Martyn Dade-Robertson

I studied Architectural Design as an undergraduate in Newcastle University and later at Cambridge University for an MPhil and PhD funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. My focus throughout the early part of my career was on ‘Information Architecture’, specialising in information systems, drawing parallels between the topological organisation of physical and digital information spaces. My PhD, which was supervised in Schools of Architecture and of Computing at Cambridge, was nominated for and Royal Institute of British Architects research prize and was published as the Routledge book The Architecture of Information. This work also led to my first major EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) grant in 2011 for a project which investigated the future of research spaces. Through this grant I developed a projects on Data Visualization – publishing on network visualisation and creating a spin out art consultancy: “Data Portraits” which was publicised in the national and international media.

In parallel to this work I developed an interest in the emerging field of Bio Design – specialising in Synthetic Biology. Synthetic Biology applies engineering design thinking (from fields such as electronic engineering and computing science) to biological systems. In the UK Synthetic Biology has been heralded as one of the “Eight Great Technologies” (which includes, for example, robotics and advanced materials). I recognised a gap between scientific state of the art and design speculations in the emerging field of biotechnology and, with the aim of helping to bridge this gap I completed an MSc in Synthetic Biology 2016 – developing skills in both wet lab science (with a specialism in microbial Synthetic Biology) and computational methods and systems biology. From this starting point I have rapidly built a new research group which takes a human application centred approach to Synthetic Biology and includes the EPSRC Funded Projects Computational Colloids and Thinking Soils both concerned with developing bacteria based sensors capable of detecting mechanical changes in their environment and synthesising strengthening materials. The work has received wide spread media coverage and enabled me to set up a wet lab and develop a research group consisting of engineers architectural designers and bioscientists. A blog of our ongoing research can be found here:

In 2019 I lead a successful bid to create an £8M Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment (HBBE) with Northumbria University. I will co-direct the HBBE, which will eventually consist of more than 30 researchers, and host 4 new research facilities including an experimental house we call the “OME”. Our website and more information can be found here:

Previously I acted as the Research Director for the School of Architecture Planning and Landscape and from August 2019 I will become the school’s Professor of Emerging Technology. I am the editor for an new Routledge Book Series on Bio-Design and will be the author of the first book: Living Construction due out Autumn 2020