University of Sydney Handbooks - 2017 Archive

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Research centres and areas of interest

Research centres

Ian Buchan Fell Housing Research Centre

Ian Buchan Fell, who died in 1961, left the income from his estate to the University for the promotion and encouragement of education and research on housing. The centre is concerned with the needs of people relative to their housing. These needs are related to the complex interactions between people, their housing and other aspects of the built environment.

Planning Research Centre

The Planning Research Centre's main purpose is to further fundamental research into physical planning and development. It also sponsors seminars in specialised fields, undertakes research and consultancy projects, runs professional development courses and promotes the publication of research material. It has an active membership comprising members of government and industry.

Areas of research interest

Architectural History, Theory and Criticism

The school is recognised for excellence in the field of architectural history and theory with expertise in East Asian, European, American and Australian architecture. Research degrees may be completed in one of three key areas: Architectural History and Theory, Heritage Conservation or Housing. Research in Architectural History examines the creation and impact of the built environment with regard to technological, aesthetic, economic, social and cultural change.

Research in architectural theory examines a diverse range of architectural topics through the lens of contemporary architectural theory. Heritage Conservation research studies encompass architectural, landscape and cultural heritage; this school was the first in Australia to teach courses in heritage conservation. Housing research is supported by the Ian Buchan Fell Housing Research Centre within the school and includes issues such as economic and community development in both Australia and Southeast Asia.

The architecture research collaborative is the research hub for architectural history, theory and criticism at the University of Sydney, Australia. Arc focuses on the critical, historical and cultural forces that constitute architecture and the broader built environment.

The group is a collaboration of expert academics, consultants and higher-degree research candidates in the areas of Contemporary Architecture Theory, 20th Century history and theory, Australian architecture, East Asia architecture, European architecture, and Urban history and theory.

For further information contact Professor Andrew Leach (

) or any member of the research group.
Architectural computing and digital media
  • digital architecture
  • generative architectural design
  • parametric modelling
  • digital design generation
  • building information management
  • architectural animation.
Advanced Manufacturing and Prefabrication - Innovation in Applied Design

The Innovation in Applied Design Lab (IAD Lab) is a collaborative cross-disciplinary research Laboratory within The Sydney School of Architecture, Planning and Design.

The IAD Lab's strategic focus on "applied design" is broadly conceived to include a wide range of R&D projects and problems spanning a range of scales and disciplines involved in the design, study and construction of the built environment. The IAD Lab provides a hub for researchers within the school, and creates opportunities for its Industry Partners to build Research and Development capacity.

For further information contact Associate Professor Mathew Aitchison (

) or any member of the research group.

Architectural and Building Science and Technologies

The Architectural and Building Science and Technologies research group studies the physical, structural and performance aspects of built environments. It encompasses lighting, daylighting, acoustics, thermal performance, wind effects, noise and acoustics, sustainability, Indoor Environmental Quality, structural systems and construction. It can also include studies in how people react to environments and the functional aspects of buildings in use.

Architectural and Building Science and Technologies at the University of Sydney comprises internationally leading researchers who provide expert supervision of higher degree research candidates with access to some of the best architectural science research laboratories and infrastructure within in the Australian university sector. It is possible to undertake some advanced coursework within higher degree research programs.

For further information contact Professor Richard de Dear (

) or any member of the research group.
Areas of research
Architectural technologies
  • Biomimetic and adaptable building structures
  • Smart materials and technologies for building envelopes
  • Advanced structural materials
  • Integrated models for the synthesis of complex buildings.
Audio and acoustics
  • Room acoustics
  • Psychoacoustics, including loudness and spatial hearing
  • Audio reproduction quality and signal processing
  • Simulation and auralisation of acoustical environments
  • Acoustic aspects of indoor environmental quality
  • Advanced measurement techniques
  • Auditory display and sonification.
Indoor environmental quality (IEQ)
  • Adaptive thermal comfort
  • Climate chamber and field studies of thermal comfort
  • Non-steady-state thermal comfort and alliesthesia
  • Indoor air quality and ventilation rates
  • Interactions between IEQ elements of thermal, lighting, acoustics and indoor air quality
  • Building rating tools for IEQ
  • Post occupancy evaluation of built environments by their occupants
    Impacts of IEQ on productivity and performance.
  • Applications of emerging and next-generation lighting technologies
  • Visual perception, particularly colour vision
  • Novel light source spectra for improved efficacy
  • Colorimetry and development of colour standards
  • Innovative modes of lighting control and human interaction.
Sustainable design
  • Cultural sustainability through integration of architectural science, archeological and heritage conservation knowledge
  • Form and space making potential of sustainable design
  • History of climatic design in Australia
  • Simulation of building environmental performance
  • Comfort analysis of urban outdoor and semi-outdoor microclimates
  • Building integration of renewable energy sources.

