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MArch in Architecture & Urbanism (Design Research Laboratory) Chrysalis, Caleb Baldwin, Cho-long Baek, Xu Yuzhi, Zhao Yuxuan, 2018–19


Programme Head: Theodore Spyropoulos
Founder: Patrik Schumacher
Course Master: Shajay Bhooshan, David Greene
Programme Coordinator: Ryan Dillon
Course Tutors: Pierandrea Angius, Aleksander Bursac, Apostolos Despotidis, Mostafa El-Sayed, Evangelia Magnisali, Klaus Platzgummer, Alicia Nahmad Vasquez, Alexandra Vougia
Technical Tutors: Albert Taylor-Williamson
Software Tutors: Federico Borello, Torsten Broeder, Jurij Licen, Octavian Mihai Gheorghiu, Mariana Custodio Dos Santos, Konstantina Stella Tsagkaratou

The Design Research Laboratory (DRL) is a 16-month, post-professional  design research programme that leads to a Master of Architecture and Urbanism (MArch) degree. Our world-renowned lab has been at the forefront of design experimentation for the past 20 years, pioneering advanced methods in design, computation and manufacturing, and is based on an evolving framework of three-year research cycles that interrogate architecture and urbanism from the city-scale to the nano-scale. Led by innovators in the fields of architecture,  design and engineering, DRL pursues an interdisciplinary approach to design  that extends beyond architecture, fostering collaboration with companies  such as Ferrari, Festo, AKTII, Reider and Odico Robotics. The lab remains a space  of cooperation and curiosity, and seeks to develop the next generation of architects who will actively engage with and influence the field. Distinguished graduates have gone on to found offices, lead advanced research groups  and teach at schools worldwide.

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 work, workshops and seminar courses. In Phase II, which begins the following autumn, teams develop their Phase I work into a comprehensive design thesis project. At the end of January,  these projects are presented to a panel of distinguished visiting critics. In  the past, these 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, among many others.

Our current agenda, Constructing Agency, explores the broader relationships  of architecture by considering the futures of living, work and culture. The  aim of the research is to widen the field of possibilities by exploiting behaviour  as a conceptual tool to synthesise the digital and material worlds. Advanced computational development is utilised in the pursuit of architectural systems  that are adaptive, generative and behavioural. Using the latest developments  in advanced printing, making and computing tools, the lab is fostering work  that challenges contemporary design orthodoxies. Architectures that are mobile, transformative, kinetic and robotic are all part of the AA DRL agenda, which  aims to expand the discipline itself and push the limits of design within the larger cultural and technological realm.


Theodore Spyropoulos’s studio explores how behaviour-based design methods can be used to reconsider cultural projects for today through the development of self-aware and self-structuring practices that see architecture as an infrastructure to address latency and change.

Agent-based Parametric Semiology, Patrik Schumacher’s studio, contributes  to the ‘semiological project’, which promises to upgrade architecture’s communicative capacity in the working environments, thus enhancing the  social functionality of the designed and built environment through designed architectural code that manifests itself via crowd-modelling of the agent’s behavioural rules.

Shajay Bhooshan’s studio, (HOSTd),  explores robotic fabrication while enabling mass-customisation strategies that can compete with contemporary co-living models in highly productive cities.  The promise of mass-customisation, integrated into new models of housing, now allows for the generation of a vibrant community fabric.


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 teaches at the University of Pennsylvania Visiting Design Studio.

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.

ALEKSANDER BURSAC studied architecture at the University of Belgrade and holds an MArch from the DRL. He is currently employed at Zaha Hadid Architects, previsouly having worked with Minimaforms.

APOSTOLOS DESPOTIDIS is currently working for Foster + Partners and previously worked for Minimaforms where he was involved in projects at various scales, from urban planning to installation design. He holds an MArch from the AA DRL and an architecture and engineering degree from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

RYAN DILLON is the Head of Academic Communications, a lecturer in the History and Theory programme, a member of the Teaching and Learning Committee and a Unit Master of EX5 at the AA. He taught at the University of Brighton and previously worked at Moshe Safdie Architects.

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 in London and internationally.

DAVID GREENE – born Nottingham, England, 1937 – had a usual English provincial suburban upbringing before moving to London to begin a nervous, nomadic and twitchy career; from big buildings for developers, to T-shirts for Paul Smith, to conceptual speculation for Archigram, which he founded with Peter Cook. Currently Greene is, perhaps, Provost of the Invisible University.

EVANGELIA MAGNISALI is an architectural engineer, researcher and educator. She studied at NTU Athens and is currently working as a Research Associate at the University of Westminster.

KLAUS PLATZGUMMER holds a master’s degree in Architecture from the ETH Zürich and an MA in History and Critical Thinking in Architecture from the AA. He is a teaching and research associate at the Department of Architectural Theory, TU Berlin.

PATRIK SCHUMACHER is an architect and architectural theorist promoting parametricism. He studied philosophy and architecture in Bonn, Stuttgart and London, and holds a PhD in cultural science from Klagenfurt University. He is a partner at Zaha Hadid Architects and was recently the John Portman Chair at the Harvard University GSD.

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 RCA Innovation Design Engineering Department. Previously, he worked as a project architect in the offices of Peter Eisenman and Zaha Hadid Architects.

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.

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

ALBERT WILLIAMSON-TAYLOR is an active member of the steering committee for the Council for Tall Buildings and is the co-founder of design-led structural engineering firm, AKT II.

Architectural Association is approved by The Open University as an appropriate organisation to offer higher education programmes leading to Open University validated awards.

The Architectural Association (AA) has been granted the power to award its own degrees. Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP) give UK higher education institutions the right to award bachelor’s and master’s degrees. As of 1 October 2019, the AA has the right to establish new academic programmes and degree awards. Therefore, from September 2020 students admitted to the taught postgraduate programmes at the AA will be awarded AA degrees.

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The Architectural Association receives Taught Degree Awarding Powers by the Lords of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council.

The Architectural Association (AA), the oldest independent school of architecture in the United Kingdom, is pleased to announce that it has been granted the power to award its own degrees. As of 1 October 2019, the AA has the right to establish new academic programmes and degree awards and is working to create some of the world’s most pioneering courses in architecture to shape and build the future.

Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP) give UK higher education institutions the right to award bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Prospective students worldwide can apply to the AA Foundation Course (Foundation Diploma), Experimental Programme BA(Hons), Diploma Programme (MArch), and nine taught postgraduate programmes encompassing History and Critical Thinking in Architecture (MA), Projective Cities (Taught MPhil) and Sustainable Environmental Design (MSc/MArch), amongst others.

AA Director, Eva Franch said, ‘since our founding in 1847 we have never ceased to create new horizons, institutionally and academically. This is a significant milestone for the AA and demonstrates how we have grown and progressed as an institution that has always valued independence. Receiving TDAP marks a new era for our institution; these are exciting times for the AA. The process has required considerable work from all members of staff and students. I would like to take this opportunity to credit them for this major achievement’.

President of the AA Council, Victoria Thornton added, ‘the TDAP process has recognised our strong governance, academic standards, scholarship and teaching as well as the environment supporting the delivery of taught higher education programmes’.

The School’s application for Taught Degree Awarding Powers was supported by the Architects Registration Board, the Royal Institute of British Architects and The Open University.