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Dr Sophia Psarra
140 Hampstead Road
  • Reader
  • The Bartlett School of Architecture
  • Faculty of the Built Environment

Dr. Sophia Psarra is Reader of Architecture and Spatial Design since January 2011, Director of the Spatial Design Architecture Cities (SDAC) MSc Course, and Associate Editor of the Journal of Space Syntax. Before joining the Bartlett she was Associate Professor at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning University of Michigan in the US (2005-2010) and Lecturer/SeniorLecturer at the Welsh School of Architecture in Cardiff University (1997/2004). Her research interests are in the area of conceptual and perceptual spatial characteristics and their relationship with patterns of movement, use and cultural content.  Her activities in these areas have resulted in publications, (Architecture and Narrative –The Formation of Space and Cultural Meaning, Routledge 2009), creative installations and design projects. She has collaborated with leading cultural institutions on layout design, exhibition narratives and visitors’ experience (The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA, New York, The Natural History Museum, London, The Burrell Collection, Glasgow, The Art Gallery and Museum, Kelvingrove, Glasgow, The Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, and The Manchester City Art Gallery). As a practicing architect, Dr. Psarra was part of a team that won first prizes in international architectural competitions (EUROPAN). Her work has been exhibited in Venice Biennale, the George Pompidou Centre, NAI Rotterdam, London, Berlin, Milan and Athens in Europe. In 2007 she led an interdisciplinary studio collaborating with neuroscientists, artists, composers and poets and exploring the role of narrative, and memory in space, text, music and dance (‘Arts and the Brain’) in the context of the ‘Arts on Earth’ initiative, University of Michigan).

Research Groups
Research Themes
Research Summary

Before coming to UCL (2011) I held academic appointments in internationally distinguished universities. At the Bartlett, I am member of the Space Syntax Laboratory, which has held a number of EPSRC funded awards, and was noted as the highest performer of the UCL Faculty of the Built Environment in the last RAE. My research activities have resulted in publications, creative installations and design projects. Recently, I have co-organised the international seminar Rio@Rio at Columbia University GSAPP's Studio-X Rio in Rio de Janeiro in the context of the international studio trip in the SDAC MSc. My research work focuses on the relationship between space and form together with the social meanings they afford, the architectural and social theories associated with this subject, and the ways in which spatial characteristics interact with patterns of use shaping experience. This has been at the centre of my PhD studies and subsequent work culminating in the publication of my book (Routledge 2009). 

Another line of investigation is design research, and the formation of conceptual content through visual form and space, how architecture and the city carry cultural narratives, and how meanings bridge across architecture and symbolic media such as film and literature. I explore the conceptual structuring of buildings, plans, films and texts, and the sequential framework in which these works are experienced. The underlying idea is to situate architecture and cities within a theoretical, analytical and interdisciplinary inquiry.

My work also explores the ways in which layouts support vibrant cultures, and how patterns of inhabitation and use relate to spatial relations. A special focus has been the relation among spatial layout, curatorial intent, exhibition design and the exploration patterns of visitors in cultural buildings, museums and galleries. This has been developed in the course of my collaboration with leading cultural institutions in the UK and the US. This research looks at the interaction between architecture and exhibition design, the formation of cultural messages through the ways in which objects are arranged in space, and the ways in which the layout and the display narratives affect the visitors’ experience. 

Another branch of my research looks at the factors that contribute to the successful life of cities. It explores the relationship between street networks, land use and economic activity through historical research and analytic descriptions of spatial configuration particularly in relation to cities that experienced a rise and fall in pre-industrial, industrial and post-industrial periods, such as Detroit in the US and Venice in Italy. 

I have disseminated my research to design practices, institutional bodies, organisations, design practices and I have lectured widely (The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA, New York, The National Museum of American History - The Smithsonian Institution, The School of Architecture and Technology, University of Xi’an, China).  

