Thesis Topic Advice

Dear all,
Recently I was going through Archdaily article about how to choose undergraduate thesis topic.
I thought to bring that same topic for discussion here. Because here there are architect’s, researcher’s, parametric designers who all are dealing with real time architecture problems. You all can guide in a better way for selecting thesis topic. This would surely help many student’s as possible to choose proper topic for their undergraduate thesis and master thesis. Normally most of the thesis topics are too hypothetical, futuristic (totally my view) and they have nothing to do with real time problems facing by architecture community right now.

My wishlist
@DanielPiker Foster+Partners, Kangaroo
@andheum Former NBBJ, Computational Specialist
@jesper Wallgreen Architect
@HS_Kim Computational Designer
@laurent_delrieu Computational Designer
@Adam_M Santiago Calatrava CAD Specialist
@seghierkhaled Computational Designer
@Shridhar_Mamidalaa Computational Designer, Architect
@AndersDeleuran BIG Computational Specialist
@Michael_Pryor Computational Designer
McNeel Team
@DavidRutten
@dale
@nathanletwory
@pascal
@fraguada
@brian

I wish and request all above mentioned respected gentlemen contribution to this topic will make this more useful and interesting.
Not only above mentioned list anyone can contribute here. To have a good kickstart I tagged and mentioned some of these people’s.

The second thing which make me to create this topic was Mr.Patrick Schumacher interview on Dezeen "Architecture education is in crisis and detached from the profession"

Share link, pdfs etc related to this topic if possible.

Archdaily link

Dezeen link

Thanks in advance
Regards,
BVR

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Forget everything. I would suggest you to checkout problems in society and offcourse use Architecture as a powerful medium to solve it.
Asking others about thesis topic ? Thesis is an opportunity to do what you want instead of someone /syllabus telling you to do.

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Just look at the past . We are in transition , a paradigm shift. We have access to information and tools our previous generation of designers never imagines of. Great minds have still accomplished a lot without powerful tool. We should be able to do more than them.

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just that this is not misunderstood i´d like to add some thoughts. i think if somebody strives out not to do what someone “wants” in particular but rather aims for what “one” needs, the result can be far more sustainable for everybody. doing what one wants is egomaniac pomposity which the world does not need more of.

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  1. Find a topic you’d like to learn more about. Not what you think is the “right” topic but something you find exciting and fun.
  2. Do not overthink, just produce.
  3. Work hard!
  4. Kill your darlings
  5. Do not skip out on sleep, food or people that care about you.

Here’s a link to my thesis project:

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I have no specific advice for such a generic problem, but I would say that if you wish to write an academic thesis you should probably have a look at the style sheets and content guidelines of some real science faculties.

Academic architecture loves to position itself on the boundary between science and art, but often instead of striving to be the best of both worlds the positioning is used to shirk responsibility. A thesis should be scientifically solid, meaning it has to be argued logically (not esthetically), use well defined terms (not buzzwords), examine it’s own weaknesses (not be a polemic), and ideally provide some actual proofs or experiment results.

This is not easy, and none of these skills were taught when I attended architecture uni. Admittedly that was 15 years ago…

If your topic has computational aspects you must understand and discuss the reliability and scope of these algorithms. When can they no longer be trusted? What are the error bars on the calculated results? How can you validate a computed result? What other research agrees with your findings? What research contraindicates your findings?

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Agree! You don’t want to land in pseudo science.

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what is truly science? boundaries of knowledge and understanding are at a constant growth, there is no exact definition. a pseudo science in this matter can be the science of inbetween, the knowing and understanding of HOW to connect.

i highly disagree, that would mean that even in the words you write you now claim to withdraw yourself from any kind of eloquence, evading the beauty in sound and looks of your hopefully well thought content. creating absolute authentic content is a minimum i would say, packing the minimum into beauty is what gives it its maximum. beauty is passion, without passion there is no flow of life.

Humans have limited knowledge but unlimited imagination. Science, as a methodology, deals a lot with trying to separate the two.

Although no “exact definition” may exist for “what is truly science” (for reasons like when claims were made that psychology would play in the same league as the natural sciences, for example) you can often spot pseudo-science when someone is making claims based on what we do NOT know (empirically) instead of being based on what we actually do know (empirically).

Speculations based on what we don’t know is more common in (falsely so called) science than many people realize.

“Real” science (as opposed to pseudoscience based on what we do not know) draws conclusions (true or false) based on empirical observations and repeatable tests (what we think we know at a certain point in time) which includes exclusions based on falsifications, although the conclusion may still later be found to be incorrect.

Real science may end up with the wrong conclusions following its best rules, but pseudo science isn’t even wrong when making “scientific” claims without adhering to relevant empirical scientific rules (again, talking about natural sciences).

An empirical scientific observation can be done by grandma without any formal education or research program (a fact forgotten by people gone too far into scientism).

Basing conclusions on what is already known (which includes falsification) is a good guideline for completely new ideas or findings. If the new idea contradicts observed gravity for objects in vacuum there’s probably a problem with the new idea.

There is no passion where there’s no life. I think this can be proven and I think it is a conclusion based on what we do know.

// Rolf

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Sometimes the distinction is easy, sometimes it’s hard. What do you think the odds are that an undergraduate architecture paper is going to cut itself on the bleeding edge where science and philosophy wrestle for dominance? We’re not talking vacuum-entanglement and ER=EPR here.

Basically, if you borrow terms from biology, ecology, psychology, geology, physics, chemistry or even mathematics you must define them in a way that makes their use relevant to your application of them.

Don’t hide ambiguity and uncertainty behind jargon. Don’t exaggerate rigour through inscrutable equations.

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I’m not writing an academic paper now. My point also wasn’t that you cannot argue both logically and eloquently.

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Since I’m not in the list to answer, just two simple questions:

What do you expect from students, with no or little experience of solving real world problems?

Do you think anyone owning an architectual office or a lead designer of a big company is bored enough to read thesis papers?

Although I agree on what has been said, I personally think that in the end the quality of a (master/bachelor) thesis paper is totally irrelevant.:man_shrugging:

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the problem is knowing what we know. to know something is a definition of some - thing which in the real “non imaginative” world does actually not exist. its trying to define a triangle with a view pixels actually ignoring the non existence of a real world equivalent. harshly said there are no real triangles. maybe its all just pseudo science. but trying to separate the chicken from the egg is a never-ending comedy.

the wording is all the same, contextually i dont see an exclusion of either. if i fail my thesis because i tried to sound too eloquent then i am most certainly at the wrong university. or as you have written before, if i fail because i take care that something is esthetically pleasing.

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You try to land on the moon. If you fail miserably you have some unanswered questions, if you succeed it’s not going to be by mere chance and you will have fewer unanswered questions than if you totally fail. At least you will know whether you got the triangles right.

Pretending to not know anything tends to make the difference between real (empirical) science and pseudo-science meaningless.

// Rolf

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utter honesty not pretentious, but yes cracking up the boarders is where it should be heading to.

why ever giving up on trying to find out from scratch. you might be a winner now, mess it up completely the next time, with nothing changed at all. even playing poker with the same few cards never ends the same way.

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I think that Archdaily article actually provides quite good advice. In addition to Jesper and David’s excellent points, I’d advice to resist the following topics for an undergraduate/masters thesis focusing on computation:

  1. Robotics
  2. 3D printing
  3. AI/Machine Learning
  4. Patrik Schumacher (despite his arguably valid criticism of education)

Not to go against point 1 in the Archdaily article, but I’d personally try to avoid falling into this seemingly endless stream of largely unoriginal fabrication/plugin-of-the-week driven “research” we see coming out of academia (which I’ve been/am a part of mind you). And instead dare to be original and perhaps look into computation as a design medium from a fresh and original perspective (there’s also a body of historic work that is largely overlooked one might dip into). The field could surely use it :wink:

Perhaps a bit more constructive: I’d be sure to make very explicit what the primary “academic object” of your project is. Especially if it is indeed research, as David points out. That is, is your “academic object” primarily the computational modelling (i.e. geometry, algorithms, data etc.), the physical design object that the modelling generates/analyses/represents (i.e. city, building, structural system etc.) or perhaps its physical manifestation (i.e. fabrication/construction)? I’d recommend these references on this subject:

  • Till, Jeremy (2008). “Architectural Research: Three Myths and One Model”. In:
    Building Material 17, pp. 4‐10.
  • Archer, Bruce (1995). “The Nature of Research”. In: Co‐design, Interdisciplinary
    Journal Of Design January 1995, pp. 6‐13.
  • Darke, Jane (1979). “The Primary Generator and the Design Process”. In: Design
    Studies 1.1, pp. 36‐44.
  • Groat, Linda and David Wang (2013). Architectural Research Methods. Second.
    Wiley.

(this post is strictly my personal opinion and does not reflect my employers yada-yada…)

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Hi @ajarindia,

In addition to the great inputs from @AndersDeleuran and @DavidRutten, I think you should consider a few things.

  1. Bachelor/Master thesis has really just one purpose (with very few exceptions). To get you the degree. Original or not original topic, all that really matters is that it is interesting to you to tickle that curiosity to look for more information, and be excited presenting it. I had an original topic ( for Naval Architecture) while my colleagues had topics not even close to being Ship related, yet they had the same degree as I do.
  2. Tread carefully when picking a topic so that you can complete in the given time span.
  3. Pick a topic that you may (if you have plans to) continue as a Master thesis (post-grad). This will be benefitial in many ways.
  4. Last but not least, don’t forget that even a failure, is a valid topic for a thesis. Being it proving that some known methodology is wrong. Or making a proposal for new methodology that you yourself prove (scientifically) in the tesis that it is not quite appropriate or plain wrong is also a good topic. This will contribute to the industry by telling professionals not to go that path.
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i agree with most of what you say, but regarding the quoted block. i think its important to take it a bit more serious, meaning that even with exceptions a topic should by all means reflect your interest/or what you evaluate as important to handle. its not just for a degree but should open ones own doors for further work.

i think its interesting that you write that people choosing topics being actually away from your original academic field. i have seen that happen in architecture quite a lot. good to know that there is room for intermediate topics else where either!

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This reflects my experience. I put in a lot of effort and passion in my Bachelor and Master theses, but the interest of the jury (I don’t know if this is the word) was very disappointing. If the jury is of passionate people, then Yes, it matters but if it is of tired old people who have lost their strive to innovation, and lack the desire to encourage the students to try new paths/fields. It all loses any sense but to get the damn degree and start your own research projects without the permission or the judgement of such individuals.

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Hi @ajarindia, I’m not an architect so I don’t have anything to add.

– Dale

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