What is the Thesis Project?
"The Thesis project is of major importance to the education of an
architect. Students have to define their interests and their questions
about architecture through the definition of a theme, a site and
eventually a program. These projects are not always or necessarily
meant to be problem solving proposals, but rather the place where
critical issues can be made explicit and tested. What unifies the
Thesis projects is that they are all based on philosophical and conceptual
values and beliefs, and in that respect it is the hope of a teacher
that this will be an experience that will inspire the students for
a search that will last a lifetime."Diana Agrest, The Cooper Union
The Thesis is the last major step toward graduation with a first professional
degree from the Architecture Program at SPSU. It provides an opportunity
for the student to systematically explore a coherent line of investigation
of issues relevant to the field of architecture. Such investigation
is based on philosophical and conceptual values and beliefs developed
and articulated through rigorous and critical research. The Thesis is an
intellectual position laid down or to be advanced. It is the first
stage of the dialectic- discussion, that is, discussion and reasoning
by dialogue as a method of intellectual investigation. The Thesis
demands that a student take a position and have something to say
that is relevant to the discursive field that it inhabits and/or
its wider cultural context.
In the field of architecture such intellectual positions have implications
that result from a critique and re-examination of the role of architecture
as a critical participant in the conditioning of public and private
space and the human condition. Thus, while the Thesis originates
in a determinate intellectual position, it culminates in a designed
The Thesis Project as a Personal and Intellectual Position
The Thesis is largely an independent exercise allowing the student
to explore his or her specific interests and to develop a unique
voice. On occasion students may choose to engage in a collaborative
exercise with the approval of their Thesis Committees. In either
situation, the Thesis requires dedication, conviction and a commitment
to a strong work ethic. The Architecture Program entrusts that the
student is passionate about the Thesis and will maintain a professional
commitment to its critical pursuit throughout its development. To
ensure steady progress and maintain a manageable schedule, it is
incumbent upon the Thesis Student to:
- Establish regular meetings with the Thesis Advisor in order to
ensure consistent rigor and progress toward completion. Meeting
schedules between the student and the Thesis Advisor can be flexible
as long it does not hinder the progress of the student. The student
and the Thesis Advisor should establish a convenient schedule
to review the project's progress and to exchange ideas.
- Present material to the Thesis Advisor in a manner that effectively
allows for reflection, critique and commentary in a timely fashion.
- Document decisions and actions. Take notes at your meetings to
keep track of advice, assigned tasks and agree upon time frames.
- Provide outlines, summaries and drafts. These can be provided
prior to a meeting for formal feedback regarding key ideas or
strategies or for editorial review of text drafts.
- Identify Action Agendas. These should be agreed upon with the
Thesis Advisor to pace student progress, and to identify and
frame goals for each meeting.
- Engage with Committee members keeping them abreast of progress
and utilizing their expertise where and when needed.
- Present required information comprehensively and on time during
timely Thesis reviews.
- Regularly engage with the Thesis Committee members on matters
of critical import to the development of the Thesis.
- Submit all required documentation complete and on time.
Note on Collaborative Thesis Proposals:
The Architecture Program at SPSU recognizes that architecture is
a collaborative enterprise and respects the desire of some students
to engage in collaboration, but such collaboration does not relinquish
any student from fulfilling the full requirements of the Thesis.
The program recommends that students who wish to collaborate choose
components of their Thesis such as site, program, client, etc. which
they share but articulate independent projects conceptualized as
distinct proposals. Each Thesis project submitted must independently
fulfill the requirements for graduation.
Types of Thesis Projects
The Architectural Thesis may take numerous forms. The Architecture
Program at SPSU has identified several possible categories of a Thesis
project; listed below they are intended to provide the student and
faculty with a general sampling of potential categories. Other options
may be considered by the faculty.
- Programmatic Concerns- Study of program and programmatic concerns
including hybrid programs and new functional types.
- Socio-Cultural - investigations that originate in contemporary
social or cultural observations and /or problematics (such as
homelessness, racial or class divisions . . . etc.) that should
be probed for their architectural implications and seen in a
rigorously researched historical context.
- Historical- investigations that originate in historical analysis
and study of architecture or issues and concerns related to it.
- Tectonic/ Design Build- investigations that explore the implications
of spatial, structural, technical, system or material selection
and development on architectural expression, qualities, spatial
arrangements and/or detailing.
- Contextual Response- explorations that begin with a given site
and its specific conditions that may be used to provoke productive
spatial, programmatic or conceptual thinking in architecture
and its related fields. This might include urban, suburban or
ecological sensitive ones. It may encompass much larger spatial
systems, as well as extra-spatial phenomena such as socio-cultural,
historical, geological and ecological attributes.
- Typological- Critical investigations into a given building type,
its history and its potential transformations. Narrative Works- (literary or pre-existing
text or work) - takes as its starting point a preexisting literary
or artistic work which serves as the basis of both analysis and
- Multi-disciplinary Investigations- examines the relationship
between architecture and other fields. Examples may include architecture
and its relationship to philosophy, art, film, music etc.
- Preservation/adaptive reuse- investigations that begin with an
existing structure and propose critical and technical explorations
for their adaptation or preservation.
- Theoretical- begins with the examination and/or questioning of
an architectural text, conception of space (Empathy, Isotropic
etc.) diagrams, drawings, or architectural representation, in
The Architecture Program at SPSU regards Sustainability as implied
in all categories. Issues concerning the environment and sustainability
are part of architectural practice.
The Student should make a preliminary identification of the category
of their Thesis at the end of the Thesis Preparation course to assist
in assigning appropriate Thesis Advisors. Identification of the Thesis
Category at this early stage is only preliminary and is not intended
to be limited or determinative. The program recognizes that after
research and investigation the Student may determine, with the assistance
of their Advisor, the degree to which the project is best defined
in terms of a specific category or multiple categories.