MA in Architecture
Our missions in Architecture are to take a broad view and make the most of the RCA’s art and design context. At MA level we prepare students for an effective, ideas-driven approach to architecture. London is always our testing ground. We are both inspired by, and apply our ideas to, the city – combining experiment with plausibility. We tune in to its social, economic and cultural wavelength, prise open real lives and load our proposals with narrative and personality.
We are not interested in designing spaces that simply evolve the norms of style but work in a dynamic way with what happens in them. Our medium is not so much bricks and mortar but space itself; we consider the work of the architect as spanning between the hard materiality of building and the reprogramming of existing space. The pursuit of these aims in architecture makes particular sense in the broader context of the College, where the proximity of sophisticated practice across the art and design spectrum underpins a multidisciplinary view of design.
The core of the learning process lies in project-based activity. This is conducted through a unit system made up of four Architectural Design Studios (ADSs) in which differences of opinion with respect to contemporary architectural practice serve to challenge constantly and encourage the individual approach of each student.
Each ADS has two dedicated tutors, an identifiable culture and way of working. In their respective ways, each challenges the role of the architect and how architectural design can embody this response in an experimental yet plausible way. The interests of the respective studios span major theoretical and practice-based aspects of architecture today.
ADSs set particular themes for the year against which projects are developed, designed and tested. They each begin with an initial period of research, lectures, visits, etc. pertinent to the programme, followed by an opportunity for each student to select an area of work pertinent to their own concerns. Following the research period, they produce one major design for the year against which different emphasis is placed for first and second year students.
Rather than issuing students with prescriptive briefs, they are requested to formulate a precise brief of their own against which their later designs are assessed. They are expected to learn as much from each other as from the tutors themselves. To assist in this, facilities within the programme include a studio that is loosely divided into five areas corresponding to the five ADSs. As far as possible this emulates an architectural office environment where laptops can be used in conjunction with the specialised computer facilities on the College’s wireless network.
Students of first and second years work alongside one another. The community of students in each ADS is itself an essential structure of the learning environment. During the first year students follow the ADS programme but take their major projects along a technical path that corresponds to the ARB/RIBA Comprehensive Design Project. Effectively students in the second year have a second run at the process (usually in a different ADS) and develop their projects as a clear statement of design approach. In the form of the Thesis Project, this takes them towards the Final Examination and the graduation show.
Additional compulsory components such as Professional Practice Studies, CDP Design and Technology, together with the Cultural Context/Critical & Historical Studies lecture series (which culminates in the submission of a dissertation at the start of the second year), the Architecture lecture series, Digitally Augmented Architectures and the dissertation help introduce a richness of reference and critical debate against which project activities can spar. The Digitally Augmented Architectures component is pursued within the ADS structure and technical facilities that contribute knowledge and understanding of, and skills and abilities in, architectural computer aided design and manufacturing. The MA course culminates with the Thesis Project that draws together all components learnt over the two years.
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