AA Design + Make Masters study at the Architectural Association Hooke Park

Theories and practices of collective design

This 5-week course examines the emergence of new collaborative practices within architecture and other design industries. The intent is to equip Design & Make students with an understanding of the contemporary shifts within collective design production, and to provide a theoretical foundation for their collective activities within the group-work components of the programme.

The course consists of 5 sessions with different speakers who present their attitudes towards collective design practice in their respective field. Underlying the course is the ambition to interpret the implications of new information technologies and network-based intelligence.

Learning outcomes:

By the end of the seminar course, students are expected to be able to:

- Demonstrate a critical understanding of the role of collective practice in design

- Demonstrate knowledge of exemplar network organisations and their collaborative mechanisms

- Be able to apply this understanding with activities of Design & Make.

Session 1: Collective practice

Piers Taylor

The introductory session presents a survey of seminal and emerging architectural practices founded on the principle of collaboration, from Walter Groupius’s TAC, OCEAN and to the FABberz distributed fabrication network.

Session 2: AADRL: Collaboration and convergence

Brett Steele

The AA’s Design Research Laboratory was founded as a collaborative learning environment, creating a “unique form of distributed artificial intelligence”. Brett Steele (co-founder of DRL) presents DRL’s development and its implications for wider practice.

Session 3: Arup: “total architecture”

Martin Self

Ove Arup pioneered a new form of collaboration between architects and engineers, and as the consultancy firm he founded grew in geographical and disciplinary terms it has tested many mechanisms for knowledge sharing and cross-disciplinary working.

Session 4: Airbus

Visit to Airbus Ltd, Filton, Bristol. Contact: Andy Reynolds, Head of Airframe Development

Airbus Industries is the world’s largest collaborative international design venture, employing about 50,000 people. Through a visit their wing-producing factory near Bristol, the infrastructure of that collaboration is presented.

Session 5: The Architecture Ensemble

Steve Johnson

Through case-study of the Downland Gridshell, the value of intense collaboration with specialists from the outset of a project is discussed. The lessons of that project, and the subsequent establishment of The Architecture Ensemble, and The Timberbuild Network, a network aiming to form a “single design and construction body”, are presented.


Hight, C & Perry, C, Collective Intelligence in Design, AD Collective Intelligence in Design. Wiley, 2006.

Johnson, Steve, The Architectural Ensemble, AD Design Through Making. Wiley, 2005.

Jones, Peter. Ove Arup: Masterbuilder of the Twentieth Century. Yale, 2006.

Latour, Bruno, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to the Actor Network. Oxford University Press, 2005.

Levy, Pierre, Collective Intelligence: Mankind’s Emerging World in Cyberspace, Perseus Books, 1997.

Steele, Brett. The AADRL: Design, Collaboration and Convergence, AD Collective Intelligence in Design. Wiley, 2006.

Gropius, W, TAC’s Teamwork, The Architects Collaborative 1945-1965. Niggli, Switzerland, 1966.

Lawrence Lessig, Free, The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World (New York: Random House, 2001), pp. 3-25

Michael Speaks, Design Intelligence, in Latent Utopias: Experiments within Contemporary Architecture (Graz, 2002), pp.73-76.