Master of Science Program

Design research in cooperation with the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences and the Cluster of Excellence “Matters of Activity. Image Space Material” at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.


More than any other institution, the Bauhaus Dessau expressed a modern understanding of design that took a sceptical view of antiquated design traditions and substituted these with direct research into materials and the innovative potentials of technology and science. Since then, design has been perceived as a cooperative discipline that synthesises diverse aspects of knowledge. Since Autumn 2014 the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation and Anhalt University of Applied Sciences in cooperation with the transdisciplinary Cluster of Excellence „Matters of Activity. Image Space Material“ at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin offer a Masters Programme, which engages with the Bauhaus’s legacy in design research.

Study at Gropius´ Bauhaus Dessau!

The one-year Master program COOP Design Research offers an overview of the diversity of academic scholarship in this field and contributes to strengthening a research practice by the means provided by design. The program strives to integrate design and research as a transdisciplinary field between material studies, social sciences, design anthropology, cultural studies, technology studies, architecture and design history, and theory.
Throughout the program, the students obtain the academic knowledge and intellectual competencies to critically engage with the complex challenges designers face in the 21st century. In this respect, students acquire the ability to engage in an academic discourse, to theoretically penetrate phenomena of the material environment and to articulate themselves in writing.
The students’ experiences gained in previous studies and professional practice constitute the basis for developing an approach towards a design research led by critical reflection. Comprehensive introductions to methodologies of theory reading, academic writing, field research, and analysis are provided as tools for complementing both theoretical knowledge and practical reflexivity. It is not only about what is studied, but also about how it is learned: due to its interdisciplinary and transcultural structure, the program also promotes inclusion, diversity and critical thinking.

The COOP Design Research MSc. program is conducted as a teaching cooperative by Anhalt University of Applied Sciences and the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation in cooperation with Humboldt University Berlin, with coursework taking place both at Gropius’ Bauhaus in Dessau and—to a lesser degree—at Humboldt University in Berlin. The diversity of the teaching staff with their different academic backgrounds contributes to the multi-perspectivity of the program. The courses are jointly run by professors and lecturers from the associated institutions as well as by international guest lecturers.

Drawing from different teaching methods contributed by each of the three aforementioned partner institutions, the core of the MSc. program relies on three thematic building blocks: Design as Research; Design as Education; Design as Projection.

The degree of Master of Science opens up professional perspectives in the fields of research and teaching of design, cultural studies, as well as curatorial practice. It can be conceived as either a preparatory step towards doctoral studies or as a theoretical enrichment for applied design research and practice. Moreover, the program fosters international cultural exchange, personal growth and as such paves the way for a meaningful level of social engagement.
The programme is conducted at Gropius´ Bauhaus in Dessau. Some lectures take place at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin. See the video on COOP Design Research MSc. program here

Bauhaus Legacies
Taking inspirations from the historical Bauhaus, the idea of COOP Design Research reassesses the avant-garde school’s central understanding of design as researching practice and links studies in design history to perspectives on current topics of architecture and design research. Selected objects, architectures, exhibitions, texts, and case studies from design and architecture history and anthropology are the starting points of the discussion-based teachings, supplemented by archival and museum visits, learning experiments and excursions. This also includes the reflection of radical epistemological shifts in the self-conception and the practices of designers and architects; the critique, distancing and revision of hegemonic design ideologies established in the global north, their problematic entanglements with resource exploitation and environmental destruction and the attempt to place them in the context of contemporary ecological and decolonial discourses and practices.

connection Design as research Design as education Design as projection
Design as research

The section “Design as Research” focuses on analyzing the complex processes of knowledge production of designers: Is designing a research activity, and how does a designer do research? Which kinds of knowledge does design research generate? How do shifting regimes of knowledge resonate in design discourses?
The “invention” of design at the Bauhaus as a research-based practice reveals lines of conflict that continue to inform debates concerning the definition of design as a unique mode of knowledge production until today. In contemporary discourses on “research through design”, design on the one hand is understood as a singular type of knowledge generation, namely an “implicit knowledge”, a synthetic and holistic approach; on the other hand as an analytically focused, interventionist model of generating knowledge.
Along these two research perspectives, the module discusses a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches: its structure comprises historical and theoretical reflections within different temporal layers, discussing how cultures of knowledge of design have changed. This also includes new perspectives on material culture, design ecologies, as well as voices from postcolonial contexts questioning the western dominance in the design discourse deeply rooted in a colonial past, advocating alternative narratives in design history and research.
Against this backdrop, the module introduces design-anthropological approaches on discourses renegotiating design knowledge and practice; cultures of making; and designing as a radically collaborative, situated, and participatory process, as a mode of collective practice, and the associated epistemological upheavals.

