Architecture and planning beyond sustainability, MSc

120 credits (2 years)

Human activities, not the least manifested in the built environment, are responsible for a large amount of the stress our societies put on the environment and there is a global challenge in meeting the need for sustainability while adapting to a local reality and situation. This master's programme focuses on methods and design approaches for understanding and analysing different local contexts in order to propose adequate solutions in designing for a sustainable future. Sign up for information

Architecture and planning beyond s​ustainability​ master's programme at Chalmers​

Sustainable development is a set of political visions that entails huge challenges for social and technical innovation all over the world. It has consequences for all professions, not least for architecture and urban design, since it is here the full complexity of societal development has to be addressed and managed through design for sustainable development. Sustainable development today is to be integrated into all master’s programmes at Chalmers as a major demand. However, the current master's degree of the programme differs from most other master's programmes by having sustainable architecture and urban design as the main focus for all courses within the programme. Therefore, this master's programme's clear sustainability agenda and profile is clarified by the programme’s name "beyond sustainability", which is an internationally viable concept for the development of knowledge, methods, and perspectives that follow as the next step in traditional sustainable development.



The pedagogical approach is to support you in developing your design skills through a series of design studios, dealing with complex design tasks in very different situations and contexts e.g., neighborhoods and municipalities in Sweden, informal settlements in developing countries, and technical and social challenges of sustainable building and transformation.

This approach challenges and develops your ability to analyse and situate local situations in relation to broader contexts. Design studios contain experience-based learning, fieldwork, tailored lectures, literature studies, seminars, workshops, design project work, and exhibitions. A common thread through the studios is the use of a systems approach to designing although both problems and potential solutions will vary significantly.s


The Department of Architecture at Chalmers University of Technology houses an excellent infrastructure in the form of studio spaces, an architecture library, model workshops and digital fabrication, a robot lab, and several research groups and centres. A national and international network is provided through collaborations and partnerships with external practitioners, researchers, stakeholders, and industry.


Topics covered

The subjects of applied architecture development and design project are fundamental areas in the Architecture and planning beyond sustainability master’s programme. The courses included in the program plan handle topics such as construction, suburbs design, and sustainable development.

Learning facilities 

Studio spaces - all students have personal desks and storage spaces in studio spaces with 24/7 access. Studio spaces are equipped with workstations, printers, and large-scale plotters, as well as Wi-Fi.

Chalmers Architecture Library - has an extensive collection of printed volumes, journals, and magazines within the fields of architecture, urban design, and planning, and a special focus on design for sustainable development.

CAD-lab - houses workstations with software for CAD drawing, 3D modelling, desktop publishing, video editing, and GIS.

A-workshop - is a fully equipped architecture workshop with wood, plastics, and metalworking equipment. It also contains a number of computer-controlled (CNC) machines for model building and rapid prototyping, including a Laser cutter, 3D printers, a CNC Mill, and a CNC Foam cutter.

Hammarkullen - studio spaces for the design studio Social inclusion in Hammarkullen, Northeastern Gothenburg.

Master's programme structure

The master's programme runs for a duration of two years, leading to a Master of Science (MSc) degree. During each year, students can earn 60 credits (ECTS) and complete the programme by accumulating a total of 120 credits.  Each semester consists of a combination of theory courses, method courses, and design studios. The theory and method courses are based on lectures, literature, seminars, and shorter design assignments. A design studio focuses on the development of a design project. It is normally case study based.

Within the programme, you can find both compulsory courses, that everyone in the programme takes, and compulsory elective courses and design studios, where you can choose between different options. On some occasions, you will also be able to select between courses and design studios outside of your programme plan. These are called elective courses. The compulsory elective, the elective courses, and design studios should be seen as options, from which your individual professional profile is shaped during the two years.

Compulsory course​s year 1

During the first year semester, the programme starts with compulsory content that forms a common foundation in Architecture and urban design from the perspective of sustainability. 

Compulsory courses year 2

In the second year, you must complete a master's thesis in order to graduate. The thesis may be worth 30 credits or 60 credits depending on your choice. 
  • ​Master’s thesis 

Compulsory elective courses

During year 1 and 2,  you need to select among compulsory elective courses in order to graduate. Through them you can then specialize in various subjects:
  • Urban and rural transformations
  • Building design and transformation
  • Society, justice, and space

Elective courses

You will also be able to select courses outside of your programme plan. These are called elective courses. You can choose from a wide range of elective courses.

Desig​n studios

The design studios within the master's programme are compulsory electives. Below you can find a presentation of the design studios within the programme:  

Planning and design for sustainable development in a local context
The theme of this design studio is planning and designing for sustainable development in a small or medium-sized municipality in Sweden.

