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Royal College of Art Launches New City Design MA Programme

The RCA is launching a new City Design programme for 2017/18: a 15-month, 240-credit MA programme based within the School of Architecture. It is aimed at an emerging generation of architects interested in harnessing social, technical and spatial innovation to generate new forms of urban life. Cities are laboratories for the imagination, they are places where differences proliferate and alternatives are allowed to develop. This dynamism and experimentation is intrinsic to urbanism, and design is its most important medium.

‘City Design plays a fundamental role in the RCA’s School of Architecture taught programmes, driven by our active funded research into global urban cultures,’ explains Dr Adrian Lahoud, Dean of Architecture. ‘The new MA City Design acknowledges the urgency of training specialist architects with the skills to design future cities.’

‘This programme sets out to shake-up urban design education. There are so many new issues that we have to learn to deal with that haven’t been absorbed into education yet. The proliferation of new metrics and their impact on policy, how to create meaningful spaces of co-existence between social groups with different value systems, how to make innovation more accessible, how to unlock the significant amount of untapped knowledge in industry, what is the long term legacy of existing urban models in environmental and political terms, the list is quite long. Consider that by 2100, it is estimated that the largest 15 cities by population will be located either in Africa or on the sub-continent. That alone is an epochal shift.’

With a global urban population of 4 billion and 28 megacities, urban life is experiencing momentous change. New social groups are emerging, populations are ageing, family units are extending and dispersing, work is becoming casualised and whole communities have moved online. At the same time, new social divides are appearing on the periphery of cities, between different cultures, and now also between different generations. 

Despite these rapid developments, many of the models used to explain, design, develop and manage cities have resisted change. As new possibilities emerge – from social movements, to automated building supply chains and driverless transport and logistics – students on the City Design MA programme will explore how these developments will radically reshape the city's fundamental elements.

MA City Design is field-focused, design-led and project-based. It proposes a unique, multi-scalar approach to city design education that unites architectural, technological and scientific research. The programme will introduce students to new technologies of calculation, visualisation and representation as essential components in re-imagining the design and management of cities in the future.

Based within the School of Architecture, the City Design MA is established on a distinctive studio-based model, offering students a rigorous and experimental platform for developing and testing ideas within a broad range of international contexts. Project-based studio work forms the core of activity for the first three terms, with complementary technical, historical, theoretical and case study seminars occurring in parallel. Group work is encouraged and considered an important introduction to the inherently collaborative process of city design. In the fourth and final term, students will complete an Independent Research Project as an individual submission, which will offer the opportunity to work on a detailed design proposal or thesis with support and feedback from urban and city design practitioners.

The RCA offers a unique environment to study architecture. Here, students can pursue a degree alongside designers and fine artists in an interdisciplinary, world-leading, postgraduate-only environment. Shared modules at programme, School and College level encourage different scales of collaboration with related disciplines and across the College.

Alongside the opportunity to establish a strong network of colleagues and mentors at the RCA, the City Design programme also offers students the opportunity to connect with leading figures in the field, through an innovative partnership scheme with practices in London.

‘Studying at the RCA’s London campus allows students to access the unparalleled concentration of practice-based city design knowledge in the city,’ Lahoud explained. ‘Our students will be supported by industry placements, to ensure they are embedded within architectural practice throughout their study, with the opportunity to make connections that will benefit their future careers.’ 

The City Design timetable has been designed to encourage participation from candidates that are currently working in practice, which means students do not have to choose between study and career as the two can be concurrent and be mutually beneficial. For 2017/18 entry, the School of Architecture is offering financial assistance through full-fee scholarships and partial bursaries based on merit and financial need for applicants in MA City Design. 

Candidates with a background in landscape architecture, architecture, urban design or other related design disciplines are encouraged to apply. Those with a prior degree in a discipline with no design component, such as the social sciences, geography, urban studies, planning or economics, will also be considered if prior work is of exceptional merit and students are able to demonstrate their ability to work alongside and contribute to multidisciplinary teams.


Find out more about City Design and how to Apply.

Scholarships and Bursaries

For 2017/18 entry, full-fee scholarships and partial bursaries based on merit and financial need are available for UK, EU and international applicants in MA City Design.

When applying to MA City Design or MA Environmental Architecture, contact [email protected] if you also wish to apply for a bursary or scholarship. 

Scholarships are based on a combination of merit and financial need. Final decisions on award will be made by the School of Architecture Scholarships and Bursaries Committee. 

To be considered for a scholarship or bursary you must complete your application for admission to the programme, alongside a financial questionnaire and personal statement by the 12 June 2017. The financial questionnaire is available from RCA Student Support. The personal statement should set out an inspiring vision for architecture and design with regards to the applicants’ own practice.

The School of Architecture Scholarship and Bursaries Committee will notify applicants of its decision on 28 June 2017.