Design as Education

This section takes as its point of departure the historical Bauhaus as part of a broad and international school reform movement that initiated a paradigm shift in art and design education: away from learning according to conventions that primarily sought to imitate traditional formal canons of, as was common practice at art academies, and towards the development of creativity and imagination potentially attributed to everyone as an integral agenda of a democratic society. The school’s pedagogic approach, its manifestation in its artefacts and the school building as well as its institutional setting, serves as an ideal starting point reflecting the legacies of design as education.
The module comprises the study of different creative learning experiments, progressive education institutions and learning environments that are reflected in their historical contexts and theoretical framings. Thus the module is structured along methods and tools, institutions and spaces of design learning—spaces that themselves act as “third teachers” with crucial influence on what (and how) is being taught in them.
In excursions and experimental workshops students critically engage in various methods of design learning: from tactile and sensory learning, „unlearning“ to „learning by doing“, embodied knowledge, to drawing and performing, to participatory and community-based approaches and critical pedagogy experiments.

Design as Projection

Research in design is often understood as a phase of generating knowledge for the design of possible futures. It is one of the characteristics of design practice to push form and structure in a certain direction towards anticipated outcomes. But what kinds of knowledge and epistemic practices do cultural techniques such as designing, planning and shaping have as their background?
The module deals with the theoretical and practical framework of this field of action, which is oriented towards change and transformation of a given reality. It comprises historical studies of utopian projections in architecture and design, taking into account their respective contexts. It also examines procedures, techniques, cultures and methods of projection: e.g. master plans, prototypes, models, scenarios, mood boards.
While the historical Bauhaus in the spirit of modernity still designed the future as evolutionary and directed, the relationship between projective design and research has changed radically in the 21st century. Ideas of the future have become pluralised, a linear understanding of the future has given way to the coexistence of different conceptions oscillating between technotopias and dystopias.
Drawing upon contemporary approaches in the fields of social, transition, and critical design, students will explore collaborative, multivocal and participatory practices of designing futures, reflecting on the changing understanding of the role of the designer and architect, shifting from the attitude of the master planner to an engagement in mediation, care, and stewardship.


The Bauhaus Study Rooms, a cooperation between the Academy of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation and the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, offer the opportunity to intensively engage with aspects of the respective annual theme of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation in relation to current issues and positions of design research .
The Study Rooms are conceived as an open format; they only emerge from the resources of the participants in order to strengthen the international alumni network. The Study Rooms thus consciously focus on polyphony, transdisciplinarity and multi-perspectivity; the respective annual themes thus constitute something like “vessels” which are made up of a series of different learning situations. Research results from the master theses of the Coop alumni and also the Bauhaus Lab are discussed in round tables; performative exercises, tours and experimental workshops form the building blocks of the program.

Introductory phase / Preliminary laboratory

3 Weeks [ECTS Part of 02 Labratory]

The preliminary laboratory (3 weeks) provides access to the program. This involves a general introduction to the various positions in design research and the working practices and methods of scientific work. Selected examples of design research will be analysed and reflected on in seminars.


12 weeks [10 ECTS]

The laboratory is made up of three thematic building blocks: design as research, design as education and design as projection. In lectures, seminars and exercises these diverse modes of design knowledge production will be systematically analysed both historically and theoretically and argued in presentations based on selected examples.


6 weeks [5 ECTS]

Following up 02 Laboratory, the insights, methods and skills acquired in the first term will be applied in a self-chosen thematic project. The exposé serves as a test phase for an independent, original design research argumentation.

