During the 1980s and 1990s architecture, in crisis in the UK, retreated from a former interest in the social sciences, particularly sociology, and the needs of people, into its traditional domain as a profession concerned primarily with aesthetics. Where there have been challenges to the Beaux Arts view of the profession, they have tended to come from technology and the physical sciences, rather than from the social sciences. Many architectural movements continue to adopt manifestos from time to time, to inform the design agenda. Such manifestos are still adopted in preference to any rigorously formulated philosophy and only a few of the more marginal architectural movements have any serious social agenda. Research by the authors in higher education has shown how deeply culturally ingrained is the resistance to social sciences and the interests of users within mainstream architecture. As architecture has abandoned the often deterministic social agendas of the post_war years, so the social sciences have been changing their focus. In sociology in particular, micro-interactionist, or structural approaches have given way to more anti-reductionist and post-structuralist perspectives, such as Giddens' structuration theory. Ironically such approaches, moving as they are, in tandem with much thinking on the philosophy of science, away from a reliance on empiricism and reductionism. may more closely match the project based activities of the architect. The field of universal design ['or example, with its holistic, inclusive approach to the built environment reflecting the desire to consider the needs of the widest possible spectrum of physical and sensory ability, is essentially proposing what might be seen as an architectural approach. Yet research has shown the difficulty of infusing ideas about design, emanating from the social sciences, into the conventional, studio based, architectural education process. It is suggested that the failure of architecture to adopt a rational social agenda can be addressed through the increasingly respectable and mainstream field of ecological design. This approach to architecture, once a marginalised, minority interest, is becoming both more sophisticated and more acceptable to majority architectural opinion. Ecological design has long espoused an interest in the user and a social agenda, yet has failed to base such an agenda on the kind of objective, informed approach which the social sciences have to offer. It is suggested that universal and ecological design are complementary and necessary to one another, as ecological design seeks a rational social agenda and universal design seeks acceptance in an architectural culture.