MZO TARR – Chartered architects using Game Theory to design exceptional buildings.

We are award-winning RIBA architects based in London that use the principles of Game Theory to design buildings.

Game Theory is the mathematical study of decision-making between people in situations of conflict or cooperation.

So that means any time a decision is to be made between 2 or more people, whether negotiation is involved or not, you can use Game Theory to help identify which is the best decision or strategy to take. And because we are all constantly making strategic decisions in both our professional and personal lives, most of the time without even realising it, the application of Game Theory is huge.

Mzo Tarr Architects use the precise framework and mathematical tools of Game Theory as an alternative to gaining an insight into a person’s decision and reasoning. This different approach identifies alternative opportunities as well as problems, directly driving the design and function of our buildings. For example, by listing all potential choices available to those affected by a project and by quantifying the potential benefits (payoffs) to each party in making those choices, we are able to identify the best decision (best response) for an individual or parties.

Game Theory informs our design process as we navigate between the many interested parties to give our clients what they want, often involving planners, neighbours, investors, even market conditions. Our buildings also continue to use Game Theory after they are built, as they respond to the lives and decisions of their occupants. Visit our Pursuit project as an example of how.

We have applied this approach to +150 projects all over the world. These range from art installations to towers.

Adam Tarr

Principal Adam Tarr studied at the Manchester School of Architecture and the Architectural Association where he received the Eileen Gray Scholarship Award & Alexander Memorial Award. He has been visiting critic for Architectural Institutions such as the AA and UCA.

In 2016/2017 Adam Tarr was named  “Europe 40 Under 40” Laureate, by the European Center for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design. Europe 40 Under 40® is a bi-annual awards program that celebrates the next new talented generation of European architects.

Adam is a member of Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) + ARB, and has spoken at international events on the subject of Game Theory & Architecture.

Game Theory

According to RIBA, “Architects are trained to understand a client’s needs and support strategic decision making”. With this in mind, it seemed obvious to us to embrace the tools and strategies used in Game Theory and apply them to architecture.

Below is an excerpt from Adam Tarr’s 2015 Athens talk, where he explains ‘What is Game Theory?’ (Visit our blog to watch the entire lecture)


The simplest way to explain Game Theory is to use the classic example created by a pair of scientists called Flood & Dresher, called the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

This involves having two prisoners [players] charged with the same crime, but without enough evidence to convict them. No communication is allowed between the two [information].

Both prisoners are offered the chance to confess to the crime. If one betrays the other, he goes free while his partner gets three years in prison. If they both betray each other then both are incarcerated for two years. But if they both stay silent (i.e. cooperate) then they both only get one year in prison.

Game Theory and concepts used in it such as utility curves, allow us to quantify the satisfaction experienced from items that are fundamental to the success of your project. For example, we would quantify the importance of having a view of the sunset from your balcony or of receiving public support for your scheme.

Having this information to hand enables us to understand what matters to you and design schemes accordingly.

We embraced this Prisoner’s Dilemma to create a fun, interactive Warming Hut for use along a wilderness trail. The structure consists of two rooms each with a manual wall mounted wheel that controls ceiling louvres. These louvres either warm or cool the hut, depending on the decisions of the occupants of each room (players) and the direction they turn the wheel.

If the occupants of both rooms keep their louvres closed, it is windy in both rooms. If both open their louvres then the rooms are merely breezy. However, if one opens their louvres but the other doesn’t, the room in which the louvre has not been opened has no wind while the other suffers strong wind.

Below are charts illustrating the ‘four different strategies and four payoffs’ for both the traditional Prisoner’s Dilemma and our ‘Warming Hut Dilemma’.