Teaching Summary

Over my entire academic career I have taught studio across all levels of the curriculum and the educational structure and have directed final degree years in BA and MArch programmes. Between 1999 and 2004 I was Year Chair of the BSc and BArch programmes in the Welsh School of Architecture, and in 2005 I was Raoul Wallenberg Studio Director in the University of Michigan. One my MArch students won the RIBA Presidents Medals award for her dissertation (2013). I am currently Course Director of the Spatial Design Architecture Cities (SDAC) MSc at the Bartlett School of Architecture, where I also teach the Architectural Phenomena module, the E-Merging Design Research Module and the SDAC MSc Dissertation. The Architectural Phenomena module explores theoretically morphologically and politically the evolution of ideas that have influenced architecture and the city from the 1960s to the present. The E-Merging Design Research Module unites laboratory research with design research and interacts with theoretical and analytical modules in the SDAC MSc programme.  

PhD Completions: 

2016, Olimpia Cermasi, Landscape Urbanism and the Peri-Urban Condition: The Case of Bologna and Modena in Italy, University of Bologna, Italy (external supervisor).

2009, Ipek Kaynar, Architecture Reshaping the Cultural Experience: Visual-Spatial Relations Influencing Visitors' Exploration, Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning, University of Michigan (co-advisor with J. Wineman). 

2007, Felix Kabo, An Integrative Framework For Design and Implementation of Large Low-cost Housing Projects, Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning, University of Michigan, (dissertation committee member)

2007, Linda Nubani, The Relationship Between Spatial and Visibility Characteristics of Residential Neighborhoods and Crime, Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning, University of Michigan, (dissertation committee member)

2007, Tae Jung Kwon, The Perception of Walking Distance in the Configuration of Urban Networks, Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning, University of Michigan, (dissertation committee member)

PhD examiner: 

2014, Kaliopi Amygdalou, A Tale of Two Cities in Search of a New Identity: The Politics of Heritage and Modernisation in Early Twentieth Century Izmir and Thessaloniki, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL.

2013,Wu Ming, Negotiating a People's Space: A Historical, Spatial and Social Analysis of the People's Square of Shanghai from the Colonial to Mao to Post-Mao Era, University of Melbourne

2013, Vassiliki Papakamenou, Lighterials in Architectural Design, University College London

2012, Nick Helm, Theatre Architecture and Dramatic Form: from a chronology to a typology, University College London

2011, Konstantinos Ioannidis, Designing the Edge: An Inquiry into the Psychospatial Meaning of Architecture in the Urban Waterfront, KTH, Stockholm  

2011, Yi Ly, Targeted Visibility Analysis, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA

2007, Kali Tzortzi, The Interaction Between Building Layout and Display Layout in Museums, Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, UCL

2005, Weiling He, Flatness Transformed and Otherness Embodied, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA

2005, Waleed Al-Sayeed, Tradition Versus Modernity in the Architecture of the Modern World - the Case of the Arab House, Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, UCL

2003, Rapit Sunavajanata, Relations in Architectural Space - Designs and Effects in the Traditional Thai Houses and Temples, Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, UCL

JAN-2011 Reader in Architecture and Spatial Design Bartlett School of Graduate Studies UCL, United Kingdom
01-JAN-2005 – 31-DEC-2010 Associate Professor Taubman College of Architecture+Urban Planning University of Michigan, United States
JUL-2004 – NOV-2004 Senior Lecturer   Cardiff University, United Kingdom
01-SEP-1997 – 30-NOV-2004 Lecturer-Senior Lecturer Welsh School of Architecture Cardiff University, United Kingdom
OCT-1996 – OCT-1997 Design Tutor School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture University of Greenwich, United Kingdom
OCT-1994 – JUN-1995 Associate Lecturer School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture University of Greenwich, United Kingdom
OCT-1992 – JUN-1996 Design Tutor School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture University of Greenwich, United Kingdom
01-SEP-1992 – 30-JUN-1997 Associate Lecturer-Design Tutor School of Architecture University of Greenwitch, United Kingdom
Academic Background
1997 PhD Doctor of Philosophy – Architecture University College London
1986 MSc Master of Science (by research) – Architecture and Urbanism University College London
1985 Dip. Diploma – Architecture National Technical University of Athens
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