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Design + Make MArch / MSc Wakeford Hall Library, 2019


Programme Head Martin Self
Programme Masters Amica Dall, Anthony Meacock, Giles Smith
Studio Tutor Zachary Mollica
Make Tutor Jack Draper
Dissertation Tutor Simon Withers

Design + Make explores design at the point of physical production and generates new protocols within the realm of experimental architectural construction. The research we conduct demonstrates a vision for architectural education in which making is central to the act of design itself.

The AA's satellite campus at Hooke Park serves as our central laboratory for architectural research. The large-scale fabrication facilities provide a unique testing ground in which students can devote time to speculative research through the design and fabrication of architectural constructs and building components. Students inhabit this unique environment that combines forest, studio, workshop and building sites.

Our toolbox contains a diverse array of resources that facilitate the design and fabrication of architectural constructs within the park itself. Contemporary technologies, design and fabrication methods – such as 3D scanning, generative modelling, iterative physical modelling and robotic fabrication – combine to optimise manufacturing strategies and provide opportunities to replicate the feedback between natural geometry, material properties and designed form that had previously connected designer, maker and artefact.

We use a hands-on approach, guided by an in-depth material understanding. The core agenda of Design + Make 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. This emphasis on design and fabrication maximises the learning opportunities for participants by facilitating the realisation of design intent, practised as designing through making.

Both programmes (MArch & MSc) are structured around a series of hands-on studio projects of increasing scale and sophistication, leading to the production of a large architectural construct (MArch) or full-size timber prototype (MSc). These studios are complemented by seminar courses and workshops in forestry and woodworking and traditional and contemporary building crafts, as well as by lectures and events at Hooke Park and Bedford Square, providing a foundational understanding of the cultural and technological landscape within which a designer must operate.

The MArch and MSc courses share taught components in the first two terms. After the second term the programme bifurcates, with the MSc students completing their project and dissertations for submission in September. The MArch students also submit their thesis in September, but continue with project construction until 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 develops critical knowledge to underpin the work of their thesis. MSc students have a more explicit focus on technology and 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 architects, engineers and construction experts, with the support of world-leading consultants who provide technical guidance for the projects. The expert staff work side by side with students to develop knowledge and expertise collaboratively, resulting in fully developed and experimental architectural constructs.

The Introduction Studio in Term 1 establishes the technical skill-set and key design methodologies required for the programme. This includes taught classes and workshops that aim to establish proficiency in the operation of critical skills and tools employed throughout the work of Design + Make. This covers analogue fabrication techniques, CAD/CAM (formulating information for digital manufacturing), generative design strategies, robotic fabrication and applied scanning techniques.
In parallel, studio projects are structured as workshop-based Design + Make exercises in which key skills are deployed and developed. These lead to the design, fabrication and construction (in small teams) of 1:1, inhabitable structures set in the Hooke Park landscape that introduce students to the material processes of full-scale experimental construction. These projects enable students to develop design approaches driven by considerations of landscape and material, allowing for speculative testing of design methodologies and fabrication techniques that will be further developed in the Main Projects.

SEMINAR COURSES, Terms 1 and 2
Seminar Courses 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. Together, they provide the theoretical framework for the project work and the intellectual foundation for the written Thesis/Dissertation.

In order to innovate in construction, we allow sufficient time in Term 2 for testing and experimentation. To investigate the boundaries of a given methodology or workflow, we encourage risk taking, trial and failure. Attaching a significant value to experimentation and testing supports the fundamental principle of iterative design that sits at the core of the Design + Make ethos and provides the opportunity to apply the findings of initial prototypes to the final construct.

For MArch students, the Main Project consists of the design, prototyping and construction of a full-scale, architectural structure at Hooke Park. Working in teams, students design, fabricate and build full-scale constructions through which research propositions can be tested through their physical manifestation. Designs are developed through prototyping, mock-ups 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 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 through individual March theses.

For MSc students, the Main Project is an individual research programme of experimentation and prototyping that leads to a full-scale, 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 the fabrication resources of Hooke Park, with the aim of developing advanced knowledge and a 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 MSc students, this prototyping exercise is completed in a full-scale experimental timber construction at the end of Term 3 that forms the research basis for the subsequent MSc dissertations.

The Thesis allows MArch students to define their intellectual position through  the construction of critical arguments and investigations. These provide  the fundamental research that will inform, support and instruct the Main Project.  For MSc students, the Dissertation 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 of timber fabrication in the field.


AMICA DALL, ANTHONY ENGI MEACOCK and GILES SMITH are all founding partners of Assemble, which amongst other things is an architecture practice, workspace provider, contractor, developer, artist collective, ceramics workshop and friendship group. Their work has seen them lecture and teach internationally, including at Yale, MIT, Harvard and ETH Zurich. They are currently working on new models of living and working in South West London, a City Farm in North London and public space in South East London, as well as a number of other projects across the practice that are situated from New Orleans to Oslo.

MARTIN SELF is director of timber design and construction specialists Xylotek 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.

JACK DRAPER facilitates the construction process for the Design + Make programme as the Make Tutor.

ZACHARY MOLLICA is the Studio Tutor for the Design + Make programme and supports the ongoing development of student projects. He graduated with distinction from the programme in 2016, having led the development of the Wood Chip Barn.

SIMON WITHERS is a Unit Master and Thesis Tutor at the Bartlett and the University of Greenwich. He has a background in architecture, fashion, film and electronics.

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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Projects Review 2019


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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.