Design Lab

The Design Lab is committed to interdisciplinary, design-led research that leads to improved interactions and experiences through and with digital technology.

Research in the Design Lab focuses on three core aspects of design: the process and theory of human-centred design; the design of innovative solutions; and the use of digital products.

Research projects in the Design Lab span the two broad areas of interaction design and creative technologies. These areas are combined and extended through collaborations across and beyond the Design Lab into more specialised research areas including design thinking, experience design, interactive media, media architecture, urban informatics, urban data design, human-robot interaction, computational creativity, and wearable technology. The members of the Design Lab apply their research to a diverse range of applications including architecture, urban and regional planning, transport, healthcare, education, and the creative industries.

The Design Lab provides the environmental and resources to facilitate collaborations with industry and communities, providing opportunities for enhancing current practice, environments, and systems through design.

For further information contact Associate Professor Martin Tomitsch (

) or any member of the discipline.
Areas of research
Data Analytics and Visualisation

Research in this stream focuses on two areas: using data analytics to drive design and design decisions, and the human-centric, aesthetic visualisation of digital information. These areas are applied across a range of application areas and scales, from urban planning to health informatics, and from online visualisation tools to large-scale dashboard visualisations.

Designing for Health and Wellbeing

Research on health and wellbeing in the Design Lab combines design-led research practice with creative technologies to investigate how computing technologies can help to support healthy living and life styles in home environments, at work, and in cities.

Media Architecture and Smart Cities

The Design Lab's research on media architecture focuses on design issues, technological challenges and social aspects around the integration of digital technologies into the urban space. It uses a research-through-design approach to conceptualise, develop, and evaluate interventions that link digital and physical spaces with the aim to improve urban liveability. This research stream includes the investigation of design-led approaches to smart city solutions, that focus on empowering citizens and civic leaders through targeted interventions

Performance, Body and Technology

Research in this stream focuses on the development of methods for working with the creative potential of the moving body, drawn from movement improvisation, dance and somatic practices, which can be appropriated by designers. This includes research on wearable technologies across a range of applications areas, including physical activity and health.

Urban Data Science

The Design Lab's research on urban data science is pushing the interface between traditional urban studies, economics, design, and planning and new multi-disciplinary regimes brought in by research in complex systems, sensor technologies, network science, physics, machine learning and data science. This includes research on city science and urban computing, and the application of novel data mining and computational methods for solving problems in urban design and planning research. Research in this stream especially focuses on the social and economic dynamics of housing and transportation in the city.


Urban and regional planning research has been established in the school since the late 1940s, covering a wide range of subject areas, including international studies with a focus on Southeast Asia and the Pacific; metropolitan planning; housing studies; regional policy and many other fields of policy and development. A recently established urban design program provides additional opportunities to conduct research into the design dimensions of urban form. The School is also home to the Cities Network and Urban Housing Lab, and has strong links with the Festival of Urbanism, Henry Halloran Trust

For further information contact Professor Nicole Gurran (

) or any member of the research group.
Areas of research
  • urban planning and regional comparative planning systems
  • collaborative environmental planning and management
  • planning for environmental sustainability
  • planning for housing accessibility, diversity and affordability
  • coastal protection and growth
  • informal urbanism
  • social and environmental justice
  • community forestry
  • political ecology
  • natural resource management
  • sustainable development and climate change
  • urban policy and planning locally and internationally
  • suburban economic development
  • poverty and inequality
  • rural communities
  • community development and sustainable planning
  • urban planning research and education
  • gated communities
  • tourism development in Pacific urban planning
  • development aid policy
  • environmental impact assessments
  • housing policy in developing countries
  • Indigenous settlement and land tenure issues
  • geographic information systems
  • economic development
  • planning support systems
  • visualisation
  • commuting behaviour
  • spatial decision making.