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Aleppo City Memory, Anas Shrefahe


Vibrant research

Key details

  • 180 credits
  • 1 year programme
  • Full-time study

Next open day

Career opportunities

  • MRes RCA supports the development of research careers in academia and industry-based research groups. All students develop an individual research project, which prepares graduates for further studies at PhD level or careers within an emerging field of practice-led and practice-based research.

Critical studies of spatial design.

The MRes RCA Architecture Pathway offers training in practice-led and practice-based research methods, complementing the shared arts and humanities research methods taught across the College as part of the MRes RCA.

We encourage interdisciplinary research projects in collaboration with other Schools within the RCA and external partners. We have a strong emphasis on practice-led and experimental research, preparing graduates for diverse careers in academia, architectural and urban design practices, human rights organisations, and social and environmental coalitions.

We offer a range of specialisms that focus on the interface of research and practice, training in practice-led and practice-based research by working on ‘live’ case studies and projects within the field with respected external partners. You’ll become part of a vibrant research community at the RCA and within London.


  • We Cannot Work Like This inaugural meeting, Swamp Pavillion, Venice Biennale, September 2018

    We Cannot Work Like This inaugural meeting, Swamp Pavillion, Venice Biennale

  • MRes Critical Investigations Exhibition Private View, 10 September 2018

    MRes Critical Investigations Exhibition Private View

  • After the Creative City exhibition at New River Studios London, April 2018

    After the Creative City exhibition at New River Studios London

  • After the Creative City field visit to Stratford, Adam Kaasa

    After the Creative City field visit to Stratford

    Adam Kaasa

  • MRes Critical Investigations Research Symposium,

    MRes Critical Investigations Research Symposium


The School of Architecture is based at our historic Kensington site.

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Our studios are the heart of day-to-day activity for the School. Studios are purpose-designed for inspiration and interaction between students of different design disciplines. Shared workspaces are provided for all research students. In addition, you have access to wood, metal, plastic and resin workshop facilities, as well as contemporary digital fabrication equipment and a suite of bookable project and making spaces.

More details on what you'll study.

Find out what you'll cover in this programme.

What you'll cover

Our programmes are delivered through a combination of structured learning, comprised of lectures and master-classes; workshop classes based around a set task; tutor-led seminar classes where students will be asked to reflect on material that they have read or studied in advance and project assignments that support the structured teaching programme.

Unit 1: Research Methods and Individual Research Proposal
20 credits

This unit will enable discussion and exploration of key concepts in art and design research. The workshops will introduce you to key methods and methodologies in art and design, based around the areas of specialisms of each of the contributing schools. You’ll also develop an individual research proposal.

Unit 2: Research Cultures
20 credits

This College-wide unit focus on knowledge exchange and communicating your research effectively to an interdisciplinary audience. This will involve developing an understanding of the contexts in which research is practised, and engaging different research cultures and communities.

Unit 3: Research in Practice (pathway specific)
20 credits

This unit focuses on the process of research. It will connect you with practicing researchers and research teams and encourage you to reflect on how research projects are developed, managed, evaluated and communicated.

Unit 4: Group Research Project
40 credits

This unit builds upon learning undertaken in unit 1 by exploring the nexus between research methods and the ways in which they might be applied to independent and collaborative research projects.

Unit 5: Research Identities
20 credits

This college-wide unit will focus on further development of your personal research project and professional development. It will enable you to develop your research projects and define your professional identity as a researcher.

Unit 6: Personal Research Project
60 credits

The Personal Research Project will enable your to apply the skills, knowledge and understanding developed through Units 1 and 2 within a complex personal research project.

Collaboration is central to research. The second term of the MRes Architecture Pathway at the RCA centres on a group research project addressing contemporary political and social issues connected to architecture and urban life. Students receive a brief, however the group takes an active role in shaping the research questions and methods. At the end of the term, work is made public through a variety of means ranging from an exhibition to performative work, publications or research symposia. 

2019: The Architecture of Care

In 2018/19, the MRes RCA Architecture Pathway contributed to 'We Cannot Work Like This'. It is a transnational alliance of artists, architects, scholars and activists that asks what does a charter for decolonisation and degrowth look like in cultural and academic institutions? Starting from an anti-racist, anti-capitalist perspective, the alliance confronts questions of labour, of mobility and migration, of language and privilege, and enables students to work together on a proposal for new ways of working. The contribution from MRes RCA students focusses on 'The Architecture of Care', asking what urban planning would look like if it began from an ethic of 'care' rather than the assumption of 'growth'. 

