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Reshaping the city

Key details

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

School or Centre

Career opportunities

  • City Design graduates are expected to go on to work in a range of fields, from architectural design practices focussed on questions of housing, to multidisciplinary design practices operating at a city scale, to further academic study, to roles in NGOs, urban planning agencies and design agencies.

Envisioning new concepts of city and urban life by placing design speculation at the core of social innovation

Still accepting applications for 2022 entry. See the Key Dates webpage for round 4 details.

This programme is subject to validation

MA City Design envisions new concepts of city and urban life by placing design speculation at the core of social innovation.

City life is undergoing momentous change. New forms of urban development and technologically driven forms of social innovation are transforming the way we live, work, reproduce and take care of the world around us, producing new lines of social solidarity as well as new sites of social conflict. Yet most of the methods used to research and design cities have resisted change, thus limiting our abilities of perceiving relevant changes and of conceiving radically different futures.

MA City Design believes in the unique capacities of design to conceptualise and propose new and original models of living in cities. It proposes an approach to city design education that unites architectural, social sciences and scientific research. The programme is site-focused and design-led and students have the potential to engage with NGOs, policy makers, government and industry.

Our Industry Advisory Group is a consultative forum that supports the continual improvement of the MA City Design programme and ensures its relevance to ongoing problems and issues in city-making globally.

Catch the replays from our November 2021 online Open Day.



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

View all facilities

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. Studio workspace is provided for each student. 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.

  • MA City Design design studio crit (photo: Tarsha Finney)

    MA City Design design studio crit (photo: Tarsha Finney)

  • Unit Trip, Barcelona 2019 (photo: Tarsha Finney)

    Unit Trip, Barcelona 2019 (photo: Tarsha Finney)

  • Seminar with Dr Chris Lee of Serie Architects

    Seminar with Dr Chris Lee of Serie Architects speaking about urban change in Singapore and London. Image: Tarsha Finney

  • Students in the School of Architecture Studios (photo: Richard Haughton)

    Students in the School of Architecture Studios (photo: Richard Haughton)

  • Activity in the School of Architecture Studios (photo: Richard Haughton)

    Activity in the School of Architecture Studios (photo: Richard Haughton)

  • Studio crit

    Studio crit

  • Graduation Exhibition MA City Design 2018. Sara Anand, Stavros Oikonomidis, Julian Siravo, Priscila Mauro, Yara Galal, Image: Tarsha Finney

    Graduation Exhibition MA City Design 2018. Sara Anand, Stavros Oikonomidis, Julian Siravo, Priscila Mauro, Yara Galal, Image: Tarsha Finney.

  • London, September 2021.

    London, September 2021.

  • London, September 2021.

    London, September 2021.

More details on what you'll study.

Find out what you'll cover in this programme.

What you'll cover

This programme is subject to validation

The MA City Design makes use of digital design, analysis and visualisation tools, including moving image, animation, augmented and immersive design, as drivers of speculative innovation. Together with collaborative forms of knowledge production and exchange, the programme argues these are necessary for enabling the designers of cities to creatively imagine the future in just and equitable ways. Through invited guests, collaborators and site visits, students will have access to different stakeholders involved in contemporary urban transformation. These will range from industry and design practitioners to central and local government, or community and grassroots organisations.

Students of the MA City Design will have the opportunity to pursue a degree within a world leading art and design institution, and to access the rich culture of radical and experimental interdisciplinary work at the Royal College of Art. Moreover, the programme will help students to establish a network of colleagues and mentors by offering them the opportunity of connecting to leading figures in City Design both in London and internationally through an innovative practice mentorship scheme.

This programme is subject to validation

The programme is delivered across three terms and includes a combination of programme, School and College units.

Term 1

Design Studio 1: Conditions: This unit consists of an introduction to the programme’s field-focused, design-led, and project-based pedagogical model. It familiarises you with particular modes of work, especially design based research methodologies, and collaborative forms of knowledge production.

Seminar 1: Positions: The Seminar unit aims to help you situate city design in relation to the collective knowledge, perspectives and experiences of those in the frontlines of urban disputes.

