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Sam Jacoby is an architectural researcher and educator with a diverse research portfolio and practice.

Jacoby is Professor of Architectural and Urban Design Research and the Research Leader of the School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art, responsible for School-wide research strategy and management as well as the Laboratory for Design and Machine Learning.

His teaching experience spans more than 18 years and includes the leading of PhD, MPhil, and MRes research-degree programmes. Jacoby is co-founder and former Director (2009–2019) of the MPhil in Architecture and Urban Design: Projective Cities at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. He was interim Professor of Architecture, Designs, and Building Typology at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart (2016), and has taught at the Hochschule Anhalt, the Bartlett School of Architecture at the University College London, and the University of Nottingham.

Jacoby gained an AA Diploma from the Architectural Association School of Architecture and holds a doctorate from the Technische Universität Berlin.

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Jacoby’s work is interested in the social impact of architectural and urban design research and practice, examining the socio-spatial histories, forms of knowledge production, and analytical and design methodologies that underpin it. His research is informed by his training as an architect and architectural historian, but builds on transdisciplinary collaborations and interdisciplinary approaches.

Current research includes studies of the histories and policies that have shaped housing design through standardised plans, space standards, and functional requirements; explores the analytical and methodological limits or potentials of typological, morphological, and data-driven analysis for design practice and theory; investigates the socio-spatial specificity and role of collective forms and spaces in community-led development and socialised governance; and analyses the importance of wellbeing to understanding design outcomes.

Jacoby is a chartered architect, working in private practice and as a design consultant on a wide range of project scales and building typologies.

He gained experience as a project architect and architectural assistant in the UK, Malaysia, Germany, and USA. Before becoming an architect, Jacoby trained as a cabinet-maker in Germany.

Spatial Design and Wellbeing, 2020

PI (Co-I Yuan Hao, Shanghai University), QR Global Challenges Research Fund

How can we measure and evaluate spatial quality and design through objective indicators and subjective experiences of wellbeing at community, family, and individual levels? In response to this question, we will develop culturally sensitive and contextual wellbeing measurements in relation to the build environment in China and test these in two pilot sites in Shanghai.

Defining Architectural Typologies Through Structural Topologies and Machine Learning, 2019–23

Primary supervisor (partner AKT II), Collaborative Doctoral Award, London Arts & Humanities Partnership (AHRC) – PhD candidate: Yakim Milev

This research examines the often-overlooked relationships between topological structural models and architectural typologies, and their implications for new construction and design processes. It asks: Can integrating a structural and architectural design process delineate new architectural building typologies that are defined by structural topologies, and do these provide useful design responses to social and economic needs in the building industry? It aims to develop design models and processes based on machine learning needed by spatial designers working on architectures that adapt their performance to environmental, social, and economic changes, use less energy, and provide better environmental comfort and space efficiency than static buildings. The PhD by Project proposes an interdisciplinary methodology that brings together existing, statistical and computational methods of analysis from engineering and the sciences and typological design and research methods from an architectural and arts context.

The Effects of Migration on Settlements and Urbanisation in Ethiopia and Uganda


PI (Co-I Adrian Lahoud), QR Global Challenges Research Fund

In collaboration with the University of Addis Ababa, the project undertook fieldwork in Ethiopia in order to create a preliminary classification of settlements and urban area typologies formed by urban migration including internal displacement. The project further conducted a workshop in Addis Ababa in October 2019 with representatives from IOM, UNHCR, local government agencies responsible for migration planning, and academics specialised in migration studies and policies to discuss new approaches to conceptualising, analysing, and researching spatial design and planning issues arising from migration.

Housing Standardisation: Design Guidelines, Regulatory Frameworks, and Policy, 2019–2020

PI (Co-PI Alvaro Arancibia), RKE Research Development Fund (RCA) and Seed Fund (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)

The project examines the impact of quantitative and qualitative standards on housing design and in relation to housing design guidelines, regulatory frameworks, and policy, while asking what the role of social housing is today. Project outcomes are a pilot study of three national contexts (UK, China, and Chile) and an initial international housing design survey.

Construction Automation and Building Processes, 2019

Co-I (PI Manja van de Dorp), RKE Research Development Fund (RCA)

The effects of construction automation on building processes will be examined through a desktop study, case study analysis, and literature review of existing and new design and construction methods needed in the architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry, as well as a series of interviews, site visits, and a workshop with experts in automated construction. The aim of the project is to develop a set of refined mid- and long-term research questions with practical values for the development of automated construction in the AEC industry.

