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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