What is a Thesis? Conversations on Means and Methods of the Thesis Project

The course is organized around a series of in-depth discussions with leading figures in the design fields. Weekly meetings provide a forum for exploring a wide range of themes that animate current practices and theoretical debates. Drawn from within the GSD community and beyond, these speakers present and discuss their work and ideas, partly as a means of acclimating students to specific aspects of contemporary design culture, but more specifically as a way of understanding the various ways in which the design imagination is enriched and invigorated through a continual engagement with well-formed theoretical questions and positions. Areas of inquiry include computation and geometry, materials and fabrication, energy, infrastructure and territory, and urbanism, among others.

These focused discussions are framed by more general class meetings that outline the various methodological approaches (historical, technical, political, sociological, geographical, etc.) used to structure and organize specific kinds of theoretical positions, both within the discipline and in other fields. These meetings provide an opportunity to discuss the potentially powerful and productive, but often misunderstood, relationships offered to architectural thinking by interdisciplinary frameworks. What does it mean to work across disciplinary boundaries today? How can architecture’s own, historically embedded modes of representation (the drawing, the model, the rendering, etc.) be placed in conversation with, or in juxtaposition to discursive and conceptual models found in other fields of inquiry? These and other questions are explored through lectures and class discussions.

Through these two lines of thinking—the theoretical and the methodological—the course aims to give specificity and depth to the question: what is a thesis? The ultimate aim of the course is to provide students with an understanding of the techniques and elements necessary for conceptualizing a master’s thesis in architecture.

Each student will produce, in dialog with the course directors, a short publication that frames and outlines their direction and theoretical positions. This document enables students to explore the potential relationships between text, images, and objects as a way of producing a robust conceptual and representational framework for their ideas as they move forward into thesis work.

While preference, if needed, will be given to March 1 students, the course welcomes students from all departments and programs.