Design and planning for social inclusion
This design studio gives knowledge about the significance of the social dimension of sustainable development, focusing on urban development in suburban areas built in the 1960s and 70s in Sweden. Public participation of citizens and processes of co-creation are central aspects.

Reality studio
This design studio is a real-life project that takes place in Sub-Saharan Africa, for students of different disciplines. Reality studio is simultaneously made of student projects and real projects where the students act as consultants and researchers to improve the quality of daily life. 
NB - There is an extra cost of about 25000 SEK for travel and subsistence for this studio. The cost is not included in the tuition fee.​

Transformation projects and environmental care
This design studio focuses on sustainable architectural transformation in a historic and contemporary context and tests new knowledge in a critical and reflective way.

Dare to build, architects
This design studio aims to enhance the collaboration between engineers and architects while at the same time creating impact and outreach in communities. This is done by developing and building a real-world project in collaboration with end-users and clients.

Social-ecological urbanism 
This design studio operates through the understanding of how urban form and the physical structure of cities provide a framework and create conditions for various urban processes (social, economic, and environmental).

Sustainable architectural design
This design studio integrates the environmental issues of sustainable building into an architectural project and combines functional and aesthetic qualities with low environmental impact. The design studio cultivates a deeper understanding of selected issues of sustainable building and how to develop these issues into a thoroughly elaborated design proposal.

Sustainable building 
The aim of this design studio is to practice design for sustainable building, to introduce findings from design for energy and environmental efficiency, and to promote cooperation between architects and engineers.

Degree

Students completing the master’s programme are awarded the degree of Master of Science, 120 ECTS credits, with architecture as the main field of study. The master’s programme corresponds to the final two years of the five-year study programme at Chalmers which leads to a professional degree in architecture. The professional degree, Master of Architecture/Arkitektexamen, 300 ECTS credits, can only be awarded to students completing a full five-year study programme in architecture at Chalmers.​

Care​er

The education leads to a wide range of career opportunities within architecture, urban design, and planning for sustainable development as a response to increasing awareness and commitment among both public and private actors.
The global challenges of resource constraints and climate change open for new and extensive fields of professional practices. Globally rapid urbanisation, poverty reduction, and fair distribution of resources are key issues as manifested in the UN Agenda 2013 and Sustainable Development Goals.
In Sweden, the existing building stock, not least from the 1960s and 1970s, has to be reconstructed in ways that can address socioeconomic segregation problems as well as deficient environmental performance in an integrated manner. Taken together these challenges request a new generation of skilled design professionals that are able to work in cross-disciplinary expert teams and in close contact with local stakeholders.

Research within Architecture and planning beyond sustainability

Within the field of architecture and planning beyond sustainability, research projects at the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering (ACE) that collaborate today with this master’s programme focus on, for example, compact cities and sustainable densification; urban foodscapes, urban biodiversity, and ecosystem services; critical spatial perspectives and urban-rural transitions; co-design, co-creation, democracy, and participation in architecture, urban design, and planning; Sustainable Development Goals in the context of the Global South; regenerative architecture and place-making, sustainable transformation of the built environment and environmental architectural design; energy-efficient building retrofitting, environmental GIS for building stock and urban structures; and strategies for integrated sustainable renovation. 

At Chalmers, you can also find the research center Urban futures - Center for Sustainable Urban Futures, which is a platform working within the field of sustainable urban development. The center is run by a partnership of eight partners, and Chalmers is one of them.

Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering​
Link to Urban futures ​

Connections with industry and society

Education in Architecture and planning beyond sustainability leads to a wide range of career opportunities within architecture, urban design, and planning for sustainable development as a response to increasing awareness and commitment among both public and private actors. 

The global challenges of resource constraints and climate change open for new and extensive fields of professional practices. Globally rapid urbanisation, poverty reduction, and fair distribution of resources are key issues as manifested in the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

In Sweden, the existing building stock, not least from the 1960s and 1970s, has to be reconstructed in ways that can address socioeconomic segregation problems as well as deficient environmental performance in an integrated manner. Taken together these challenges request a new generation of skilled design professionals that are able to work in cross-disciplinary expert teams and in close contact with local stakeholders. 

Research and education in close cooperation with practice has a long tradition at Chalmers school of architecture and is also distinctive for this master’s programme. This is a response to increasing societal demand for experts able to transform the global vision of sustainable development into concrete and local action beyond sustainability. 

