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Syllabus for

Academic year
ARK496 - Reality studio
Reality studio
Syllabus adopted 2021-02-02 by Head of Programme (or corresponding)
Owner: MPDSD
22,5 Credits
Grading: TH - Pass with distinction (5), Pass with credit (4), Pass (3), Fail
Education cycle: Second-cycle
Major subject: Architecture

Teaching language: English
Application code: 17124
Open for exchange students: Yes
Maximum participants: 20
Only students with the course round in the programme plan
Status, available places (updated regularly): Yes

Module   Credit distribution   Examination dates
Sp1 Sp2 Sp3 Sp4 Summer course No Sp
0117 Project 9,5c Grading: TH   9,5c    
0217 Project 13,0c Grading: TH   13,0c    

In programs



Emilio da Cruz Brandao

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Architectural design project 22,5 hec


General entry requirements for Master's level (second cycle)
Applicants enrolled in a programme at Chalmers where the course is included in the study programme are exempted from fulfilling the requirements above.

Specific entry requirements

English 6 (or by other approved means with the equivalent proficiency level)
Applicants enrolled in a programme at Chalmers where the course is included in the study programme are exempted from fulfilling the requirements above.

Course specific prerequisites

Qualification for the master programme or Civil and Environmental Engineering or a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design Engineering or Design, or Human Geography with a profile in planning.


The main aim of the master studio Reality Studio is to provide each student with necessary skills and methods that are valid in any situation of change where architectural and urban design approaches are required at different system levels and scales, from urban structures, infrastructure, buildings and technical support systems to detailed construction elements and products within the built environment. The overall point of departure is human everyday needs and the support of human survival and decent life in rapidly changing or sometimes extreme environments.

The master studio works in close cooperation with stakeholders in different parts of the world, in industrialised countries as well as in developing countries, always in highly challenged contexts. The purpose is to offer the students the potential to develop professional skills that are valid and needed in challenging situations and where the aim is to find adapted solutions to the problems at hand. The overall perspective stays the same: the development and implementation of aesthetic, affordable, socially and culturally appropriate, energy and material efficient, healthy and user-friendly, always innovative design solutions that support dignified human everyday life.

The design studio Reality Studio in an extreme environment in an unfamiliar and often challenging context, involves collaboration and cooperation with local communities, NGOs, local universities, governmental institutions and wider organisations (such as UN-HABITAT). The aim is also to integrate the master education in the field of architecture, urban design and planning with development research in ways that offers the students a solid basis for their work. Vice versa the students will contribute with investigations and ideas that could be further used and developed in future research projects as well as implemented in collaboration with local stakeholders.

The studio relates to and focuses on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (17)

Learning outcomes (after completion of the course the student should be able to)

Knowledge and Understanding
  1. Describe and relate to the political vision of Sustainable Development within architecture, urban design and planning.
  2. Understand the meaning and impact of their professional work and agency in a broader and global perspective.
  3. Understand the complexity of everyday life in specific spatial, cultural and social environments and situations.
  4. Understand, behave and navigate respectfully and collaboratively in an unfamiliar context.
Ability and Skill
  1. Be able to identify, select and critically analyse the most relevant information, data and elements in a local situation and on different levels (micro to macro) integrate them into both the local and larger systems and spatial contexts at play.
  2. Be able to create and develop design solutions through a methodology of goal setting, data collection, design iteration and testing/prototyping.
  3. Be able to define, formulate, design, visualise and communicate realistic architectural, urban design or planning proposals and sustainable solutions for and with clients, stakeholders and experts in different stages of the design process.
  4. Be able to combine knowledge from different disciplines and sectors in proposals for actions and measures in architectural and urban design for sustainable development.

Ability of Assessment and Attitude
  1. To combine scientific and artistic approaches in the design process.
  2. To discuss and reflect critically on the work made and experiences in the studio.
  3. To broaden the understanding of their own perspective and its limitations, through meetings with other professional and cultural perspectives on sustainable development.
  4. To further develop a critical thinking and reflections on the professional role, the professional ethics and the needs for lifelong learning.


The studio has a problem-oriented and synthesizing approach. Design is communicating with other disciplines; from micro- to macro studies. The new paradigm philosophy is centered on what architecture and design do, over time, rather than what they are. This is called a dynamic systems design view.

Points of departure in the studio are everyday needs and activities of people, local businesses and communities in relation to a spatial context. The problems and possible solutions will vary significantly in different regions of the world. This will challenge the ability of the students in analysing the local situation in a broader context as a basis for the choice, the approach and the implementation of their architectural, urban design and planning projects.

