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MPhil Degree in Architecture and Urban Design (MAUD) - ARB/ RIBA Pt2

The Vertical Factories of Greenpoint by Stuart Beattie 2014..jpg
Made in New York: The Vertical Factories of Greenpoint by Stuart Beattie 2014

MPhil in Architecture & Urban Design (MAUD)

This two year course uniquely combines a professional course; that is, an ARB/RIBA Part 2 course with a Cambridge Master’s degree in Philosophy. It provides advanced teaching, research and practice opportunities in environmental design, including the social, political, historical, theoretical and economic aspects of architecture, cities and the global environment.

The course is a hybrid of independent research through design and a structured technical learning resource. It is designed for mature students that join the program with a distinct area of interest and provides guidelines to their scientific research, access to specialists of various fields relevant to their studies, and a matrix of deliverables that foster an informed body of work underpinned by a sophisticated set of design and presentation techniques.

The main outcome is a design thesis consisting of a detailed design proposition, supported by a written argument of up to 15,000 words. This is preceded by four essays or design exercises equivalent of  3,000 - 5,000 words. The course is closely connected with research interests within the Department’s Martin Centre for Architectural and Urban Studies.  A number of the academics and researchers teach and supervise on the course. 

Please note that we can only host design theses which relate to the following areas:  explorations into strategies for resilience (environmental, socio-economic and cultural), approaches to civic engagement, and the study of fabrication techniques.  In each case students are expected to focus on either urban planning measures, the structure of neighbourhoods or institutions, or to examine and promote direct action in the form of 1:1 built structures, public engagement exercises or forms of performance and exhibition. 

The programme propagates a twofold understanding of environmental design and mediates between its technical/architectural, and social/political aspects. Both trajectories are studied within a specific geographic area/region, its local set of conditions and global entanglements setting the parameters for each student’s research. Based on the area/region’s characteristics, students speculate on the expansion and adaptation of one of its specific traits and its environmental performance. The outcome of this first part of the course is an experimental adaptation of an indigenous typology, producing a speculative environmental prototype. This prototype is examined scientifically and tectonically, using real and virtual modelling alongside various other media and serves a particular demand and a specific set of site conditions. Complementing this tectonic first part, the design direction of the second part of the course is broader in scale and highly speculative in nature. It draws upon the technical findings of the initial research, but focuses on the socio-political conditions and cultural traditions shaping the area of focus in order to build a set of far-reaching proposals. Together, both parts of this research through design result in a heightened understanding of the performance/efficiency/specificity of a certain environmental issue and the environment it is embedded in.

The MPhil in architecture and urban design (MAUD) is a combined masters thesis and RIBA part II programme.  The course is structured around a shared range of topics within which each student develops an individual research project and design portfolio.  This work is conducted over the course of three terms in residence, interrupted after the second term by a six to nine month fieldwork period.  During the first stage of the programme, students develop a distinct design approach into which they build a supporting research framework.  The fieldwork period supports this research framework in both structure and content, students working in their area of study either within professional practice, or within a related institution (academic or otherwise).  They use this stage to assemble a strong body of primary and secondary material and to progress with the written component of the MPhil.  During the final term in residence, students produce a resolved design proposal supported by drawings and models, and a 15,000 word research thesis on a topic that supports the direction and content of their design work. 

While each candidate applies to the course with an individual design research proposal, the structure of the programme groups these topics into a shared set of themes and approaches.  In each case, students are helped to refine their work to focus on a distinct design scale, and to engage with one of three core research objectives, supported by the expertise of the academic staff. These include explorations into strategies for resilience (environmental, socio-economic and cultural), approaches to civic engagement, and the study of fabrication techniques.  In each case students are expected to focus on either urban planning measures, the structure of neighbourhoods or institutions, or to examine and promote direct action in the form of 1:1 built structures, public engagement exercises or forms of performance and exhibition.  These three scales and three core research directions enable the cohort to consolidate and share resources and expertise whilst building upon the creative productivity of a studio environment.