The local partners in each design studio represent different spheres of the global society, providing students with an extended network of potential future employers and clients beyond the conventional private professional practices:

  • Swedish public authorities, municipalities, and local communities; 
  • The Swedish construction industry, landlords, and property developers; 
  • Local, National, and International university partners; 
  • UN-HABITAT and their different partners, including UN-Habitat Partner universities; 
  • NGO’s and local communities; - NASA, ESA, and specific design industries. 

The master's programme is based on experience from the strong research environment at Chalmers University of Technology, at the forefront for research on the Built Environment and Sustainable Urban Futures. Teachers of the programme are key researchers at Mistra Urban Futures and in research collaborations at the Area of Advance Building Futures.

Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering​ ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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​Sustainable development

The built environment is responsible for a great deal of the stress our societies put on the environment. There is a global challenge in meeting the need for sustainability while adapting to the local reality and situations. This master's programme focuses on methods and design approaches so you can understand and analyse different local contexts to propose adequate solutions in designing for a sustainable future. 
You will train to find solutions that support sustainable development in many different contexts. The perspective is holistic and systemic, comprising system levels and scales from urban structures, buildings and technical support systems to detailed construction elements and products. 

The programme is based on design studios where you will handle real life-situations in close contact with the local stakeholders and actors. The overall point of departure is the everyday life of people and the support of dignified lives and livelihoods in rapidly changing and sometimes extreme environments. 

Therefore, the programme is highly interlinked with the achievement of the UN Sustainable development goals (SDGs)​. The table below provides an overview of the sustainable development goals and the associated targets within the programme. 


Goal 10: Reduced inequalities 
This master's programme is engaged in equality issues relating to the built environment such as socio-spatial gaps and exclusion, social segregation, and marginalisation. In light of these challenges, the programme emphasizes citizen participation and bottom-up perspectives in the development of the built environment. Furthermore, the programme handles norm-critical perspectives, highlighting how architecture and urban planning can be part of creating power relations and contribute to different kinds of discrimination. 
Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities
This goal plays a central role in all the courses and design studios within this master's programme. For example, this master's programme focuses on goal 11.3, to enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and the capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning; goal 11.6, to reduce the environmental impact of cities; and 11.7, to provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces. This includes investigating how urban design and building design can promote citizens' health and wellbeing, as well as increase biodiversity and reduce the impact of climate change. Issues that students are dealing with are for example sustainable materials and re-use, resilient cities, even circular urban-rural development, eco-system services, socio-ecological urbanism, and participatory design processes. 
 
Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production
The transition to sustainable consumption and production is needed to reduce our negative impact on the climate, the environment and human health. In this master's programme, we focus on for example sustainable materials, circular resource flows and reuse, as well as how architecture and urban design can encourage even more sustainable lifestyles. 
Goal 13: Climate action
In this master's programme, we are focusing on reducing the climate impact of buildings, creating a sustainable transformation of the existing built environment, and how to reduce climate impact in urban and rural development processes. Furthermore, the programme deals with how architecture and urban design can contribute to strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards. 

​Student interview

We work with the participation of the community”
Naïna, Canada, Architecture and planning beyond sustainability


Why did you choose this programme?
– Back in Canada, I completed a bachelor’s in architecture where we had classical teaching. Therefore, for my master's, I wanted to push my knowledge beyond what I already knew and toward a more sustainable approach to doing architecture. I found this master's by chance, but after reading the main content of the programme, I knew that this was where I wanted to continue my studies. In this programme, we are focused on a social and sustainable approach which I believe is where architecture is heading. 

What have you been working on?
– For this semester, I chose a studio called Social inclusion which had an emphasis on the social aspect of architecture. In a suburb area of Gothenburg, we worked with different stakeholders such as research groups, housing companies, and residents. With the participation of the community, we develop an approach to fulfill the lack of third spaces in the neighborhood. A third space refers to a place accessible to anyone to conduct activities such as gathering for a birthday party, or free study place, etc. In the end, we finalized the project by creating a physical toolbox with different materials that would help conduct and create this third space.

What do you like the most about your programme?
– For me, the most interesting thing about the programme is a new kind of approach to architecture. How collaborative design is conducted directly with the community. Often, we design and forget about the end-users, or we design projects that are too far from reality, but with this studio, we had some concrete results. I think that including the users in a design in architecture is something that has a lot of power in the long term, and it should be implemented more and more in our practice. 

What do you want to do in the future?
– To be honest, I’m not sure what I want to do in the future. Architecture is constantly changing, and we need to create that change. I believe sustainable architecture is the future of this profession and I just hope I can make an impact towards that belief. Whether it is with architecture without borders, or working with communities, I hope I will find a way to make a difference in people’s lives. 
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​Student Blogs

Page manager Published: Mon 05 Dec 2022.