School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape

Staff Profile

Dr Martyn Dade-Robertson

Director of Masters in Design and Emergence (MA_DE)



The trajectory of my research and teaching to date has been underpinned by a conviction that architectural design theory and practice have a significant contribution to make to contexts beyond the built environment. I have also looked to move past technological speculation in areas such as digital technology and Synthetic Biology to develop and explore experimental prototypes, seeking to ground speculative discourse in practical reality. Through the development of core research programs in technology and scientific areas such as Synthetic Biology, my aim is to develop a rigorous intellectual engagement with new types of material systems and practices.

I am Co-Director (with Katie Lloyd Thomas) of ARC (The Architectural Research Collaborative) and and Editor for ARQ (Cambridge University Press - Architectural Research Quarterly). I have published more than 20 peer reviewed publications including the book The Architecture of Information (Routledge 2011) and received more than £400,000 in research income working on projects which span architectural design and digital technologies. My research group ArchaID is the basis form both my research and teaching and more information can be found here.

I am always keen to talk to promising prospective PhD students in areas of Architectural Design and Computation and Architecture and Synthetic Biology. I have a particular interest in design and emergence through computational and biological systems.

Data Portraits

I also run a University service called Data Portraits which uses data visualisation to map websites and generate printed artworks. The work is featured here and has been publicised in Wired, BBC News, Fast Company, The Telegraph and National Geographic.  


Research Interests

My main interests lie in the relationship between architectural design and computation in two specific areas:

Information Architecture 

Through the study and development of ‘architectonic systems’ which can, in contrast to ‘linguistic systems’, be see as the way in which the spatial environment and our articulation of it are used to communicate information. My research examines the broad culture of architecture and knowledge representation from mnemonic architecture through to the origins of storehouses of knowledge such as museums and libraries and I apply this knowledge to the design of computational systems, whether hardware or software, which use space (physical and virtual) as a way of articulating information and knowledge.

Synthetic Biology

Through studying the relationship between the design and engineering of biological systems and material practices in architecture and other fields of design. Specifically this has involved collaborating with Molecular Biologists, Computer Scientists, Materials Scientists and Experimental Anatomists on morphogenesis and biomineralization with the aim of exploring new material possibilities for architecture. To this end I have also been an advisor for Newcastle University’s iGEM (international genetically engineered machines competition) team am a member of the Centre for Synthetic Biology and Bioexploration.  

Current Projects

Bacilla Vitruvius

Vitruvius suggested in his texts On Architecture that ‘architecture is an imitation of nature' but what happens when architecture becomes nature and we begin, through the design of biological systems, to become architects of nature? This project has been initiated through a series of pilot studies on Biomineralisation and Morphogenesis of new biological materials using calcium carbonate inducing bacteria. These experiments have been used as the basis for an application for an AHRC grant application.

The Architecture of Information and PATINA

My book entitled ‘Architecture in the Information Age’ was published by Routledge in Spring 2011 with the aim of standing against the tide of accounts of digital media which, uncritically and with revolutionary zeal, celebrate the separation of information from its material means and, in the tradition of Remediation (Bolter et al. 2000) and Understanding Media (Manovich 2001), it seeks to place Digital Media into its appropriate historical context. This book provides the foundation for the architecture of information by significantly extending its discussion beyond the pragmatics of organising and presenting digital information and into architectonic systems which are defined as fundamental types of representation which are media independent but which have a particular place in the design of digital media. 

Past Funded Projects

  • 2010-2013 £1.4 million pound EPSRC funded project called PATINA (Personal Architectonics through Interactions with Artefacts) which builds on the ideas developed in The Architecture of Information by examining the relationship between physical and digital research spaces. 
  • 2012  EPSRC (Impact Award, Internally Allocated): £42,854 I was a Co-investigator for ‘Enabling Simple Public Voting and Consultation in Local Communities’,  a project to extend an existing research project to develop a mobile voting system for Newcastle Council in the context of their ‘U-Decide’ program. The project is also in collaboration with the polling company YouGov. I act as a design adviser on the project.
  • Faculty REF Fund: £2,370 Small faculty grant to support the creation of my research group and to develop the PATINA project proposal (described above).
  • 2010 - 2013 European 7th Framework (Marie Curie Program): £190,200 I am a Co-Investigator, in collaboration with Philips Research and Newcastle University School of Computing,  on a project entitled Balance@Home which aims to help in the development of intelligent environments for healthy living. The income supports the employment of two post-doctoral reserachers based in computing. 
  • 2003 - 2006 AHRC PhD. Studentship: approx. £45,000 Funded fees and living expenses for a three year PhD. entitled ‘Information Architecture in Screen Based Semantic Spaces’.
  • 2002 AHRC Masters Studentship: approx. £15,000 Funded fees and living expenses for a one year MPhil degree in ‘Architecture and the Moving Image’.Industrial Relevance
  • My research involves the design of digital artefacts and systems and, as such I have collaborated with companies including Microsoft Research and Philips Research.


I am currently Director of the MA in Design and Emergence (MA_DE). This has involved creating a new curriculum and three new modules:

Current Teaching for 2012-2013

ARC8028 Programming for Design

Introducing students to the principles and practices of software creation in design with a particular emphasis on creative application through the use of programming environments such as Processing and Grasshopper.

ARC8018 Research through Design

A research methods course based on using design as part of a research methodology. The course will include a spectrum of topics from material practice in scientific experiments to experimental practices in creative arts.

ARC8039 Interaction Design

A project/studio led module covering the principles involved in designing digitally augmented material systems, with an emphasis on prototyping and testing human interactions.

Stage 6 Studio: Architecture and Synthetic Biology

Stage 6 thesis studio based on the use of biological systems and experimental material practices.  

Past Teaching

ARC1001 Stage 1 Design (Module Leader)
ARC8068 Linked Research Project (Project Leader)
Developed a Stage 5/6 research studio based on the theme of Architecture and Interaction Design
Additionally I have been a guest tutor and reviewer for projects throughout the undergraduate and graduate design programs and a dissertation supervisor. I have also been nominated by my students for two Student Union led university wide awards for teaching innovation.

ARC8015 Architecture in the Information Age (Module Leader)
Lecture and seminar based module for Stage 5 and other post graduate students on principles and philosophies of architecture in the age of digital methods and media.
ARC8027 Interactive Space Design (Module Leader)
Masters level design based module for Stage 5 and other post graduate students introducing the foundations of interaction design in architectural and urban contexts.

Stage 1 project module (BA Architectural Studies) introducing core skills in Computer Aided Design and digital media as well as graphic design and communication.

Complete PhD supervision as primary supervisor:
Dr. Reham Abdelatif – Design Reviews in Second Life – Completed June 2012

Ongoing PhD supervisions as primary supervisor:
Abdelatif El-Allous – The urban effects of digitisation of municipal services in Tripoli (to complete September 2013)
Luis Hernandez – Architectural tether objects in physical interactions with digital technologies (to complete 2015)
Carolina Figueroa – Synthetic morphologies in architecture (to complete 2015)

PhD examined as an internal examiner:
Dr Islam Abohela – Effects of Roof Shape, Wind Direction and Building Height on the Position of Roof Mounted Wind Turbines. 
Dr Amina Batagaraw – Assessing the Thermal Performance of Phase Change Materials in Composite Humid/Hot Dry Climates: An examination of office buildings in Abuja – Nigeria.