Laboratory for Design and Machine Learning, 2018–22

Co-PI (Co-PI Adrian Lahoud), Prosit Philosophiae Foundation

The Laboratory for Design and Machine Learning has a multi-disciplinary team working on experimental and fundamental research into new methodologies and knowledge needed for emerging design processes at the intersection of machine learning, data processing and visualisation, and legal and developmental frameworks. Its research is dedicated to testing new interdisciplinary forms of designing and evaluation, hereby studying the impact of machine learning and governmental policies on spatial design.

Collective Forms: Neighbourhood Transformations, Spatialised Governmentality and New Communities in China, 2018–19

PI (Co-Is Tan Gangyi, He Xuefeng, Tang Yan), British Academy (The Humanities and Social Sciences Tackling the UK’s International Challenges 2017)

This research examined how social projects, spaces, and realities shape three contexts critical to understanding urban design and planning in China: modes of governmentality; the history of collective spatial development models in relation to current community development; and socio-spatial changes in urban and rural developments. A comparative analysis of community developments in China and a programme of knowledge exchange will study how a national collectivisation in the 1950s created rural people’s commune and urban work-unit systems that laid the foundations to today’s urban problems. Their socio-spatial design, despite extensive policy reforms since 1978, continue to control access to public infrastructures and services, but also created resilient governance and community-building models. The effects of spatial transformations of governmentality are little researched by urban designers and require a new interdisciplinary approach that offers alternatives to Western-centric theory and practice. This is of global relevance, including the UK and its new community-led developments.

Miaosan Community Study, 2018

PI (Co-I Zhang Zhan), Environmental Art Research Centre, Wuhan

Design consultation on an urban regeneration project for the Miaosan Community, Beihu Sub-district, Wuhan, P. R. China.

Classification and Evaluation of Spatial Design in Learning Environments, 2016

PI, RKE Research Development Fund (RCA)

The project is to develop a new spatial classification of higher education learning environments that relate design parameters to pedagogies, and to propose methods to qualitatively evaluate the impact of design on academic learning, teaching and research. The project will bring together a group of advisors from industry, government, and institutions with experience in the design, assessment, commissioning or running of higher education buildings. Through a series of short workshops, feedback from other disciplines and outside experts is sought on the formulation of classification and assessment criteria of learning environments.

Drawing Architecture and the Urban, 2014

PI, Architectural Research Fund, University College London

Grant in support of research for the publication Drawing Architecture and the Urban.



Jacoby, S. & Cheng, J. (Eds.). (2020). The socio-spatial design of community and governance: Interdisciplinary urban design in China. [Manuscript submitted for publication]. Singapore: Tongji University/Springer Nature.

Jacoby, S. (2016). Drawing architecture and the urban. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Lee, C. & Jacoby, S. (Eds.). (2007). Typological formations: Renewable building types and the city. London: AA Publications.

Edited journals

Jacoby, S., Cheng, J. & Tan, G. (Eds.). (2018). Collective forms in China: A contemporary review [Special issue]. New Architecture/Xin Jianzhu, 5.

Jacoby, S. (Ed.). (2015). Type versus typology [Special issue]. The Journal of Architecture, 20 (6).

Jacoby, S. (Ed.). (2015). New design research in architecture and urban design [Special issue]. Urban Flux/Chengshi Kongjian Shiji, 45(5).

Lee, C. & Jacoby, S. (Eds.). (2011). Typological urbanism: Projective cities [Special issue]. Architectural Design, 81(1).

Book chapters

Jacoby, S. (2020). Urban design and spatialised governmentality: Collective forms in China [Manuscript submitted for publication]. In Jacoby, S. & Cheng, J. (Eds.), The socio-spatial design of community and governance: Interdisciplinary urban design in China. Tongji University/Springer Nature.

Cepl, J., Jacoby, S. & Massaro, V. (2020). Oswald Mathias Ungers and the ‘city as a work of art’: The ‘Neue Stadt’ in Cologne, 1961–64 [Manuscript submitted for publication]. In Mosayebi, E. & Kraus, M. (Eds.), The Renewal of Dwelling: European Housing Construction 1945–1975. Triest Verlag.

Jacoby, S. (2015). Architectural urbanism: Proposals for the Arab World. In Saliba, R. (Ed.), Reconceptualising boundaries: Urban design in the Arab World (pp. 97–113). Ashgate.