Theory and Methods

weekly [5 ECTS]

The lecture series offers an overview of the history of modern design research and presents discourses, projects and concepts in the field.
The seminar will reflect on different approaches to the development of theories in, e.g., the natural sciences, the humanities and design. The seminar also includes an introduction to the varied methods of scientific work, e.g., literature research, archive study techniques, data analysis, interview techniques, qualitative methods, e.g. participatory observation or material studies, and aims to enable students to take a reflexive approach to these methods.

Elective subject

[5 ECTS]

The elective subject comprises block sessions in which partner universities present their research areas and introduce the participants to the issues arising from these contexts. The elective study broadens the thematic spectrum and enlarges upon the teaching content of the lectures and modules.

Lecture series / Master Talks

[5+5 ECTS]

The Master Talks offer a platform for international exchange on approaches to design research. Guest scientists and designers present their research approaches and hypotheses for discussion. In accompanying or separately organised research colloquia, the program’s participants, in association with the guests, can deepen their understanding of issues arising from the contexts of the respective themes.

Master Thesis and Colloquium

[20+5 ECTS]

The Master Thesis follows up the exposé. Students develop and elaborate their research argumentation to a full thesis under the supervision of their mentors within 20 weeks.
Master Thesis will finally be presented in a public colloquium.

Coop Design Research MSC Program

See the full Program.

Selection of successfully completed Master´s Theses

Here you will find abstracts of successfully completed Master´s Theses as pdf for download.

The program is set out along transdisciplinary lines and draws on the following disciplines: Architecture, design, cultural studies, visual studies, materials science and the history and theory of design and architecture. The new Masters Program unites the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation with its historic collection and its education and communication formats with the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences and the combined outstanding academic expertise of Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, especially of the Cluster of Excellence „Matters of Activity. Image Space Material“. Moreover, engaging with the historic artefacts, materials and buildings found in the Bauhaus City Dessau means that contemporary issues in design may be explored through materials-based research and their currency tested in exhibition and communication formats.

Lecturers: Regina Bittner, Stephan Pinkau, Claus Diessenbacher, Michael Hohl, Wolfgang Schäffner, Joachim Krausse, Gernot Weckherlin, Sabine Hansmann, Friederike Schäfer et al.

Students working together in their study room

This MSc. Program requires a successful completion of a Diploma or a Bachelor / Master degree in the field of Architecture or Design, Cultural Sciences or similar of at least 240 ECTS (four years) and an application via UNI-assyst, including

  • a portfolio of 10 -12 pages including CV, copies of diploma certificates and own work
  • a letter of intent focusing on the COOP Design Research MSc Program consisting of two parts (300 words each): an articulation of  your interest and a description of the personal background (see form “Letter of Intent” below).


Applicants with a Bachelor degree have to proof one year of practical experience in their field of studies. Next application period: December 16th, 2021 – May 15th, 2022 (try to submit as early as possible). The course is held in English, the Master thesis may be optionally written and submitted in German or English. Applicants who have not completed their school education up to university maturity or their university study at a German-speaking institution or at an English-speaking institution shall present evidence that their proficiency in the English language according to TOEFL or a comparable test corresponds to level C1 of the Common European Reference Framework of Reference (CERF).
Fees: 1.250 EUR / Semester, which we will refund 100% in case you will not be able to join. For further questions, please contact info(at)

Thank you for your interest in applying to the COOP DESIGN RESEARCH MSc program. Your application is the window through which we see your accomplishments, hear your ideas, and evaluate your potential. Applicants are admitted for Fall term only; there is no mid-year admission.

Please start your application here. Please use the provided form for your Letter of Intent and contact us for guiding you through the application process!

At UNI-assyst,
1. Please enter course name “Design Reseach” top left of the page.
2. Please follow this step-by-step description.

Apply now for Fall 2022!

Project Team

Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Stephan Pinkau
Prof. Dr. Regina Bittner

COOP Design Research MSc Program

Bauhaus Dessau
Gropiusallee 38
06846 Dessau, Germany

Phone: +49 (0) 340 5197 1554
Fax: +49 (0) 340 5197 1599

Email: info(at)


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