skip to content

Department of Architecture



The first year provides an important introduction to the course as a whole. No prior knowledge of architecture or design is assumed. In first year the emphasis is on introducing the basic concepts of architecture and design in the built environment. Students are taught skills in presenting their work and skills in making and drawing both through classes on these topics . Other lecture courses provide you with an introduction to the essential area so knowledge in materials, fabrication, structures and sustainability and the built environment. The course also provides a comprehensive introduction to the history and theory of the built environment across the globe, looking not just at the development of buildings but also the social and political ideas that surround the construction of our built environment.

All the lecture courses are supported by supervisions and/or workshops. Many courses involve field trips. In the Easter break there is a one-week compulsory study trip abroad the costs (excluding subsistence) of which are included in the course.

All the courses in architecture are examined through coursework and there are no written examinations.


Year one studio work is based on a series of projects that introduce you progressively to the conditions and possibilities of architecture. These typically start with smaller-scale, more abstract exercises and work up to a more complex building project at the end of the year.

Studio is taught in our studios. Drawing boards, equipment and materials are all provided. Students are only expected to provide pens and pencils. The studio spaces are provided with desktop machines for CAD. All students are trained to use the machines in the Digital Fabrication Workshop which provides facilities for 3D printing, CNC and modelmaking tools. All model-making materials are provided and students are taught to use whatever they need to produce the projects set.

The emphasis in first year is on developing your skills in traditional modes of architectural representation – models, collages, perspectives, elevations, plans and sections. At the same time, students will be taught to use the basic graphic software  like Photoshop and InDesign in the Professional Skills Course and as the year progresses students will be expected increasingly to use these in their studio presentations. They will gain skills in testing and evaluating design and will apply the skills learnt in the Professional skills course to present their ideas to an audience of  peers and visiting critics.

Cambridge prides itself on small-group teaching. Studio days are timetabled twice a week throughout the term. On these design tutors see students singularly or in small groups. At the end of each term they present their completed projects from that term for marking. Overall the studio work carries 50% of the total marks on the course. . Projects are chosen to provide opportunities for students to develop and demonstrate knowledge and understanding, qualities, skills and other attributes in the context of creative interdisciplinary design. Usually the projects set will be buildings, but this will not always be the case and students might also be set projects that might involve making objects, furniture, products or bridges. The projects will vary from year-to-year. Examples of studio themes in year one are:

Michaelmas Term     Sustainability

The short projects in this term introduce basic design concepts such as iteration, an understanding of form and modes of orthographic and axonometric drawing, basic hand modelling techniques and how to present your ideas. The project set looks at the principles of the environment design course and uses those to inform the design. 

Lent Term  Accessibility 

Students work on projects that explore designing for those with physical or mental disabilities

Easter Term   Inclusivity 

The project or projects explore projects on a larger scale that address the issues of inclusivity in design and participatory design through exploration of current issues in the local area. 


The Professional Skills Course in first year provides an introduction to the skills required for professionals in a working environment and looks at what professionalism means.

It introduces students to the role of design professionals in society. It looks at professional bodies and accreditation, ethics, codes of conduct, regulations and rules. It introduces the ideas of collaborative working and team skills, participatory design and engagement, inclusivity and accessibility and the importance of diversity and engagement. It explores the roles of individuals in design and building practice and the different roles in the process.

The course also aims to provide students with an introduction to the various practical study and communication skills they will require both to complete the course successfully and to be able to perform effectively in practice. It starts with training in verbal presentation and preparing making digital presentations. It covers the basics of essay-writing. It introduces types of design drawings and models. Students are taught how to draw by hand in the first instance. In the Lent Term they learn to use Photoshop, Indesign and Illustrator. Basic 2D CAD is introduced in the Easter Term. They are taught how to make models by hand using paper and card.

It is marked through coursework.


The Materials and Fabrication Course is divided into two parts: the Materials part of this course provides a basic introduction to Materials Science. It explores the basic structures of materials and the way the choice of materials affects design. The course will explore the range of materials available for design, their chemical and physical structure and how materials are chosen for particular purposes. The Fabrication part of this course looks at the basic materials used in buildings and how they are assembled. As a whole the course, which is taught jointly to both architecture and the design tripos, aims to give a basic introduction to Materials Science and Building Construction. The course is assessed through workshops and coursework submitted at the beginning of the Lent and Easter Terms.


