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    2023 start September 

    Architectural Design

    School of Architecture, Faculty of Social Sciences

    Develop your own distinctive design practice by exploring the processes and methodologies of architecture. You'll study in a studio and have the opportunity to work on real-life projects with local and regional groups.
    Architecture students working on live projects programme in studio

    Course description

    This studio-based course will help you develop your own distinctive design practice. You’ll explore design processes and methodologies. There are opportunities to work on real-life projects with local, regional and international groups as part of our Live Projects initiative. You can take the course as a stand-alone MA or as preparation for a PhD via our PhD by Design programme.

    You'll investigate architectural themes in depth, working closely with your studio tutor. The aim is to consider design within the context of rigorous and innovative research. You'll specialise in the theory and practice of design and develop the skills and knowledge to be a creative and original architect.

    We’re one of the UK's top architecture schools. Our international research projects shape policy and address public and professional needs. As a Sheffield student you’ll engage with real issues affecting the built environment. You’ll be encouraged to provide social and environmental solutions to the challenges of our time.

    What to include with your application


    A selection of modules are available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.

    Core modules:

    Live Project 1

    This is a core module for all MAAD students. Students work together in Live Project groups with students from other Masters courses for the first six weeks of the Autumn semester. Live Project groups with a range of clients including local community groups, charities, health organisations and regional authorities. Live Projects include design/build, masterplanning, building feasibility studies, sustainability strategies, online resources and participation toolkits. In every case, the project is real, happening in real time with real people. Specific projects vary on an annual basis, but are chosen to develop student's skills in design, team building, briefing, client liaison, community engagement and project management. The projects in these modules are entirely group based, with students working mostly in teams of 13-15 people.

    15 credits
    Design Project 1

    This module is the first in a sequence of two studio based design modules. It allows students to develop a design project. The development of advanced design skills is based on a 'studio' system, with different tutors setting agendas and projects that encompass a diverse range of themes. Students choose to follow one studio from a range that are offered. Specific projects vary on an annual basis, but are chosen to develop students skills in design - in combination with design research methodologies, along with an integrated understanding of technological, environmental, social and cultural issues. The different studios each have their own teaching patterns and assessment methods.

    15 credits
    Design Project 2

    This unit is the second in a sequence of three studio based design modules. It allows students to develop a design project. The development of advanced design skills is based on a 'studio' system, with different tutors setting agendas and projects that encompass a diverse range of themes. Students choose to follow one studio from a range that are offered. Specific projects vary on an annual basis, but are chosen to develop students skills in design, in combination with design research methodologies, and along with an integrated understanding of technological, environmental, social and cultural issues. The different studios each have their own teaching patterns and assessment methods.

    30 credits
    Reflections on Architectural Design

    The unit introduces the history, theory and application of design methodologies in architecture and related practices. Based on a critical analysis of precedents and approaches, students will be expected to develop their own methods for use in architectural design

    15 credits
    Environment and Technology in Design

    An advanced course in environmental design technologies and techniques developed around a sustainable framework. The course is grouped around broad environmental and natural themes to encourage an integrated and holistic approach to technology within the design process. The module focuses on research and investigation as a tool for developing students’ understanding of complex technology concepts, including how technology integrates with the wider building and how it interacts with and is used by building occupants and users.

    15 credits
    Theory and Research in Design

    This module aims to develop the student's overall understanding of contemporary matters and theories pertinent to architectural design and built environment issues, such as climate change and social justice. Students will develop an interdisciplinary and contemporary understanding of architecture, design, society and environment, with an emphasis on theory as a tool to open debate and provoke designerly thought and activity on alternative views and approaches to architecture and design.

    The module consists of lectures that introduce and describe contemporary concepts and theories applicable to built environment, architecture, and design research, in tandem with seminars through the Theory Forum, a conference hosted annually by the Sheffield School of Architecture, focusing each year on a theme of contemporary relevance for architectural theory and practice.

    The aim of the module is to develop the student's ability to write in a way that deals with complex issues, and that addresses the outcomes of the module.

    15 credits
    Architectural Design Thesis Project

    This module allows students to develop their own in-depth project based on an individual research theme and the synthesised knowledge and skills gained from all previous units required for this programme.

    60 credits

    Optional modules:

    Reflections on Architectural Education

    This module is for those students taking the MArch in Architecture or other Masters programmes offered by the Departments. It aims to explore the wider context of architectural education as well as studying current thinking on the techniques for tutoring and reviewing in the design studio. Students undertaking this module would gain first hand experience of these techniques through assisting in the teaching of undergraduate students within the department. Assessment will take the form of a self reflective essay about their experience of helping to teach undergraduate architectural students, with reference to appropriate literature.

    15 credits
    Conservation and Regeneration Principles and Approaches

    This module introduces a range of theoretical and practical approaches to architectural design interventions in the historic built environment. It will explore conceptual and philosophical debates within architectural conservation and heritage studies, addressing the conflicting and complementary approaches that have historically been employed. You will be encouraged to develop a critical understanding of conservation and built heritage issues and to evaluate the role of architectural conservation in historical rural and urban regeneration.

    15 credits
    Participation in Architecture and Urban Design

    The unit introduces the history, theory and application of participation in architecture and urban design. Based on a critical analysis of precedents, students will be expected to develop their own participatory methods for use in urban design

    15 credits
    Parametric Architectural Geometry

    This module aims to support an emerging need to better understand concepts and skills for architectural geometry construction using parametric modelling processes. In particular, the course emphasizes computational schemes that can assist designers in managing geometry data and propagating designs. Students are introduced to both the theoretical framework and implementation of architectural geometry construction. This module is delivered through a series of lectures, hands-on workshops and individual assignments/projects. As a result students will learn contemporary parametric modelling techniques for customizing generative design systems, navigating design variations, analysing design artefacts and exploring design manifestations.

