What makes the Cambridge Architecture course so special?

Many students applying for Architecture courses in the UK place Cambridge at the top of their list. This is partly because of the excellence of the course, but also because of the beauty of the city and the college buildings, old and modern, and all the extra things Cambridge has to offer. Within the University, the Architecture Tripos is unique in combining an intellectual training with creative design. The course focuses on architectural design as a unifying activity and provides the first part of the professional training of an architect. However, as it provides a good basis of creative thinking, this is useful in diverse careers from product design and film-making to management and policy-making roles, often related to construction and the built environment. 

The Architecture Tripos is action-packed and fun and therefore requires considerable stamina and dedication. Studio buildings at the Department and on Mill Lane in the city centre are for undergraduates, and students are expected to do much of their design work there. They also have to do a fair amount of work in the vacations. At the same time, Cambridge is full of exciting activities such as sports and theatre, music and art and through College life you will be able to learn about completely different subjects – so student life here offers great opportunities and new challenges. 

You may obtain details of the courses in each year by visiting the Department’s website. You are encouraged to attend the Departmental Open Day, held each year in early July, at the time of the Annual Exhibition of students’ work. For further details please visit the Department’s website.

Professional training in Architecture at the University of Cambridge

In the UK the professional training of an architect is delivered in three Parts, numbered 1, 2 and 3, (not to be confused with the University Tripos Part IA, Part IB and Part II). The Architects Registration Board (ARB) and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) prescribe and validate the courses offered by the various educational institutions. Currently, the Cambridge BA is recognised by ARB and RIBA as equivalent to a Part 1. The Department also offers a Master’s Degree in Architecture and Urban Design which is recognised by ARB and RIBA as equivalent to Part 2. It should be noted that there is quite a lot of moving around between Parts 1 and 2, as students want to explore different schools. The Department also offers a Part 3 (the final gateway to the profession), which is recognised by ARB and RIBA. 

On completing the Tripos, most graduates undertake at least one year’s professional experience working in an architectural practice before returning to university for Part 2. Cambridge graduates are usually highly sought after by leading practices. 

Before taking the Part 3 examinations, students complete a minimum of 24 months’ professional experience by working in an architectural office. To find out more about how the professional training works visit and

Why choose Newnham for Architecture?

Newnham is a particularly congenial setting for women reading Architecture, as it offers a tranquil, friendly, caring College environment which complements the gregarious and high-pressure life in the Departmental studios. The College’s own buildings are architecturally distinguished, from Basil Champneys’s original buildings to the much praised library, the Katharine Stephen Room for rare books and the recent Dorothy Garrod Building. Undergraduates across the years are helpful and supportive of each other. 

All design studios and lectures are department-based. The Department is housed in Scroope Terrace (near the Fitzwilliam Museum) and is just a stroll or short bike ride away across the Fen Meadows or through the historic centre. In addition to lectures and studio teaching, regular supervisions are organised through Newnham. Supervisions are given in small groups usually of two to five students and may be given by lecturers, graduate students or professional architects or engineers. 

How many students take Architecture at Newnham and what options can they choose?

We usually offer one or two places each year. The BA course combines studio work and lecture courses. Design skills are learnt through doing design projects, presenting them and receiving feedback at reviews. Technical skills in construction, structural design and environmental design are taught through lectures, design coursework and site visits. Most students arriving in the first year find this a new, challenging and exciting range of subjects. All subjects must be taken: there are no optional modules, but in the third year each student writes a dissertation on a subject of their choice agreed with their supervisor. 

Can you tell me about the Newnham Architecture Fellows?

For information on the current teaching staff and Fellows for Architecture, please visit our teaching webpages.

Are there any A-level subjects which are particularly useful?

Essential: A strong interest in architecture and place-making; good graphic ability with a serious portfolio which will be reviewed at interview; a good Mathematics GCSE (but see also below, under ‘highly desirable’). A combination of arts and science subjects provides a useful context for this fascinatingly complex subject. 

Highly desirable: A-level Art; Mathematics or Physics, ideally at least to AS level. 

Useful: A-level History/History of Art. Any subject which demonstrates your ability to write and to construct a well-reasoned argument. 

Our standard conditional offer is A*AA at A-level. 

If you have not studied Art at A-level (or equivalent), you may find enrolling on a Foundation course a stimulating and helpful thing to do for an introduction to 3D design and to design theory. 

Can I take a gap year?

Because of the small cohort admitted each year, we do not usually offer deferred entry. Therefore, if you intend to take a gap year we suggest you make your application in the autumn after you have completed your A-levels (or equivalent). 

How should I prepare for the interview?

Please submit a PDF of exactly 6 A4 pages containing images of your own artwork, in total less than 15 MB in size; the selection of images should, in some part, reflect material you might plan to bring to interview as part of your portfolio. You can find more information about written work requirements here

At interview you will be expected to show a portfolio of creative art work. This may include not only painting and drawing but also, if you wish, other media such as photography, computer graphics, or sculpture. Three-dimensional work may be presented through photographs. Sketchbook images showing evidence of powers of observation, a facility for drawing, and an interest in design and in the built environment, will be a great asset. You may include A-level coursework, and/or work and designs you have produced independently to demonstrate the things and ideas that interest you. 

Look around you and record buildings and objects that interest you.  

We recommend you read at least one of the following before coming to interview. Some of these books may be obtainable in local libraries:  

  • Bo Bardi, L., Stones against Diamonds, AA publications
  • Moore, R., Why we build, Picador
  • Pallasmaa, J., The Eyes of the Skin, Wiley
  • Perec, G., Species of Space and Other Pieces, Penguin 
  • Rasmussen, S.E., Experiencing Architecture, MIT 
  • Till, J, Architecture Depends, MIT press 

Is there an Admissions Assessment for Architecture?

