University of Sydney Handbooks - 2014 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 comprised of members of government and industry.

Areas of research interest


The faculty 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 faculty 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 faculty and includes issues such as economic and community development in both Australia and in Southeast Asia.

For further information contact Associate Professor Chris Smith (

) or any member of the discipline.
Areas of research
Architectural computing and digital media
  • digital architecture
  • generative architectural design
  • parametric modelling
  • digital design generation
  • building information management (BIM)
  • architectural animation.
Architectural history and theory
  • twentieth century architectural history
  • contemporary architectural theory
  • Australian architecture
  • East Asian architecture
  • European architecture
  • urban history and theory
  • history and theory of sustainable architecture.
Heritage conservation
  • landscape conservation
  • conservation of render and decorative plasterwork
  • facade retention
  • conservation of 19th and 20th century architecture
  • social and aesthetic values in heritage
  • acknowledging and evaluating the social and aesthetic values of heritage landscapes
  • urban places and their assessment in World Heritage terms.
  • Aboriginal housing
  • student housing
  • owner-building
  • homeless youth
  • high-rise housing for the elderly
  • medium density housing
  • measurement of local and regional economic impacts
  • regional development and planning
  • computer applications in planning and measuring housing need
  • allocating government resources for low income housing.

Architectural and Design Science

Architectural and Design Science is the study of 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 Design Science 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 discipline.
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 auralization of acoustical environments
  • Acoustic aspects of Indoor Environmental Quality
  • Advanced measurement techniques
  • Auditory display and sonification
IEQ (Indoor Environmental Quality)
  • Adaptive thermal comfort
  • Climate chamber and field studies of thermal comfort
  • Non-steady-state thermal comfort and alliesthesia
  • Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and ventilation rates
  • Interactions between IEQ elements of thermal, lighting, acoustics and indoor air quality (IAQ)
  • Building rating tools for IEQ
  • Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) 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 aim of the Design Lab is to foster design as a means of knowledge production in its own right. Our view is that design is fundamentally a knowledge-producing activity. Different from the natural sciences, which studies the world as it is, the humanities, which studies the human condition, and the arts, which explores the possibilities of expression, design is a study of the world the way it could be through the creation and interrogation of the designed world.

Research and creative practice in the Design Lab span a range of disciplines from interaction design and electronic arts to computer science and social science.

We undertake these projects through multiple intellectual channels, having the scientific gaze with its systems of empiricism sit comfortably alongside the artistic approach with its attention toward conceptual possibilities. The projects themselves span politically charged and conceptually difficult terrains, dealing with questions on the biological innateness of design and its cultural and evolutionary pathways, the possibilities of experimental media at the juncture of art, society and technology, and speculative research into the inhabitation of the interface between humans and pervasive computing services.

Most important, the Design Lab provides a home where different people with different ways of knowing can connect, intersect and transform their work and their disciplines. It is a cultural mix of design theory and practice. The Design Lab provides the environment where the resources of research, of the production of knowledge, and of the interrogation of knowledge stem from design.

For further information contact Dr Rob Saunders (

) or any member of the discipline.
Areas of research
Computational design
  • agent-based design
  • AI in design
  • artificial life
  • building information modeling (BIM)
  • computational design modelling
  • creative design systems
  • curious agents
  • emergence in design
  • evolutionary design
  • games design
  • generative design systems
  • mass customisation
  • multi-agent systems (MAS)
  • parametric modelling.
Design studies
  • design cognition
  • design discovery
  • design thinking
  • gestalt theory in design
  • productive thinking in designing.
Electronic art and design
  • augmented reality performance
  • cyborg culture
  • dance and technology
  • data art
  • electronic art
  • electronic body art
  • embodiment in digital culture
  • generative music
  • generative sound
  • gestural interaction
  • information graphics
  • installation art
  • interactive audio
  • interactive design
  • interactive performance
  • locative media art and performance
  • new media
  • sensor-based art
  • visual culture
  • visual design
  • wearable computing.
Information visualisation and sonification
  • aesthetic sonification
  • agent-based visualisation
  • ambient display
  • auditory display
  • data art
  • information aesthetics
  • information graphics
  • information visualisation
  • persuasive computing
  • sonification
  • physical computing
  • wearable computing.
Interaction design
  • computer-supported collaborative work
  • electronic body art
  • embodiment in digital culture
  • interaction design
  • interactive audio
  • interactive installation art
  • interactive sonification
  • interactive video
  • interface culture
  • locative media art
  • mobile art
  • performative geography
  • sensor-based interaction
  • tangible user interfaces.
Pervasive and physical computing
  • mobile computing
  • persuasive computing
  • pervasive computing
  • physical computing
  • sensate environments
  • sensor-based design
  • wearable computing.
Virtual environments and virtual reality
  • augmented reality
  • augment reality performance
  • augmented virtuality
  • computer-supported collaborative design
  • tangible user interfaces
  • virtual environments
  • virtual reality.

Urban and regional planning and policy

Urban and regional planning research has been established in the faculty 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. Besides providing individual study areas for research, the faculty is home to an extensive library collection and the Planning Research Centre, which is an independent University foundation.

For further information contact Professor Peter Phibbs (

) or any member of the discipline.
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
  • Australian Urban Land Use Planning Policy Monitor
  • 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 (EIAs)
  • housing policy in developing countries
  • Indigenous settlement and land tenure issues
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • economic development
  • planning support systems
  • visualisation
  • commuting behaviour
  • spatial decision making.