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The second year of the Design degree aims to build on the skills gained in the first.

Many of the lecture courses are shared with the Architecture Tripos, but a number of them are now specific to the course, building on the increased mathematical techniques taught in first year. All students attend studios which are led by lecturers and concentrate in each term on a different theme. The lecture courses consist of three core courses and a choice of optional papers. Students must take one optional paper from list A (history and theory), one from list B (integrated and technical subjects) and one from list C (technical subjects). They are encouraged to begin thinking about the future pathway they might pursue towards accreditation if they wish to proceed to the fourth year. The emphasis is not on accreditation but on providing a choice of courses that provides students with a richer understanding of interdisciplinary design and sustainability.


Studio is taught as a whole year group. As in first year, studio explores the four primary strands of Create, Critique, Analyse, and Explain. 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. As in first year, the projects set will usually be buildings, but this will not always be the case and students will also be set projects that might involve making objects, or products. The projects will vary from year-to-year, but the themes and learning outcomes remain the same. Examples of studio themes in year two are:

Michaelmas Term    Fragile Earth: Geotechnics, Wind and Water

The theme of this term is earth and water. The studio is accompanied by lectures on soil mechanics, water engineering and geotechnical engineering. Students start with a two-day course in surveying and carry out a design project that explores problems in geotechnical engineering design and water sustainability. This might involve exploring building retaining structures or buildings in difficult soil conditions or building in a flood plain. It might also include the design of buildings made out earth or soil and the problems of drainage. As well as designing the project, students test their designs through calculation or physical loading tests.

Lent Term   Energy Use and Sustainability

Students attend the second-year environment and sustainability lectures in the architecture course. The projects in this term are set to explore energy use. Students will design small structures and carry out more complex environmental calculations on their projects including lighting, ventilation, heating, water use, and energy efficiency. They will explore the possibilities of low energy design.

Easter Term     Timber and Natural Materials

The studio this term is accompanied by lectures in timber design and fabrication and working with natural materials (such as hemp fibres and bamboo). This will include structural analysis of timber structures and methods of assembly. The project will involve the design and/or building of a timber structures in groups or as a solo project.


The professional skills course is shared with the Architecture tripos. The course is divided into two parts as in first year: a) Management Practice and Law and b) Communication Skills.

The Management Practice and Law course covers types of architectural and engineering practices. It looks at the legal and ethical responsibilities of architects and engineers working in building and design practice and how to set up and run architectural practices including marketing and basic accounting procedures. It introduces tort and contract law, planning and building regulation, listed building consent and basic employment law. It looks at the basic laws surrounding data protection, patents and intellectual property. The course is assessed through workshops and coursework submitted at the beginning of the Lent and Easter Terms.

The Communication skills course aims to build on the skills learnt in first year. Students are taught about research methods and building up bibliographies. Students are taught how to use 3D modelling in CAD and rendering and visualisation. They are taught how to use laser-cutting, 3D printing and woodworking tools to make models. The course through workshops.


The Materials part of this course aims to build on the first year and explores in more depth the methods of analysis used in Materials Science. It explores in more depth the structures of materials and the way the choice of materials affects design and looks at mechanisms of chemical change, decay, and failure. The course will continue to 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 explores the basics of façade engineering and building envelope design. The course is assessed through workshops and coursework submitted at the beginning of the Lent and Easter Terms.


This course is in two parts. Structural Form, which is shared with architecture, looks at the choice of various structural buildings systems available and their relative merits. Alongside this the Design Tripos students are taught in more depth about structural analysis. The course aims to increase the understanding of the behaviour and analysis of structures, and to introduce students to concepts of stress-state, strain-state and yield,

statically indeterminate structures and implications of redundancy, the plastic theory of structures, the Bernoulli equations and the basics of fluid mechanics. The course is assessed through workshops and coursework submitted at the beginning of the Lent and Easter Terms.


This lecture course builds on the mathematical understanding developed in the first year to provide students with the mathematical tools they need to operate as structural engineers and designers. While students covered topics included in further maths at A level in first year, the second year course extends the study of mathematics to look at vector calculus and linear algebra. The students also learn the basics of programming and an introduction into how to apply analytical tools such as finite element analysis to the structures using software such as Autodesk or MATLAB. The course is assessed through written examinations at the beginning of Lent and Easter Term. Supervisions are provided throughout Michaelmas and Lent with practice questions to prepare for the exams.


Students get to choose three courses from a list of options. The list varies from year-to-year but is designed to enable students to pursue their particular interests. Where options are important for particular routes to accreditation this is indicated on the list. All options are suitable for architecture accreditation but some options will be more suitable for those looking towards specialisms in structural engineering and materials science. The list is split into three parts: list A- subjects in history and theory; list B – integrated subjects; and list C- technical subjects. A lecture course can be in more than one list, and students must choose one course from each list.

History and Theory Courses are shared with the Architecture course. Students pick one from the list of courses offered to the architecture students. Subjects currently offered include:

  • planning and urban design
  • gender and queer design
  • landscape design and gardens
  • history of construction
  • introduction to design philosophy and theory

Integrated subjects are more interdisciplinary or bridge the divide between science and the humanities. These might include courses on subjects such as:

  • participatory design
  • introduction to robotics
  • automation and advanced fabrication techniques
  • inclusive design and accessibility
  • temporary shelters and disaster relief
  • artificial intelligence and design

Technical subjects might include topics such as:

  • biomimetic design
  • modelling natural ventilation systems
  • techniques in Materials Science
  • natural materials and structures;
  • sustainable façade design