4 UK leaders in Architectural Design and Conservation studies
Image courtesy of the University of Strathclyde

“It’s very important that historic cities are allowed to reinvent their future.” – Zaha Hadid

The UK of 1943 was staggeringly different to the region of today. Ravaged, dejected and in the midst of war, this was a nation rattled from the depths of its foundations to its tallest spire.

And when Winston Churchill looked upon the shattered remains of the iconic House of Commons, he also recognised the impact of the building in its finest form. While some legislative assemblies championed a new, updated horse-shoe design for the demolished Commons Chamber, Churchill insisted its traditional rectangular construction was the very essence of British democracy. With eloquence and courage, he stood face-to-face with delegates and uttered these words that cannot be forgotten: “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.”

Seventy-years on, the late Prime Minister’s statement still rings true. The structures of our cities do so much more than just define modern life, with architectural influences from generations past reflecting the progress and movements of eras that have gone before. Yes, we shape our buildings, feeding in such character and insight that towns and cities become mirrors of current human life. But we should not overlook the force our buildings have on us.

Recent research has shown that architecture affects our mood and well-being, with dedicated cells in the hippocampal part of our brains remaining highly attuned to the geometry and arrangement of the spaces we inhabit. So while we increasingly associate contemporary structures with tomorrow’s world, let us not forget how we got to this stage of high-tech infrastructure and development. Because, after all, our buildings shape us.

This is what makes the historic worth preserving. Urban, rural and every other kind of settlement is a touchable representation of ancient and venerable societies. As the National Trust for Historic Preservation poignantly writes for the HuffPost Blog: “What is historic, and worth saving, varies with the beholder but [by] some definition is urgent. Simply put, “historic” means “old and worth the trouble”. It applies to a building that is part of a community’s tangible past. And to a degree that may surprise cynics, old buildings can offer opportunities to a community’s future.

Here are 4 UK leaders in Architectural Design and Conservation studies…


Strathclyde’s Department of Architecture has been ranked 8th in the Complete University Guide for three years running. The department leads the field in postgraduate architecture studies, addressing today’s competitive job market and enhancing graduate careers in the field.

The MSc in Architectural Design for the Conservation of Built Heritage, a design-orientated course, tackles the challenges attached to the conservation of architectural heritage. Here, research-informed practice and teaching, plus practice-informed research, are intent on conserving and reusing existing buildings, striking a fine balance between the appropriate conservation of historic buildings and their necessary changes to adapt for contemporary use. Graduates leave in possession of a skillset that allows them to intervene in historic buildings as well as design in a historic context.

Image courtesy of the University of Strathclyde

The MSc in Sustainable Engineering: Architecture & Ecology provides a critical understanding of the relationship between architecture and ecology. The instructional modules are taken at Strathclyde during the first three months of study followed by the practical project work at the urban laboratory, Arcosanti, in Arizona

With the development of Building Information Modelling, the future of construction is being transformed into a more digital industry. The MSc in Sustainable Engineering: Advanced Construction Technologies and Building Information Management is a multidisciplinary course that aims to develop the knowledge, practical, and personal skills of graduates to work in the Architecture/Engineering/Construction (AEC) industry, enabling practitioners to gain access to a theoretical base and to appraise current and future strategies.

Recent data and predictions on the forthcoming rate of urbanisation make cities the most common living environment of the future. The MSc in Urban Design has been formed to enhance the understanding of the city as a complex and dynamic system, developing appropriate strategies for sustainable urban development. The major topic is the European metropolis, or city region, within the context of globalisation.

On top of this, Strathclyde offers professionally accredited courses in MArch/PGDip in Advanced Architectural Design and MArch in Architectural Design (International)


The ACE at the University of Bath – a reputed Russell Group institution – stands at the vanguard of teaching, research and consultancy in the modern built environment.

With more than 600 undergraduate and 100 MSc students, plus more than 50 research-centred students and staff, this is an active training ground for architects and civil engineers in the UK’s only multidisciplinary department of its kind. As with every element of the university itself, this department’s standards are incredibly high, promoting collaborative and integrative design at every stage of studio teaching and across every discipline.

ACE’s MSc in the Conservation of Historic Buildings is a one-year programme launching in October 2018. This specialised course is committed to the history, theory and practice surrounding building conservation, doing so in one of the world’s most architecturally significant cities. As with all of Bath’s postgraduate provisions, the course falls in line with specific industry needs, instilling students with the knowledge and expertise needed to progress through a global career.

“You will learn from leading architects, structural engineers and related professionals in our Department of Architecture & civil Engineering,” the faculty website explains. “…We also have regular guest lectures from leading practitioners in this field giving you the chance to build connections with experts in industry.”


Cardiff University is an ambitious, innovative university located in the thriving Welsh capital. As a world-leading research institution, Cardiff is driven by creativity and curiosity, striving to fulfil its social, cultural and economic obligations to Cardiff, Wales and the wider world.

Ranked 39th in the  QS World University Rankings for 2018, the Welsh School of Architecture is one of the finest places to study Architecture, not just in the UK and Ireland, but on a global level. The school, established in 1920, comes readily equipped with a specialist library, four state-of-the-art laboratories and a skills workshop, nurturing a creative and stimulating environment for students to develop architectural expertise.

The school’s MSc in Sustainable Building Conservation strives to be unique in two ways. First, “teaching offers a design-based iterative element, thereby testing the formulation of informed decisions,” the website explains. Second, “it places emphasis on the role of sustainability within the historic context at both technical and strategic levels”, allowing this programme to stand out among competition.

Staff in the Department boast a broad range of national and international experience, also conducting research that deals with architectural and urban issues on the global, regional and local stage.


Established as a joint collaboration between the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester School of Architecture (MSA) flawlessly combines two world-class institutions dedicated to the study of the world’s built environments. Boasting more than 100 years of academic excellence, the institution has come to represent the UK’s largest and most influential specialised architecture schools.

Here, students have direct access to the facilities and resources of both universities, including libraries, computer suites, making and media workshops, as well as access to specialist staff at both institutions, all of whom are committed to the success and development of their students’ studies.

The school covers a broad range of disciplines, from urban design to urban development, ecological and landscape design, and the conservation and management of historic environments. The recently-established Manchester Architecture Research Centre (MARC) houses a variety of interdisciplinary research interests, presenting students with opportunities to collaborate with other departments at both universities.

As a city, Manchester is steeped in architectural history with an abundance of arts venues, galleries, museums and theatres, including the Cornerhouse, The Royal Exchange and the Palace Theatre.

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International

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