Researchers in the ARA area investigate the ways in which we inhabit space, and how this is shaped by social, technological and cultural spatial factors. Areas of work include: critical approaches to spatial challenges around spatial displacement; smart cities and inclusion; and the role of placemaking and ICTs in the Global South and building design and technologies for low-impact living in Europe and south Asia. The research typically takes a cross-disciplinary approach to address these topics, and is characterised by engagement with the wider civic and cultural contexts of architecture. Consequently the research is also characterized by collaborations with a diverse range of industry and third sector organisations in UK and internationally. 

Staff have successfully published a number of major monographs in the last five years. The work in the smart cities field has also delivered outcomes at policy level through invited evidence to policy makers such as UK Greater London Authority (GLA), European Innovation Partnership (EIP) – AGRI, UK Department of Work and Pensions and Brazilian Ministry as well as to senior management at BT Openreach. National research collaborations include outputs and research partnerships on funded projects with UCL, University of Edinburgh, Cardiff University, University of Durham and Oxford Brookes University.

Featured research

The Displacement Studies Research Network is a global multidisciplinary community of scholars, practitioners and organisations working at the intersection between displacement, heritage, and creativity to research, share, and enhance the impact and power of the creative agencies of displaced peoples, their culture, identity, heritage, health and well-being.

The Network is dedicated to collaborative partnerships with displaced communities, and to tracing, responding to, and informing relevant policy and practice. 

Find out more about this research

Research impact

  • @ Creative Recovery worked with 12 refugees and asylum seekers together as part of Refugee Week 2019 to visualise their meaning of home
  • @ The Digital Venue Toolkit is used by village halls nationally to enable digital inclusion in rural communities
  • @ Evidence to the Greater London Authority informed the role of inclusion in Smart London

Other recent publications

  • Murrani S 2020 'Refugia: Radical Solutions to Mass Displacement' Journal of Refugee Studies , DOI Open access
  • Murrani S 2019 'Contingency and Plasticity: The Dialectical Re-construction of the Concept of Home in Forced Displacement' Culture and Psychology , DOI Open access
  • Murrani S 2016 'Baghdad’s thirdspace: Between liminality, anti-structures and territorial mappings' Cultural Dynamics 28, (2) 189-210 , DOI Open access

Featured researcher: Dr Sana Murrani

Dr Sana Murrani, Associate Professor in Spatial Practice, is an experimental architect focused on the imaginative negotiations of spatial practices and social justice. She is founder of the Justice and Imagination in Global Displacement research collective and the Displacement Studies Research Network that collaborate with displaced communities and inform policy and practice. 

Her main research falls within the field of architecture, in particular, the imaginative negotiations of spatial practices and social justice. She focuses on highlighting the impact of transient conditions of war, conflict, and displacement on people's creative spatial responses to sudden changes in their built environment and the making (or re-making) of the concept of home and collective imaginary housing for the future.

Sana is recognised as a University of Plymouth Pioneer

Postgraduate research opportunities

We welcome proposals for postgraduate research in all of these areas

  • Critical urbanism
  • Theories and practices of architecture
  • Smart cities
  • Urban studies
  • Development studies
  • Spatial practice
  • Sustainable architecture
  • Robotics, 3D fabrication and innovation
Find out more about postgraduate research

Equality, diversity and inclusion

The School of Art, Design and Architecture Equality and Diversity Committee aims to champion and support a culture of participation and inclusivity, and to communicate and raise awareness of equality, diversity and inclusion. The Committee discusses, implements, promotes and monitors school level actions aimed at improving the working and learning environment for academics, professional services staff and students.

We hold an Athena SWAN Bronze Award from the Equality Challenge Unit (November 2018). Advance HE’s Athena SWAN Charter is a framework which is used across the globe to support and transform gender equality within HE and research.

Our researchers