College-wide unit – Running across terms 1 and 2, this unit aims to support students to meet the challenges of a complex, uncertain and changing world by bringing them together to work collaboratively on a series of themed projects informed by expertise within and beyond the College. These projects will challenge you to use your intellect and imagination to address key cultural, social, environmental and economic challenges. In doing so, you will develop and reflect on the abilities required to translate knowledge into action, and help demonstrate the contribution that the creative arts can make to our understanding and experience of the world.

Term 2

Design Studio 2: Propositions A field trip will help you to gain an in-depth perspective on the research. You are expected to work in relation to multiple scenarios rather than a single proposition. This will require a clear hierarchy of ideas and approaches, in response to changing conditions. A core element in this unit is the understanding of potential externalities such as conflicts between stakeholders or changes in the material, political and economic conditions that structure the project.

Seminar 2: Transformations Seminar 2 deepens your understanding of contemporary urban struggles and the processes that underline them.

Media Studies In term 2 all School of Architecture students will participate in the Media Studies, School-wide unit. The unit aims to increase students’ critical engagement with media and space. Through this unit you will be supported to increase your cross-disciplinary communication and you will be challenged to expand your media practice beyond architecture’s reliance on media as purely representation.

Term 3

Independent Research Project (IRP) The Independent Research Project is a continuation of the work previously developed in the Studio Units ‘Conditions’ and ‘Propositions’. This is an opportunity for you to reflect on the theme of the studio while pursuing your own research interests, either in continuity with studio units or in a new direction. Priority will be given to the use and exploration of digital research, design and visualisation tools.

Lifta Group, 2021-22.

The programme focuses on case studies and organises student research and projects around site-specific questions and spatial problems within cities. Working in groups, Design Studio 1 will ask students to investigate existing urban ‘Conditions’, while Design Studio 2 requires students to develop a series in ‘Propositions’. Each year the design studio units focus on a unique case study. Case studies are chosen according to their capacity to challenge and inspire students, and to allow for critical and skills based teaching within the studio.

Design Studio 2021/22

Students in the MA City design programme focus on archeological sites in Palestine as sites of urban struggle. The studio will follow challenging lines of flight that explore different scales and forms of urban struggle including the right to public and private space, ecological terrorism, religious tourism, oral history, excavation labour, militarised archaeology, cultural heritage, displacement and restitution.

The studio will work towards collective knowledge building and embrace a collective mode of operating. The studio work will engage collaborations in physical and virtual platforms where the output of those collaborations, and the output of the studio research, is to be used towards growing a living archive while centering Palestinian voices. This long term vision sets forth methods for making visible the manipulation of the ground for political gain. Further, the studio vision puts forth collective interventions in the first three terms, creating concrete shifts in the understanding, both conceptually and legally, of archaeological sites as a space of resistance. In term 4, the students will embark on their Independent Research Project taking off from the same lines of flight but through their individual and independent methods and interests.

Past Studios Archive

  • Design Studio 2020/21: Post Pandemic Urbanism.
  • Design Studio 2018/19: New Logics of Intimacy and Care: City/House.

Practice mentor studio

Our mentorship scheme is an innovative partnership between the MA City Design programme, and city and urban design professionals.

For the final Independent Research Proposal, you’ll work on-site within leading London-based firms involved in urban thinking and action. These might be architectural practices, but they might also be municipal authorities, planning practices or other allied fields. During your time on placement, key people within the organisation will provide feedback relevant to your project.

Access to and reflection on real-world practice will offer you unique career insights, while our partners benefit from innovative thinking emerging from the RCA. Working with you also enriches our partners’ network of high performing professionals working in cities across the world.

Recent practice mentors include:

Silwan group, 2021-22

The independent research project (IRP) is a continuation of the work previously developed in the Studio Units ‘Conditions’ and ‘Propositions’. This is an opportunity for students to reflect on the theme of the studio while pursuing their own research interests, either in continuity with studio units or in a new direction. Priority will be given to the use and exploration of digital research, design and visualisation tools.

Teaching consists of studio based tutorials and seminar sessions. The IRP project can be submitted through project or by thesis, and includes a Public presentation of work, that might take the form of an event or exhibition. The portfolio will be submitted in the form of a blog/online platform.

Lunch scenes, Sara Anand

Each year, City Design MA students undertake two field trips

The first is a short study tour of a European city such as Barcelona, Zurich or Berlin.

The second is a longer design workshop study trip. For the last three years, the destination for this trip has been Hong Kong. Here we partner with NGO Help for Domestic Workers and the Tai Kwun cultural centre Hong Kong in a 10-day workshop looking at the production, use and domestication of public space in the city.

