Mr Ben Cowd

Job: Subject Head - Postgraduate Architecture / Senior lecturer

Faculty: Arts, Design and Humanities

School/department: Leicester School of Architecture

Research group(s): Architectural Design

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, UK, LE1 9BH

T: +44 (0)116 207 8441




Personal profile

Ben Cowd is a Senior Lecturer, Interim Associate Head of School at LSA and co-founding partner of saraben-studio, London. In 2012 he was awarded the ‘Grand Award for Architecture’ by the Royal Academy of Art for his work ‘Solar Topography in Rome’: A prize previously won by Lord Richard Rogers, Jan Kalicky and Eric Parry. 

Ben’s work has been widely published and exhibited internationally including exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Art, The Venice Biennale and the Museum of Art and Design in New York. He has lectured extensively about his research and collaborative work with Sara Shafiei (saraben-studio) and in 2012 was Keynote speaker at the international conference ‘Conversations on Architecture’ Cape Town, South Africa. 

In March 2013 Ben will be lecturing at VCU Qatar as part of the Tasmeen Conference, Hybrid Making and exhibiting an installation and collection of models and drawings at the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Qatar. 

Before joining DMU Ben worked for Foster + Partners in London, working primarily on the BMCE banks in Morocco. He completed two buildings in Rabat and Casablanca before working on Projects in London, Libya and Switzerland. His models for the BMCE Bank were exhibited with Lord Norman Foster and Spencer De Grey at the Royal Academy of Arts: Summer Exhibition 2009. Ben is interviewed in the film 'How much does your building weight Mr Foster?' which was released at the Berlin Film Festival 2010.

Ben graduated from the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL in 2007 and was named one of London’s top Art and design graduates that year by Wallpaper Magazine and the Financial Times. His final thesis project ‘The Observatory and ticket office, Rome’ has been published internationally and praised in Blueprint, Wallpaper, Bartlett Design: Speculating with Architecture, Slash: Paper Under the Knife and the AD-Exuberance. 

Ben is currently programme leader for the MA Architectural Design and Year Leader for 5th Year MArch. His students have won several international awards including a commendation in the RIBA Silver Medal, Winner RIBA Sergeant Award for Best Drawings 2012 and the TECU international student prize 2010. They have gone onto work in the offices of Lord Norman Foster, Nicholas Grimshaw, MAKE architects and Thomas Heatherwick. 

In 2010 Ben co-founded the website to record and publish the student projects and research developed during the workshops and studios taught by Sara Shafiei and Ben Cowd.

