Architecture and order

The abstract from my master’s thesis is available below. The full thesis text is not currently available online, please get in touch if you are interested in reading it.

Project Title: Architecture and the order of the urban block

Field of Research: Architecture and the digital context, the city and the urban block.

Research Questions:
How has the city evolved as a result of digital infrastructure? How can this change contribute to the resilience and growth of the city today and in the future?

How can the typology of the urban block, responding to multiple architectural issues with a functional adaptability that contributes to the longevity, and hence sustainability, of the block be interpreted to contribute to the changing context of the city today (‘the digital context’) and in the future?

Research Context:
Colquhoun (1981) notes that since the Industrial Revolution the external pressures on architecture have increased and ‘necessitated a change in architectural rules’. These changes led to the creation of new architectures, influenced by the machine age and the technological context of the time; and a new type of city with a focus on vehicular infrastructure – the car not the pedestrian. But ‘context is neither permanent nor passive’ (Scott Brown, 2011) and the flexibility of digital infrastructure is replacing the rigidity of physical road networks, changing how people live and work, and how communities are formed (Barth, 2011).

The urban block, an organising element within the city (Panerai et al., 2004), is a prevalent form that is subjected to these shifts in context. Balancing the continuity and change that the city must accommodate results in ‘structures [that] can devote their exteriors only to formalism and their interiors only to functionalism’ (Koolhaas, 1994). How the urban block can be designed to be most adaptable to these shifts in context is the focus of this thesis.

Research Methods/Summary:
Mapping a digitally connected city – exploring shift from the ‘pedestrian city’ (Nolli’s map of Rome) to the ‘vehicular city’ (Niemeyer’s Brazilia), and speculations on the future, digital city. Drawing relationships between the urban block and the city and how digital infrastructures can enhance this relationship.

Based on research from Steadman (1983), Balmond (2002), and data from The Metric Handbook (Littlefield, 2011), drawings and models to generate an ‘ultra-rational’ urban block exploring spatial layout, ventilation and daylight penetration, structure, and cores and servicing; with functional adaptability based on research from Alexander, et al. (1977) and Yamamoto (2013) to house interchangeable modular spaces.


Selected drawings produced as part of my research are shown below.

Dundee waterfront

As part of our master’s research unit we looked at alternative strategies for the development of Dundee’s central waterfront zone, part of a £1 billion regeneration project for the City of Dundee. The centrepiece of this development is the £80m V&A at Dundee building designed by Kengo Kuma. Located in the central waterfront zone, the V&A is expected to be a key catalyst in reshaping the image of Dundee.

Our research looked to further explore the potential for regeneration within this zone, specifically with regard to the creation of a new public space, the economic possibilities of extending the historic city centre down to the waterfront, and the nature of the urban block. The influence of history, the possibilities of technology, and the adaptability of space were key areas of interrogation throughout all of our research.

A copy of our publication is available to view below. If you would like a copy in pdf format please get in touch. The feature image shows a historic map of the Dundee central waterfront zone, with the modern reclaimed waterline superimposed in red.

Enterprise hub

A conceptual design project for an enterprise hub, completed as a part of my work for the University of Dundee Enterprise and Employability Committee, exploring the relationship between architecture and entrepreneurship. The wider study included primary research, data analysis, and developing strategy looking at the relationship between operational models and spatial requirements. Some of the strategic research and analysis carried out has been published on the Think Different Dundee blog.

Click on the drawings below to load larger images.

Architecture graphics produced using AutoCAD, Photoshop, and InDesign. The feature image shows a section drawing through the central void of the enterprise hub.

Urban block

A conceptual design research project, driven by Rationalist principles, exploring the creation of ultra-adaptable urban blocks to be inhabited by residential, retail, and commercial units. The design is driven by quantifiable data with a focus on the enduring principles for making architecture:

Spatial layout, daylight penetration and ventilation.

Structure, and spatial adaptability.

Servicing, and functional access requirements.

My master’s thesis, architecture and order in the urban block, explores these ideas in a more theoretical context and is illustrated with more abstract drawings and diagrams.

Selected drawings from this project are shown below. Click on the drawings to load larger images.

Architecture graphics produced using AutoCAD, Photoshop, and InDesign. The feature image shows a massing model and facade study for a proposed urban block.