AA Emergent Technologies & Design (EmTech) Graduate Programme investigates new synergies of architecture and ecology through the critical intersection of computational design and fabrication.
Emergent Technologies and Design Programme (inaugurated in 2001) is open to graduates in architecture and engineering who wish to develop skills and pursue knowledge in architectural design science that is located in new production paradigms.
Our focus is on exploring experiential and social potentials of new material and spatial configurations for architectural and Ecological Urban Designs situated in the dynamic contexts of emerging biomes. The programme is designed to stimulate critical thinking through the experience of research-driven design projects that are developed in an intellectually rigorous and creative studio environment. Our projects are pursued by multiple iterations through hypothesis, material and computational experimentation, robotic fabrication, and evaluation; reflected upon in verbal presentations and group discussions and documented in analytical and scientifically structured papers.
Our Masters (M.Arch./M.Sc.) programme has two distinct phases – the Studio and the Dissertation. Both Studio and the Dissertation are aligned with, and supported by the research of the programme team and the advanced expertise our alumni and research colleagues in practice and industry.
The Studio workshops, seminars and design projects are led by EmTech staff and our associated researchers and offer a creative and intellectually rigorous sequence of that builds knowledge and skill. It provides an intensive engagement in Design Science and introduces our students to the wider community of design researchers in London practices. It concludes with guiding students through the formation of a detailed proposal for an original architectural inquiry that is to be pursued in the Dissertation.
The Dissertation Research Studio extends the acquisition of research competencies through extensive collaborative dialogue with EmTech’s research community of active Post Doc researchers and PhD candidates. There are two main fields of Design Research that we are active in:
Dynamic Material Systems with Advanced Fabrication including Robotics,and
Ecological Urban Design in emergent biomes.
Students integrate explorations of the theoretical discourses, relevant sciences and case studies of ‘state of the art’ projects in the domain of their chosen topic and set out the methods and protocols for the development of their Design Proposal. The development and conclusion of the final proposal is pursued through the iterative design cycles that students have acquired knowledge and skills in during the early phases of the programme.
Design & Build is our ‘extracurricular’ collaborative student project and is an essential part of the pedagogy and culture of EmTech. It runs right through the year, alongside both Studio and the Dissertation, and provides opportunities to design and deliver a built project with real material, structural, fabrication and assembly constraints. The experience gained enhances the design, computational and analytical skills students have acquired in Studio, and it develops crucial transferrable skills that are applicable to professional practice. Our Design & Build projects have been sponsored by various industry partners throughout the years, published internationally in the architectural press since 2001, and have received industry awards.
Design Research is central to the agendas of Emergent Technologies and Design, and the programme proceeds from a shared understanding between staff, students, researchers and collaborators across the world that nature and artifice are strongly coupled, that the cultural production of artefacts and systems exist as part of the environment of other active systems, and that they are subject to change.
A distinguishing characteristic of the programme is the emphasis on the team, and the skills and knowledge developed in collaborative learning, research and design. Students work in small teams in studios, workshops and seminar courses, and for their Dissertation choose their own team and topic. This is a reflection of the way in which architects work in the professional world, and in academic research in the Design Sciences. Individual intellectual and critical development is reflected in the personal essays that each student undertakes and submits during Phase 1 The Studio, and in the individual Critical Reflection that each student develops and submits with their Dissertation.
The programme is structured to provide skills and knowledge of a coherent set of linked and convergent discourses, methodologies and concerns that cross many different disciplines in Phase 1 (The Studio), and those skills are further developed, and knowledge deepened in Phase 2 (The Dissertation).
Student life in the programme provides additional opportunities for learning as all tutorials and instructions take place in open studio, and students attend and participate in all presentations by their colleagues in the programme. The programme facilitates the self-organisation of study groups and workshops for additional software skills in the evenings and weekends.
Major areas of investigation in EmTech include but are not limited to:
EmTech’s body of research on Ecological Urban Design is focused on creating new design experiments and system logics for ecologically sensitive settlements with urban tissues in extreme climates and ecological contexts.
EmTech students develop expertise on Robotic Design and Fabrication fields with bespoke workshops through to the dissertation phase with hands-on experimentation, developing custom methods and end-effectors coupled with inherent material behaviour.
Design processes in EmTech are distributed and collaborative, and are explored, developed and refined through iterative computational processes of serial experimentation and analysis, generative simulations coupled with material fabrication.
One of Emtech’s key research areas is Emergence, whereby the abstraction and systematisation of knowledge of biological morphogenesis and evolution contribute to innovative Evolutionary Computation processes of architectural design at a variety of scales.
EmTech’s interest in AR / VR domains is geared towards addressing participatory design and immersive technologies to enhance communication between users, designers, and other contributors of design and fabrication processes, while simultaneously exploring innovative spatial configurations in the urban realm.
Emtech students develop an understanding of how Biology can be a model for material, mechanical, spatial and computational systems. The areas of investigation include the formulation of analytical computational approaches through the study of social insect behaviour.
Our tools in EmTech are computational. Throughout the course students learn the application of various computational tools for generative design, analysis, and optimization, including Rhinoceros 3D, Grasshopper, Ladybug, Karamba, Space Syntax, Octopus, KUKA|prc, Unity, Python, and C #.
EmTech has a solid foundation in our external relations developed by Dr. Michael Weinstock and the tutorial staff of the Emergent Technologies and Design Programme since 2000, and from the two decade-long association of the Undergraduate School Technical Studies with leading engineering practices. Institutions and practices EmTech works closely with include Arup, Buro Happold, AKT II, PLP Architecture, Foster + Partners, SOM, Automata Technologies, Centre for Biomimetics – Reading University, Institute for Computational Design – University of Stuttgart, Chair of Structural Design – Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH), and ITECH – University of Stuttgart.
EmTech graduates take on various opportunities after finishing the course. Some graduates go on to teach at the AA and other schools internationally. Others go on to work at many exciting offices in London and around the world. Recent employers include: Foster + Partners (London), KPF (London), Heatherwick Studio (London), Grimshaw Architects (London), Robofold (London), Zaha Hadid Architects (London), Buro Happold (London), AKT II (London), OMA (Rotterdam), UN Studio (Amsterdam), Wilkinson Eyre Architects (London), Ron Arad Associates (London), AHMM (London), Arup (London), PLP Architecture (London), Coop Himmelblau (Vienna) amongst others.
More information about EmTech can be found here.
Apply for Emergent Technologies & Design (M.Sc./M.Arch.) 2018-19 here.
Dr. Michael Weinstock (Director)