Follow us on Instagram for more details, and look out for our public programming in Hong Kong while we are there in February 2020.

In addition, in mid-February 2020, City Design MA will be in Melbourne, Australia as guests of MPavilion and the Naomi Milgrom Foundation. Visit the MPavilion website to view more information about the What is Home workshop and associated public events.

Intergenerational Cities

Intergenerational cities

Essential to understanding the opportunities and challenges of the global intensification of urban life and of a general move toward the city and its inner urban core, is understanding the parallel question of ageing and labour. The plasticity of human capital, its ‘employability’ within new and emerging labour markets, depends on its capacity for both mobility, and for lifelong learning and adaptation. This demand extends the productive lifespan of human beings beyond concepts of retirement established in the twentieth century, while pulling people out and away from traditional support structures such as community or family, those sites that have traditionally carried the responsibility of care for the old and the very young. The Intergenerational Cities Research Group asks: where are the new collectivities of intimacy and care for the intergenerational city if the single-family dwelling and the nuclear and extended family are no longer fit for purpose, or are being pulled undone? 

This research group examines the conditions under which such a question of the relationship between housing and the city may begin to occur: through spatial experimentation and through the innovation and transformation of the performance of housing at multiple scales, in the context of new procurement processes that support such transformation, and through the regulatory framing that needs to transform to support innovation and experimentation with housing ownership.

Future Homes for London

Future Homes for London

Along with St Ann’s Redevelopment Trust, Haringey, The Architecture Foundation and Baylight Foundation, the City Design MA programme organised Future Homes for London, a two-day series of presentations and discussions, questioning alternate models of affordable and community-led housing projects for the UK.

Dongyang Mi RCA Media Studies

This unit enables students to explore how architects communicate ideas from both a contemporary and historical perspective. This encompasses a range of media that spans disciplines, ideologies and methods.

Students will use both analogue and digital technologies to understand better how a designer creates, interrogates and manipulates spatial environments.

This investigation will take place in a critical context, which explores how images are used to manufacture socio-political ideologies and negotiate public identities.

Practice Mentorship Session, 17 June, 2021.

The City Design programme and the School of Architecture offer events all year round, including seminar series, practice mentorship sessions, as well lecture series.

Embodied Knowledges workshop series

Practice Mentorship session, 18 June, 2021

Practice Mentorship Session, 24 June, 2021


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 MA standards overall.

Prospective candidates will likely be students of architecture with a 3+2-year Bachelor and Master’s degree, or Master's-equivalent five-year diploma, preferably in Architecture, Urban Design, Urban Planning or other related design discipline looking to acquire expertise in city and urban design projects.

Other backgrounds, such as social sciences, geography, urban studies, 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.

Evidence of intellectual and professional curiosity and a readiness to engage in a rigorous and demanding period of study is essential.

What's needed from you

A Design Portfolio is a necessary requirement to enter into the programme if your first degree is in Architecture or related design discipline. Candidates entering from non-design disciplines will have to demonstrate exceptional levels of attainment in prior studies and a strong interest in the field. You should submit a digital portfolio via the School’s online applications portal in a way that best reflects your abilities, skills, experience and interests. The portfolio must follow College guidelines for uploading work, such as the following:

  • each project should include a title image and up to 6 supporting gallery images;
  • candidates should provide a description of maximum of 100 words for each title image and a caption of up to 50 words for each supporting gallery image;
  • when submitting collaborative work, students should specify this and clearly indicate their role and responsibility;
  • no actual objects, sketchbooks, physical portfolios or other media should be submitted at the point of application. Submission of any material not listed above will not be accepted;
  • links to personal websites or dropbox/google drive folders are also not acceptable.

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) and at least 5.5 in other skills. 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 Student 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

Fees for September 2022 entry on this programme are outlined below. From 2021 onward, EU students are classified as Overseas for tuition fee purposes.

Overseas and EU


New entrants to the College will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit in order to secure their place. This will be offset against the tuition fees.

Overseas 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

RCA students at work (photo: Richard Haughton)

Change your life and be here in 2022

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 and key dates
More information about eligibility and key dates
Check you have all the information you need to apply.
Read our application process guide
Visit our applications portal to get started

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