web pages
hard copy
the web
Design Research and Methodology
301-671B: Course Description, Winter 2001
Faculty: Robert Mellin and Julia Bourke
Teaching Assistants: Carlos Rueda, Jean D'Aragon,
Ricardo Vera

Mondays, 13:30-14:30, Room 212, and by appointment.

The McGill School of Architecture's professional M. Arch. (I) program involves a thesis project that challenges students to contribute to the broader discourse of architectural ideas under the guidance of an appointed thesis advisor. Design Research and Methodology is a required course in this program, and its purpose is to investigate and structure the research activities that will support and inform the thesis project.

From the initial formulation of a thesis proposal in Design Research and Methodology to its final expression in a project in the subsequent thesis design studio, students have the opportunity to address contemporary issues, study particular sites, and demonstrate mastery of the methods, techniques and skills required of today's practicing architects. The thesis project advances critical positions or ideas. The thesis must investigate theoretical premises through a specific program and site, and should explore ideas for the creation of buildings that surpass the mere resolution of programmatic requirements. It must, however, result in a buildable architectural project.

In architecture, the translation from theory to built form constitutes evidence in the academic sense, and the thesis design project should communicate this potential. However, this process is unlikely to be linear or predictable. Therefore, at an early stage in this course, students will be encouraged to immerse themselves in the particularities of their project sites and to become experts in the project's requirements. Of special importance will be the detailed documentation and analysis of site history, site characteristics, and site conditions, and also artifacts, buildings, and urban form. Where local social and cultural aspects must be taken into consideration, intensive fieldwork will be required to reveal the emic point of view. Where the cultural landscape and built heritage of the site is important, the representation of the history of the site (especially history based on the artifactual record) will also be required.

The main emphasis of the first half of this course, once an area of interest and a potential site has been identified in a preliminary statement of the thesis proposal, is to pursue intensive research on site, program, and architectural precedents.

For the first half of the term, weekly sessions will be held for announcements, questions, and presentations on selected topics relevant to the preparation of the thesis proposals, and for student presentations (Room 212). The first session of the term for this course will be on January 8. Office hours for consultations with faculty will be posted early in the term.

Students must present their work-in-progress on the thesis proposal in web page format. This format will permit students to review the thesis proposals of their colleagues during the term, and it will facilitate the selection of students by thesis advisors during the “Reading Week” of the Winter Term. One of the main reasons for using a web page format for the thesis proposal is dissemination of information and opportunities for feedback. Thesis proposals can be conveniently accessed by students and advisors at any time.

During the first half of the Winter Term, students will have the opportunity to meet individually with faculty assigned to Design Research and Methodology. These consultations are intended to offer guidance on the general direction and focus of the thesis proposal, and to suggest relevant readings and architectural precedents.

Thesis Proposal Format and Submission Requirements:

For this course, the thesis proposal must be presented in web page format (text and illustrations). All bibliographical references must follow the standards prescribed for the submission of a written thesis at McGill University. The thesis proposal web pages should be structured according to the headings listed below under "Thesis Proposal Web Page Content", and web pages must include convenient navigation devices and links. However, additional headings or divisions may be included in the thesis proposal if required. Students will be encouraged to take advantage of the non-linear mode of the world-wide-web, taking advantage of links to sources and areas of interest. Third-generation site design (see David Siegel, Creating Killer Web Sites -- is not required for this course, but students should become familiar with a few basics of HTML, and should learn how to produce a simple site that is easy to read and easy to navigate. Students should also learn about the structure of existing web sites by viewing and experimenting with their source codes. Students are encouraged to review last year's Design Research and Methodology thesis proposals (Winter Term, 2000).

A high resolution, printed and bound copy of the thesis proposal will also be required at the end of the term, and also either a CD ROM disk or a Zip disk containing all the information on the student's web page(s). The information on the disk must be readable by an internet browser common to both the Macintosh and the PC platform, in the same web page format presented on the server. Students must ensure that their html files are properly tested with common internet browsers (Netscape, Explorer) to verify the mechanics of operation (proper file names, continuity of links, etc.).

In order to receive a grade for the course, students must submit the following materials by the April 23 deadline:

Web pages:

A thesis proposal in web-page format, properly running on the designated server, with the content specified in this course outline.

Hard Copy:

A high-resolution printed version of the thesis proposal (text and illustrations). Note that the contents of the web page thesis proposal will have to be reformatted in order to produce a suitable printed version.

Archive of all information:

CD ROM or Zip disk with the contents of the both the printed and the web page thesis proposal, and with the web page version capable of running on standard MAC and PC platform internet browsers using the html files on the disk (links and file names for the web pages must be configured for operation using the disk!). The disk should contain both low and high-resolution versions of graphics for both the printed and the web page format of the thesis proposal.