In support of this structure, we are offering an increasing number of directed workshops that introduce a number of theoretical approaches, research methods, and documentation and representation techniques.  These place a strong emphasis on the design content of the projects in the first term, and work to build the supporting research framework in the second.  In this manner we are able to support a focused study of a specific topic, using both design provocations or tests, as well as academic research methods in order to refine each student's approach to their topic.  The two years then give students the breadth of opportunity to explore their projects fully and to wrestle with the implications of their ideas with a depth rarely afforded a conventional diploma project.  The integration with the research groups within the department, and experts in the wider University promotes an understanding of interdisciplinary engagement and an increased integration of studio and research cultures.  And while this produces a stimulating design environment, the primary aim of the course is the development of strong, imaginative, design projects that are grounded in a disciplined understanding of the factors that influence them and the more abstract debates that they are engaged with

Course Structure & Examination

The course is structured by two terms focusing on design and detailed technical analysis (residence in Cambridge), an interim field work period (elsewhere), and a third term focusing on regional analysis/research (residence in Cambridge). These complementary term components, together with the practice placement, provide an opportunity to explore distinct interests within design practice in various settings, whilst offering a sound framework to pursue meaningful research.

Candidates are free to choose a geographic area/region of their interest that frames their study throughout the programme.  Following an initial familiarization with their chosen specific locality and a global assessment of the given environment at hand, students are expected to identify a technical/architectural issue that is indigenous or characteristic to the area/region of interest and holds potential to develop. 

The focus shall be primarily with issues of contemporary construction, not excluding the consideration of historical or traditional building methods that are still prevalent.  More generally, candidates develop an understanding of the complexity of environments and their various aspects being inseparable from, and integrated with each other.  More importantly, however, students will develop highly particular areas of expertise that they may draw on for the remainder of the course.

The programme positively encourages students to develop complex architectural proposals that meet RIBA/ARB criteria for Part II exemption and to acquire knowledge and develop and apply research skills in the following areas

  • role of environmental and socio-political issues in architecture and urban design

  • The wider environmental, historical, socio-cultural and economic context related to architecture and cities

  • The building science and socio-political theories associated with architecture and urban design

  • Modelling and assessment of building and urban design

  • Monitoring and surveying of buildings and urban environments

  • Human behaviour, perception and comfort, and their role in building and urban characteristics

  • Research methods and their application through academic and design methods.

Teaching

Teaching is delivered through seminars, supported by individual supervisions.  Students are also offered a series of studio sessions, hands-on workshops, offering support in computer modelling, physical laboratory testing and guidance on the use of environmental sensors and loggers. Throughout the programme individual supervision is provided regularly to assist, direct and monitor progress.

Individual research activities, oral presentations and written essays encourage students to identify and solve problems, and are supported by regular feedback sessions and in supervisions.  These strategies, particularly through specialist supervisions, are built upon when the student embarks on their independent dissertation research programme.

The weekly seminars, plus additional research workshops, provide a framework to explore a variety of research approaches from a range of relevant disciplines available in the Department. Students receive general seminars and specific guidance on research methods, the use of libraries, and writing techniques. An initial comprehensive bibliography is provided prior to the start of the course to allow students to begin their preparation. Upon arrival to Cambridge, the bibliography is supplemented by guidance on further reading in the seminars and supervisions. Guidelines on coursework essays and dissertations are given in general terms and more specifically in supervisions. Research methods, techniques and analytical skills are developed through the lectures and coursework.

The course requires regular written, visual and oral presentations in the Studio.  Effective communication of research findings and design concepts are an important criterion in all areas of the students' work, and assessed at all stages.  In addition to research skills seminars, students attend two hour weekly seminar courses for the first term and must elect to attend one four week module during their second. They are expected to audit other modules as appropriate for their projects.  Attending lectures is optional but students are strongly encouraged to take advantage of lectures offered in the Department and other Faculties relevant to their research.

The course is intense and demands effective time management.

Supervision

Students will be allocated a departmental supervisor during their first week who will support their academic progress for the duration of the course (four supervisions per term). This will complemented by specialist supervisions (1 hour per week). Supervision arrangements and contacts will be suggested at the beginning of each term but it is the individual responsibility of each student to arrange supervisions, and to submit work promptly as requested by supervisors. 

Placements

At the beginning of the Easter (Summer) Term of their first year of study, students commence work with their nominated architectural practices or equivalent approved programme of field work/research undertaken at an approved non-practice context (for example; working for an NGO or departmental research group) related to their area of research.  Students undertake a six month placement at a minimum level within three terms in order to allow for flexibility and time for critically reflecting on the experience and research. They are expected to receive a wide experience and to reciprocate by applying their knowledge of environmental design issues.

There are recall events to the Department to receive formal teaching in management, practice and legal issues and to review the quality of the placement learning experience through the medium of the Practice Log Book.