The launch of the seminar took place at the Swamp Pavilion, in the frame of the Venice Biennale of Architecture in September 2018. This was followed by workshops in London and Brussels in January 2019, and is due to conclude with participation in the Contour Biennial 9 in Mechelen, Belgium in May 2019. 

Collaboration with Coltan As Cotton, Contour Biennial 9, Mechelen. Curated by Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, organised by Nona Kunstencentrum with Hong Kong University; École européenne supérieure d'art de Bretagne, Rennes; École de recherche graphique, Brussels; Academy of Arts, HISK, Ghent; Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp; St Lucas Academy, Antwerp; Thomas More University of Applied Sciences, Mechelen, Open Design Course, Royal College of Art.

The Architecture of Care

2018: After the Creative City

In 2018, MRes RCA Architecture Pathway students asked what comes after the creative city? In cities like London, financialised land and housing markets contribute to culture’s expulsion from the city. 35% of grassroots music venues have closed since 2007, 58% of LGBTQI venues since 2006, and a projected 30% of artist studios by 2019. This group research project looked to two sites in the north London Borough of Haringey. The Wards Corner Regeneration plan to close a Latin American market sparked a UN Human Rights investigation that warned this closure 'represented a threat to cultural life'. Less than 500m away, Tottenham is the pilot for 'Creative Enterprise Zones', an initiative intended to lure and retain creative industries in London. This research project asks what counts as culture in a site that both erases and props it up. 

The exhibition After the Creative City was open 23–27 April 2018 at the New River Studios London. 

Collaboration with New River Studios, London with contributions from We Made That, Theatrum Mundi, Terrence O'Rourke, and the Greater London Authority.

After the Creative City

The Architecture and Media focus within the MRes Architecture pathway seeks to create a community of researchers and practitioners that are committed to the interrogation of media and its complicity in issues of architecture, visual art, politics, human rights, and environmental conflict. Architecture and Media seeks to exploit the contemporary condition of media ubiquity by instituting a new rigour and methodology to the analysis and interpretation of media.

Central to this project is the acknowledgement of the role that media plays in the inception, description, formation, and interpretation of the built environment. Our students will create and contribute to a new species of media studies, one in which spatial design incorporates a refined knowledge of media. The goal is a mastery of media at the scale of the single image to that of planetary visualisation, including an investigation of those who create and also consume new forms of media. 

Potential areas of research include the spatial politics of the image, the use of media in the interpretation of global events, the forensic interrogation of documentation as an evidentiary body of knowledge, the articulation of an media-based practice spanning disciplines, formats, dimensions, and temporalities, among others. Architecture and Media welcomes emerging researchers with backgrounds in architecture, photography, media studies, fine art, science, investigative journalism, publishing, curation, and human rights.

What is the location of media in contemporary architectural, political, social, and scientific contexts? What is the instrumentality of media? What is the complicity of media? Architecture and Media asks these questions by reviewing a diverse range of media and spatial practices that acknowledge the complicity of media as an active agent.

Through shared guest lectures and workshops, roundtable discussions, reading groups, writing exercises, and technical workshops in the Architecture Pathway, Architecture and Media supports the individual identification of a unique research question that includes a written and practical outcome. This question will be refined through a series of regular pin-ups, installations, publications, performance lectures, and public events, as well as a variety of contexts, including collective roundtables, offsite studio visits, field trips, and technical and conceptual workshops.

In the final individual research projects that culminate in written and practical outcomes, students will be expected to be highly iterative and fluid in their production while experimenting with a variety of forms of output including emerging and historical media. The goal of this final part is to envision and implement a new practice situated in the composite context created in the previous semesters, to identify a political or social network in which the student will embed, to propose a new body of visual work and its deployment in the public, or to propose further PhD study.

Led by David Burns.

NASA Surveyor

The Future of Work research focus within the MRes Architecture Pathway looks critically at the architectural implications of changing patterns of work, opening up new research perspectives around how spaces, systems, and settings for work will be designed in the future.   

