Note: Closing date for applications is 17th February
To be eligible for consideration for a DEL studentship (including a stipend of £14,296 and home /EU fees) candidate must have been ordinarily resident in the UK for 3 years (with no restrictions). EU residents may be eligible for studentship covering fees-only. Further details at:
The Past and Future Spaces of the Supermarket
An area mostly overlooked by architects, the relationship between food and cities is fundamental to our everyday lives. Food shapes cities, and through them, it moulds us as well as the countryside that is farmed to feed us. The rise of large scale, hyper-efficient industrialized food production – although it has generated more food, more cheaply than at any time in history – has reached a point of dangerously diminishing returns both economically and environmentally. Our system for producing, marketing and moving what we eat is growing less and less compatible with the billions of consumers that the system was built to serve. The supermarket is both symptom and cause of these conditions.
In Hungry City Carolyn Steel discusses aspects of the environmental impact of supermarkets. She relates how the paradisiac dream of plenty realised daily on shelves piled high with cheap, colourful, convenient and reliable produce may well turn out to be more of a nightmare. According to Steel, the supermarket not only denies the nature of food itself – seasonal, squashable, bruisable, unpredictable, but is inherently unsustainable and dangerously destructive. Fascinated by the practicalities of siting, building and supplying cities, Steel points out that one of the strangest things about feeding the modern urban world is ‘the sheer invisibility of the process’.
This research project investigates these relationships from an architectural and spatial perspective, exploring form, infrastructure and logistics through historical, environmental, ecological and cultural lenses. Through the unpacking of these layers and how the process of supply chains of supermarkets operate, the spatialities of the supermarket’s past and present can be used as a means of unlocking what this might mean for its future.
Supervisor: Greg Keeffe
Architecture and the Bomb in Belfast and Beyond
If one of the imagined futures of the city is increased and intensive securitisation, then Belfast represents an antecedent. Site of an urban conflict for over thirty years, much as been written about the effects of The Troubles on the society and space of Northern Ireland. And yet very little has been written about the specific architecture realised in the city centre of Belfast and elsewhere. Architecture during this period, whether replacing previous bomb-damaged buildings or not, was often built in anticipation of the bomb. The ultimate veto on planning permissions was held by the British Army. Accordingly, late twentieth-century Belfast became a laboratory for the types of urban defensive tactics that have developed to currently pervade many western cities as architecture – at the scale of the building and its components including the façade – became calibrated and designed according to the threat of improvised ordnance in general and the car bomb in particular. The result was a generation of buildings which, unlike the overt trappings of militarisation such as check points and watchtowers, not only endure but hide their military exigencies in plain sight through aesthetic and architectural filters, conventions and (often postmodernist) style. Seeking to combine a range of disciplinary methodologies including architecture, art history, geography and planning, this research project maps the relationship between architecture and the bomb in the development of late twentieth-century Belfast and, by extension, elsewhere.
Supervisor Gary A. Boyd
Architecture as Product? Learning from Product Design Education.
Architecture is considered as bespoke and highly contextual practice, where the architect, commissioned by a client, designs one-off outcomes. Aside from large global architecture offices, the majority of architecture practices are small, localized in nature and geographically restricted in market. Whilst Architecture considers itself to be a socio-political endeavor its understanding of end users is only infrequently tested during the design process and in post-occupancy evaluation. Where once the architect was master mason, architectural practice is increasingly remote from the act of building, and material understanding rests predominately with the contractor and subcontractors.
The story is similar in architectural education. Context is a dominant discourse in the majority of design studios; end–users are rarely present to inform the learning or critique the outcomes; and technology and material understanding often emerge late in formal design processes with little opportunity for students to test or prototype.
In comparison Product Design is focused on end user experience, material understanding, and means of manufacture. Such criteria are not simply design aspirations rather they are tested and prototyped. Product Design seeks as much to ensure efficiency in process and production (related to cost and economy), as it does, the quality of end-user experience.
Architects have at various moments and with varying success considered architecture as product typically though the application of prefabrication technologies. This research however is concerned with moving towards ‘architecture as product’ through an understanding of product design processes. It will do this by comparing architectural education with product design education, initially within the context of the Architecture and Product Design Engineering courses in QUB and then through existing national/international networks.
The research will inform and enrich a shared and explicit understanding of design in the new faculty initiative, D-cubed
Supervisor: Ruth Morrow
 2010 RIBA practice survey revealed that 76% of architects practices employ less than 10 employees and 58% employ 5 or less.
 Whilst this is a deliberately stereotypical overview it is nevertheless recognizable .
The Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Friendly City
As a society we have a responsibility to provide an inclusive built environment. For those with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) however, the world can be a frightening, difficult and confusing place. The challenge of integrating more fully into society can be distanced by an alienating built environment. This is particularly debilitating for younger children who can find themselves detached from learning and interaction with their peers by uncomfortable surroundings.
Recently therefore there has been a growing interest in promoting ASD-friendly environments. With regard to individual buildings, strategies to date have generally followed a widely accepted reductionist or generalist approach. Alongside this there now needs to be a greater discussion of what truly constitutes an ASD-friendly city, in conjunction with investigating what strategies best articulate a progressive approach to supporting those, and especially the young, with ASD in our built environment.
With the incidence of ASD on the rise, now is the time to take stock. In the sensorium that is the city, those with ASD, like many others with a disability, are often overlooked and forgotten. Susceptible to mental illness, they can unfortunately find themselves increasingly isolated, not just socially, but also temporally and spatially. Cast adrift and unable to navigate in the city, the child with ASD runs the risk of forever being lost.
Instead the hope is that by questioning what genuinely constitutes an ASD-friendly city, we might ultimately help facilitate greater inclusion of the child with ASD into mainstream society at large.
Supervisor: Keith McAllister
Designers, Kings and Assemblers
This PhD project will emerge from examining the interconnections, divergent motivations and mutuality’s between architect/designer and assembler. Paraphrasing Wajcman’s three-layered definition of technology as the intertwining of the thing/object, the knowhow and the user interaction, the project may seek to address such areas as:
- how architectural technologies embody human engagement and interaction
- the mutuality of the relationship between designer and assembler
- what constitutes ‘knowhow’ (tacit knowledge) in architectural technology and how it can be shared and communicated.
- understanding the tensions between technical performance and humane specification
- the role of the assembler in-forming the aesthetic.
Applicants are encouraged to respond to the themes above through their own expertise and interest whilst drawing on the experience and profile of the named supervisor.
Supervisor: Ruth Morrow
StreetSpace. Understanding mixed use streets for a more sustainable urban future
The urban environment is a complex entity, where a myriad of actors, parties, stakeholders or ‘people’ interact constantly and compete for their own priorities for urban space. Streets are a specific unit within that urban environment, and they reveal themselves as scenes of conflict. They are contested public spaces where fundamentally different people can meet. Architects, planners, designers and policy makers have designed, managed and controlled the way streets are used, occupied and transited. Academics have raised awareness of the value of streets that are diverse, vibrant and inclusive, while urban policy focuses on the commercial value of city streets, and urban designers on their aesthetic and formal qualities. But what makes good streets? Is it the boundaries and thresholds created by buildings binding them? Is it the use of those buildings? Is it the street’s identity, history and memory? Or how they are used and understood by different people? Can streets survive a transformation of their fabric and use without losing their quality as distinct places?
This PhD will investigate the layers that make mixed use streets by analysing specific case studies and developing a multidisciplinary methodology that includes the study of urban form, urban policy and ethnography. It will aim to define how designing and managing the development of street spaces could provide a more socially sustainable urban future beyond the scope of built environment disciplines. It is open to prospective students from architecture, planning, urban and human geography and anthropology/ethnography.
Supervisor: Agustina Martire
‘Hyper-diversity’ Spaces: Negotiating the urban geographies of young people in contemporary cities
Cities across the globe are becoming increasingly divers and recently impacted by successive waves of immigration. However, we still find their urban encounters reproduced through negotiating differences that escalates moods of social inequality and spatial imbalances. Vertovec (2007) has theorised Western cities as cities of super-diversity, referring specifically to their increasing ethnic diversity and to the demographic and socioeconomic diversity between and within these ethnic groups. Cities are now shifting towards new modes of hyper-diversity indicating that such places are not only diverse in ethnic, demographic and socioeconomic terms, but that also many differences exist with respect to attitudes, lifestyles and behaviours. Individuals within the same population or ethnic sub-group may show quite different attitudes, for example with respect to school, work and parenting. The term hyper-diversity intends to drill down into what appear to be homogeneous groups by going beyond intersecting identity categories, in order to focus upon embodied, emotional and habitual facets of everyday life that further complicate notions of ‘diversity’.
Given contemporary debates about migration, asylum, religious and ethnic difference – which often focus upon young people in urban areas – it is incumbent upon Architects to engage with the shifting and ever complex terrain of diversity. This PhD topic is prompted by one question: to what extent can the concept of ‘hyperdiversity’ challenge and extend architectural, geographical and political scholarship on the lives of diverse urban youth? The conceptual framework will focus on ‘difference and diversity’ as a foundational principle for now well-established theories of Architecture, urban studies and politics. The thesis will survey significant scholarship that examines how experiences of the youth are patterned by intersections of class, ethnicity, gender and religion, amongst other identity categories. Despite many studies being located in urban settings, scholarship on youth people has rarely influenced theoretical developments within Architecture and urbanism. Yet there is far more work to be tested and examined to articulate the many ways in which people’s everyday urban lives might matter to Architecture and urban studies scholarship.
