Professor Michael Ostwald

Professor of Architectural Analytics, Associate Dean of Research

DSc, PhD, BArch (Hons 1), BSc — AIA (Architecture), PIA (Urban Design)

My work is focussed on improving the ways people use, understand and create buildings and spaces. Using mathematics and computing, I examine architecture and urban space, measuring, analysing and modelling a range of human factors to make our built environment more responsive and supportive.
Behind all my work is the belief that buildings and their surrounds aren’t just the empty places we move through every day, they have the power to inspire, energise and motivate us, shaping our emotions. Providing designers with the right tools and methods to approach these human perceptions and behaviours has led me to use mathematics, computing and neuroscience to develop new ways of understanding and improving our buildings and spaces.
I am passionate about supporting the built environment professions, and my research and teaching in this field has had international impact through senior academic and industry positions in Hong Kong, Europe, North America and Australasia. I have been awarded multiple international prizes and honours for my research.
Red Centre West Wing

Dr. Michael J. Ostwald is Professor of Architectural Analytics at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney (Australia) and Associate Dean of Research in the Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture.

For more than two decades Michael has been a senior leader and manager in universities and he has also served in leadership roles in industry and professional bodies. He has been a Dean, Associate Dean and Head of School, and has served as interim or acting Pro Vice Chancellor at multiple institutions. Michael was previously Professor of Architecture and Dean of Built Environment and Design at the University of Newcastle (Australia), Professorial Research Fellow and Research Director at Victoria University Wellington (New Zealand) and Professorial Fellow at the Università di Pisa (Italy). He has held academic positions in Hong Kong and North America and been an adjunct Professor and Research Fellow at RMIT University (Melbourne, Australia), an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow at Newcastle and a visiting fellow at ANU (Australia), MIT (USA), HKU (China) and UCLA (USA).

Professor Ostwald’s qualifications, training and industry experience are in architecture, urban design and legal assessment. While working for architectural and urban design practices in Australia, USA, Singapore and UK he completed a range of projects in the community, health and commercial sectors. In 2003 the Premier’s Department of NSW appointed him to be an assessor of state significant development and an advisor on design quality. Since then, he has served on planning and assessment committees and boards for multiple NSW councils and state government bodies.

Research Activities: 

Professor Ostwald’s research uses computational methods to analyse, optimise or understand architectural and urban space. His research typically involves modelling or examining the complex relationships between design and human behaviour and cognition.

Michael has a doctorate (PhD) in architectural history and critical theory and a higher doctorate (DSc) in design computing and mathematics. Under the auspices of the Byera Hadley international fellowship he completed postdoctoral research programs at the CCA (Montreal, Canada associated with McGill University), the Loeb (Harvard, USA) and UCLA (Los Angeles, USA).

Michael is Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Nexus Network Journal: Architecture and Mathematics (Springer) and on the editorial boards of ARQ (Cambridge) and Architectural Theory Review (Taylor and Francis). He has authored more than 400 scholarly publications, including 34 books. Some of his recent books include: The Fractal Dimension of Architecture (Birkhäuser, 2016), co-authored with Josephine Vaughan; The Mathematics of the Modernist Villa (Birkhäuser 2018), co-authored with Michael J. Dawes; Grammatical and Syntactical Approaches in Architecture (IGI, 2020), co-authored with Ju Hyun Lee; and Design Thinking: Creativity, Collaboration and Culture (Springer 2020), co-authored with Ju Hyun Lee and Ning Gu; Computational Design: Technology, Cognition and Environments (CRC, Taylor and Francis, 2021), with Rongrong Yu and Ning Gu. Michael’s two-volume work with Kim Williams, Architecture and Mathematics from Antiquity to the Future (Springer, 2015), has sold over 200,000 copies. Since 2018 Michael has been Series Editor of Birkhäuser’s Mathematics and the Built Environment (a research monograph series) and Topic-Editor for Springer-Nature’s Mathematics in Art, Architecture and Design. His practice-based, non-traditional research outputs (NTROs) include over 100 published, exhibited and executed design works.


Professor Michael Ostwald has been a Chief Investigator on more than 50 competitive research grants totalling over $7.3 M (Aus) in funding from the ARC, Carrick, OLT and ALTC in Australia, the Graham and Getty foundations in the USA and the EU. He has completed more than 30 industry-based research contracts worth almost $1 M (Aus), including Linkage grants and contract research for the Stockland Group (Retail), BHP Billiton (Energy and Mining), Lend Lease (Retail), Civil and Civic (Affordable Housing) and the GEO Group (Infrastructure). In 2008 Michael was awarded an ARC Indigenous Discovery Project, in 2009 he was awarded an ARC Future Fellowship and in 2016 he was awarded the Australia–Korea Council international fellowship (with Dr JuHyun Lee and Prof. Ning Gu). In total he has won 14 ARC grants.


A nationally award winning and commended teacher (CAUT 1996/7, TIETE 1997), in 2016 the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) awarded Professor Michael Ostwald the Neville Quarry Medallion. This is the highest honour an academic can receive from the architectural profession. It was awarded for ‘exceptional international leadership in architectural research and education’. He been awarded five international prizes or commendations for research and multiple best paper awards. Michael has also been awarded three national citations for design research since 1995, and as part of teams he has been short-listed for prizes or highly commended on four occasions.

Supervision Area: 

Professor Michael J. Ostwald has supervised 29 research higher degree completions and four post-doctoral fellowships. The PhDs and the post-doctoral projects have been in the fields of architectural design, architectural history and theory, computational design and computer science. These projects have employed a range of methods including: space syntax and isovists; shape grammars and generative design; fractal analysis; survey and observational analysis; critical theory and design.