Richard Coyne profile picture

Job title:

Professor of Architectural Computing


REF Coordinator for UoA 13


room 3.55 Minto House


Richard Coyne is animated by the cultural, social and spatial implications of computers and pervasive digital media. He enjoys architecture, writing, blogging, designing, philosophy, coding and media mashups.

Richard researches and teaches in information technology in practice, computer-aided design in architecture, the philosophy of information technology, social media, digital media, and design theory. He inaugurated the MSc in Design and Digital Media, in which he also teaches. Richard is Programme Director of the MSc by Research in Digital Media and Culture.

Richard is author of several books on the implications of information technology and design with MIT Press and Routledge. His research has been supported by AHRC, EPSRC and ESRC.

Major Roles:

  • Dean of Postgraduate Research in the College of Humanities and Social Science (2013-16)
  • Head of the School of Arts, Culture and Environment (2008-2011)
  • Member of the AHRC review panel: Visual Arts and Media (practice, history and theory) (until 2008)
  • Member of the RAE Architecture and Built Environment subpanel 30 (2007-8)
  • Member of the REF Architecture, Built Environment and Town Planning subpanel (C16) (2014)
  • Member of the editorial board of arq: Architectural Research Quarterly
  • Member of the Board of Governors of Edinburgh College of Art (2008-2011)
  • Chair of RIBA Research Awards judging panel (2007-2009)
  • Member of the Higher Education Academy, RSA and the RIBA
  • Life Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge
  • Registered architect (Australia)
  • Previously worked at the Universities of Sydney and Melbourne

Personal statement

After studying architecture at the University of Melbourne I worked for several firms of architects on projects ranging from Melbourne’s World Trade Centre to a small holiday home at Lorne. I joined an eager group of fellow ex-students and tutors who worked day and night to submit an entry to the Canberra Parliament House competition, which had we won would have set us on a different course!

I developed an interest in landscape and embarked on a two-year master of landscape architecture degree in Melbourne, during which time I developed a fascination with computer graphics programming. This led me to the University of Sydney, where I undertook a PhD with John Gero in what was then the bourgeoning field of artificial intelligence. I focussed on the use of Prolog for expert systems, and published the outcome as a book with Pitman Press, followed by the co-authored Knowledge-Based Design Systems (Addison Wesley). I then taught in the Masters programmes in Sydney and several design studios with Tony Radford and Adrian Snodgrass.

Snodgrass introduced me to philosophy and architectural theory. Engagement with the practices of the design studio and my increasing awareness of the limits of computation led me to embark on a series of critiques of digital cultures. The first was the book Designing Information Technology in the Postmodern Age: From Method to Metaphor (1995) which sought to bring insights from Heidegger, phenomenology and hermeneutics to bear on computer-aided design.

Around that time I moved to the University of Edinburgh and took up the newly created Chair in Architectural Computing. Since then I have researched and taught in architectural theory, as well as starting up the MSc in Design and Digital Media, initially with John Lansdown at Middlesex University. John Lee now runs the programme with my input mainly on the subject of Media and Culture. I worked closely with colleagues in Music, and was encouraged by Pedro Rebelo to set up an MSc in Sound Design, which is now run by Martin Parker.

I ventured into academic management in 1999, taking on the job as Head of the Department of Architecture for 3 years. Later I assumed the role of Head of the School of Arts, Culture and Environment (ACE), which included Architecture, Music and History of Art. That period ended when Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) merged with the University of Edinburgh. So ACE became ECA with the inclusion of the departments (Schools) of Design and Art, and under new management.

From 2013-2016 I was Postgraduate Dean of Research in the College of Humanities and Social Science, which oversees 11 schools, including ECA.

I enjoy supervising PhD students, blogging, writing, vigorous exercise (still), travel and hiking in the countryside. It’s fair to say I like new gadgets and challenging ideas. I’m a technophile. I recently completed a book on mood and emotion that appeared with MIT Press in January 2016. I am also thinking a lot about nature and just published a book called Network Nature, with Bloomsbury Academic. So that makes me something of a biophile, or a critical technobiophile!


Richard teaches in courses on architectural theory, and an innovative postgraduate class on Media and Culture involving the "flipped classroom" method, described here in Coyne, Richard, John Lee, and Denitsa Petrova. 2017. Re-visiting the flipped classroom in a design context. Journal of Learning Design, (10) 2, 1-13. 


Richard’s research is conducted within the Digital Media Design research group. He collaborates with John Lee, Martin Parker, Jules Rawlinson, Andrew Connor, Denitsa Petrova and a team of about 10 PhD students and research associates. Research themes interact with project work in a suite of digital MSc programmes.

Richard’s research demonstrates the value of a broad interdisciplinary framework for examining the relationship between computing, design, and contemporary cultural theories. He investigates the way we configure spaces through the use of pervasive mobile devices. Richard has developed this theme through the sonic metaphor of tuning and phenomenological concepts of mood (Stimmung). He recently published a book Mood and Mobility (MIT Press), and his tenth book, Network Nature: The Place of Nature in the Digital Age was published in 2018 by Bloomsbury Press. Richard was recently co-investigator on a major funded project on mobility and aging entitled Mobility, Mood and Place.

Richard develops many of his research and teaching interests through a regular blog post.

PhD Supervision Topics

  • Place of nature in the digital age
  • Mood and affect in digital environments
  • Biosemiotics, big data and the configuration of space
  • Social media and conservation activism
  • Intimacy and risk: Performativity in architecture
  • Homelessness and public space
  • Electroencephalography (EEG) and responsive environments
  • Number and navigation: How the perception of quantity influences movement through space
  • 3D printing and new art practices
  • Learning from sounds walks