Design + Make MArch / MSc Design + Make students developing joinery and construction techniques, Hooke Park, 2018


Programme Directors Martin Self, Emmanuel Vercruysse
Studio Tutors Zachary Mollica, Jack Draper
Dissertation Tutor Simon Withers

Design + Make operates as a critical practice investigating and generating new protocols, operations and attitudes within the realm of experimental architectural constructs. Unapologetically side-stepping mundane architectural practices, our research explores design at the point of physical production and demonstrates an alternative vision for architectural education where making is central to the act of design itself. The AA's satellite campus of Hooke Park serves as Design + Make's central laboratory for architectural research; the large scale fabrication facilities provide a unique testing ground for students to devote time to advanced speculative research through design and fabrication of experimental buildings and large-scale components.

Students of Design + Make inhabit a unique environment for experimental construction that combines forest, studio, workshop and building sites at our residential site, Hooke Park, in Dorset. The programme's core agenda strives to advance the materialisation of architecture through the synthesis of rigorous design strategies, advanced technologies and craft techniques to develop a deeper understanding of material behaviours. Contemporary design and fabrication technologies enable established making techniques to be re-invented and revised to foster innovative approaches to architectural construction.

Our toolbox is expansive, containing a diverse array of resources primed to facilitate the design and fabrication of surreptitious but precise constructs within the park. Technologies and methods – such as 3D scanning, generative modelling, analogue photography, film-making, iterative physical modelling, tool making, hand drawing and robotic fabrication – combine to optimise, distort and provoke unconventional strategies and provide new opportunities for replicating the feedback between natural geometry, material properties and designed form that had previously connected designer, maker and artefact.

The programme's hands-on approach is guided by an in-depth material understanding. Combining traditional craft with cutting-edge technologies we develop and fabricate our own unique and innovative tools and operational systems. Placing the emphasis on the design and fabrication of exciting and unpredictable architectures, the programme maximises learning opportunities by the realisation of design intent, practised as designing through making.


Two courses are offered: a 16-month MArch; and a 12-month MSc. Both are structured around a series of hands-on design-make studio projects of increasing scale and sophistication leading to the student construction contributing to a campus building (MArch) or full-scale timber prototype (MSc). These studios are complemented by seminar courses and workshops in forestry, woodworking, traditional and contemporary building crafts and by lectures and events at Hooke Park and Bedford Square – providing a foundation in the cultural and technological landscape within which a designer must operate.

The MArch and MSc share taught components in the first two terms. After the second term, the programme bifurcates with the MSc students completing their project and dissertation for submission in September, whilst the March students continue with project construction and thesis completion for submission the following January.

MArch students use full-scale building constructs at Hooke Park as a vehicle for design research. Formulating individual research interests within a group project each student investigates and develops a critical understanding of the work in their thesis. MSc students have a more explicit technological focus on the innovative application of timber in architecture, which is developed and tested through full-scale system prototypes using diverse fabrication technologies and strategies.

The teaching team consists of architect and engineer tutors, construction experts, and the support of world-leading consultants who provide technical guidance for the projects. The expert staff works side by side with students to develop knowledge and expertise collaboratively, resulting in experimental architectural constructs.


Term 1's Introduction Studio establishes the technical skill- set and key design methodologies for the programme. This includes taught classes and workshops which aim to establish proficiency in the operation of six critical skills and tools employed throughout Design + Make's work:
(1) Analogue Fabrication Techniques
(2) CADCAM: formulating information for digital manufacturing
(3) Generative Design Strategies
(4) Introduction to Robotic Kinematics
(5) Applied Scanning Techniques
(6) Documentary Film Making: film techniques and strategies.

In parallel, studio projects are structured as workshop-based Design + Make exercises in which key skills are deployed and developed. These lead into the design, fabrication and construction, in small teams, of 1:1 inhabitable structures within the Hooke Park landscape that introduce the material processes of full-scale experimental construction. As these projects enable students to develop design approaches driven by considerations of landscape and material, they allow speculative testing of design methodologies and fabrication techniques to develop further in the Main Projects.


The Seminar Courses (Term 1 & 2) are delivered in weekly sessions and focus on the cultural theory of making as design; timber properties and technologies; engagement with landscape; and thesis development. With the introduction of the new MA course, a new-found emphasis on the dynamic complexity of the material and cultural systems at play will enrich the seminars, situating the three residential courses within a contemporary critical discourse, positioned within a cross-disciplinary framework that spans the diverse fields of landscape, art, cultural geography, ecology and technology. Together they provide the theoretical framework for the project work and the intellectual foundation for the written thesis/dissertation.