Research group affiliations

  • Architectural Design

Publications and outputs

  • Desert Architecture Review of Ghadames Housing in Libya
    Desert Architecture Review of Ghadames Housing in Libya Alabid, Jamal; Taki, A. H.; Cowd, Ben see attached the full paper. Alabid, J.M., Taki, AH and Cowd, B (2014) Desert Architectural Review of Ghadames Housing in Libya. The First International Conference on Energy and Indoor Environment for Hot Climates held in Doha, Qatar, February 24 - 26, 2014. pp. 240-247
  • Celestial Topography, THEKLA
    Celestial Topography, THEKLA Cowd, Ben Celetial Topography is a research project and pavilion constructed at 1:1 scale, inspired by the description of a fantasy city ‘Thekla’ in Italo Calvino’s book, invisible cities. The geometry of the pavilion is informed and aligned to stars and constellations above the city of Leicester at summer solcstice. It is able to identify and track the movement and cycle of the stars at specfic times of the year.
  • The Mosque of the Sun
    The Mosque of the Sun Cowd, Ben The Mosque Of The Sun is a speculative architectural project investigating solar alignment in architecture, proposing a contemporary mosque design in Qatar that illuminates at specific times in the day to indicate salat (prayer time). Using multiple environmental simulation software, precise apertures and openings in the mosque are aligned to the sunpath over Qatar, enabling light to enter the prayer hall at Fajr (sunrise), Dhuhr (midday), Asr (afternoon) and Maghrib (sunset). - Exhibition: The Arab Museum of Modern Art, Mathaf, Doha, Qatar (March 2013-May 2013). - Presented: International Biennial Art and Design Conference, 2013. Hybrid Making Workshop and Design Conference 2013 - Exhibition: Royal Academy of Arts, Summer Exhibition, London, 2012: Peer selected by Chris Wilkinson. -Keynote Speaker: Conversations on Architecture, Cape Town South Africa, 2012 - Published: Gulf Times ‘Tasmeem Doha Seeks Dash of Creativity’ 17.01.13. -British Sundial Society Quarterly Journal, August 2012. (Front cover and main feature). Authorship: As part of a joint architectural practice saraben-studio, Ben Cowd and Sara Shafiei contribute equally to the research. Cowd, B. (2010) The Mosque of the Sun
  • The Crown of Esfahan
    The Crown of Esfahan Cowd, Ben The work presents a contemporary dome design for a mosque in Iran. Exhibited as a single artefact for the 2010 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition; the work aims to explore a notion of ornament as architectural object, apposed to an applied surface ornamentation or decoration. Combining CAD modelling and fabrication with traditional silversmith techniques the work aims to develop a digitally crafted artefact. The process involves the ‘unfolding’ of complex 3 dimensional digital models in to flat triangulated panels which can then be acid etched out of sheet brass and reconstructed by hand. The design of the dome reinvents the traditional islamic geometric dome as a series of deep appertures or funnels, connected to the outside skin of the building, which brings in indirect light into the mosque. The variance in illumination caused by the movement of the sun throughout the day, creates constantly changing spatial conditions inside the prayer hall. Exhibition: Royal Academy of Arts, Summer Exhibition, London 2010: Peer selected by David Chipperfield Authorship: As part of a joint architectural practice saraben-studio, Ben Cowd and Sara Shafiei contribute equally to the research.
  • Laser Cut Book: The Farnese Gardens, Rome
    Laser Cut Book: The Farnese Gardens, Rome Cowd, Ben The work shows two architectural models shown in the context of the Farnese Gardens, Rome. The design and manufacture of the work combines digital design, digital fabrication and traditional book binding techniques. The architectural models are constructed from 564 flat architectural plans which are cut out of the pages of a book. As readers leaf through the pages of the book, they reveal new layers of the city, building the narrative and slowly constructing a 3 dimensional scaled model of Rome. Awards: £10,000 AJ/Lend Lease, Grand Award for Architecture, The Royal Academy of Arts, Summer Exhibition, London: Judged by Catherine Findley, Paul Finch and Christine Murray Exhibitions: SLASH Paper Under the Knife: Museum of Art and Design (MAD) New York, October 2009 Royal Academy of Art, Summer Exhibition, London: Peer selected by Chris Wilkinson, June 2012 Publications: Architects journal: Things that make you go OOH!, Merlin Fulcher July 2012 Architects Journal: Judges fall for model in a book, Merlin Fulcher, August 2012 SLASH paper under the knife, Museum of Art and Design, New York. October 2009 (ISBN: 978-8874395293)

Click here to view a full listing of Ben Cowd's publications and outputs.

Key research outputs

  • Winner: Grand Award for Architecture, Royal Academy of Art, Summer Exhibition June 2012: Solar Topography, Rome
  • Keynote Speaker: Conversations on Architecture, Cape Town, South Africa, March 2012: Magic and Architecture  
  • Project: The Mosque of the Sun, Qatar. 2012, Exhibited Royal Academy of Art 2010-12
  • Exhibition: Slash: paper Under the Knife, Museum of Art and Design, New York, November 2010: Observatory and Ticket office, Rome
  • Project: Contoured Embodiment, Exhibited Royal Academy of Art 2009

Research interests/expertise

  • Craft of Digital Fabrication in Architectural Design and representation
  • Implication of drawing and making in the process of architectural design

Areas of teaching

  • Architecture
  • Architectural Design 
  • Architectural Technology


BA(hons) Dip.Arch (UCL)

Courses taught

Honours and awards

AJ/Lend Lease Grand Award for Architecture, The Royal Academy of Arts, Summer Exhibition 2012

Membership of professional associations and societies

Academic member of Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)

Forthcoming events

  • Visiting Lecture: Magic and Architecture, University College Cork, Ireland
  • Visiting Lecture: Qatar Biennale, Tasmeen Doha 2013
  • Workshop & 1:1 Installation:  Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Qatar

Current research students

2nd Supervisor : PHD student: Jamal Alabid


Ben Cowd