Theory and Practice of Social & Sustainable Architecture

We are currently embarking on a transformative phase to enhance the programme, so it will be paused for the 2023-2025 academic years. We are driven to elevate your learning journey for sustainable architecture, so we are taking this opportunity to make the programme an even more exceptional experience. We aim to get new partners, projects, and practical laboratories not only in Portugal but also in other European contexts.

Over the past years, everyone’s enthusiasm and commitment have fueled the success of our postgraduate programme, shaping it into a dynamic hub for architectural innovation and social impact. During this time, we will diligently work behind the scenes to fine-tune and improve every aspect, ensuring an immersive and rewarding educational experience. You can already pre-register for the course happening in 2024/2025!


Critical Concrete and the Escola Superior Artistica do Porto (ESAP) joined forces in 2020 to provide a novel learning experience with a focus on sustainability. As a result, field experts impart courses in topics like sustainable construction methods, natural building, just urban development, social project management and effective participatory processes. We are proud to say we achieved to bring together a group of enthusiastic and dedicated instructors who are excited to guide you through a year of transformative education.

  • Course Format:
    Hybrid methodology of online courses & practical construction workshops

    Academic accreditation:
    Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Architecture issued by ESAP

    Curricular Credits: 60 ECTS

    Duration: October 2025 – July 2026

    Tuition Fee: 3,178€ 

    Language: English


programme overview

The core principle and guidelines will remain, but its implementation will bring new challenges and respond to the experiences we gained in the first three editions of the course. The programme for 2024/2025 will look slightly different, so take the following programme overview only as a reference. 

The Sustainable Architecture postgraduate programme has a duration of one year and is structured in two semesters. The content and facilitation is fully in English. 

Our program offers a hybrid format of interdisciplinary online courses and practical on-site workshops. It combines 90 hours of theoretical lectures (online) with 210 hours of hands-on experience, focusing on urban sustainability practices. During workshops, students co-design and collaborate in the building process of specific projects. Past editions included refurbishing houses for low-income families, public space interventions, and experimenting with solar water heaters in a facade. Get ready to be involved in similar projects during your workshops.


Online Learning & Theory
Our platform,, delivers interactive online courses with theoretical content and hands-on assignments. Course duration ranges from 4 to 8 weeks, requiring approximately 10-15 hours commitment per week. To balance workload, courses are released on a staggered schedule within each semester.

Construction Workshops

The practical workshops are at the core of our post-graduation programme. As a student, you’ll get to apply what you learn from the online courses to real hands-on and social practice. You’ll actively participate in co-designing projects with different communities, guided by our experienced team. These workshops offer a unique opportunity to gain invaluable experience in a real-world setting.

learning outcomes

Our program is designed to establish a robust conceptual foundation for ecological and socially-oriented architecture and urbanism. By the end of the programme, students will significantly enhance their competencies in the following key areas:

  • Proficiency in initiating and managing effectively. interdisciplinary construction projects effectively 

  • Deeper awareness of the need to change conventional building and designing methods/techniques.

  • Understanding of principles and strategies for environmentally friendly construction

  • Acquire knowledge and practice on diverse methods that are ecologically conscious, using natural building materials, as well as low-tech and low-waste applications.

  • Ability to recognize and apply vernacular construction techniques to contemporary needs.

  • Capacity to implement sustainable and inclusive design in architectural and construction projects.

  • Consciousness about the need for intersectional and inclusive approaches in neighborhood and city planning.

  • Understanding the need for bottom-up approaches and how to engage local populations and institutions.

  • Ability to empower communities through participatory design and increasing involvement for people at risk of social exclusion.

  • Acquire the necessary frameworks to run and fund a sustainable and/or social project.


Provides a focus on environmentally friendly and socially relevant approaches to building and (self-)construction by introducing low-tech solutions and circular economy logic.

Prospective Courses: 

  • Design & Construction Practices

  • Deconstruction

  • Sustainable Construction Insights

Introduces natural materials that can be applied in architecture to substitute harmful materials in structure, insulation, finishing and treatment.

Prospective Courses: 

  • Inside Mycelium

  • Building with Raw Earth

  • Rammed Earth

Takes a look at urban practices and approaches to answer the current environmental and climate emergencies.

Prospective Courses: 

  • Sustainable Urban Food Systems

  • Water & the Politics of Infrastructure

Asks the question what sustainability means in the societal dimension of architecture and cities in order to create a just habitat for all.

Prospective Courses: 

  • Militant Architecture & Social Movements

  • Insurgent Urbanism

Trains the ability to disclose the potential and applicability of vernacular techniques to contemporary contexts.

Prospective Courses: 

  • Vernacular Architecture Today

  • Ancient Buildings

Presents tools and strategies to empower communities and to confront biases and preconceptions.

Prospective Courses: 

  • Ethnography for Local Engagement

  • Introduction to Participatory Processes

Gives impulses on how to start and run a social project in an ethically moral manner while simultaneously being economically stable.

Prospective Course: 

  • Ethical Leadership for Just Development

Translates the theoretical part into practical. Students will be taking contributing toward the construction of a real project with a social practice. 

Prospective Course: 

  • Laboratory I & II

Diagram showing course structure


One remarkable facet of our programme lies in its ability to unite students and instructors from diverse geographical, professional, and cultural backgrounds. Our esteemed instructors boast extensive expertise across a spectrum of practical and theoretical domains, encompassing architecture, urbanism, art, ethnography, and social sciences. This convergence of perspectives fosters a truly enriching and inclusive learning environment for everyone.

Samuel kalika

Critical Concrete
Founder & Director
Porto, Portugal

Paolo Marcolin

Architect &  Postgraduate Director at ESAP
Porto, Portugal

Architects & founders of Colectivo Mel
Porto, Portugal

gianluca stasi

Architect & founder of Ctrl+Z
 Sevilla, Spain

Urban geographer, lecturer at TU Berlin & Founder of Contested Urban waterscapes

bernardo amaral

Architect and founder of BAAU,
Porto, Portugal

Anthropologist, lecturer at Paris Malaquais School of Architecture &  founder of H+V/G studio
Lisbon, Portugal

Architect + Urban Planner, mycelium researchers at Critical Concrete
Porto, Portugal

Architect & founder of Matierra

Assistant Professor and Faculty Director of Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Delaware & Founder of Central Impact


Architect and ESAP Professor
Porto, Portugal

Architect and coordinator at RéáVie
Paris, France

karsten michael drohsel

Founder of STUDIO IN//stabil, lecturer at the University of Vienna and the Vienna Art School & co-founder of “The slowest Fast Food Restaurant in the World“ 

Architect and urbanist, Professor at ESAP
Porto, Portugal

Urbanist, Architect &
Co-founder of the Instituto A Cidade Precisa de Você in Brazil

Architect &
Co-founder of

lauranne coornaert

Architect and Founder of Degre 47, Belgium

The programme is our answer to the question 'How to have a positive impact on our environment, engaging professionally in architecture and urbanism? Join us in this exciting adventure!

Samuel Kalika
Director, Critical Concrete

student's experience

Meet three of our students from our 20/21 co-hort. Agnieska, Viviana and Helena joined during our first workshop in 2021 to refurbish a traditional house in Esposende, a little town north of Porto.

Watch the videos to get to know what they learned during the workshop and what they liked about their favourite online-courses.



Who can apply?

People with a university degree or professional experience in related fields (refer to FAQ 1).  All applicants must be profficient in English.

We welcome all disciplines and backgrounds!
Students in the past years have had backgrounds in:

  • Architecture
  • Urban Planning
  • Engineering
  • Social Sciences
  • Arts

How do I apply?

Prospective students must apply through the application form and attach the necessary documentation during the application periods.


Application periods:

Official University application periods for the 2025/2026 academic year will be published at a later time. 

Required Documents

  • Motivation letter
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Degree Certificates (minimum Bachelors)


  • Portfolio
  • Other
    (include any you consider relevant to your experience/ motivation)

frequently asked questions


If you don't hold a Bachelor's degree but have years of experience in related fields to the postgraduation, you can apply with a professional curriculum. You must demonstrate effective learning that attests the acquisition of professional skills by providing a professional CV and/or portfolio for the ESAP's Scientific Council to evaluate your application.


