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About This Masters Degree

Course Description

RIBA Part 2 credited since 1983
RCA Architecture students will not be eligible for Student Loans or funding from SLC/SFE

The core of the learning process lies in project-based activity. This is conducted through a unit system made up of nine 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 or three dedicated tutors, a unique outlook on architecture, thematic interests and corresponding skill sets. 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.

Each ADS has between 12 and 15 students, balanced with equal numbers of first and second years. In the first year students engage in Research, Experiment and Design 1, which comprises of one collective term-long 'live project', followed by one 2 term studio design project. These provide background guidance to enable students to move directly into design in response to a given set brief, but with an ADS-supported ‘take’ on the given brief. Throughout the term they provide support and criticism as the projects develop. In the second year, in Research, Experiment and Design 2, the ADS tutors support an initial period of research, lectures and visits followed by an opportunity for each student to select an area of work pertinent to their own concerns during thesis preparation.

Rather than issuing second-year students with prescriptive briefs, students 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. To assist in this, facilities within the programme include a studio that is loosely divided into areas corresponding to the nine ADSs. In the first year the ADS group often work collaboratively on design projects that as far as possible emulate 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 prescriptive briefs of studio projects and take their major projects along a technical path that corresponds to the ARB/RIBA Comprehensive Design Project requirement. Students in the second year work more independently (usually in a different ADS) and develop their projects as a clear statement of design approach in the form of a Thesis Project. This takes them towards the Final Examination and the final Summer Show.

Additional compulsory components such as Professional Practice Studies and Technical Studies – together with the Cultural Context/Critical & Historical Studies lecture series, 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 programme culminates with the Thesis Project that draws together all components learnt over the two years.

Critical & Historical Studies

The RCA provides a unique environment for postgraduate art and design students to reflect upon their own practice, and to engage with students from their own and other disciplines. The role of Critical & Historical Studies (CHS) is to support the studio programmes in enabling these critical engagements to take place. The courses offered by CHS to first year studio-based MA students propose an intellectual framework within which they can begin to establish a coherent relationship between theory and practice.

In the autumn and spring terms there are a series of College-wide seminars and lectures. The autumn term series will relate to your particular discipline (though it is possible to elect to join a series being offered to students on other programmes) whereas the spring term series will be more broad-based and cross-disciplinary in nature.

In the spring and summer terms, a CHS tutor will give you individual tutorials to support the development of a dissertation which is submitted at the start of the second year. The dissertation should be between 6,000–10,000 words in length – this is a major piece of work and you will be not be able to submit for the Final Examination until you have passed this assessment.

Entry Requirements

You should have achieved a high-quality first degree in architecture (RIBA Part 1) or an international equivalent degree or higher and should have at least one year’s experience working in a design office.You will need to demonstrate a commitment to your major discipline and an ability to respond to stimuli from unexpected sources.Evidence of sensitivity, invention, curiosity and a readiness to engage in a rigorous and demanding two years is essential.

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