MSc Bio Digital Architecture with Dr Tim Ireland

MSc Bio Digital Architecture Programme Director, Dr Tim Ireland, gives an insight into the course

If you have decided to accept our offer and join us in September, you may still have arrangements to make. Perhaps you are still deciding. Here are some insights into the MSc Bio Digital Architecture programme and its context, our plans for the following year and the School you will be joining.


The MSc in Bio Digital Architecture is about building students’ computational skills in architecture to make conceptual prototypes; I argue that this is where the future of architecture lies. You can see examples of our current students’ work in our End of Year Show 2021.

Not only is the future digital, but the way we design and think is increasingly becoming defined by the capacity of digital tools, to expand our thinking/capacities.

Many architectural practices now have specialist modelling teams (small groups of architects and designers that specialise in digital tools to solve problems and generate ideas) and digital software companies are now developing specialist software and integrating plugins into their programmes to optimise design/modelling and enable architects and designers to explore ideas and solve problems. A recent example is Autodesk’s inclusion of generative design techniques in their Revit software.

This down to how computers enable us to explore de-centralised and distributed approaches to problems and to generate shapes and forms. As humans, we tend to think serially (i.e. one thing at a time, generally) but there are processes and things that can be observed in nature that are not like this. They do many things doing things at once, such as ants searching for food, termites building their nest, fish schooling, etc. Nature “designs” (i.e. creates, generates shape and form and solves problems) in a way that can be simulated in computers: i.e. we can use computers to think parallelly. Computer Science has thus built many algorithms with which to simulate the generation of patterns, shapes, form and the behaviours of natural things to explain and understand these things in biology, and to bend them towards problem solving, in response to human issues.

The MSc Bio Digital Architecture programme builds on this practice, and the trends of contemporary science to enhance how designers and architects think and thereby practice architecture. You will be introduced to novel concepts of biology and computer science to understand how these work and apply to architecture: to think about behaviour and the generation of shape, form (and thereby the configuration of space) to understand how these may arise as a product of the consequence of interactions and performance of entities in a system. To think about how architectural ideas and solutions might emerge and to apply this way of thinking and working to generate architectural solutions.

We work at the conceptual level. We care about the creativity of processes and the development of methods and the adaptation of methods to explore the creative use of computation for architectural design. You will be taught how to work with digital tools parametrically but also be taught how to work with computers at the level of code, so that you can work with and adapt algorithms and digital tools and make them your own.

The aim is that you will gain an in-depth understanding of biological concepts and computational methods and to apply them to (conceptual) architectural design in new ways – to redefine how we think about space and the generation of architectural form, to invent and define the future of architectural design.

About your course

At Kent, you will be taught by research-active and industry-experienced staff and will be able to draw on their experience and learn from the latest research they are involved with. The course is interdisciplinary, designed to provide you with the theoretical basis of Computer-Aided Architectural Design whilst simultaneously educating you in the use of the computer as a design tool. Theory and practice are taught in tandem so that the theory informs your design practice.

In the autumn you will be introduced to computational methods of form generation and spatial configuration, to explore how to use the computer as an aid to developing architectural designs at the conceptual level. You will study processes of growth and pattern formation in nature and investigate ways of replicating these computationally to generate architectural scenarios. We will teach you visual scripting and computer coding, so that you are able to engage with the computer in an innovative way, beyond traditional architectural norms, to explore the world of possibilities that bottom-up thinking about the world around us inspires.

In the spring you will extend your knowledge of computational methods to think about space and form morphologically to develop your algorithmic and coding skills, and cultivate a bio digital outlook to architectural design. We will take a philosophical turn to make an enquiry into a series of concepts and theories outside of architectural norms to promote and enhance your perspective on architectural space and the built environment, and to provoke an interdisciplinary and research-oriented outlook to progress forward into your main thesis project: the dissertation. The dissertation is your opportunity to make an original inquiry in design research, pursued through a close and careful study to propose an innovative architectural proposition.

The MSc is affiliated to the Digital Architecture Research Centre, whose members are involved in a range of innovative projects. Regular lectures by visitors from the UK and abroad focus on different aspects of bio digital architecture and computational design, and the challenges facing modern cities, bridging the gap between academic research, architectural practice and industry. By the end of the programme, you will have developed the technical and scientific understanding and design skills required to develop bio digital architectural design solutions for the built environment, through the combination of taught courses, research assignments and design projects we have set for you.

I hope the above energises you about joining us and I look forward to working with you in September.

Dr Tim Ireland, Programme Director