In order to establish innovation within construction we allow sufficient time in Term 2 for testing and experimentation. To investigate the boundaries of a methodology or workflow we encourage risk taking, trial and failure. Attaching a significant value to experimentation and testing supports the fundamental principle of iterative designing central to the programme's ethos and provides the opportunity to apply the findings within the final construct.


For the MArch students the Main Project work resides within the design, prototyping and construction of full-scale architectural structures at Hooke Park. Working in teams, students design, fabricate and build permanent full-scale constructions through which research propositions can be tested by their actual physical manifestation. Designs are developed through prototyping, mock-up and physical testing in collaboration with engineering consultants and specialist builders. The range of research topics within these projects can encompass individual interests in bespoke and fabrication technologies and workflows, alternative forms of design practice, or personal fascinations within the cultural landscape of architecture. The constructed project is recorded in portfolio documents and reinforced by the tailored research undertaken in the individually written MArch Thesis.


For the MSc students the Main Project is an individual research programme of experimentation and prototyping that leads to a fullscale experimental timber prototype designed to test innovative and critical positions within the field of timber applications. Students are encouraged to radically exploit the woodland and fabrication resources of Hooke Park with the aim of developing advanced knowledge and critical understanding of emerging fabrication and timber technologies. The MSc Dissertation is a technical report on the research undertaken including speculative analysis of its architectural applicability. For the MSc students, this prototyping exercise is completed in a full-scale experimental timber construction at the end of Term 3, which forms the research basis for the subsequent MSc dissertations. This prototype is designed with the explicit intent to test new applications of timber and radically exploit the woodland and fabrication resources (including robotic fabrication equipment) of Hooke Park.


The Dissertation allows MArch students to define their intellectual position through the construction of critical arguments and investigations that provide the fundamental research to inform, support and instruct the main project. For the MSc students, the Thesis presents the technical design research that has been carried out in the development of the constructed prototype and makes propositions with respect to future application in the field of timber fabrication.


Martin Self is Director of Hooke Park and has taught at the AA since 2004. He worked at Ove Arup & Partners, studied architectural theory at the AA and has consulted with practices such as Zaha Hadid Architects and Antony Gormley Studio.

Emmanuel Vercruysse is foremost an educator and architect-maker, co-founder of the art practice LiquidFactory, the field robotics group RAVEN and member of the RIBA award-winning design collective Sixteen*(Makers). He directs the Robotics Fabrications Visiting School, runs the Knowhow Series Media Studies course and is a member of the AA's Teaching Committee.

Jack Draper leads the construction process for Design + Make as Make Tutor. His knowledge of craft and experience in making serves to help deliver complex and challenging projects as well as enriching what the students learn through their making – contributing to a culture of design which fuses tacit knowledge and haptic design processes with cutting-edge technology.

Zachary Mollica
is Design + Make's Studio Tutor, and supports the ongoing development of student projects. Zac is an architect and maker whose work explores the integration of innovative digital methodologies alongside traditional craft knowledge. He graduated with distinction from the programme in 2016 having led development of the Wood Chip Barn.

Simon Withers is a Unit Master of Intermediate 14 and thesis tutor at the Bartlett and the University of Greenwich. He has a background in architecture, fashion, film and electronics. His research, Captivating the Attention of Strangers, radiates from the baroque architectures and landscapes of Greenwich

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Welcome to 2019-20

Dear School Community,

The Architectural Association is a place where we forget our labels as architects, as artists, as economists, as writers, as poets, and we become citizens of the world – a world that we believe we can change, transform into something other, more interesting, more radical, more free, more equal, more us. The new academic year brings a series of important conversations to the forefront of architectural education and contemporary culture through new and familiar voices and projects. There are urgent tasks at hand. Our programmes throughout the school have accepted the challenge to address issues of climate and ethics. As architects we always speak on behalf of the other, but we also need to constantly ask ourselves, who has the right to speak, and on behalf of whom? How am I affecting the environment with my actions? How can I care more about others? 

This year I invite us all to practice radical empathy, to care about the planet, the other and the future. To listen, to ask, to share, to discuss, to debate, but ultimately to care. 

