Martin Self is founding director of the Design + Make programme. He holds degrees in aerospace engineering and architecture theory, and is an advocate of the integration of architectural education with design and construction research. Prime interests are the new affordances of combining architectural and engineering knowledge, the role of making as a form of knowledge, and wood. In addition to his role leading Design + Make, Martin is a Director at timber design-construction firm Xylotek.
Following employment at Airbus Ltd, he worked as a consultant engineer at Ove Arup & Partners between 1996 and 2007, initially as a specialist analyst looking at the aerodynamic performance of structures including super-tall buildings, sculptures and bridges. He then gained experience as a structural engineer before joining Arup’s Lightweight Structures Group, which had its origins in collaborations with Frei Otto in the 1960s and 70s.
This group evolved in 2001 into the Advanced Geometry Unit, conceived by Cecil Balmond, that consisted of a small group of architects, engineers, mathematicians, programmers and other designers that established a global reputation for a unique new form of design practice in which advanced capabilities in geometric definition were explored in collaborations with architects and artists including OMA, UNStudio, Alvaro Siza, Toyo Ito, Daniel Libeskind, Shigeru Ban, Jesse Reiser, Anish Kapoor and Chris Ofili as well as in projects authored within the group. Martin’s key projects included responsibility for the geometry and structure of the 2005 Serpentine Pavilion with Siza and de Moura, and the winning competition-stage proposal for Pompidou Metz with Shigeru Ban.
AGU’s role on the annual Serpentine Pavilion projects led to the founding of an undergraduate unit at the AA that developed into a design-build pavilion unit tutored with Charles Walker. The resulting series of four annual summer pavilions were each fabricated in engineered timber at Hooke Park and erected in Bedford Square.
Following a years’ study on the AA’s MA Histories and Theories programme, Martin joined Zaha Hadid Architects as a specialist project team member, leading the development of the novel freeform cladding system of the Dongdaemun Design Park & Plaza, Seoul, consisting of 45,000 curved and sub-divided panels. Following subsequent work as a consultant to that practice, and to Antony Gormley Studio, he became employed full time by the AA, taking on Directorship of Hooke Park and the role of formulating and establishing Design + Make.