This introductory course to environmental design and sustainability in architecture aims to demonstrate why such issues are of relevance and interest to designers today. It discusses environmental issues at the global, local and interior level and assesses their qualitative role in the perception of space and the built environment. Through vernacular, historic and modern examples, the significance of environmental issues is appraised in conjunction with an introduction to the basic principles of environmental science (i.e., the approach is from 'context to principles’). The course aims to outline the role of environmental issues in design, encouraging an overall awareness of how they inform design decisions in light of the broad principles involved.

First year Environmental Design Course students can expect to have gained preliminary knowledge and understanding of: the relationship between people and buildings and between buildings and their local environment;the principles associated with designing stimulating and satisfactory visual, thermal and acoustic environments; the requirement to relate design to human needs; systems for environmental comfort, their history and impact on design; the factors involved in ‘sustainable’ design; the importance of precedents from an environmental perspective; building users’ requirements, appropriate building performance standards, and health and safety issues; and the environmental impact of specification choices

The course is assessed through workshops and coursework submitted at the beginning of the Lent and Easter Terms.


This course aims to introduce students to the world of structural design and analysis, both in their own work and in the way in which they look at buildings. They will develop familiarity with the fundamentals of statics, a sense of how structures resist forces and they will be able to visualize the load path and direction of forces. Throughout the course we will experiment with hands-on approaches to learning structures, and you will learn structural analysis from a graphical and numerical standpoint. With these techniques students will be able to design and analyze elegant trusses, arches and suspension structures, and to understand beams and how they carry loads. Most importantly they will learn about the vital interplay of architecture and structure in design.

The course is predominantly taught through lectures, online pre-recorded material, and hands-on example classes. It is supplemented by problem sets and supervisions. The lectures run throughout the Michaelmas term and include fundamental technical concepts as well as discussion of broader structural considerations. These are addressed both from first principals and through reference to precedents. The lecture course includes small-scale group projects most weeks, and a larger individual project and coursework to be completed over the Christmas holiday at the end of Michaelmas term.


This course chronologically follows the history and theory of architecture and design from its origins to the end of the eighteenth century. The study is global, tracing the effects of politics, technology and social values on the changing forms of cities and the buildings. In the process students learn about key writers of the past and changing ideas about architecture and urban theory as well as looking at indigenous design and vernacular traditions. The aim is to show the richness of architectural history and the buildings of the past and the wat architecture is formed by society, ritual, and methods of construction.

At the end of First Year, students can expect to acquire a basic knowledge and understanding in the histories and theories of architecture (and other related arts) up to 1800. Students can also expect to gain knowledge of the advances in technology and human sciences and the way these have influenced architectural practices throughout history. In order to achieve this, the two courses in First Year address cultural, political, social, spatial and technological issues relating to architecture, art and urbanism.

The course is assessed through essays, one submitted at the beginning of the Lent Term and one at the beginning of the Easter term.


This course chronologically follows the global history and theory of architectural and design from its the eighteenth century to the present day. It traces the effect of industrialisation and mass production in shaping the modern world and the theories of design that have arisen over the last 220 years. The course introduces the various themes and ideas that will be explored in more depth in the history and theory courses in the second year. The course brings in theories from anthropology, politics, urban design, philosophy, geography and sociology.

The course is assessed through essays, one submitted at the beginning of the Lent Term and one at the beginning of the Easter term.


This study trip is organized in an historical city with a particular connection to the research of one or more of the members of staff in the faculty, using their contacts in the city in question to gain access to sites, buildings and archives, many of which are not generally open to the public. It thus provides a unique opportunity to see a city through the eyes of local architects, academics and experts in the field and to understand how knowledge in depth can reveal more about a city and inform the way projects are designed. As such it provides a synthesis of the themes and issues covered by the first year lecture courses in History and Theory, while allowing students to examine the buildings and sites for themselves and to document insights about the way both the buildings and the city have been put together.

The University meets the complete cost of the travel, hotel and fees. Students need to find the remainder – about £150 – for subsistence (basically all food and drink consumed during the trip). Students can apply to colleges for further help with the subsidence if necessary.