[CPU]ai is a post-graduate master’s atelier in the Manchester School of Architecture exploring the emerging possibilities from AI, Big Data, Machine Learning, and computational design towards more sustainable Future Cities. Instead of limiting the study of emerging urban phenomena to conceptual starting points for design, students explore the possibility of expanding their design process and methods to engage with the complexities of urban transformation through deeper cognition of computational possibilities. Our approach explores data-driven design, generative design processes, performance analysis, and computer simulation. It is situated within a Design Science framework referencing both a science of design and design as a science. Herbert Simon’s description of design as a study of the ‘artificial’ aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones through the development of artefacts links our development of new computational tools (#codeyourowntools) to the design of desirable futures.

Students translate methodologies explored in the [CPU]lab – an externally funded research laboratory working on Smart Cities, urban IoT, CAVs and sustainable infrastructures – into experimental computation-based design approaches with an understanding of complex systems. Urban theories addressing social-sustainable-technological transitions and spatio-temporal urban transformations frame cities as dynamic systems and sub-systems that include spatial, social, and technological dimensions. Novel design approaches are required to address the complex, multiscale, temporal and emergent phenomena that constitute the contemporary urban process.

This year [CPU]ai explores ‘Zero Carbon Future Cities’ through a partnership with Manchester City Council on the Victoria North development impacting on 35,000 people. Projects anchored in scientific approaches to calculate energy use and emissions position future designs in a metric embedded process involving the generation and assessment of multiple future possibilities. Designs variously address accessibility, building performance, embodied carbon, transport, consumption, lifestyle, demand, satisfaction, health and air quality. Engagement with multiple sustainability areas through design is enabled by a step-by-step process within which students learn computational skills (e.g. BIM, modelling, visual programming, python coding, game engines, XR, etc.) in parallel with computational design and urban theories. Graduates contribute to an evolutionary process for the profession towards future practice.

Year 6

Professional Studies

Professional Studies 1

This design module explores digital construction technologies and their influence on architectural design and practice. The experiments are situated within the context of the Climate Emergency and environmental sustainability, contributing to aspects of a much-needed sustainability transition in the construction sector. Students were tasked with designing a zero-carbon student accommodation project in collaboration with the Manchester Metropolitan University Estates Department. By working closely with Man-Met Estates as a live client, students identified and addressed live considerations in the ongoing expansion of the university provision, while aligning with the strategy to retain Man-Met as one of the greenest campus’ in the UK. Design was positioned within systems thinking to engage with multiscale considerations towards a unique zero-carbon future outcome. Modern Methods of Construction and Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) were explored to further the sustainability goals through use of emerging technologies. Students researched and developed spatial strategies to address user and client needs as a designed spatial system, while also demonstrating the zero-carbon ambition and performance considering embodied, operational and life cycle aspects of the carbon footprint. While demonstrating their critical understanding of zero-carbon and DfMA for design, students developed familiarity with digital and computational approaches to design with a primary focus on BIM and digital to physical connections.

Professional Studies 2

This design module explored adaptive reuse of the part listed Righton Building. With a focus on re-interpretation and a systems approach, students were tasked with adapting the Man-Met Righton building into a zero-carbon learning commons/makerspace. The systems theoretical perspective (learnt from PS1) was used to frame the project. A critical study of reuse case studies identified useful strategies. These were tested with embedded metrics resulting in an evidence-based approach. An iterative computational design approach was utilised to test the design space by iterating and testing programmatic requirements, spatial organisation, site conditions, energy performance, façade design, internal conditions, comfort, etc., towards brief and zero-carbon future requirements. As part of the process of design, students were provided with specialist workshops on computational modelling, parametric design and visual programming, while looking at digital design work-flows and multi-stage analysis. The outcomes test the constraints of the re-use project in achieving zero-carbon outcomes in creative ways.


Year 5

Abdul Muaz Aiman Bin Masri, Adya Saran, Agrima Sharma, Aisha Zulfiqar, Ayesha Sharma, Deenesh Gungaphul, Deng Yucheng, Elliot Foster, Erika-Karen Low, Froilan John Palacio, Hanjun Kim, He Zheyi, Johan Bin Nor Azman, Li Nuoya, Liu Hengrui, Liu Jiawei, Malak Hussein, Mateusz Rogodzinski, Mirza Rahman, Mohamad Danial Haziq Bin Mohd Hamdan, Nitya Devgun, Riyan Chowdhury, Rucha Anand Valimbe, Ryan Ehlers, Sehaam Usmani, Ulrick Rudy Agbodan, Weng Lam, Yang Songchuan, Zhao Zilang

Year 6

Maryam Al-Irhayim, Nadia Al-Shawi, Kareem Alsaady, Jakub Andruszkiewicz, Effimia Athanasakopoulou, Irina Balan, Jemma Baldwin, Jordan Bartlett, Hannah Byrom, Harry Chan, Hsuan-Fang Chen, Tom Cooper, Xinzi Deng, Abdullah Jawdatt, Bella Kimathi, Lon Y Law, Sookie Lee, Wendell Lu, Michelle Majalang, Payam Malakouti, Holly Millburn, Giorgos Porakos, Tazeen Raza, Yasamin Salimi, Nayeem Shaik, Ladi Timothy Shobowale, Bethany Stewart, Shrida Venkatesh, Yao Wei, Jack Whitehouse, King Wong