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How to Choose an Undergraduate Architecture Thesis Topic

As architecture students head to their final year of BArch, half-crazy from years’ worth of scraped fingers, ghastly juries, sleepless nights, and a general lack of social life, they encounter the mighty problem of choosing a thesis topic. There are many subjects to choose from, but a personal interest in a particular subject is just one of the many factors that should influence this decision. Students need to ask themselves several other questions: Is the topic significant enough? Is it expansive enough? Is the project realistically doable?

The process can be daunting, for the decision has many consequences; sometimes, the choice of topic alone can mean the difference between the success and failure of a thesis. With so many factors to consider and deadlines closing in, students easily end up making decisions that they regret later. Here are eight tips to help you make an informed choice on the matter:

ARQ DOCS: Pier Vittorio Aureli

ARQ DOCS: Pier Vittorio Aureli - Image 1 of 4
Courtesy of ARQ Ediciones

Published by the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile as part of their ARQ DOCS series, "Pier Vittorio Aureli" features two in depth interviews with Aureli, the high-profile Italian theorist and co-founder of design and research studio DOGMA. The book's introduction, written by Emilio De la Cerda is excerpted below.

The work of Pier Vittorio Aureli constitutes a rigorous effort of thought regarding architectural discipline and the political dimension enclosed by the specificity of form. It is an approach focused on the power of the project, a speculative but delimited tool, which allows overcoming the paralysis of diagnosis and the abuse of diagrams, in order to establish a decisive commitment with the concrete reality of the city.

This line of thought, which is introduced here through two interviews conducted in 2010 and 2012 by Felipe De Ferrari and Diego Grass —architects and professors in our school—recognizes the profound historical and collective tradition of architecture, showing itself distant from those conceptions that see both creativity and the subjective originality of form as a sort of ethical manifest. Far from celebrating authorial genius, Aureli insists in the inseparable link that exists between architectural production and the cultural realm in which it develops.

Unified Architectural Theory: Chapter 4

We will be publishing Nikos Salingaros’ book, Unified Architectural Theory, in a series of installments, making it digitally, freely available for students and architects around the world. The following chapter discusses the complexity of form languages and describes how to use the form language checklist to measure these complexities. If you missed them, make sure to read the introduction, Chapter One, Chapters 2A and Chapter 2B, and Chapter 3 first.

There exists a volume of writings by architects in the early 20th century, and we can look through them for the form languages of Modernism. Unfortunately, the useful material turns out to be very little, most of it describing not a form language but rather marketing and declarations of a political nature. Moreover, those pieces of very personal form languages are presented as normative theories: a prescription of what to do and what not to do, with the weight of universal ethics, even though they are based solely on opinion, not empirical observations or systematic study. 

Here are some practical lists of rules I have found by Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier.