Design Thesis Categories

I am proposing the design thesis categories. Of course, I would hate to put myself in a category, labeled and condemned to the category’s definition of ‘me’. And a design thesis project should not be made into a label and can stand alone in its many qualities and processes that it went through. However, I have to start drafting these ideas to assist with the school’s approach to the design thesis curriculum. The following are thoughts that I shared with my students and colleagues in an email:

I have started to write about the design thesis projects for the last three years when I was involved. This is two-fold. One is for assisting the department for a future design thesis approach and the other is for your information on how to be clear about your design thesis.

Your design thesis could be placed under one of these “categories” (the word ‘category’ can still be changed):

  • Sustainable Science (sustainability is the major component of a building type included here)
  • Conservation / Adaptive Re-use (included conservation area or context is very influential)
  • Community Architecture (field-work protocol important)
  • Building Type (some projects are under (1) form driven / art buildings; (2) utilitarian (3) hybrid)
  • Issue-driven (building less important than other component)

I am sure there need to be an in-depth discussion about this for some of the projects. I listed all the projects from the last three years and put them under the categories that I believe they should be in. I will explain later about some of the projects and also some of the current projects (that I discussed with the author of the projects concern).

Some of the in-depth discussion could be a debate about which category the project should be in, but in my opinion, the author is the best person to actually say which category her/his project should be in. If the author is very sure about which category his/her project is in, he/she will be better at presenting his/her project.

Clear-cut is like Pacilia’s Church project. It is definitely “building type”. It is almost not important as a ‘thesis’ to deal with the site because its mostly about the building. That’s why it is important to really go and detail the building and not so concern about urban context or site so much although the site made her possible to make decisions about her site strategy and site planning. What she must do is of course the focus on the “church” type. That is for sure and must be really apparent in the presentation.

Clear-cut is also Nurhayati’s Pulau Ketam project. It is definitely “community architecture” because the process must follow a protocol that is similar to “anthropological studies”, which is to study the people’s activities and use of space. Community architecture can concentrate in the end on the building, like Farhana did with the Mah Meri School Design but she had to study on the people, activities, social and cultural aspects as she went and visit more than 3 times ( I believe) and although the design of the building was more universal, it did not matter, but for Community Architecture, what matters more is that the designer went through the protocol of study.

Just now I spoke to Shazana and she said that her project is “issue-driven”, but people who do not understand design thesis and who only concentrates on her project title: Contemporary Art Museum may think it is “building type” and Sha certainly feels its not, so its important that Sha presents her project as “issue driven” although she must show her building / architecture like everyone else. Sha’s project is like Wendy Gan who did the Pasar Seni site, which is issue driven although she did the social-culture study protocol in sem khas, which helped in a way to determine the youth component, but its issues driven although she designed the bus terminal underground and designed also the square. It also solved the urban design component but design thesis its more about issue driven rather than urban design. Sha could benefit from learning about what Wendy went through and how to approach the presentation.

Also I spoke with Syareena just now and clearly hers is “building-type”. Since its about a kindergarten, I am concern with the details a lot because that is the expectations of the kindergarten design, where even the anthropometrics and ergonomics of children ie her module design is so very important. Also important is the structure. But I told her that urban design solutions are secondary, ie the pedestrian path to the other side.

I also spoke with Xanyi and he agreed with me that his project is “building type” changing the idea of a vocational school and building a model based on BUSINESS + SCHOOL thus the Apprenticeship Centre, meaning that site and location is important for such a new type of vocational school. So it also happens to be in Petaling Street and although the issues were similar to Cheong Gin Yong’s Melaka project, it is very much different in many aspects, so the architectural idea shown by Ginyong can assist Xanyi to execute similar design ideas in his scheme though Xanyi’s scheme has its own special qualities, the ambience of shop house scale / urban scale is similar. So very much the site influence the building type but still its about the “building type” and its not issue driven like Sha’s or Wendy’s. Therefore I advised Xanyi that the first point he can present on the ‘local products’ issue but that is one of the points. Two more points on building type, as mentioned.

I actually had a chat this morning with the 1st year students during my History 2 class. They are the first to follow the syllabus that touched upon Malaya/Malaysian architecture. I decided to speak to them about their retreat house and I said its similar with the design thesis. You deal with site, client and themes / ideas. I asked them where do they get their ideas? From the site? Form the client? I said to them, if their client is Michael Jackson, how will you design your retreat house for example. His character is strong thus you can actually find ideas. They actually had one of their classmates presented Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum at Bilbao, and we had a discussion on that. That because its a gallery you can use a more amorphous form, as opposed to the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital presented by another classmate which is very much linear based on “utilitarian Brutalism” (quoted) similar in character to Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh complex. Since its a hospital, its practical to use a linear design rather than amorphous. One of the design thesis projects that challenges itself very high is Nuriana’s Psychiatric Rehabilitation Centre where the “building type” is “hospital” requiring a more linear design, more utilitarian in nature but the author decided to design it from the site forces and the undulating lines juxtaposing these lines with the program of the psychiatric centre, thus the form. Yes, the author sets herself to create spaces that expands believing of its healing or calming properties and sets herself challenges to design the structure and constructional detail. But at the end of the day, what is the category of Nuriana’s project? In my opinion its a “building type”, clearly the issues coming from the programme. Clearly, the centre is part of a hospital complex but here the exercise is to come out with a building type in an open site, and there in lies the challenge. It could look like another linear building like any hospital, but the convincing argument must be borne from the new building type right down to the details and spaces created thus hybrid(?).

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5 thoughts on “Design Thesis Categories

  1. Clear-cut is like Pacilia’s Church project. It is definitely “building type”. It is almost not important as a ‘thesis’ to deal with the site because its mostly about the building. That’s why it is important to really go and detail the building and not so concern about urban context or site so much although the site made her possible to make decisions about her site strategy and site planning. What she must do is of course the focus on the “church” type. That is for sure and must be really apparent in the presentation.

    YES I KNOW 🙂
    I WILL DO MY BEST ^_^

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