Yes – if invited to interview, you will be asked to participate in a writing exercise and a drawing exercise. Keeping a sketchbook will be useful preparation for this.  Further information is available on the Admissions Assessment section of the Undergraduate Study website.

Where can I find out more?

Have a look at the Department of Architecture website. 

You might find one or more of the following inspiring: 


  • Calvino, I,. Invisible Cities, Vintage Classics
  • Schultz, B., Street of Crocodiles and Other Stories, Penguin
  • Sebald, W.G., Austerlitz, Penguin
  • Achebe, C., Things fall apart, Penguin
  • Ali, M., Brick Lane, Black Swan
  • Ngozi Adichie, C, Half of a Yellow Sun

The ecological horizons of architecture 

  • Berners-Lee, M.,There Is No Planet B: A Handbook for the Make or Break Years,CUP
  • Brand, S., How buildings learn: What happens after they’re built, Penguin
  • Cowen, R., Common Ground, Windmill
  • Cramer, D., The Narrow Edge, Yale
  • Diamond, J., Collapse: How societies choose or fail to survive, Penguin  
  • Hagan, S., Ecological Urbanism: The Nature Of The City,  Routledge. 
  • Macfarlane, R., Underland, Penguin
  • Schneider, T., Nishat, A. and Till, J., Spatial agency: other ways of doing architecture, Routledge 
  • Steel, C., Hungry City, Vintage
  • Tree, I., Wilding: The return of nature to a British farm, Picador

Planning, drawing and making architecture 

  • Blokland, T, Community as urban practice, Polity Press
  • Coates, N., Narrative Architecture, Wiley 
  • Cook, P. Drawing: The Motive Force of Architecture, Wiley
  • Dernie, D., Material Imagination in Architecture, Routledge 
  • Jacobs, J. The Death and Life Of Great American Cities, Random House
  • Francis Kéré, Radically simple, Hatje Kantz
  • Parry, E., Context: Architecture and the Genius of Place, Wiley 
  • Minton, A., Ground Control: Fear and happiness in the twenty-first-century city, Penguin
  • Hatherly, O., A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain, Verso
  • Mc Guirk J., Radical Cities: Across Latin America in search of a New Architecture, Verso 
  • Simone A. and Pieterse E., New Urban Worlds: Inhabiting Dissonant Times, Polity Press
  • Tonkiss, F., Cities by Design: the Social Life of Urban Form , Polity Press

Introductions to modern architecture  

  • Curtis, W., Modern Architecture since 1900, Phaidon 
  • Frampton, K., Modern Architecture, A Critical History, Thaes and Hudson
  • Hernandez, F., Beyond Modernist Masters: Contemporary architecture in Latin America, Birkhäuser 

The following are books written by current members of the Department (this is just for interest – don’t feel you have to read any of them)

  • Brittain-Catlin, T., How to Read a Building, Collins 
  • Brittain-Catlin, T., Bleak Houses, MIT  
  • Brittain-Catlin, T., Leonard Mannasseh and Partners, Twentieth Century Society 
  • Campbell, J.W.P., The Library, Thames and Hudson 
  • Campbell, J.W.P., Brick a World History, Thames and Hudson 
  • Campbell, J.W.P., and M. Tutton (eds), Staircases, Routledge 
  • Hernandez, F., Bhabha for Architects, Routledge 
  • Hernandez, F, P. Kellett and L. Allen, Rethinking the Informal City, Berghahan 
  • Hernandez, F., Beyond Modernist Masters: Contemporary architecture in Latin America, Birkhäuser
  • Katz, Irit,et al. Camps Revisted, Rowman and Littlefield 
  • Schroder, I. and Manual Herz, African Modernism, Park 
  • Short, C.A., The Recovery of Natural Environments in Architecture, Routledge 
  • Short, C.A. et al.  Geometry and Atmosphere, Ashgate 
  • Steane, M.A., The Architecture of Light, Routledge 
  • Steane, M.A. and Steemers, K., Environmental Diversity in Architecture, Taylor and Francis 
  • Steemers, K., Healthy Homes, RIBA 
  • Steemers, K., Daylight Design in Buildings, Routledge 
  • Steemers, K., Energy and Environment in Architecture, Taylor and Francis 
  • Sternberg, M., Cistercian Architecture and Medieval Society, Brill 
  • Sternberg, M., W. Pullan, C. Larkin, L. Kyriacou and M. Dumper, The Struggle for Jerusalem’s Holy Places, Routledge 
  • Sternberg, M., and H. Steiner (eds.), Phenomenologies of the City, Ashgate 
  • Sunikka-Blank, M. and Ray Galvin, A Critical Appraisal of Germany’s Thermal Retrofit Policy, Springer 

You might also enjoy looking at some of these websites 

Ash Amin: ‘Lively infrastructures’ at : 

Or some of these articles/podcasts/videos  (a recent extension project for a museum in Belgium by Francesca Torzo, winner of the Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture 2020) (a commentary on the same project) (an article about the making of a brick house in Argentina) (people fixing the world) (Theo Jansen’s beach creatures) (traditional Japanese carpentry skills) (a house/cultural centre on the Chilean coast , as described by its architects, pezo von ellrichshausen) (an introduction to the process of making Lina Bo Bardi’s SESC Pompeia) (Diébédo Francis Kéré: How to build with clay… and community). To see more of his practice’s projects visit (Wendy Pullan talking at the BSR, Rome on: Justice as everyday life: urban conflict and civic space) (article on the work of Anupama Kundoo, including the handmade wall house featured at the 2013 Venice Biennale) 


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