MArch in Architecture & Urbanism (Design Research Laboratory) Re-frame. Studio: Theodore Spyropoulos, Assistant: Mostafa El-Sayed, Team: Hanjun Kim (South Korea), Ke Wang (China), Kristina Zubko (Ukraine)

Design Research Laboratory

Director: Theodore Spyropoulos
Founder: Patrik Schumacher
Course Master: Shajay Bhooshan, David Greene
Programme Coordinator Ryan Dillon
Course Tutors Pierandrea Angius, Apostolos Despotidis, Mostafa El-Sayed, Tyson Hosmer, Klaus Platzgummer, Alicia Nahmad Vasquez, Alexandra Vougia
Technical Tutors Albert Taylor-Williamson, Ed Moseley, Camilla Bartolucci
Software Tutors Torsten Broeder, Octavian Mihai Gheorghiu, Paul Jeffries, Eva Magnisali

The Design Research Laboratory (DRL) is a 16-month post-professional design research programme leading to a Masters of Architecture and Urbanism (MArch) degree. For the last 20 years, the world-renowned lab has been at the forefront of design experimentation, pioneering advanced methods in design, computation and manufacturing. The lab is structured around an evolving framework of three-year research cycles that interrogate architecture and urbanism from the city scale to the nano-scale. Led by experts in the field of architecture, design and engineering, the AADRL pursues innovation and interdisciplinary design recognised in many fields outside of architecture and fostered through partnerships with companies such as Ferrari, Festo, AKTII, Reider and Odico Robotics. The lab remains a space of collaboration and curiosity and looks to develop the next generation of architects who will actively participate and influence their field. Distinguished graduates have gone on to found offices, lead advanced research groups or teach at schools worldwide.

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, workshops and seminar courses. In Phase II, which begins the following autumn, teams develop their Phase I work into comprehensive design thesis projects. At the end of January these projects are presented to a panel of distinguished visiting critics who have included Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Jeff Kipnis, Wolf Prix, Ali Rahim, Marta Male-Alemany, Alisa Andrasek, Michael Hansmeyer, John Frazer, Ben Van Berkel, David Ruy, Hernan Diaz Alonso, Tom Wiscombe, Caroline Bos, Mark Cousins, David Greene and Marcelo Spina.

Phase I Design Research Agenda: Behaviour Complexity (v4)

The AADRL explores advanced computational development in the pursuit of architectural systems that are adaptive, generative and behavioural. The aim of the research is to expand the field of possibilities by exploiting behaviour as a conceptual tool in order to synthesise the digital world with the material world. Using the latest in advanced printing, construction and computing tools the lab's pioneering work challenges today's design orthodoxies. Exploring architecture that is mobile, transformative, kinetic and robotic makes up a core part of the AADRL agenda as it aims to expand the discipline and push the limits of design within the larger cultural and technological realm.

Phase II Design Research Agenda: Behavioural Complexity (v3)

Theodore Spyropoulos studio, Soft Robotic Taxonomies, explores autonomous, self-aware and assembled systems that examine softness through multi-material agency. Evolution of Responsive Structures, led by Patrik Schumacher, utilises elastic deformation, rather than hinge-based mechanics, to integrate the responsive kinetic capacities of structures. Such adaptive deformations might be stress-induced, such as via loads from occupational uses, or result from environmental parameters, like humidity or temperature. Robert Stuart-Smith's studio, Behavioural Production: Investigations into Swarm Printing, develops rapid, adaptive, swarm 3D-printing-enabled construction that orchestrates design and production as a singular creative process to respond to diverse social and economic time- based scenarios. Shajay Bhooshan's studio, Additive House, investigates the design potential in subjecting house-scale additive manufacturing to constraints of structural stability during and after construction, along with efficacies of using the natural formative capacities of material.

Phase I Design Workshops

Material Behaviour, Term 1 Robert Stuart-Smith, Shajay Bhooshan, Apostolos Despotidis, Mostafa El-Sayed 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 an intended design output, introducing students to a range of concepts and techniques that can be further developed in the year-long Phase I and Phase II studio projects.

Phase II Prototyping Workshop

Adaptive Systems and Structures, Term 1 Theodore Spyropoulos, Patrik Schumacher, Robert Stuart-Smith, Shajay Bhooshan, Pierandrea Angius, Mostafa El-Sayed, Tyson Hosmer, Alicia Nahmad Vazquez This five-week workshop at the midpoint of Phase II addresses a detailed aspect of the spatial, structural, material and environmental systems of each team's thesis project. The workshop emphasises modelling techniques that can feedback into the testing and development of 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 that relate to larger technological, economic and cultural contexts. The seminar will explore ways of associating design with forms of research, as well as the implications of using this methodology in architectural and design practice. Weekly sessions will include presentations related to course readings.

