The School of Architecture & Design is home to a vibrant research culture.

Founded in 1952, the school’s research directly informs both teaching and professional practice in the field.

Led by Professor Colin Holden, with research supported by Professor Cat Rossi, the school’s community of academics are engaged in internationally recognised architecture and design history, theory and practice research. This is achieved through activities such as designing buildings, curating exhibitions, developing apps, producing films and artworks, and academic publishing.

Current areas of interest include architecture and design history and theory, climate and sustainability, digital technologies, feminism, housing and the domestic, interiors, public art and community engagement, the social and political production of the built environment, urban studies, and spatial analysis and spatial transformation.



In four public art projects, Gabor Stark explored the overlaps between architecture, installation and sculpture, and investigated how collaborative art practice can positively impact the creation of civic urban realms. This practice-led research contributes to theoretical and professional discourse about the role of the arts in urban regeneration and participatory placemaking.

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The Isovist app, created by Sam McElhinney, is a free software tool that helps students and practitioners to learn and adopt spatial analysis techniques. The software can be used at all levels, from undergraduate study to advanced research, or in design practice, and is available for download from The research has made a significant contribution to developing the design processes of individual professionals, and enhanced the way in which practices communicate with clients.

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Sites of democratic urban practice is an architectural research project undertaken by Dr Kim Trogal at University for the Creative Arts (UK), Dr Anna Wakeford Holder at Sheffield Hallam University (UK) and Rossella Tricarico (independent researcher). It is funded by the British Academy Small Grants Scheme.

The project aims to shed new light on how architecture and urban planning can support democratic and equitable city development. It revisits histories of participatory practice for housing in the city of Bologna in the period 1968 - 1977. Bologna is an important international example of citizen engagement in urban planning and innovative housing and continues to be held as a model of local innovation in participatory urban development in both the UK and the USA. The project develops three case studies of participatory, non-market models of housing in Bologna, and shows the contributions of women, migrants and other neglected figures. Our aims are to construct an understanding of democratic city development that goes beyond the dominant perspective of the local state and male subjects, to better account for the lived realities of participation in urban development.

Charles Holland’s current research, explored through buildings, publications and exhibitions, includes a focus on rural housing. A practicing architect, he is currently engaged in both live and research projects looking at the development of sustainable new communities in rural and coastal areas. This builds on previous work including the book chapter “Wild Architecture: The Potential of Self-Build Settlements” (Wiley, 2018). In 2022, Charles led a multi-disciplinary team developing new models for rural housing that was awarded the Davidson Prize.

Cat Rossi has been researching the architecture and design history of club culture through exhibitions and publications for over a decade. This includes Space Electronic: Then and Now installation curated for the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale (2014), Radical Disco: Architecture and Nightlife in Italy: 1965–1975 co-curated for the ICA in London (2015-2016) and the co-curated touring exhibition Night Fever: Designing Club Culture 1960 to Today which originated at Vitra design Museum (2018 - 2021). The research was included as an Impact Case Study in REF 2021. Cat is currently working on research exploring the connections between nightclubs and broader creative and cultural industries, communities and practices.

Funded by the AHRC/Design Museum Design Accelerator, this collaborative research project (March – September 2023) is led by Sam McElhinney (P-I) with Dr Heba Sarhan (Project Coordinator) and staff across the school.

The project connects Canterbury homeowners with architects, retrofitting and construction professionals to encourage implementing energy efficiency and carbon reduction solutions in existing housing. Through workshops and resulting design guides homeowners will be able to better navigate the often-complex range of retrofitting options, and help achieve local carbon neutral targets.

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Professor Anne Massey has a long-standing interest in women and design. Most recently she published Women in Design (Thames & Hudson, 2022). Anne is currently working on expanding the research to examine women, craft and design in the global South with Dr Harriet Mckay (London Metropolitan University) and Emma Dick (Middlesex University).

Through publications and curatorial research, Zhuozhang Li has been mapping the relationship between the conceptual framework of the city and local knowledge, and how this shapes the (re)production of everyday space and its visual representation. From participatory community development in Liverpool to placemaking in ethnic minority areas in Basha (Guizhou), the (trans)formation of Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong, and spatial resistance in Beijing during the Covid-19 lockdown, these projects explore how local people appropriate, challenge, alter and negotiate with top-down socio-spatial orders within specific cultural and urban contexts.

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Head to our UCA Research Online platform to browse all our School of Architecture & Design research projects.


PhD Students

The following UCA PhD candidates have Director of Studies based in the School of Architecture and Design. The School is open to PhD applications on a wide range of areas relating to architecture and design practice, history and theory.

If you are interested in undertaking a PhD in the School please visit UCA Research Degrees or contact a member of staff relevant to your research in the School.

  • Pierre Shaw, “Critical Spatial Praxis: Creating Conditions and Pedagogies of Support”
    Supervisors: Dr Kim Trogal, Professor Cat Rossi and Professor Anne Massey
  • Dufie Sakyiama, “Asante Contemporary Jewellery: A Study of the Philosophical Meaning and Cognitive Interaction between the Artist and the non-African”
    Supervisors: Professor Cat Rossi and Professor Colin Holden
  • Sarah Moody, “Women and the Twentieth Century Decline of the Country House in Fiction, Biography, and Heritage”
    Supervisors: Dr Kim Trogal, Professor Cat Rossi and Professor Charles Holland