MArch in Architecture & Urbanism (Design Research Laboratory) OwO Studio: Theodore Spyropoulos Assistant: Mostafa El Sayed Team: Agata Banaszek (Poland), Camilla Degli Esposti (Italy), Ilya Pereyaslavtsev (Russia), Antonios Thodis (Greece)

Design Research: Experimentation and Innovation (v.18)

Director Theodore Spyropoulos Founder Patrik Schumacher Course Masters Robert Stuart-Smith, Shajay Bhooshan Programme Coordinator Ryan Dillon Course Tutors Pierandrea Angius, Doreen Bernath, Apostolos Despotidis, Alexandra Katerina, Garcia Lipezker ,Mostafa El-Sayed, Tyson Hosmer, Alicia Nahmad Vasquez, David Reeves Technical Tutors Alessandro Margnelli, Ed Moseley, Albert Williamson-Taylor, Software Tutors Torsten Broeder, Michail Desyllas Soomeen Hahm, Paul Jeffries, Eva Magnisali, Jorge X Méndez-Cáceres, Ashwin Shah, Pavlina Vardoulaki


16 months (four terms)

The DRL is a 16-month post-professional design programme leading to a Masters of Architecture and Urbanism (MArch) degree. The DRL investigates digital and analogue forms of computation in the pursuit of systemic design applications that are scenario- and time-based. Considering controls systems as open acts of design experimentation, the DRL examines production processes as active agents in the development of Proto-Design systems.

Course Structure

Four terms of study are divided into two phases. Phase I, a three-term academic year beginning each autumn, introduces design techniques and topics through a combination of team- based studio, workshop and seminar courses. In Phase II, commencing the following autumn, teams carry forward their Phase I work in the form of comprehensive design thesis projects. At the end of January these projects are presented to a panel of distinguished visiting critics, after which each team documents their 16 months of design research work in a hardbound book.

Phase I Design Research Agenda

Behaviour Complexity (v 3)
The DRL continues its exploration of prototypical design systems with our current design research agenda, Behavioural Complexity, which will investigate architecture as an instrument engaging both material and social forms of interaction. Social scenarios will be coupled with material life-cycles as a way of speculating on how we live and the role architecture can play. Behavioural, parametric and generative methodologies of computational design are coupled with physical computing and analogue experiments to create dynamic and reflexive feedback processes. New forms of spatial organisation are explored that are neither type nor site-dependent, but instead evolve as ecologies and environments seeking adaptive and hyper-specific features. This performance-driven approach aims to develop novel design proposals concerned with the everyday. The iterative methodologies focus on investigations of spatial, structural and material organisation, engaging in contemporary discourses of architecture and urbanism.

Phase II Design Research Agenda

Behavioural Complexity (v.2)
The possibilities of Behavioural Complexity are explored in four parallel research labs, run by Theodore Spyropoulos, Patrik Schumacher, Robert Stuart-Smith and Shajay Bhooshan. Theodore Spyropoulos’ studio, Behavioural Agency, explores autonomous self-aware and assembled systems that explore machine learning, collective building and environmental conditioning. Responsive Kinetic Structures, led by Patrik Schumacher, is based on the study of responsive deformation phenomena found in animal and plant organisms, and on
the basis of physical experiments, principles of kinetic responsiveness are used to design spatial interaction scenarios involving agent-based crowd modelling. Robert Stuart-Smith’s studio, Behavioural Production: Investigations into Swarm Printing, develops on-site, adaptive and on-demand construction made possible via aerial robot 3D-printing, and thus demonstrating design and production as a singular creative process inherent to collective and autonomous robotic behaviour. Shajay Bhooshan’s studio, Metamorphosis: Prototypes as Applied Research in Architecture, Engineering and Manufacturing, researches and asks ‘when machines will design and build’ in terms of architectural design, and how can we describe, evaluate and search for the right designs.

Phase I Design Workshops

Material Behaviour
Robert Stuart-Smith, Shajay Bhooshan, Mostafa El-Sayed Term 1
Term 1 begins with two sets of three design workshop modules that emphasise computational and material prototyping as both an analytical methodology and the prime mode of design production and representation. Each five-week module focuses on a specific set of methods and intended design output, introducing Phase I students to a broad range of concepts and techniques that can be taken forward to future workshops and the year-long Phase I and Phase II studio projects.