Presented in partnership with WORKTECH Academy and the Work Futures research group within the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the RCA, this specialism offers students the opportunity for engagement and collaboration with leading practitioners and thinkers in the field, as well study of ‘live’ case studies and projects.

Central to this research strand is the digital disruption of work, which is transforming established notions of space, place, and time, and renegotiating the relationship between labour and capital. What are the architectural responses to the rise of the intelligent building and district, and also to the emergence of neural networking, artificial intelligence, big data, robotics, and machine learning?

Potential areas of research include the social and spatial characteristics of co-working, the impact of new work technologies on city planning, the ethnographic design processes that enable greater employee participation in workplace design, and the interior elements and components that support psychological comfort at work.

The Future of Work strand seeks to work with students to identify their own research questions within the body of theory and practice around work futures, and welcomes emerging researchers with backgrounds in architecture, design, media, science and technology, economics, real estate, product development, and psychology.

WORKTECH Academy is a global knowledge network set up to leverage new insights and ideas from the WORKTECH conference series, now in 16 cities around the world. The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the RCA has an extensive background, in partnership with the School of Architecture, in investigating user experience in the workplace. Live projects, site visits, and expert consultations will inform the final individual thesis, opening up new research vistas that can both inform and invigorate practice and lead to PhD study.  

This specialism is delivered in partnership with Jeremy Myerson, WORKTECH Academy, and the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design.

Future of Work

The Architecture and Social Movements research focus, the first of its kind, proposes to address the important architectural challenges posed by emergent social movements.

'Social movements' is a broad term that attempts to capture a wide range of social collectives that are organised independently of traditional political structures (the party) or that lack adequate political representation. Importantly, social movements are organised around demands that have to do with the built environment, from the Occupy Wall Street’s focus on real estate and foreclosures, to the MST in Brazil addressing land and agrarian reform, the CONAEI in Ecuador focusing on indigenous territorial rights or the platform Barcelona in Comú demanding dignified housing conditions. 

Architecture and Social Movements challenges existing practices around participation and community-based activism. Exploring new institutional frameworks for militant and activist research the program is an alternative to the traditional opposition between bottom-up and top-down approaches. Instead, it proposes to set out an innovative agenda that addresses existing gaps in design research, in particular the current inability to adequately frame spatial challenges that fall between traditional scales of analysis such as the neighbourhood or the nation state. 

The Architecture and Social Movements focus is ideal for graduates and practitioners from a range of disciplines that wish to pursue a practice-based mode of research. Through a series of live-projects, the specialisation aims to develop research methods that are able to catalyse the spatial and creative potentials of social movements. To this end students are expected to collaborate with existing movements and non-governmental organisations.

The research in the specialisation investigates different modes of spatial analysis and visualisation; develops individual analysis of a case-study relevant to understanding the relation between contemporary social movements and architecture; and discusses the methods and politics of architectural research in social contexts. Recognising social movements as manifestations of social innovation, the discussions will be structured around four key axis of research: Collectives, Perspectives, Territories and Institutions.

The final individual thesis will be taught via a live project. Students will be asked to produce a report that addresses the demands of a contemporary social movement from around the world, actively engaging them in the dialogue. Importantly, the construction of the brief should result from the collaboration between student and the partner organisation. The report, with its analytical/projective dimensions, will be the cornerstone of evaluation and of the pedagogical project. The specialisation is orientated towards graduates who want to undertake training in research before proceeding to a PhD or to a career in practice.

Led by Godofredo Pereira.

Still from the documentary the “SAAL Operations”, focusing on a participatory housing program - the Local Ambulatory Support Service - implemented in Portugal between 1974 and 1976, Still from the documentary “SAAL Operations" directed by João Dias, 2007

The City Design focus in the MRes Architecture Pathway offers students training in interdisciplinary research methodologies with emphasis on architectural and urban theory, design methods and advanced computation. City Design integrates practice-led design and written academic research while encouraging design experimentation and critical thinking that challenges established boundaries between practice and theory, as well as prevailing disciplinary assumptions of urbanism and urban design.