The application process consists of the following steps:

1. Application Form:
Applicants must fill in their personal information and submit the required documentation:
Motivation letter*
Curriculum Vitae*
Degree Certificates* (minimum Bachelor’s)
Portfolio (optional)

2. Application Evaluation:
Members of Critical Concrete and ESAP will evaluate applications on a roll-in basis. Admissions will be granted based on a ranking of your motivation, academic background, and professional experience.
An interview may be necessary if initial evaluation is not sufficient to distinguish you from other applicants.

3. Application Decision:
After reviewing applications, successful applicants will receive an admission email to join the programme. It is compulsory to pay a non-refundable application fee of 98€ to secure their place.


Upon receiving an admission letter, students are required to pay an application fee to secure their place.

Payments for ESAP administrative fees include: enrolment, registration and insurance and must be paid before the start of the course.

There are three modalities of payments of the programme fee:

Option 1: 10 monthly payments

Option 2: 2 payments before the start of each semester (includes a 2.5% discount)

Option 3: 1 payment (includes 5% discount) to be paid before the start of the programme.

what is (not) included in the fee?

The fee includes access to all theoretical courses in the platform, participation in the practical workshops with vegan lunch on site, and administrative support.

The fee does not include the certificate issuing fee, travel costs to Porto from your place of residence, accommodation during the workshop, meals offsite, nor health insurance.
You’ll need to show proof of your health insurance to participate in the hands-on workshop.


We have had students successfully complete the course whilst working full time. However, it is important for you to consider the following:

1. Live sessions will mostly happen during working hours in european timezones. You are strongly recommended to attend these sessions although they are all recorded for reference later.

2. Online courses combine pre-recorded video lectures, reading content, discussion forums, and weekly assignments. Students are expected to follow the recommended schedule of completion provided at the beginning of each semester.

3. The practical workshops happen once per semester for a duration of 3 weeks. We encourage you to discuss with your employer as early as possible about taking study leave or unpaid leave rather than using holiday time or working overtime. You need to consider your wellbeing and mental health when balancing work and study so this should be an ongoing conversation with both us and your employer.

4. Acceptable reasons for not attending the construction workshop include proof of illness or travel restrictions. Be aware the construction workshops make up two thirds of the total hours for the course and require direct, continuous participation from students.


The programme is delivered 100% in English so a good command of the language is absolutely mandatory. During the in-person workshops, speaking Portuguese can be very helpful but it is not mandatory.



The online content will be made available progressively during the year, starting from October. In total, you will have 16 different online courses, distributed among two semesters. The courses have different workloads and durations. During each semester, you will have to work on 2-6 different online courses simultaneously.


The workshop includes intensive hands-on construction activities for social and/or experimental projects in which solutions will be co-developed with students and residents. Additional lectures from local experts, prototyping and tutorials are included within the program. So far, each workshop has been unique due to the nature of the projects or research happening at the time. Refer to Sushmita’s article, an SSA 20/21 student, to get an idea about the projects and tasks she was involved in and her overall reflection of her experience.


The post-graduation course is a two-semester programme. Each course has individual deadlines and requirements based on their release schedule. Extensions can only occur under certain circumstances and this policy’s details will be communicated to all students at the start of the course.
If a student is unable to complete all the assessment requirements or their work is not deemed sufficient to receive a passing grade, they can retake that respective curricular unit at the end of the year or in the following academic year for a fee.


A Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Architecture will be issued by ESAP – Escola Artistica do Porto and Critical Concrete following the successful completion of the course.


We aligned the volume of the content to traditional postgraduate programmes, which is 280 contact hours plus assignments. In this programme, 210 hours are dedicated to the practical workshops (2*105 hours) and the rest are divided in online courses and co-design of the projects.


Critical Concrete is committed to creating a diverse and accessible academic community, so we're aiming to keep our partnership with Millenium bank to sponsor one (or more) candidates for the 24/25 cohort.

More details on how to apply and the amount covered will be released at a later time.