Conceptualising Computing

Mostafa El-Sayed, Term 1 This seminar offers a foundation in the contemporary history of design computation, tracing the field from the deployment and conceptualisation of computational logics and strategies relative to design objectives.

Synthesis: Project Submission, Writing & Research Documentation

Alexandra Vougia and Doreen Bernath, Terms 1 & 2 In weekly sessions students 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. Regular tutorials will discuss research topics and seminar and studio presentations.

Behaviour: Examining the Proto-Systemic

Theodore Spyropoulos and Ryan Dillon, Term 2 This core seminar follows a behaviour-based agenda to engage with experimental forms of material and computational practice. Through an examination of cybernetic and systemic thinking in relation to seminal forms of prototyping and experimentation, the seminar will look at 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 aspects of contemporary architectural discourses around parametric design. Teams will make weekly presentations related to the readings and provide analyses of selected projects.

Constructed Histories: Techno-Centric History of Design

and Relation to the Mathematics, Tools and Materials of the Age Shajay Bhooshan, Term 2 This seminar traces synoptic histories of the built environment as a consequence of the liberating power of geometric abstraction to then understand such histories as additive manufacture of yesteryear in bricks and stone, influenced by and reciprocally shaping mathematics of graphic statics and stereotomy.

Phase I Prototyping Workshop: Responsive Systems

Apostolos Despotidis, Term 2 The workshop introduces students to prototyping and physical computing. Students will learn to use the Arduino platform while exploring various fabrication processes to give shape to their ideas. In Phase II, these techniques will serve as essential skills during prototype development.

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 a number of digital tools and software systems to give students a grounding in the skills required to construct and control parametric models and interactive presentations. Sessions will build up to advanced scripting, programming and dynamic modelling techniques.

16 months (four terms)


Theodore Spyropoulos is director of the experimental architecture and design practice Minimaforms and co-founder of the New Media Research Initiative at the AA School. He has been a visiting research fellow at MIT and has taught in the graduate school of the University of Pennsylvania and the Royal College of Art, Innovation Design Engineering Department. Previously he worked as a project architect in the 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.

Shajay Bhooshan is an MPhil candidate at the University of Bath and a research fellow at ETH Zurich. He also heads the research activities of the Computation and Design (co|de) group at Zaha Hadid Architects in London.

David Greene born Nottingham, England, 1937, usual English provincial suburban upbringing, art school, and onto London to begin a nervous, nomadic and twitchy carreer, from big buildings for developers to T-shirts for Paul Smith, to conceptual speculation for Archigram, which he founded with Peter Cook. Currently, perhaps, the Provost of the Invisible University.

Ryan Dillon studied at Syracuse University and the AA, where he is currently Unit Master of Intermediate Unit 5 and a lecturer in the History & Theory Studies programme. He previously worked at Moshe Safdie Architects.

Pierandrea Angius holds a PhD in Building Technology from the Politecnico of Milan and received his MArch in Architecture and Urbanism from the AA. He is an architect at Zaha Hadid Architects and since 2009 has taught at the University of Pennsylvania Visiting Design Studio.

Apostolos Despotidis is currently working for Fosters + Partners and previously worked for Minimaforms London where he was involved in projects of various scales from urban planning to installation design. He holds an MArch from the DRL and an architecture and engineering degree from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

Tyson Hosmer works as a project architect and computational researcher with Cecil Balmond in London. Trained at Virginia Tech and the AA, he has worked in the offices of Asymptote Architecture, Axi:Ome and Kokkugia. He has lectured and taught in the US and Europe.

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.

Klaus Platzgummer studied architecture at ETH Zurich and holds an MA in History and Critical Thinking from the AA. He currently co-teaches DRL?s synthesis seminars and serves as a teaching assistant in the History & Theory Studies programme.

Albert Williamson-Taylor has been DRL?s lead technical tutor 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 has extensive experience in award-winning designs that emphasise innovation and computational research.

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.

Alexandra Vougia studied architecture in Thessaloniki, Greece and holds an MSc in Advanced Architectural Design from GSAPP, Columbia University. She was awarded an MPhil from the AA School in 2016. She has worked as an architect in New York and Athens and has taught at the AA School and the University of Westminster.

The AA is a Partner Institution and Affiliated Research Centre of The Open University (OU), UK. All taught graduate degrees at the AA are validated by the OU. The OU is the awarding body for research degrees at the AA.

Programme site

Projects Review 2017


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Links & Downloads


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