The Masters in Architecture and Urban Design at the University of Cambridge is unique in combining a professional course towards the RIBA Part 2 with a Master’s degree in Philosophy. Independent research through design is complemented by structured learning, towards the development of one project for the full two years. We were free to choose the geographic area of our interest to frame our study throughout this programme, from which we have identified an architectural issue that is characteristic to that place and has the potential to develop into a project. Therefore the course hones a distinct area of interest to generate an informed body of work, as well as developing various research, design and presentation skills.
The course is structured by an initial two terms in ‘residence’ in Cambridge, followed by a 9 month fieldwork period, and a final term in Cambridge.
During the first stage of the programme (October 2014 - May 2015), we have developed a distinct design approach into which we have built a supporting research framework. Following more in depth research ‘in the field’, we will return to Cambridge in April 2016 to progress with the written component of the MPhil. The design direction of the second stage draws upon the technical findings of the initial research, but focuses on the socio-political conditions and cultural traditions shaping the area of focus in order to build a set of far-reaching proposals.
The fieldwork period supports this research framework in both structure and content. We have been free to define the nature of this period, working in our area of study either within professional practice, or within a related institution. I have chosen to live and study in the historic centre of L’Aquila, working alongside the Gran Sasso Science Institute’s department of Urban Studies. The fieldwork has been an opportunity to assemble a strong body of primary and secondary material for the thesis and design proposal. This Journal acts as the primary record of this period of research.
The complementary outcomes of the MPhil are a resolved design proposal and research thesis. Together with the fieldwork placement, they provide an opportunity for further exploration into our areas of interest within design practice, whilst offering a framework to pursue meaningful research beyond the MPhil.