Searching For Answers : The Myth of the Design Thesis

There is nothing mysterious about design. But not everyone can design.

Would I be able to design a building similar to Le Corbusier’s ‘Ronchamp’ or Gaudi’s ‘Casa Mila’ or ‘ Sagrada Familia’? You would say ‘certainly not!’ However I will disagree with you. I may be able to design a Ronchamp and it will depend heavily on where and when that occurs. And mostly how inspired I am at that time.

No I am not saying anyone could be a Le Corbusier. But Le Corbusier was at the right place and at the right time. And most importantly there was a build-up to creating his masterpieces. Coincidentally his masterpieces has more to do with historians and his admirers than anything else. There are some architects like Lubetkin who are equally talented but not as famous.

Is talent the main reason for success?

Some pundits would argue that ‘success is 99% hard work and 1% talent.’ Which is quite true as you cannot win it by just having talent. Le Corbusier did a lot of hard work through study, reflection and exploration. He traveled a lot and explored the creative arts of canvas painting.

Hence design is a combination of research and intuition. The ability and knowledge comes from hard work. The emergent character concludes the process.

There are two main processes occurring in the Design Thesis:

Design Objectives

Design Strategies

The Design Objectives are actually the design thesis or hypothesis. The former is actually the result of the latter. Meaning because you came up with questions and these questions from your research came to a suggestion or assumption or a hypothesis, you are able to form the objectives. The main objective makes it possible for you to come up with the concept, which is directly informing what special studies you should be exploring further. The processes are iterative or cyclic in nature. The process when forming your Design Objectives is the beginning processes often found in the first part ie for UM Arch students – the 1st semester.

Design Strategies then often occur in the 1st semester and must occur in the 2nd semester or second part of designing a design thesis. It comes after the establishment of the Design Objectives. This has to do with Detail Design, which is translating concepts into architecture. Strategies in build-ability, sense of material and construction, architectural language, service-ability are often found at this stage. However there are exceptions for some projects where architectural language is part of the main objective and generator of design from the very beginning. Likewise service-ability, build-ability and the sense of material and construction could also be the main objective and involved in the beginning part.

We are not discussing about one project but the essential processes in design.

I mentioned about Le Corbusier and Gaudi earlier to link the issue of ‘Myth to Study and Research’. And the importance of dispelling the Myth. Hence the answer lies in your ability to Originate or Interpret your side of the story that is your version of a house, a school, a fire station, a library or whatever topic you came up with.

Hence, the Design Thesis is doable and the success possible through hard work and the search for the Original Work.

Adelin\'s Model

Adelin’s Model Pictured Above

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