Dr Sam Jacoby


  • Architect Dr Sam Jacoby is a researcher in the School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art.

  • Biography

  • Jacoby is a chartered architect with a Diploma from the Architectural Association School of Architecture and a doctorate from the Technische Universität Berlin in architectural history and theory. He is currently a researcher at the Royal College of Art and Director of the MPhil in Architecture and Urban Design (Projective Cities) at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. He was previously a visiting professor at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart and taught at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, University of Nottingham and Hochschule Anhalt.

    Before setting up in private practice, Jacoby worked for architectural and planning offices in the UK, Germany, USA and Malaysia, and trained as a cabinet-maker in Germany.

    Jacoby authored Drawing Architecture and the Urban (2016) and guest-edited the special journal issues ‘Type versus Typology’ for The Journal of Architecture (2015) and ‘New Design Research in Architecture and Urban Design’ for Urban Flux (2015). He also co-edited the book Typological Formations: Renewable Building Types and the City (2007) and a special journal issue ‘Typological Urbanism: Projective Cities’ for Architectural Design (2011).

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  • External collaborations

  • Member of Academic Board and Graduate School Management Committee, Architectural Association School of Architecture.

  • Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes

  • Selected Publications

    Jacoby, S. (2016) Drawing Architecture and the Urban, Chichester: Wiley. 

    Jacoby, S. ed., (2015) ‘Type versus Typology’, special issue of The Journal of Architecture, 20(6).

    Jacoby, S. (2015) ‘Typal and Typological Reasoning: A Diagrammatic Practice of Architecture’, The Journal of Architecture, 20.6 (Dec 2015), p.938–61.

    Jacoby, S. ed., (2015) ‘New Design Research in Architecture and Urban Design’, special issue of Urban Flux, 45(5).

    Jacoby, S. (2015) ‘Architectural Urbanism: Proposals for the Arab World’, in R. Saliba (ed), Reconceptualising Boundaries: Urban Design in the Arab World, Farnham: Ashgate, p.97–113.

    Lee, C. and Jacoby, S., eds., ‘Typological Urbanism: Projective Cities’, special issue of Architectural Design, 81.1 (Jan/Feb 2011).

    Lee, C. and Jacoby, S., eds., (2007) Typological Formations: Renewable Building Types and the City, London: AA Publications.      

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  • Awards and Grants

  • (2016–2017) Research and Knowledge Exchange Development Fund (RCA) in support of ‘Classification and Evaluation of Spatial Design in Learning Environments’.

    (2014) Architecture Research Fund (University College London) in support of production of book Drawing Architecture and the Urban.

Selected work


Research interests

Jacoby’s general research interests are in design research, urban design (architectural urbanism), and architectural and urban history and theory.

Current and recent research

Neighbourhood Transformations and New Communities

Led by grassroots organisations, social movements, governments, and real estate developers who see them as a means to achieve equitable developmental and address social needs, initiatives to build sustainable communities are growing in momentum globally. Ideas of communal development hark back to the origins of city planning and socialist theory in the nineteenth century to the present. Examples include utopian communes in the US, Soviet housing communes, Chinese work units, age-friendly neighbourhoods, co-operative land trust’s, and gated and smart communities to tomorrow's knowledge-based campuses. Common to both historical and contemporary forms of communal development is the recognition that their economic, social, and political agendas are only realised through architecture and urban planning. This research examines these issues in the context of China, which has a unique history of collective forms of living and working. Since the Maoist Era, collective living in China was planned and managed at the neighbourhood scale through enclosed compounds, gated communities, and communal villages that set out to replace traditional family structures with a socialist pastoral state, work relationships, and collectivist lifestyle providing for all necessities of life.

Community-based development is still prolific in China, creating new urban forms that coincide with new models of urban governance. They also continue to determine access to housing, employment, public services, and social welfare. As much as community initiatives might solve current problems with urbanisation, they might also be their root cause. This is evident in China’s floating population of 247 million, its imbalanced urban and rural development, and the inequality of access to public services and employment. Therefore neighbourhood transformations and new communities play a fundamental role in the challenges facing urban design as it adapts to social change. The research examines interdisciplinary urban design practice in relationship to community and neighbourhood transformation that are shaped by emerging models of governance and new economies.

Housing and Machine Learning

Despite the severity of the housing crisis, there is a lack of consistent, reliable data on interior spaces at either the neighbourhood or the urban scale. In fact, it remains impossible to determine the dimensions, or the layout of an average apartment in numerical terms. This continues to undermine our ability to improve housing quality, to understand existing housing standards, to produce focused intelligent policy and ultimately, to improve living conditions. This is all the more remarkable when we consider how much of our life takes place indoors, especially in a city like London. This research aims to generate new insight into housing, especially in London and the spatial organisation of the dwelling in order to produce alternative definitions of housing quality based on statistical and quantitative data (not just qualitatively selected precedents). This is to ground discussions of policy, standards, and the design of housing on a more solid body of evidence. Data obtained through computational and statistical tools promises to revolutionise the way we understand our domestic environments as well as design and policy decisions that emerge from them.

Learning Environments

The impact of spatial design has been most extensively researched in the context of learning environments. There is general agreement on a correlation between learning spaces and social practices of teaching and learning. Schools and their design are proven to be important for social mobility, social justice, and the building of social capital. Yet, the relationships between the design of learning spaces, pedagogy, learning styles, and learning experience or attainment is still largely argued in aspirational terms. While research shows that well-designed physical environments are linked to high-quality learning and increased attainment, there is limited evidence to support this claim once a basic standard of design is achieved, which is predominantly measured in terms of environmental comfort.

Despite recent advances in more holistic approaches to explain the importance of design to learning, a significant knowledge gap remains in understanding how spatial design, organisation, and quality either complement or inhibit pedagogical practice and learning experience, and how the impact of design can be better understood through mixed assessment methods and the inclusion of intangible factors. The aim of this research is to examine the agency of spatial design in the context of higher education, in order to develop more effective design processes for learning spaces.


Research students