Like every year, new appointments and initiatives will expand both our academic and institutional horizons. Academic voices joining us are: filmmakers Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine, whose work focuses on experimental narratives and cinematographic forms in relation to contemporary architecture and the urban environment; Berlin-based architect Sam Chermayeff (AA Alumni), founder of the practice June 14; Didier Fiúza Faustino (AA Tutor 2010-16), an architect and artist working on the relationship between the body and space; Gabu Heindl, an architect and urban planner who is the head of GABU Heindl Architektur in Vienna, an interdisciplinary studio specialising in public interventions, cultural and social buildings; David Kohn, London-based architect and founder of David Kohn Architects working internationally on arts, education and residential projects; Viviana Muscettola, an associate director at Zaha Hadid Architects and an executive member of the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat; OMMX, a London-based practice led by Hikaru Nissanke and Jon Lopez; OFIS, an international architecture office based in Ljubljana and led by Špela Videčnik and Rok Oman (both AA Alumni); Superpool, an international research-based architecture practice located in Istanbul and led by Selva Gürdoğan and Gregers Tang Thomsen; and Bostjan Vuga (AA Alumni), architect and founder of SADAR+VUGA. Other people joining us include Eleanor Dodman, Liza Fior, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Lizy Huyghe, Guan Lee,  Melodie Leung, Gili Merin, Ivan Morrison, Anna Muzychak, Bushra Mohamed, Jonathan Robinson, Alvaro Velasco Perez and James Westcott. This diversity of new voices, will add to the units and programmes and will continue the multiplicity of agendas that the AA is known for. 

Every course, programme and unit throughout the school operates under a highly specific and idiosyncratic methodology, which offers every student a myriad of options and possibilities. More about the overall academic offerings can be found here. More about Experimental Programme units and staff can be found here; Diploma Programme units and staff can be found here and information about the unit selection process can be found here.

After more than a decade at the helm of the PhD Programme, Simos Yannas has stepped away to focus on the Sustainability and Environmental Design (SED) Programme that he leads at the school. The new Head of the PhD Programme, Pier Vittorio Aureli will shape the programme in the years to come. Elif Erdine will be the new Head of Emergent Technologies and Design (EmTech) after Mike Weinstock stepped down; however, he will continue to teach within the programme as Founding Director. 

Print Studio is transforming with a new Head of Publications, Maria S. Giudici who will – in addition to being the editor of AA Files – oversee new publications that continue to position the AA at the forefront of critical discussions through printed matter. Ryan Dillon is our new Head of Academic Communications, and will edit the annual AA Book, lead the relaunch of the AA Radio/Podcast, and oversee the content of the new website amongst other platforms to enable and facilitate all imaginable forms of communication and engagement within the AA School Community. In addition, Rory Sherlock, is joining us as Assistant Editor. 

These new voices join our renowned academic and administrative staff, who together, will surely provide for relevant discussions and debates throughout the entire school as we continue our journey into the future. As part of this, and our continued commitment to achieving Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP) (a final decision on our application is expected this autumn), we have gone through a process of internal validation, adjusting nomenclature to reflect who we are and what we do, and to make sure our programmes maintain their identity. Former Complementary Studies is now Core Studies; Technical Studies is now Environmental and Technical Studies (ETS), Media Studies is now Communication and Media Studies (CMS), First Year and Intermediate School (years 2-3) is now the Experimental Programme, and Diploma School (years 4-5) is now the Diploma Programme.

The AA is committed to experimental methods in teaching and learning and this can be seen in the many initiatives being launched. In Term 3 Speculative Studies, a series of interdisciplinary seminars over five weeks, will present courses on politics, law, philosophy, ethics, art history, poetry, dance, gastronomy, social technology and microbiology. Other topics and courses will be added from proposals put forward by students in an Open Forum to be held in Term 1. These courses will introduce new areas of expertise and methodologies to our collective culture.

A four-day symposium titled Experimental Methods will bring our community together for a discussion and debate on what experimentation is and can be at the AA, which will take place during Open Week in both Terms 1 and 2. Tutors from across the school will lecture on their particular academic approach as well as their own professional practice and research. Each day will end with a keynote speaker and a round table discussion, and the week will culminate with an Open Jury in which students can present their work to a panel of invited critics. 

For the first time in the history of the school, Diploma students and Postgraduate students will be able to take joint classes as part of an expanded pool of Electives. These advanced seminars will be provided by our ten Postgraduate Programmes in areas of technology, criticism, sustainability, material culture, computation and more, allowing us to push the boundaries of architectural education and to have more dialogue across all parts of the school.  