Journal articles

Ozer, S. & Jacoby, S. (2021) Subsidized housing and design standards: An international comparison [Manuscript submitted for publication].

Jacoby, S. (2019). Collective forms and collective spaces: A discussion of urban design thinking and practice based on research in Chinese cities. China City Planning Review, 28 (4), 10–17.

Jacoby, S. & Cheng, J. (2018). Collective forms in China: People’s commune and danwei. New Architecture/Xin Jianzhu, 5, 5–11.

Jacoby, S. (2018). Oswald Mathias Ungers: Dialectical principles of design. The Journal of Architecture, 23(7-8), 1230–1258. [Peer-reviewed].

Cepl, J., Jacoby, S. & Massaro, V. (2018). Grünzug Süd: An urban design manifesto. San Rocco, 14, 133–143.

Jacoby, S. (2015). Type versus typology.The Journal of Architecture, 20 (6), 931–937.

Jacoby, S. (2015). Typal and typological reasoning: A diagrammatic practice of architecture. The Journal of Architecture, 20 (6), 938–961.

Jacoby, S. (2015). Design research: Pedagogies and methodologies. Urban Flux/Chengshi Kongjian Shiji), 45 (5), 8–19.


(2019) Collective Forms in China: Wuhan (Cities Exhibition, with Jingru Cheng) and Collective Subjectivities and Housing (Global Studios Exhibition, with Platon Issaias). 2nd Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism.

(2018) People’s Commune and Danwei (with Jingru Cheng). Venice Biennale, 16th International Architecture Exhibition: Across Chinese Cities – The Community.

(2016) Collective Forms in China (with Jingru Cheng). Beijing Design Week.

(2016) Drawing Architecture and the Urban. 1st Tehran Architecture Biennial: Architecture Today.

(2012) Ungers’s Villa [Roosevelt Island]. Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York City: Past Futures, Present, Futures


(2019) Representations/Investigations: Media in Architecture, the Territory and the Urban (co-organiser with Platon Issaias). Architectural Association School of Architecture (London).

(2018) Spatialised Governmentality: China and the Global Context. Royal College of Art (London).

(2018) The Chinese Neighbourhood Unit. Tsinghua University (Beijing, China).

(2018) Collective Forms: New Communities. Huazhong University of Science and Technology (Wuhan, China).

(2018) Future Homes for London: Alternate Models (co-organised with Tarsha Finney and StART Haringey). Royal College of Art (London).

(2017) Architectural Urbanism (co-organised with Jingru Cheng). Huaxin Conference Centre (Shanghai, China).

(2017) Socio-spatial Design and the Transformation of Urban-rural China (co-organised with Jingru Cheng). Shanghai Jia Tong University (China).

(2016) Contemporary Urban Design Education. Architectural Association School of Architecture (London).

(2014) Type versus Typology. Architectural Association School of Architecture (London).


Led or organised funded research and knowledge exchange activities with:

  • Shanghai University, China
  • Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
  • Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago de Chile
  • Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China
  • Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
  • Wuhan University, China
  • Shanghai Jia Tong University, China
  • Environmental Art Research Centre of the Hubei Institute of Fine Arts, Wuhan, China
  • VA Art Education


Funding applications

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council | Member of the Peer Review College (Academic and International Reviewer) since 2020
  • Economic and Social Research Council
  • British Academy
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
  • Medical Research Council

Journal articles and book proposals

  • Digital Architecture (Frontiers in Digital Humanities) | Editor since 2014
  • The Journal of Architecture (RIBA/Routledge)
  • Journal of Architecture & Urbanism (VGTU Press)
  • Urban Planning (Cogitatio)
  • Arena Journal of Architectural Research (Architectural Research European Network Association)
  • Architectural Research Quarterly (Cambridge University Press)
  • Architecture and Culture Journal (Architectural Humanities Research Association)
  • Routledge


(2020–) Design Subject Area Group, London Arts & Humanities Partnership

(2017–18) Academic Board, Architectural Association School of Architecture

(2017–18) Graduate School Board, Dessau International Architecture Graduate School, Anhalt University of Applied Sciences

(2009–18) Graduate School Management Committee, Architectural Association School of Architecture


(2019–) London Arts & Humanities Partnership, supervisor

(2019) Juror for Archiprix International (Santiago de Chile)

(2018–) London Doctoral Design Centre, supervisor