RCAT - Research Center for Architecture and Tectonics

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Completed PhDs: 3 [1 Industrial PhD, 1 Stipend, 1 Joint PhD]

Current PhDs: 4 [1 fully financed PhD, 2 Stipends, 1 faculty member]

Externally funded PhDs: 2 [1 Industrial PhD, 1 fully financed PhD] [Funding value for AHO circa 1 Mil. NOK]


2012-18 [PhD viva in 2018]

PhD Candidate: Asst. Prof. Søren S. Sørensen

Thesis title: Informed Non-Standard Architecture

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel

2014-2018 [PhD viva in 2018]

PhD Candidate: Research Fellow: Sareh Saeidi

Thesis Title: Inhabiting the Architectural Envelope

A Design-based Research on Redefining the Spatial, Climatic and Atmospheric Performances of Architectural Envelopes

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel


This research investigates and redefines current notions of building envelopes based on a performance-oriented approach that transcends prevailing understandings of building envelope performance in the technological domain and through related experimental design of small scale projects. The research focuses on integrated performance aspects with emphasis on architecture and environment interactions that condition interior and exterior paces, as well as transitional spaces between inside and outside so as to generate heterogeneous correlations. Conceptual and methodological approaches are established based on a variety of frameworks, with a particular focus on the detailed study of traditions in local architectural design, speculative small-scale design experiments driven by environmental computational analysis and simulation. How can an envelope be conceptually and methodologically approached by an integrative design of spatial organization and material articulation of the building as well as its local environment?


PhD Candidate: Research Fellow Bjørnar Nørstebø [SINTEF Byggforsk]

Thesis Title: tbc

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel


Research Fellow: to be confirmed

Research Orientation: Locally-specific Architecture and Computational Design

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel



Post-doctoral Researcher: to be confirmed

Research Orientation: Locally-specific Architectures

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel


2008-17 Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel [PhD Stipend]

Thesis title: Convergence - Materials Adaptation and Informatics in Architecture

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Birger R. Sevaldson

Advisor: Prof. Dr. Øyvind Andreassen

This thesis discusses and applies principles of biology and informatics to architecture. The aim was to develop an approach to materials adaptation in multi-criteria architectural design. The research is located at the interface between architecture, biology and informatics and tackles complexity, sustainability and innovation challenges in the design and engineering of materials and environments. Two concepts are introduced to inform adaptive architectural design: (1) convergence, which derives from biology, and (2) ontology, which derives from computer science. This is approached in a threefold manner:

1- Application of the concepts of evolutionary convergence, ecosystem engineering and ecological
niche to architecture to initiate an approach to materials information-driven adaptive design;
2- Utilization of computational ontology to manage, mine, manipulate and generate materials
3- Introducing materials adaptation and materials informatics into multi-criteria design.

In general, this research suggests shifting emphasis from the search for new materials towards information-driven materials adaptation. Convergence and ontology are proposed as key concepts that support this shift. It is argued that this is so far, an insufficiently studied field that could be usefully integrated into established computational approaches and methods with the aim to better enable design to address complex requirements. The inquiry is based on literature research, case studies and full-scale construction experiments. Overall the research connects specific topics, associated theories and methods, within an interdisciplinary approach. This includes evolution and biomimetics, adaptability and plasticity, machine reasoning and computational information-driven design, architectural masonry shell structures and construction, performance and multi-objective optimization, as well as locally specific architecture and a different view of the built environment.

Key concepts from biology, ecology and informatics are identified, introduced and discussed in terms of how these can inform an adaptation-based approach to complexity, sustainability and innovation in architecture. The practical application of convergence and ontology demonstrates an interdisciplinary orientation and a computational approach to materials research in architecture. Convergence can become a common concept for understanding materials adaptation, while ontology can express this information in ways that is interpretable by both humans and computers. In this way concepts of adaptation can be related in an ontology and associated scientific methods can be introduced into design research. This approach creates the opportunity to search for a fit with the ecological periodic table of niches and suggests the feasibility of niche convergence schemes focused on functional traits and trait combinations that are associated with certain environmental conditions and ecological responses for predictions about niche occupation patterns. In result aspects of adaptation, material, environment and use can be related in a logical framework. This allows capturing useful information about constraints on the adaptability of architectural materials to multi-criteria design and plasticity, and multiple routes for design that can improve it.

This research has potential implications for (1) research by design and interdisciplinary transfer of knowledge, (2) expansion of information-based computer-aided architectural design, and (3) technological development related to materials research in architecture, practice and industry. The two key contributions of this thesis are Nested Catenaries and Material Ontology. The former is grounded in the studies of the adaptability of structural ceramics to multi-criteria architectural design. Nested Catenaries is based on an interdisciplinary research-by-design collaboration. It played a central role in the development of ideas for adaptive design and in the development of the overall work, as it incorporated the idea of convergence and translated it to architecture. Nested Catenaries also contributes to developments in structural masonry. The search for ways to turn convergence into a tool for materials adaptation and innovation led to the idea of Material–Ontology (MatOnt). While this is necessarily a work in progress born out of an interdisciplinary collaboration, it has identified a novel approach to biomimetics and a way to bring materials informatics into design research in architecture.