Supervisor: Gehan Selim
Ways of Seeing Cities through Architecture and Cinema: Urban Film Locations across Ireland
While the relationship between cinema, architecture and the urban environment has become the subject of a growing interdisciplinary research area, very limited research has been conducted on the cinematic representation of Irish cities and the history of film production on the island from an architectural and/or urbanistic perspective. The project represents a substantive attempt to put its two capitals, Belfast and Dublin, on the expanding global map of cinematic cities. It will examine how fiction films shot and/or set in Belfast and Dublin represent their architectural and urban environment as well as the experience of their citizens. By looking at the understudied role of cinema in the cultural and social development of Belfast and Dublin, this comparative approach will offer an innovative perspective on the urban development and experience on two sides of the border.
This unique project comes at a critical time in which local and international investments support the growth of the film and media industry on both sides of the border. It aims to highlight ways of seeing the city that have been overlooked by architects, urban designers and policy makers due to a lack of interdisciplinarity and a failure to adopt the latest available methodologies. The project explores how the study of film locations can help architects, film scholars and professionals, urban designers, and political authorities to consider alternative ways of understanding how cities change and grow, and are perceived and experienced by residents as well as tourists. It will do so by collecting and producing data, which will be analysed using contemporary methodologies from both architecture and film studies.
This research will include in-depth analyses of significant case studies to generate a new portrait of these cities using audio-visual and textual material including historical and contemporary maps, film clips, photographs, drawings, 3D models, relevant software programmes and critical analyses. Innovative methodological approaches applied will be exemplary for future research. Accordingly, the objectives of the project are:
1. To offer new ways of seeing cities through a comprehensive methodology that will permanently be made available to academic and non-academic bodies
2. To explore how architectural and urban characteristics of film locations and their cinematic representations have influenced each other in Belfast and Dublin
3. To examine how cinema has represented, and influenced, the urban experience of city dwellers, and to see how these images have been presented to outsiders and, in particular, tourists
4. To collaborate with public and private stakeholders to discuss how research findings can support film commissioners, film and television producers and policy makers in promoting a better understanding of the architectural and urban characteristics of Belfast and Dublin, and their development as sites of film tourism
Supervisor: Dr Gul Kacmaz Erk
Architecture and Participation in the Digital Age
Encouraging greater social participation in the design of the built environment has been a policy of the UK government since the 1990’s. Motivating this agenda is the belief that the end-users, the inhabitants, have a fundamental right to give input into the design of the places in which they dwell. It has also been argued that the design output ought to be strengthened through the incorporation of local and tacit knowledge. In response, many architects have already embraced a more participatory mode of practice. New and emerging digital technologies present many more possibilities for democratising the design process and for enabling users to co-design, co-create and co-evaluate architecture. This PhD research will investigate these opportunities will start to unravel what they might mean for the practice of a participatory mode of architectural practice.
Supervisor: Nuala Flood
Swarm City: The new biology of urban design.
The city is changing. No longer is it an aesthetic creation or purely an industrial powerhouse but is becoming a living, breathing super-organism. As such, the urban future will be defined more by its metabolism – a myriad of multiple, competing functions recreating its own particular ecology – than purely its primary function or spatial form.
The city must now be seen as the technology by which we live: not a landscape full of technologies. The old city is a mechanical/cultural hybrid, the new city is different: it will be a geological/biological/informational/technical/cultural landscape, an environment so complete that it will be indistinguishable from nature
The city of the future is then like an iPhone: life without it is unimaginable, because we need it in every aspect of life. The city as a whole needs to be effective, and its constituent parts: transport, industry, commerce, social functions etc., must fit within it and be seamless in use. To do this, the city must be seen as a body, a whole, rather than this collection of parts, and if the city is a body, then it must be subject to the evolutionary forces of the biotic.
To work in this new landscape we will need new methodologies, ones more akin to hacking and prosthetic implantation – such as reverse engineering and patching, or swarm systems thinking – rather than those commonly used in urban design This new city will be a cyborg landscape, a living hybrid of the biotic and the technological that is mutable and flowing; continually adapting to forces global and local. This adaptation is a new form of urban resilience. The thesis will use a research by design methodology to test these new hypotheses.
Supervisor: Greg Keeffe