers to produce high quality designs, and imperative of architecture to provide a better place for society.
Central to the curriculum is a powerful approach called ‘space syntax’, a theory and a method that studies buildings, cities and opens spaces in relation to use patterns and cultural meaning. Space syntax augments design intuition, informs the design team and engages constructively in the design process by contributing theoretical and analytical knowledge about spatial, formal, social, functional and aesthetic considerations. It provides an established methodology that can be used to explore different scales of architectural space from the smallest domestic setting to whole urban regions and the relationship between them.
The MSc SDAC engages critically with space syntax alongside a wide range of social and architectural theory and methods. The emphasis is on encouraging architects, urban designers and others with a specialist interest in the built environment to reflect critically and creatively on architectural form as a social entity and on design as a knowledge-based process. More than training students on how to produce remarkable designs, or a certain kind of architecture, the course invites them to think differently, and redefine the role of the designer in a constantly changing society.