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Course content

This one year full-time MA in Architectural Design is aimed at students who are looking for a rich, engaging and design-focused post-graduate programme, but do not wish to qualify as a UK registered architect.  It shares many of the design elements of our established MArch (Master of Architecture/ Part 2) programme, but provides greater flexibility in terms of study choices, allowing you to engage with the interests of our research staff. 

In the programme, we will focus on using design-led research to inform your learning and investigation. You will develop your existing design skills by focussing on how design thinking might address current global challenges. This approach offers an intense and lively forum for the exploration and discussion of design issues. This is why we place particular emphasis on using design as a means to conduct research. Researching through design is a creative activity that closely integrates the process of designing with the act of researching, so that they can mutually inform each other.  You will explore problems by making and testing design propositions, introducing and developing established knowledge as and when required.  Through project work, you will draw on knowledge from many disciplines.

You will work in small groups called ‘design units’ under the guidance of an experienced tutor and also work independently to develop a research-focussed approach to your studies. This will require you to question and evaluate evidence and think creatively and iteratively. Emphasis will be on individual discovery and personal reflection as a learning process.

Distinctive features

• Study in one of the top Schools of Architecture in the UK
• Supported by the School’s award-winning Design Research Unit Wales (DRUw) 
• Learn from notable design-led practitioners; currently more than 50% of our design programmes are delivered by practising architects
• Perfect for students who prefer a more practical/active approach to learning through our focus on investigation through design
• Choose from a range of optional modules to supplement your learning in areas of interest to you and develop important skills in design-based research


This programme is available on a one year full-time basis. You will be based in the Welsh School of Architecture for the duration of the programme. The taught element of this programme is structured around a 60 credit design module, where you will use techniques of research through design to explore an issue of interest related to one of the School’s design units.  This will normally run between October and April and will conclude with a final presentation in front of a panel of reviewers. Your work in the design studio is complimented by a 30 credit module analysing architectural precedent, and a choice of optional study modules.

You will usually start the dissertation element of the programme in May and complete this over the summer. The dissertation is the culmination of your design research throughout the programme.  The dissertation usually comprises of a documented design project, accompanied by a 5000 word critical commentary.  Support for developing the necessary skills of research through design will be provided during the taught elements of the programme.

During your year on the programme, you will focus on developing a design-research agenda, defining and establishing your own position in architectural design. The topics covered are usually structured around thematic studios, or ‘units’ led by design tutors who have expertise and interest in specific areas of research and/ or practice. The themes are often related to areas of research expertise within the School and may be run in conjunction with the units offered on the MArch programme.

You will undertake analysis of architectural precedent within the studio environment and choose 30 credits worth of optional modules, chosen from a list of subjects based on the research interests of the staff in the school. This list is reviewed on an annual basis. You can choose any combination of 10 and 20 credit modules for your option. 

For your dissertation you will work independently using the skills that have been developed during the taught programme to develop a critical research argument through design.  This will involve completing a design thesis project. You will be expected to supplement this with a 5000 word critical written commentary.

Core modules:

Architectural Design and Research
Analysis of Precedent
Design Thesis (Dissertation)

Optional modules:

Issues in Contemporary Architecture
Design Principles and Methods 3
Earth and Society
Low Carbon Footprint
Climate Comfort & Energy
Architectural Technology 3a


Design projects and related exercises are assessed continuously, often through pin-up reviews and symposia where feedback is given. At the end of the year, a portfolio of all design-related work is presented for formal examination by panels of reviewers.

Optional modules are usually assessed through written examination and coursework submitted during the semester. Please read the module descriptions for your chosen optional modules to find out more about the ways they are assessed.

The criteria by which assessments are made are contained in the School’s Teaching Handbook, in project and coursework documentation, and explained at introduction to the various modules and design projects.

Career Prospects

Whilst many of our graduates will choose to undertake a career within architecture or other built environment professions, the programme provides a large number of transferable skills which will be of benefit across a wide range of professions.  The focus on independent, project based learning is welcomed by employers in that it provides graduates with skills in creative thinking, conceptual organisation, critical reflection and taking initiative.


During the course we go on a range of study trips in the UK, Europe, or further afield. On these trips we will organise guided visits to buildings that demonstrate how principles taught in the programme are applied in revolutionary large-scale eco-buildings. You will also have the opportunity to meet architects and built environment professionals who collaborate with the School. In the past, students have travelled to Barcelona, Venice, Rome and the Ruhr Valley, amongst other places.

Visit the Architectural Design MA page on the Cardiff University website for more details!




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