This year we will continue with the Open Seminars; on Mondays, Plan the Planet, brings together experts across different disciplines to discuss the current ecological crisis in order to articulate new strategies, policies, relationships and spaces; on Tuesdays, Evidentiary Aesthetics investigates the technologies and politics of the body; and on Wednesdays, we will be able to study the Origins of Capitalist Urban Space.

Throughout the year, the Directions Series offers an open forum for conversations between AA Students, Academic and Administrative Staff and the AA Director. These events offer a platform to communicate and discuss the direction of the school. The first event of the Directions Series will take place on Monday 30 September at 7pm in the Lecture Hall when we can start raising questions and propose new agendas as we all work towards our future and jointly develop the AA 2020-25 Strategic Plan.

To broaden and strengthen our academic resources additional initiatives have been set up. The new Writing Centre aims to assist students with their essays and written work; the Student Care Centre is to provide mental health support; and the Student Affairs Office will provide students with logistical support during their time here at the AA, and advice in career placement and work opportunities in London and around the world for their year out and after graduation. 

To conclude the academic year we aim to introduce a new way of transmitting and disseminating the work of our fifth year students at the AA Forum/Final Presentation. Over two days after tables, all graduating students will present their project in an open format to a wide group of tutors, guest jurors, curators, press, friends and colleagues, making their last presentation at the AA a real moment for celebration and dialogue. The AA Forum/Final Presentation will be open to all students to attend, and will take place in any imaginable space throughout the school. 

This autumn we launch the AA Residence, a cultural platform exploring and studying new ideas and forms of practice at the intersection of architecture, art, technology, policy and design. It is composed of a series of independent labs that consist of an interdisciplinary cohort of resident fellows including architects, artists, policy makers, engineers, scientists and creative entrepreneurs that are all researching and producing experimental work. The AA Residence will work as an incubator in a shared workspace and professional development programme, providing architects and entrepreneurs the tools required to build new practices and initiate projects that impact, promote and amplify culture, and contribute to the re-imagination of the future. The 2019-20 labs will be announced in October. 

Last year’s Projects Review 2019 was produced with the goal to achieve zero waste, and has left us with some new pieces of furniture that we hope to enjoy throughout the year. As part of this exhibition, the first edition of the Press and Practices Preview took place the day before the opening, and proved to be a success. Fifth year students and those with scholarships and bursaries had the opportunity to explain their unit agendas and project aims to invited guests. They did this alongside volunteers who provided an introduction to the sometimes complex issues that the school and its programmes address. Thank you to all tutors, students and volunteers that committed time to this effort. The Projects Review exhibition received great press coverage and many positive responses. To continue this momentum the AA Book, together with a series of podcasts with staff and students, will be launched in the autumn.

Over the last year we have recognised and celebrated the amazing diversity of the Architectural Association, that consists of students and staff from 81 different nationalities. In an attempt to build on this great cultural resource we will launch Architecture in Translation, a project that celebrates the wealth embedded in the use of different languages as part of the production and dissemination of ideas, discourse and debate about architecture. This project will work across many areas within the school. Within HTS, Mark Cousins has produced a series of seminars that will explore the theoretical questions and opportunities of translation in architecture. In addition to this, juries in different languages will take place throughout the year and will be used to identify terms, concepts and values inherent to different linguistic and cultural contexts in order to produce a ‘multilingual dictionary of architectural terms’ for the twenty-first century. 

Last but not least, to start the year, a different kind of tradition is being introduced entitled, Plant a Tree, which will take place during Introduction Week and invites all new students and staff to Hooke Park, the AA rural campus in Dorset. While on-site, we will learn about the facilities and then ceremonially, each and every one of the 300 new voices joining the school, will plant a tree to contribute to the forest, offset carbon emissions, and take part in a dialogue of ideas about the future as responsible members of the AA and of this planet. Plant a Tree is more than a symbolic act, it is the commitment to a future that is ours to build.

As new and returning students and staff wander throughout the school, its spaces and places and within the corridors that build our intellectual home, you will find on the walls images of projects that each of the 779 students of the last academic year produced. With these drawings up on the walls, now is the time for identifying new debates and engagements. For those knocking on my door, and I encourage all of you to do so, you will see next to the Expanding Horizons poster – in a circular frame – what I suspect will be the most important image for many of you this year: this is of course an invitation to visit and share some of your ideas. 

I am looking forward to seeing all of you during Introduction Week and throughout the year ahead to discuss in detail the initiatives outlined above, and the ones that we will create together.



Eva Franch i Gilabert
AA School of Architecture