Module Details

The information contained in this module specification was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change, either during the session because of unforeseen circumstances, or following review of the module at the end of the session. Queries about the module should be directed to the member of staff with responsibility for the module.
Title Design Direction
Code LARC503
Coordinator Ms J Muszbek
Year CATS Level Semester CATS Value
Session 2022-23 Level 7 FHEQ Whole Session 20


• This module aims to enhance a student’s ability to research and develop the early stages of a design project, moving between urban analysis, community/user engagement, programmatic research, strategic proposition and global consequences. These insights are then synthesised and re-presented in a comprehensive, detailed and well-presented architectural brief.
• It seeks to enable students to define a personal agenda developed from reflections on the intersections of urban theory, social, economic and political frameworks and the macro and micro environmental conditions that contextualise professional practice.

Learning Outcomes

(LO1) Interpret relevant theories of urban design and the planning of communities in relation to their site (GC4.1)

(LO2) Assess how the needs and aspirations of their identified user group and the local inhabitants are affected by – and can influence – the scale and quality of their architectural proposal and its relationship to the urban fabric (GC5.1)

(LO3) Determine, within the professional and social context of their role as an architect, the potential impact of their building proposal on existing and proposed communities (GC6.3)

(LO4) Create a brief that defines client and user requirements in relation to a building scale, programme and type appropriate to its site and context (GC7.2)

(LO5) Apply appropriate methods of investigation and preparation to the formulation of a design project brief, identifying their role and contribution to the process as an architect in relation to their co-professionals (GC7.3)

(S1) Creativity & problem solving skills: analyse, evaluate and synthesise information, and present creative solutions

(S2) Research & information literacy skills: source, critically evaluate and attribute information with clarity and rigour

(S3) Communication skills: express ideas clearly, as well as listen to, present, challenge and defend ideas effectively both orally and in writing to meet the expectations of a professional working environment

(S4) Team work & interpersonal skills: work well in groups, be adaptable, able to discuss and debate and respond to constructive feedback, show respect for diverse values and beliefs

(S5) Entrepreneurial skills: planning and organisation, recognition of strengths and weaknesses, track own personal development

(S6) Critical thinking skills: open-mindedness, critical awareness, ability to question, reflect, propose



Led by the module leader Steve Smith, with the involvement of the first year Design Tutors, students will be supported to identify a range of individual architectural concerns by producing a written and drawn portfolio which will outline:

• An architectural theme or thesis question;
• Architectural site(s) in the borough;
• A ‘client’ – institution/user group/demographic etc.;
• An approach to the LSA five P.R.I.M.E. Values: Propositional, Relevant, Innovative, Metropolitan, Entrepreneurial;
• The terms of design experimentation – what is to be tested? What is the appropriate design methodology to progress it? How can this be evidenced and evaluated through a design proposal?

The LSA has developed a Theory of Change model that sets out the impact that we want to have as a school. Our ultimate vision – and final goal – is that people living in cities experience more fulfilled and more sustainable lives. Our school seeks to equip future leaders to design innovations in architecture and cities that contribute to this change. We live in an increasingly urban age, with half the world’s population now living in cities. Architecture is a discipline with a high degree of spatial intelligence, and we therefore have a crucial role to play in designing how we occupy cities, and how humanity increasingly lives on the planet.

Outputs and outcomes

The LSA has two main outputs: You – graduates from the MArch programme; and your work – published design/research (approx 50-60 individual proposals, and eight design/research publications from the DTTs annually). From these emerge outcomes: you are equipped with the knowledge, skills and behaviours to contribute innovations in the design of architecture and cities; while the publication of your design/research promotes knowledge that influences others to contribute. Our graduat es and publications may be destined for the profession of architecture or an adjacent profession, and both of these can contribute to our ultimate goal.


To deliver our outcomes and outputs, our primary activity is teaching the Part 2 programme. We deliver ten modules that address specific aspects of the knowledge, skills and behaviours our graduates need:

First Year

Practice Manual – Students develop their understanding of how their host practice operates, placing it within the larger context of the profession and related industries.

Practice Manifesto – Students produce a manifesto exploring their intended future position within the discipline of architecture and related fields.

Design Cities – Students are taught to design in complex urban environments.

Design Think Tank– Students learn to collaborate and use research methods to produce a design outcome that addresses a key challenge for the city.

Design Direction – Students learn how to develop a brief to meet the needs of the clients/ users and their broader responsibility to the city/planet.

Second Year

Design Speculation – Students develop design skills through the development of an architectural design proposal

Design History – Students use the history of architecture to inform their design innovation.

Design Tectonic – Students develop advanced technical skills to develop their proposals to a realisable level of detail.

Design Thesis – Students apply emerging knowledge to a design brief to enhance its intention, relevance and potential impact.

Design Synthesis – Students integrate complex and ambitious requirements into a resolved design that can have a large impact

As explained above, each module has a role to play in our Theory of Change, and Design Direction is a crucial one. We call the Second Year the Proto-Practice Year because we see it not as the last year of your education, but the first year of your career. Likewise, we view Design Direction, not as the end of First Year, but as the beginning of Second Year.

At its simplest Design Direction sets out the trajectory of Second Year, defining the route for two design projects, and feeding into the tectonic and history components. It commences a line of enquiry and body of work that could motivate and inspire you for years to come. It is therefore important that the work is something that you are passionate about!

This module has a crucial role to play in our Theory of Change, because it starts to formulate the role you want to play, the ideas you want to explore, and the impact you could make. The real success of the LSA may be assessed many years in the future, as you become the practitioners you wish to be, and your ideas are transposed from the studio to the city, where they can have a real impact on how people live.

Teaching and Learning Strategies

Students will learn through the following range of teaching and events –

• A briefing during orientation week introducing the key learning principles of the module;
• Seminars of work in progress with the Module Leader and peers;
• Group tutorials with the Module Leader and peers;
• Feedback from experts and peers at crits.

Scheduled learning and teaching –

Description – Briefing, Seminars, Four Group Tutorials, Crits
Learning hours – 19.5% – 39 hours

Guided independent study –

Description – Directed activities and self-managed learning
Learning hours – 80.5% – 161 hours

Total Learning Hours for the Module – 200 hours

Attendance – 100%

Teaching Schedule

  Lectures Seminars Tutorials Lab Practicals Fieldwork Placement Other TOTAL
Study Hours   39

Timetable (if known)   195 mins X 1 totaling 39
Private Study 161


EXAM Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
CONTINUOUS Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
Portfolio Resit available – Yes, capped at the pass mark of 50% Portfolio – Students define and argue a position in the form of a brief articulated through a richly illustrated portfolio. This brie    100       

Recommended Texts

Reading lists are managed at Click here to access the reading lists for this module.