Phase II Prototyping Workshop

Adaptive Systems and Structures
Theodore Spyropoulos, Patrik Schumacher, Robert Stuart-Smith, Shajay Bhooshan, Pierandrea Angius, Mostafa El-Sayed, Tyson Hosmer, Alicia Nahmad Vazquez
Term 1
This five-week workshop at the midpoint of Phase II addresses a detailed part of the spatial, structural, material and environmental systems of each team’s thesis project, with an emphasis on modelling techniques which act as feedback for the testing and development of the larger-scale proposals. A presentation in November will serve as a major interim review.

Phase I Core Seminars

Design as Research I - Open Source
Robert Stuart-Smith
Term 1
Pursuing design as a form of research raises a series of questions this course will examine in relation to larger technological, economic and cultural contexts. The seminar will explore ways of associating design with forms of research and the implications of this for architectural and design practice. Weekly sessions will include presentations related to course readings.

Conceptualising Computing
Mostafa El-Sayed
Term 1
This seminar will provide a foundation in the contemporary history of design computation, leading to the deployment and conceptualisation of computational logics and strategies relative to design objectives.

Synthesis: Project Submission, Writing & Research Documentation
Doreen Bernath
Terms 1 & 2
These weekly sessions will review the basics of writing and research related to DRL course submissions. Presentations will cover resources in London and beyond, the preparation of thesis abstracts, writing styles and issues related to essays, papers and project booklets. Tutorials will discuss ongoing research topics and seminar and studio presentations.

Behaviour: Examining the Proto-Systemic
Theodore Spyropoulos and Ryan Dillon
Term 2
This core seminar will articulate a behaviour-based agenda that engages experimental forms of material and computational practice. Examining cybernetic and systemic thinking through seminal forms of prototyping and experimentation, the seminar will look at the thought experiments that have manifested since the early 1950s as maverick machines, architectures and ideologies. Team-based presentations will examine these methods and outputs as case studies for studio experimentation.

Design as Research II: Computational Space
Robert Stuart-Smith
Term 2
This seminar is an overview of computational approaches
to architectural design, strategies and processes. Weekly readings on software technologies and design systems will relate computational work in art, music, new media, science
and other sources to contemporary architectural discourses around parametric design. Teams will make weekly presentations related to the readings and an analysis of selected projects.

Machine-speak: Computational Design as Applied Science
Shajay Bhooshan
Term 2
This technical seminar will focus on the mediation of Architectural Geometry with engineering and industrial manufacturing constraints. Additionally, the seminar will provide a technocentric and contemporary history of computational design - its influences, progression of its foundations and methods, its applications etc.

Phase I Prototyping Workshop

Responsive Systems
Apostolos Despotidis
Term 2
The workshop provides introductory material for prototyping and physical computing. Students will learn to use the Arduino platform focusing on exchanging of information between
the physical and analogue world as well as exploring fabrication processes to form their ideas. These techniques will serve as essential skills to successfully develop prototypes during Phase II.

Software Platforms

Maya, Rhino, 3D Studio, Processing, Arduino, Softimage, Adobe Suite, Python, Openframeworking & Scripting
Shajay Bhooshan, Torsten Broeder, Soomeen Hahm, Paul Jeffries, Eva Magnisali, Jorge X Méndez-Cáceres, Ashwin Shah, Pavlina Vardoulaki
Terms 1 & 2
These optional workshops introduce the digital tools and systems used in the DRL, giving a grounding in the basic skills required to construct and control parametric models and interactive presentations. Sessions will build up to advanced scripting, programming and dynamic modelling techniques.

Unit Staff

Theodore Spyropoulos is director of the experimental architecture and design practice Minimaforms. He has been a visiting Research Fellow at MIT and cofounded the New Media Research Initiative at the AA. He has taught in the graduate school of the University of Pennsylvania and the Royal College of Art, Innovation Design Engineering Department and previously worked as a project architect for the offices of Peter Eisenman and Zaha Hadid Architects.