Thesis Proposal Web Pages Content:

Frontispiece or splash sheet: Thesis proposal title, identification of the program name and the name of the university, student identification and contact information, student's email address. Illustrations are optional for this page.

Thesis statement: Provide a declaration of intent, or thesis question. This constitutes the theoretical basis of the thesis and defines the social, formal, technical and ethical parameters of the problem, with a determination of design objectives and a description of the methodology that will be used to achieve them.

Portfolio: Develop a web-page format portfolio of your architectural design studio work at McGill. The portfolio may include selected studio projects, summaries of essays, sketches, and any relevant information which describes areas of interest that may inform the development of your thesis proposal.

Program: Identify and describe the program, explaining the requirements and how they are derived. Describe the architectural, cultural, and social opportunities presented by the program. Prepare a summary of the program, with areas, and present a graphic analysis of the program (area, volume, relationships, and considerations for future additions/changes). Analyze and present building code information as it relates to the specific building and site requirements of the thesis proposal.

Site information: Identify and describe the choice of the site. A detailed graphic analysis of a carefully selected, well defined physical location for the thesis is required. This graphic analysis should include references to maps (topographic, historical, insurance atlases etc.), air photos, plans, site sections, photographs, and sketches, along with documentation on the history of the use of the site, municipal regulations, the use and disposition of existing buildings, infrastructure, and other pertinent site conditions (prevailing winds, solar orientation, traffic patterns, etc.).

Architectural Precedents: Identify and describe architectural projects that could be relevant precedents for your thesis proposal, with a critical analysis of these projects. The selection of precedents may relate to issues of program, typology, site, materials, structure, or organizational concepts. Precedents should be clearly illustrated and sources appropriately acknowledged.

Bibliography: An annotated bibliography is required for the thesis proposal. Summaries of books and articles included in the bibliography must be provided indicating the relevance to the thesis proposal, including primary and secondary sources, as well as a list of contacts and web resources/links. Transcripts of tape-recorded interviews may be required for some thesis proposals (interviews with residents, building users, experts in a field of inquiry or endeavour relating to the thesis proposal).

Conceptual drawings: Provide graphic representations (drawings and models) of your thesis proposal's architectural concepts. Scan your sketches and drawings and include them in your web pages.

Course Preparation Work and Required Course Reading:

This web page, developed as a state-of-the-art reference especially for this course, provides a critical overview of the state of publishing on the web. Students should read the text (and follow the links to other sites) in all areas of this site, and experiment with basic HTML by creating test web pages before January 8. Professor Barker's site lists references available on the web for learning basic HTML coding.

Preparation Work Required Prior to the Start of the Course:

If you intend to select a thesis project site away from Montreal that you cannot access during the Winter Term, you must gather all the detailed information you will need (see the list above under thesis proposal web page content) before the start of the Winter Term. If your portfolio is not up to date, you should start compiling information (scanned images, photos, text) before the start of the winter term.

Grading, Assignments, and Recommended schedule:

Students will receive a mid-term (non-letter grade) evaluation of their performance following the mid-term presentation, and a grade at the end of the term. There are no assignments for this course. Ideally, each student should approach the thesis proposal in a manner and sequence that is most productive for the topic of the thesis proposal. The thesis proposal is by nature a work-in-progress, with the goal being the production of a workable thesis proposal by the end of the term.

Grading criteria:

Mid-term (Feb. 16) web page review (15%)
Thesis statement 20%
Portfolio 5%
Program 10%
Site information 15%
Architectural precedents 10%
Annotated Bibliography 10%

Conceptual design (15%)

Conceptual sketches, drawings, and models that convey your design intent: you must demonstrate how the ideas you developed in your thesis proposal will be translated into your design work, and your conceptual studies must also reflect your site analysis. In addition to the site information requirements specified in the course outline, for site documentation and analysis you must produce the following: site model, site plan, site sections, and site axonometrics or perspectives. You must also show your conceptual design on these drawings and models. The scale of the drawings and models may vary depending on the particular requirements of individual thesis proposals. The conceptual design work may be done with materials and techniques that correspond with the intent of the thesis proposal. However, students who elect to work mainly with computer methods must still construct a “non-virtual” site model (wood, cardboard, metal…). Photographs of this model must be shown on your web pages. This model must show preliminary massing studies of your conceptual design.

We strongly suggest you arrange your conceptual design presentation in point form commentary explaining formal strategies, showing how your conceptual design studies interpret and focus on thesis issues.

The Final Proposal (web pages placed on the server, submission of the printed version of the thesis proposal, and submission of archived CD ROM or Zip disk) is due April 23. Disks and printed material must be submitted to Mary Lanni-Campoli by the April 23 deadline.


Student web pages.