Writing and the Architectural Thesis

The idea of a design thesis is central to architecture’s participation within an academic context. It requires a student to consciously consider an architectural project, and the act of design more generally, within a field of shared discourse in order to expand our understanding of the discipline. While a ‘thesis’ is (should be) implicit in every design, the master’s thesis in particular demands that the lineaments of a work’s scope and purpose be more precisely articulated and shared. This obligation requires discursive language, in both its verbal and written forms.

An architect’s work requires verbal and written communication as a major component of realising a design. While this might be understood in largely practical terms (convincing clients, explaining intentions,..) the development of one’s discursive abilities can perform a more fundamental role as well. It can help an architect refine those conversations, private or otherwise, that help to define intentions and inclinations at a broader scale. The architectural thesis foreshadows this obligation and attempts to elevate it to a more conscious level. In its most extreme form it demands that architectural design participate in the creation of knowledge itself; a challenging task though one worthy of considering as a hypothetical possibility. More simply, it serves as a useful corrective to casual whim.

There are two primary forms of ‘speech’ (verbal or written) particular to your thesis that can assist in its development and appreciation. The first is propositional. It is necessary to find a way to articulate your intentions and preoccupations in order to engage your tutor and critics, but also to explain to yourself what it is that you are most interested in exploring: the thesis question. The second is more of a summation of a work that has been done, an encapsulation of intentions, strategies, and a sense of how they have been achieved: the abstract.

Both forms are descriptive, though of different aspects of the work and its state of realisation. They are also complementary in that each imagines the project as a coherent whole in different ways, and from a different perspective. While they serve to explain your work to a larger audience each can also assist you in refining your work throughout the term as you develop your research in more explicitly architectural terms. Indeed these models should be imagined as a form of idealised conversation with yourself and your design work, assisting in the development of the critical imagination so crucial to the architect.

Barry Bell - 2006

Course Content:

In order to complete the requirements for Architectural Journalism students are expected to produce a written explanation of their M2 Thesis or EAPUD project. This explanation is composed of 2 parts:

(1) Thesis Proposition
Statement of thesis question (what you wish to explore) and brief outline of its theoretical context. This should be developed in a text of approximately 500 words. The Thesis proposition is a summary of the Final Thesis Description. You might think of it as similar to an abstract. It could also be thought of as a summary of your “M2 Project Description”.

 (2) Final Thesis Description
A restatement of the thesis intentions and a summation of the research results in terms of how the original question has been resolved (what you have done). This text, which should be approximately 1,500 words must be illustrated with architectural drawings produced over the M2 semester. This Final Thesis description should be thought of as a substitute for any verbal explanation of your work and final project. In this sense it must be both clear and comprehensive.


Both 1+2 must be posted on your website by Friday December 7th at 1700hrs. This work will be sent to your visiting critics as a way of preparing them for your final reviews so it is essential that it be posted by this time.


20% - Posting Work on your website by December 7th at 1700hrs
80% - Relevance and comprehensiveness of final writing as an explanation of the M2 project, use of images of M2 drawings and models to support written text.

There is no requirement for a paper version of the work in Architectural Journalism. You may elect to print a version if ask to by your advisor but this doesn’t replace the requirement for web posting.

NB While in most cases the “M2 Project Description” produced in ARCH 671 will be a basis for the “Thesis Proposition” and the “Final Thesis Description” it is understood that the requirement to use work developed in the M2 semester as illustrative of an on-going design process exploring the initial premises of the “M2 Project Description” will make the final submission for Architectural Journalism a distinct work.

Downlaod a PDF (36KB) of the course ourtline.

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