MArch / PGDip
The MArch course is an experimentally minded design studio.
The year's study is divided into three broad areas, in the first of which you will collect a storehouse or catalogue of information both conceptual and material in a variety of media and techniques. This provides the ingredients to speculate on and question in the second part of the year the implications and possibilities of architectural responses to a programme or brief which you have developed on a particular given site. The final part of the year concludes with you developing, proposing and presenting individually a design project of conceptual clarity realised in considerable depth and detail.
There is an emphasis not only on the materials and techniques of construction but also elements such as air, heat, water, sound, smell and lights as materials too. This will involve visits to factories and workshops where materials are manipulated in a variety of unusual ways.
Studio research is complemented by a series of challenging talks by visiting academics and practitioners at every stage of the process as well as a consistent programme of individual discussions and workshops with your tutors.
Oxford Brookes University is unusual in offering the design-based speculative research course in architecture, which builds on its excellent reputation for architectural courses at postgraduate and undergraduate level. Oxford Brookes students and staff have an outstanding record of winning prizes and awards. The Department of Architecture has a reputation for innovative teaching and interdisciplinary architectural research. Students will benefit from research-active staff who are leading experts in their field.
The Department of Architecture at Headington Campus has dedicated studio space and postgraduate facilities.
Architecture has to respond and change. This course of advanced design research explores a new terrain of material and conceptual possibilities. It sees the role of the architect as one in which design is concerned with the use of appropriate materials to give physical form to changing conditions, within which the dominant raw materials of the planet's major industries are outside the visible spectrum.
This new master's course reintroduces some of the sensuous elements of architecture that Modernism has ignored, namely air, water, heat, sound, smell and light. These elements are seen as the architect's concern, rather than the more nebulous abstract ideas of space.
This concern with the tactile leads us to an emphasis on surface rather than frame. The new materials of enclosure can now have the potential to be soft, moving and translucent. Such materials require different techniques. Technology is now distinguished by the fact of its 'non-appearance', ever faster and smaller.
The designer now even draws with light, not ink, on an electronic machine that utilises time in its courses.
In the information age, electronic media allow the recall of history and the experience of the present to coexist. In such a condition, dominated by the global ventilation of information, a cultural condition exists within which external reality more and more resembles fiction. The architect's role is to uncover the true reality. This requires research for the aesthetic of the impermanent, determined by informal habits and a knowledge of materials which eschews grand gestures, but which is precise yet loose. Its architecture is likely to be like gossamer, an evanescent presence in the everyday world.
The future is clearly unknown but it is unlikely to conform to either of the two predominant contemporary visions of the apocalyptic or the suburban.
Historically architecture contained artefacts or services as denoted by the building's function. Banks contained money, offices files of papers, and palaces kings and queens. In the new electronic environment the forces of dispersal are paramount. Information erases old patterns and creates an abstract world without hierarchy, without a sense of place or time. The boss is now Bruce Springsteen, the bank a machine in the wall, and the office a laptop anywhere, the supermarket a website.
The purpose of architecture, the course suggests, is to contain social relationships not utilities, since the utility is a worldwide database. Architecture, like the city, is a nervous system without a centre. Now the body is more utilised to play not work. Speed is at the centre of new technology. Cities are centres of fashion, consumption, discourse and data exchange. We can regard the centre of London as a vast urban restaurant. Here the meeting place becomes a point of maximum theatre, a place where the full range of senses is brought into play. Urbanism has become a playground of this new sensibility.
We will search for an architecture that manipulates light, water, air and heat, for fantastic structures that respond to and filter both natural and artificial light, orienting themselves to the sun, searching for energy and light.
We will speculate on making tangible the social and technological changes at the beginning of the 21st century. The old methods, rules and materials are no longer enough. Planet earth demands new responses and new ideas for the persistent questions of human habitat at a micro, super-urban and global scale. This course of advanced design research leading to a master's in Architecture will address these issues. A commitment to speculation at a global and local level is mandatory. A passion to improve the conditions of the planet through design is assumed.
Teaching, learning and assessment
You will work both in groups and individually, exploring a new kind of architecture. The methods of exploration include techniques primarily associated with the movie industry, such as the making of collages, optical composites, physical models and drawings both by hand and computer. The tutors act as guides to reveal areas of interest so that you develop an individual approach to the brief, the programme and the realisation of a project.
Teaching is heavily design studio based, with project-based learning in a studio environment. Several parallel studies may operate, offering different methodologies, but with common learning outcomes. The design studio will be complemented by a series of lectures, reviews, tutorials and site visits.
The assessment on the taught modules is 100% coursework, comprising design presentations, seminar papers and essays.
The studio critiques by an invited jury provide formative feedback.
The dissertation element can comprise a project, artefact or portfolio in a variety of media, or written work.