The aim of City Design is to contribute new knowledge to the fields of architecture, urbanism, and urban design, and to prepare students for diverse research careers in academia and practice. It therefore sets out to explore new methods for urban, architectural, and spatial research, and to critically understand the role of computation in design, fabrication and practice. City Design not only teaches the skills needed to develop an original research proposal and execute independent research at an advanced level but, equally, fosters the knowledge and skills relevant to practicing in architectural and urban design offices, or working with government and non-governmental research institutions.

City Design supports applicants with an interest in research that examines a set of related enquiries at different architectural, urban, and territorial scales. While its framing is through questions arising from the design of cities, this is always understood as a problem connected to other design disciplines and as specific to its social, political, cultural, environmental, and economic contexts. Therefore investigations into the agency of spatial design and its impact on social and urban forms are central to the research agenda of City Design. 

The training delivered by the City Design focus within the Architecture Pathway is aimed at practical research in architecture and urban design, and concludes with an individually supervised thesis project, which can be a written thesis or an original work of design alongside with a short written thesis. In the City Design focus, the thesis is expected to develop a research question and problem enabling graduates to:

  • pursue further advanced research at PhD level by developing robust and rigorous long-term research enquiries
  • set up their own innovative practice-led research and collaboration with academic and industry partners
  • and find employment in existing practice-based research groups.

Led by Sam Jacoby.

Suburb (USA)

You will submit a 12,000–15,000 word thesis that defines a research question, outlines the research methodology and theoretical context, presents and discusses the results and offers robust conclusions.

You will submit:

  • An original work of art, design or communication (including critical and curatorial works)
  • A visual portfolio of practice with clear documentation in PDF form
  • A 4,000–6,000 word thesis that defines the purpose of the work, outlines its theoretical and technical context, and articulates the contribution it has made to advancing knowledge.


What you need to know before you apply

Candidates are selected entirely on merit and applications are welcomed from all over the world. The selection process considers creativity, imagination and innovation as demonstrated in your portfolio, as well as your potential to benefit from the programme and to achieve high standards overall.

You should have a good first degree in a related subject. We welcome applications from students of all ages, and view both prior academic and professional experience as valuable.

What's needed from you

Your portfolio is a showcase of your work as an artist or designer and can be made up of images, videos or writing examples. Your portfolio helps us to better understand your application and allows you to show evidence of your ability and motivation to undertake a given programme.

Generally, we’re looking for you to demonstrate your:

  • Creativity, imagination and innovation
  • Ability to articulate the intentions of the work
  • Intellectual engagement in areas relevant to the work
  • Technical skills appropriate to the work
  • Potential to benefit from the programme

Each programme is looking for different things in a portfolio. Each Head of Programme provides specific advice on portfolio requirements in the online application system. We advise you to consider these requirements carefully before submitting your application.

Visit our application portal to view more portfolio requirements

If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need the equivalent of an IELTS Academic score of 6.5 with a 6.0 in the Test of Written English (TWE). Students achieving a grade of at least 6.0, with a grade of 5.5 in the Test of Written English, may be eligible to take the College’s English for Academic Purposes course to enable them to reach the required standard.

You are exempt from this requirement if you have received a 2.1 degree or above from a university in a majority English-speaking nation within the last two years.

If you need a Tier 4 visa to study at the RCA, you will also need to meet the Home Office’s minimum requirements for entry clearance.

Find out more about English-language requirements

Fees & funding

For this programme

Fees for new students

You'll find tuition fees for 2020/21 entry below.

Home and EU
£12,650 total cost*
£33,500 total cost*


New entrants to the College for MA, MRes, MPhil and PhD degrees will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit in order to secure their place. This will be offset against the tuition fees for the first year of study.

Home and EU

* Total cost is based on the assumption that the programme is completed in the timeframe stated in the programme details. Additional study time may incur additional charges.



Scholarships are awarded for a specific programme and entry point and cannot be deferred without consent from the academic Programme and scholarships panel.

More information

External funding

There are many funding sources, with some students securing scholarships and others saving money from working. It is impossible to list all the potential funding sources; however, the following information could be useful.


Tuition fees are due on the first day of the academic year and students are sent an invoice prior to beginning their studies. Payments can be made in advance, on registration or in two instalments.

Start your application

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Change your life and be here in 2020

The Royal College of Art welcomes applicants from all over the world.

Before you begin

Make sure you've read and understood the entrance requirements
More information about entrance requirements
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Read our application process guide
Visit our applications portal to get started

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