2012-15 Dr. Julia Schlegel [first completed Industrial PhD in the Humanities in Norway]

Thesis Title: The Gap between Design and Vision – Investigating the impact of high-end visualization on architectural practice

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel [AHO], Prof. Dr. Martina Keitsch [NTNU], Kjetil Trædal Thorsen and Eli Synnevåg [Snøhetta]


The thesis discusses the role of visualization in architectural competitions with a focus on the outsourced production of these images and the resulting cooperation between architects andvisualization specialists. The objective of this thesis is to create an account of the current situation and reflect upon potential issues and challenges. It was initiated by experience in practice, and supported by an increasing discussion of visualization, in architectural theory as well as popular media. To maintain the close proximity to architectural practice, the research was conducted as part of an industrial PhD program: The practice-oriented approach enabled the researcher to experience everyday challenges of architects while allowing the academic distance to reflect upon them. Besides keeping the research approach true to practice, this set up should also help to foster a closer collaboration between academia and practice.

A theoretical and an empirical approach were employed to scrutinize the current situation. Ranging from a general to a more specific approach supports a holistic understanding of the phenomenon. First, the theoretical approach concerned a review of the discussion and representation of architectural visualization in competitions and associated thematic fields. The analysis of the documents and literature created the base for the selection of interviewees in the next step. Second, a series of interviews with relevant stakeholders in the field of architecture as well as visualization was conducted. Domains deduced from the analysis were used to define the unit of analysis and framework for the following step. Third, a series of case studies were conducted to study the phenomena described in the interviews in their natural setting and context. The criteria deduced from the case study analysis were utilized to restructure the results of the first two steps of the research and triangulate them.

2012-15 Dr. Isak Worre Foged [Joint PhD Aalborg University]

Thesis Title: Environmental Tectonics - Matter-based Architectural Computation

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Mary-Ann Knudstrup, Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel


The thesis eaxmined environmental architectural studies through theoretical studies and design experiments. Based on the study of three fields in architecture, namely environmental architecture, tectonics in architecture and computational architecture, the aim was to formulate a theoretical and instrumental framework for a human-oriented, environmentally sustainable architecture entitled 'Environmental Tectonics'. The integration of these three fields is pursued in an attempt to address the role of architecture in relation to human, climatic and constructional concerns. This approach positions the human sensation of an environment as a central aspect and the basis for new architectural construction methods and models.


New Stipend Positions are frequently announced.


Applicants should submit a preliminary project description that addresses these or related themes, and describes intended research questions, methods and expected results. In addition applicants should submit a detailed portfolio and examples of writing. Applicants should demonstrate good working knowledge and skills in contemporary computational design and related concepts, methods and tools, as well as good writing skills.

Evaluation criteria:

Applications will be evaluated based on the quality of the submitted project proposal, portfolio and examples of writing.

Position & Salary:

The length of the fellowship will be three or four years fulltime, dependent on whether the candidate is found qualified to undertake teaching duties as part of the PhD position. The position requires full time residency for the full 3- or 4-year period. Research stay at a relevant international academic institution is a possible.

PhD Research Fellow (SKO 1017), pay grade: 50 (NOK 421.100,-) There will be made a monthly deduction of 2% from the salary, as a contribution to the State Pension Fund. The position has the same rights as a normal regular state employee.


The Oslo School for Architecture and Design offers among other PhD tracks the Industrial PhD track (Nærings-PhD) that aims for Industry-oriented research. 

The purpose of the system of industrial PhD. is to strengthen the interaction between companies and research institutions, contribute to more research in business and to educate scientists with knowledge that is relevant to the company they are employed in.

The research will be long-term, industry-oriented and have the same scientific level of quality as traditional doctoral education. The AHO Council established the Industrial PhD in 2008, after the model of the DanishErhvervsPhD that has existed since 1972.

The Research Center for Architecture and Tectonics invites Industrial PhD applications related to its key research areas and activities.

Please contact Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel for Industrial PhD related inquiries that are related to the research activities and areas of the Research Center for Architecture and Tectonics.

See also: Industrial PhD


Post-doctoral research positions are posted here. In the meantime please contact Prof. Dr. Michael U. Hensel for post-doctoral research related inquiries.

Current Calls:

The Institute of Architecture at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO) seeks a full time postdoctoral researcher, with a special focus on locally specific architectures that are based on the given local conditions and circumstances such as environment, resources and cultural patterns of articulating and using space, while considering related aspects of construction, structures and materials. The Institute seeks to refine and develop a unique research environment on an international level. As part of this effort the institute acknowledges the increasing significance of a well-developed approach to architecture as a response to local terrain, climate, and other relevant regimes of the local physical environment, while building on useful insights and approaches in local architectural history from a performance perspective.

Architecture, like other disciplines, is undergoing a significant transformation as a result of increasing complex design requirements and a related demand for digitization of information associated with all stages of design. This development places substantial focus on modelling, communicating, combining, integrating, analysing and sharing large volumes of data coming from different sources, while converting this data into information that can be interrogated. It is intended that the postdoctoral research will contribute to an integrated conceptual and methodological approach to employing information in the creation of architecture. The research is thought to incorporate computational informatics and computational ontologies, through which data is structured as information in the design process. Ontologies have proven successful in other fields, but is still nascent in architecture as a tool for design. Special emphasis will be placed on interdisciplinarity and its contribution to the various strands of sustainability research that are currently present at AHO. The candidate will be placed in the context of the Institute’s research centre (RCAT) and will collaborate broadly with other related researchers in the institute.