This course enables you to explore the relationship between cultural identity and architecture in the context of an increasingly globalised world. An examination of the history of Western architecture and architectural discourse reveals that, for the most part, issues of race, gender, ethnicity, nationality and the intense cultural changes brought about by globalisation do not figure in the study of architecture or the built environment. However, in a number of disciplines parallel to architecture, important questions concerning cultural identity have arisen which have challenged perceived notions of truth, beauty, power and form.
In literature, cultural studies, postcolonial studies and gender studies, to name but a few, the question of ‘difference’ has been explored in new, complex and innovative ways. The course believes these issues are also central to architectural design and research, and offers you a unique opportunity to participate in this stimulating and increasingly relevant body of knowledge.
You will normally hold a good Honours degree in architecture or a related built environment discipline. You may be required to attend an interview, and to bring a portfolio of work demonstrating prior experience and interests. Overseas candidates may submit a portfolio or samples of their project work in digital format for inspection. You will need fluent written and spoken English to study at postgraduate level. If your first language is not English, you will need an IELTS score of at least 6.5 (or equivalent). The University offers pre-sessional summer programmes if you need to improve your English before starting your course.
The course promotes multimedia investigations and interdisciplinary methodologies. A primary objective of the course is to contextualise works of architecture to reveal how wider cultural influences and global networks inform their production. This is done through examining key theoretical discourses from the disciplines of architecture and cultural studies, undertaking experimental design projects, and evaluating the work of architects, artists and filmmakers.
The ultimate objective of the course is to enable you to develop as ‘culturally sensitive designers’. The course team is made up of dedicated individuals with considerable experience in the subject area. The team, together with visiting academics and practitioners, promote a dynamic studio environment which fosters creativity and is characterised by debate, dialogue and exchange.
DESIGN PROJECT 1
You will be asked to formulate a conceptual strategy at an urban scale that engages with issues of cultural identity and globalisation in the city. You will work both individually and collaboratively within a group. The project will be based on a different topic of investigation each year, and will respond to current concerns about architecture within a specific urban and cultural context, as well as its broader global context.
THEORIES OF IDENTITY, CULTURE AND GLOBALISATION
The aim of the module is to introduce you to the notion of the ‘culturally sensitive designer’. A series of lectures and seminars will serve as a broad introduction to those discourses dealing with issues of cultural identity and globalisation, and which have a particular relationship to architecture. In addition to discussing the way in which architects and designers have engaged cultural identity through their work, the module will draw upon the discipline of Cultural Studies as major reference for theoretical ideas.
This module prepares you for the subsequent Major Thesis Project by introducing research issues and themes, and covers research methods, analysis, agenda, concept and strategy. You will undertake a series of short projects (both creative and written) throughout the module.
DESIGN PROJECT 2
This module focuses on a site-specific design project examining the nature and meaning of cultural identity and globalisation in spatial and material terms. You will develop methodologies, visual ‘languages’ and programmatic strategies that result in a design project of considerable conceptual, formal, spatial, and material resolution. You will work individually, and your project will be based on a different topic of investigation each year, responding to current concerns about architecture within a specific urban and cultural context, as well as its broader global context. This module is linked with the international field trip, in which the site is usually located.
REPRESENTATIONS OF DIASPORA, CULTURAL IDENTITY AND DIFFERENCE
This module focuses on diasporic communities and explores their representation and cultural practice in the city. Student-based seminars will enable you to explore your individual responses to the given brief. You will be introduced to the discipline of anthropology from which you will utilise methods that allow a deep understanding of particular communities, their complex cultural contexts, and their relationship with the built environment.
MAJOR THESIS PROJECT
The module specifically deals with the research, development, exploration, synthesis and conclusion of your chosen area of study for your Major Thesis Project. It is important to note that the Major Thesis Project can take a form that is design-based or text-based, depending on your choice. The course of study for the Thesis Development module will as a consequence depend also on the type/format of research methods that you are evolving for your thesis project.
The course enables you to identify your particular specialist interests early on and to construct a final portfolio which reflects your ambitions beyond the MA. Students who have successfully completed the course have obtained positions or taken greater responsibility in architectural practice or other branches of spatial design, taken up teaching posts in schools of architecture, and have also gone on to work overseas. Former students have also used the MA as a platform for continuing study in academia and research, and it may lead to study for an MPhil/PhD or PhD by Design degree.
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