Patrik Schumacher is a practising architect and architectural theorist promoting parametricism. He studied philosophy and architecture in Bonn, Stuttgart and London and received his doctorate in Cultural Science at Klagenfurt University. He is a partner at Zaha Hadid Architects and has recently been the John Portman Chair at Harvard’s GSD.

Robert Stuart-Smith is a director of Robert Stuart-Smith Designand co-founding director of research practice Kokkugia. He has practised architecture in the UK, US and Australia for the offices of Lab Architecture Studio, Grimshaw Architects and as an algorithmic design consultant to Ove Arup AGU and Balmond Studio for design engineering. Kokkugia and RSSDesign’s work has been widely published and exhibited, including recent acquisitions for the FRAC permanent collection and three consecutive nominations for Russia’s Chernikov Prize.

Shajay Bhooshan is an MPhil candidate at the University of Bath anda Research Fellow at the Institute of Technology in Architecture, ETH, Zurich where he is a research assistant in the Block Research Group. He also heads the research activities of the Computation and Design (code) group at Zaha Hadid Architects in London. He completed his MArch at the AA in 2006.

Pierandrea Angius works for Zaha Hadid Architects. He holds a degree in architecture and a PhD in Building Technology from the Politecnico of Milan and an MArch in Architecture and Urbanism fromthe AA. Since 2009 he has been teachingat the University of Pennsylvania Visiting Design Studio.

Doreen Bernath is an architect and a theorist across disciplines of design, technology, philosophy, visual art, media and cultures. Trained at Cambridge and the AA, she won an RIBA scholarship and was a finalist in 2011 for the RIBA President’s Award for Outstanding Thesis. She teaches at the AA, UCL, Leeds and is the founding director of SpaceMedia Int and DEZACT.

Apostolos Despotidis is currently working for Fosters + Partners and has previously workedfor Minimaforms London where he has been involved in projects of various scales from urban planning to installation design. He holds an MArch from the AADRL.

Ryan Dillon studied at Syracuse University and the AA. Currently he is Unit Master of AA Intermediate 5, teaches in the History and Theory programme and works as a designer at EGG Office. Previously he worked at Moshe Safdie Architects.

Tyson Hosmer works as a project architect and computational researcher with Cecil Balmond in London.
He has worked in the offices of Asymptote Architecture, Axi:Ome and Kokkugia. He holds a Masters from the AA and a Bachelors from Virginia Tech.

Mostafa El-Sayed is the co-founder of Automata Technologies and previously worked as a member of the Computation and Design group at Zaha Hadid Architects. He is a graduate of the AA and the American University of Sharjah. He has taught and presented work at various events, workshops and institutions both in London and internationally.

Alexandra Katerina Garcia Lipezker is currently employed at Foster + Partners, London. A graduate of AADRL, she completed her undergraduate studies at Syracuse University, New York. She has previously worked for Legoretta Architects, Mexico.

David Reeves is a designer, programmer and researcher currently based in London where he works as a member of the Computation and Design (code) group at Zaha Hadid Architects. He holds a Bachelor of Architectural Studies from Carleton University and a Master of Architecture (MArch) from the University of British Columbia. He was previously employed at Amanda Levete Architects for three years.

Albert Williamson-Taylor has been the lead technical tutor on the AADRL MArch programme since 2011. He is an active member on the Steering Committee of the Council for Tall Buildings, and as co-founder of design-led structural engineering firm AKT II he brings a passion for cutting-edge technology to the many projects that he oversees. He has extensive experience in award-winning designs that emphasise innovation and computational research in combination with a sustainable approach to technology and respect for heritage.

Alicia Nahmad Vazquez is a PhD Fellow at the Welsh School of Architecture, University of Cardiff. She previously worked with the parametric design group at Populous, London and has accumulated design and construction experience in various practices including Zaha Hadid Architects and Grupo Inmobiliario Altiva, Mexico. Her research focus includes the mediation between digital design and traditional material crafts and the incorporation of human-robot interactions on the construction site.

Programme site


Graduate Admissions Team AA School of Architecture
36 Bedford Square
London WC1B 3ES

T: 020 7887 4067 / 4007

Links & Downloads


Prospectus 2015-16
Foundation Course Booklet

Graduate Prospectus

Travel Insurance Booking Form


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