Students also continue the development of their design thesis through their period in practice developing their research and theoretical background to their proposal. Those candidates in practice meet with tutors on a monthly basis for regular research seminars at which work in progress is presented and discussed.

Feedback

Students will be provided with feedback via studio days, supervisions, supervisor's termly reports which are available to them via their self-service pages on CamSIS and coursework feedback.

Examination

Essays

Four essays or equivalent exercises of 3,000 - 5,000 words will be presented for examination.  The first three of these essays are submitted during Year 1;  one at the beginning of the Lent (Spring) Term and two at the beginning of the Easter Term.  The remaining essay is submitted at the beginning of the Easter Term in Year 2.

The essays and equivalent exercises contribute 40% towards the final mark awarded.

A logbook of work and research carried out during the fieldwork period will be presented at the beginning of the Easter Term or Year 2 for assessment. The logbook is not awarded a mark.

Design Thesis

The design thesis represents 60% of the overall mark and consists of a: 

  • written dissertation of not more than 15,000 words (20%)

  • design project (40%) submitted for examination at the end of July

Candidates present their design thesis to examiners at an Exam Board held at the end of the second year. Students must remain in or be prepared to return to Cambridge to attend the examination.

Please note that we can only host design theses which relate to the following areas: explorations into strategies for resilience (environmental, socio-economic and cultural), approaches to civic engagement, and the study of fabrication techniques. In each case students are expected to focus on either urban planning measures, the structure of neighbourhoods or institutions, or to examine and promote direct action in the form of 1:1 built structures, public engagement exercises or forms of performance and exhibition. 

Students need to achieve at least 60% in order to pass the degree. If students wish to continue their research and apply to read for the PhD degree in the Department of Architecture, they need to achieve at least 70%. Continuation is also subject to the approval of the research topic and the availability of an appropriate supervisor within the Department.

At a Glance

Course length and dates:

Two years full-time, October start.  Not available on a part-time basis.

Examination:

Four essays or equivalent exercises of 3,000 - 5,000 words and a design thesis (written dissertation of not more than 15,000 words and a design project.

Academic requirement:

A 1st class or a high 2i honours degree in architecture.

English language requirement:

See Graduate Admissions Office 

Applications accepted from:

The preceding September.

Application Deadlines:

The final deadline for applicants seeking funding is 4 January 2017, but earlier deadlines will apply (for example if you are an overseas applicant from outside of the EU). Even if you are not seeking funding, we strongly recommend that you submit your application by 4 January, as no applications will be accepted once this competitive and popular programme is full.

If places are still available on programmes beyond this deadline; self-funded applicants will continue to be considered until the final deadline of 31 May 2017.  No applications will be considered after this deadline.

Course Fees:

Information relating to the fee for this course is available from the Graduate Admissions Office.   

Funding:

If you are seeking funding for your course via one of the University’s main funding competitions, there are specific deadlines and eligibility criteria for each competition.  Please check the Funding Section of the Graduate Admissions Office website for information and application deadlines. 

Please note that candidates for this course (which is not considered to be a 'research track' masters course) who are considered 'Home' for fees purposes are not eligible for most funding competitions managed by the University.  Home students usually fund themselves and take out a loan from the Student Loans Company

Tours of the Faculty of Architecture and History of Art 2016-17

The tour dates for the next academic year are:

  • Tuesday 11th October - 2:00pm
  • Thursday 13th October - 11:00am (postgraduate only)
  • Tuesday 25th October - 2:00pm
  • Tuesday 8th November - 2:00 pm
  • Thursday 10th November - 11:00am (postgraduate only)
  • Thursday 17th November - 1:30pm (postgraduate only)
  • Tuesday 22nd November - 2:00pm
  • Tuesday 6th December -2:00pm
  • Tuesday 24th January - 2:00pm
  • Tuesday 14th February - 2:00pm
  • Tuesday 28th February - 2:00pm
  • Tuesday 14th March - 2:00pm 
  • Tuesday 2nd May - 2:00pm
  • Tuesday 20th June - 2:00pm
  • Tuesday 4th July - 2:00pm

     

Please note these times are subject to change at the department's discretion

To book a place email Reception (reception@aha.cam.ac.uk)

These are informal tours of the Faculty. Please note that these are not open days, and there will not be an opportunity to meet members of staff. This is a busy working department so it is not guaranteed that all facilities will be available to visit on every tour.

Prospective students are encouraged to take advantage of the activities offered by the department in the July University Open Day to gain the best understanding of the course.