Preparations are run in Sweden including lectures, literature seminars, workshops and individual assignments. After that, the students will engage in field studies in an extreme environment in an unfamiliar and often challenging context, in collaboration and cooperation with local communities, NGOs, local universities, governmental institutions and wider organisations (such as UN-HABITAT). This collaborative work in the field studies include analysis of the local situation, goal setting, data collection, design program, first iterations of an architectural, urban design or planning project, and an on-site exhibition and communication with local stakeholders and the general public. To finalise, the studio returns to Sweden, for the conclusion of the projects, the production of final reports and an exhibition, critique, and moments for personal and group reflection.


The number of participants in the studio is limited. As the studio is within the master program Architecture and Planning Beyond Sustainability (MPDSD), students who are admitted to MPDSD will have priority. For further information about admission and registration, please contact your study counsellor and/or director of studies. The design studio Reality Studio is directed towards sustainable development in in an extreme environment in an unfamiliar and often challenging context. It involves close collaboration and cooperation with NGOs, local universities and wider organisations (such as UN-HABITAT) as well as on-site with local authorities and communities. The programme and architectural project design is performed in smaller groups. The work is supported by lectures, literature, seminars and workshops of different sorts, field visits, group tutorship, feedback sessions, and a constant individual and group reflection. Note that this design studio involves close contact with unfamiliar and sometimes uneasy and challenging conditions. This process is an integrated part of the studio and is followed closely by the teachers’ constant support and tutoring. The students must accept basic living and working conditions, and be able to raise extra money for travels, accommodation, food and other related costs (e.g. insurance, Visa, medical prevention). There are often options for supplementary state study loans (under the responsibility of students to search and apply for) that can cover parts of these costs.


Lists of detailed compulsory and reference literature will be presented at the start of the design studio. The following are some of the main references:
  • Architecture for Humanity (2006). Design Like You Give A Damn. Architectural responses to Humanitarian Crises. Metropolis Books.
  • Architecture for Humanity (2012). Design Like You Give A Damn 2. Building Change from the Ground Up. Abrams Books, NY, USA.
  • Architecture Sans Frontières International (2012). Challenging Practice: Essentials for the Social Production of Habitat. (available on link:
  • Awan, Nishat; Schneider, Tatjana; Till, Jeremy (2013). Spatial agency: other ways of doing architecture. Routledge.
  • Easterly, W.R. (2007). White Man’s Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good. Oxford
  • Frediani, AA; Fench, MA; Ferrera, IN; (2011). Change by Design - Building Communities Through Participatory Design. Urban Culture Press, New Zealand.
  • Hamdi, Nabeel (2004). Small Change. About the art of practice and the limits of planning in cities. New York: Earthscan
  • Hamdi, Nabeel (2010). The placemaker's guide to building community. London, CPI Antony Rowe.
  • Hamdi, Nebeel (2014). The placemaker's guide to big change. New York, NY Routledge.
  • Lepik, Andres (cur.) (2013). Think Global Build Social, ARCH+ nr. 211/212 – Journal for Architecture and Urbanism.
  • Lepik, Andres (ed.) (2011). Moderators of Change: Architecture That Helps. Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern, Germany.
  • Lepik, Andres (2010) Small scale, big change: new architectures of social engagement. New York: Museum of Modern Art
  • Nyström Maria (2002). Making -Research. In Nordic Journal of Architectural Research 2002:04
  • Nyström Maria and Lars Reuterswärd (2003). Meeting Mars- recycling earth. Svensk Byggtjänst
  • Pitera, Dan & Wilkins, Craig L. (2014). Activist Architecture: Philosophy and Practice of the Community Design Center. Detroit Collaborative Design Center, USA
  • United Nations (2015). Transforming our world – The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. (available on link:

Examination including compulsory elements

Submission of all accepted course assignments including report/reflections from field studies, definition of design program in collaboration with stakeholders, architecture, urban design or planning project presented in posters and/or models, project report, individual reflections and active participation in joint activities including lectures, seminars, workshops, field visits, tutorials, feedback sessions and the concluding public exhibition on site. Attendance is compulsory in all course moments.

The course examiner may assess individual students in other ways than what is stated above if there are special reasons for doing so, for example if a student has a decision from Chalmers on educational support due to disability.

Page manager Published: Mon 28 Nov 2016.