    15 credits
    Power, Space, Society

    The unit focuses on socio-political, economical, ideological and cultural factors shaping and influencing buildings and cities. In a tradition of critical theory, this module analyses hidden aspects of built environment causing social exclusion / inclusion and oppression / emancipation. Through lectures and group seminars, the module will provide an introduction to critical analyses of built environment in a global context. Each session is organised around a particular issue analysed in diverse contexts.

    15 credits
    Behaviour in the Built Environment

    The urban/built environment influences the behaviour of people; equally, people’s behaviour can shape the environment. Understanding the interaction between people and their environment promotes the design of spaces and buildings that meet the needs of the people who occupy them. This module will discuss principles of behavioural and environmental psychology in the context of the design and management of indoor and outdoor spaces, including the application and interpretation of behavioural research methods. A key objective is for students to be better equipped to deliver a sustainable environment that meets user requirements.

    15 credits
    Building Information Modelling, Management and Analysis

    This module aims to introduce Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology in practice with a focus on the technical aspects of how building data, both geometric and non-geometric, are created and integrated to support processes of designing, constructing and operating buildings. Fundamental knowledge and contemporary skills of using BIM will be delivered through a series of lectures, seminars, and hands-on workshops. Through executing individual assignments and term projects, students will learn BIM techniques to construct data-enriched virtual models and formulate critical thinking in how BIM can support innovative collaboration during various design, construction and operation phases along the building life cycle.

    15 credits
    Critical Spatial Writing

    Critical spatial writing understands space as an entanglement of exchanges, conflicts, and negotiations. The sites of architecture, whether a city, frontier, room or encounter, are viewed both as subjects of research and spaces for intervention. With readings, lectures and group seminars, the module will provide an introduction to critical spatial writing through an exploration of contemporary arts, architectures and urban interventions with particular attention to issues such as difference and diversity, decolonisation, ecology and intersectional feminism. It will examine different forms of writing about architecture and how we might write about space critically, creatively and relationally. Each session is organised around a number of set texts for lecture delivery, and student-led writing / discussion.

    15 credits
    Building Environmental Simulation and Analysis

    The course unit aims to provide a general understanding of, and practical experience in computer modelling software systems. This involves the following: Thorough understanding of basic concepts of computer simulation, develop the ability to apply these concepts in real life situations. Understanding the use of computer simulation and the need to use the appropriate software to answer a specific enquiry. Understanding the relationships between the required outcome of a simulation exercise and the input details necessary to produce a valid answer.

    15 credits
    Materials for Low Impact Buildings - Theory

    This module engages through lectures and seminars with a range of materials for low impact buildings which may include load-bearing and frame construction using straw bales, rammed earth, adobe, cob, compressed earth blocks, hemp-lime blocks, earth renders and plasters, timber techniques. The aim is to give students in depth theoretical knowledge about the environmental performance, practical applications and historical use of materials for low impact buildings through lectures and seminars.

    15 credits

    The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption. We are no longer offering unrestricted module choice. If your course included unrestricted modules, your department will provide a list of modules from their own and other subject areas that you can choose from.

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    1 year full-time


    Learning is through studio-based design work with individual and group tutorials, block seminars and workshops, traditional lecture modules, live projects involving real clients and real community projects.


    You’ll be assessed on course assignments and a final design thesis or written dissertation.


    Come to Sheffield and join some of the best architecture students in the UK - our students have won prizes at the RIBA Student Awards and the Royal Academy Summer Show. They've been shortlisted in the European Architecture Medals and the Inspiring Graduate Awards. Our staff are doing world-class research, helping to make the school a leader in our field across the UK and internationally.

    We believe in architecture that makes a difference. We know that it has the potential to improve the lives of those who inhabit and use it.

    Through our internationally-acclaimed teaching and research, we explore the social, spatial and environmental implications of architecture. As a Sheffield student, you will engage with real issues affecting the built environment.

    We encourage you to explore ideas and collaborate with other students. Through group tutorials and peer review you'll learn how to express your opinions, and value the opinions of others. Sheffield is the perfect place to develop your personality as a designer.

    We provide a balance of theory, design work and professional experience. We have a strong design studio culture. The studio acts as a laboratory for trialling your creative and critical ideas, and for developing fundamental architectural skills. You'll share ideas during group tutorials and review other students' work. This encourages you to express your own opinion and to value the opinions of others, as you begin to develop your personality as a designer.

    Student profiles

    Architectural design postgraduate with machine

    Our course teaches us about the community we live in, how to approach our ideas and designs, and how to use new technology to create a better vision. Using these skills I can make a better future for our community, who are our real clients. After my MA I plan to apply for a PhD at Sheffield.

    Yusuf Abushamaa
    MA Architectural Design

    Entry requirements

    Minimum 2:1 undergraduate honours degree in a subject related to design in the built environment, such as architecture, landscape architecture or urban planning.

    You should also provide a design portfolio. See What to include with your application for more details.

    We will also consider your application if your degree is not design based but you have considerable professional design experience.

    We also consider a wide range of international qualifications:

    Entry requirements for international students

    Overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or equivalent.

    If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.


    We use a staged admissions process to assess applications for this course. You'll still apply for this course in the usual way, using our Postgraduate Online Application Form.

    Apply now


    +44 114 222 0349

    Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

    Our student protection plan

    Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.

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