ARCHITECTURAL THESIS: Practice of Academics or Academics of Practice

Studio @ KRVIA

Last several decades one could see the altered responsibilities of architecture towards itself, cities, environment and other interdisciplinary dimensions. This has perhaps resulted into need of re-examination of the academics in contemporary times. Within the academics it is important to understand the role and scope of the architectural thesis (design desertion) as a culmination towards making of an Architect. The architectural thesis is expected to demonstrate the fully evolved architectural knowledge system, demonstrated in the form of research ideas and project demonstration. Along with that, it is also assumed that the architectural question would have expanded into interdisciplinary examinations as compare to limited architectonic inquiry in earlier formative years. It is also imagined that such fundamental understanding would give away the traditional forms of problem-solving to social, political, cultural, and / or disciplinary critique within the act of research and design.

If one maps the trajectory of architectural thesis over past few decades, it would explain that it had only attempted to articulate the basic issues as being only problem solving method as an architectural inquiry and demonstration.  It has unable to articulate the disjunction and discord that it has created in such process, especially in understanding the complexity of layers as an architectural question and nature of architectural inquiry as interdisciplinary value system in architectural thesis. The architectural thesis begins with the idea of the understanding of two terms, the design research and the architectural research.

This two terms are often confused as being one or similar but they are different because design research is close ended derives its momentum from data and information, tending towards demonstration and the architectural research is open ended flourishes on knowledge system and tending towards discipline based inquiry and critique. But one should not confused that there are two methods to carry out thesis rather they are dependent on each other so that inquiries can be set towards either from design research to architectural research or vice versa, tending towards conclusive end of design & demonstrates.

Traditionally we have built two myths that architecture is about of either “architecture as a profession” or “architecture as a discipline” and we generally try to separate it out conveniently and every act that enables academics is a product of this mythical compartment.

The Demonstration of design Knowledge (Project) specific to the program, naïve contextual issues is generally seen as the domain of profession. While the reading of socio/ cultural/ economic, political and environmental discourses as knowledge inquiry or methodology for seeking gap within the architectural knowledge that would question the traditional forms of production of architecture, is the key to set disciplinarian domain. However the idea is to operate in simultaneity and seek for cumulative understanding of profession and discipline coming together, i:e. thinking of a production of architecture knowledge by questioning the disciplinarian boundaries and looking at various modes in which the architectural issues could be articulated and demonstrated through investigation (relevance) of site context and program addressing the architectural issues
When you say architectural research, it’s a fairly open ended form of inquiry and experimentation because you want to engage with a variety of forces and build some new knowledge. They are not necessarily conclusive in nature; they may or may not result into a building. But on the other hand a design thesis research is basically is the way you engage and integrate the idea of profession by addressing the functionalities and technicalities and what is more important is the way you try to be canonical or limit the architectural question and improvise what is already established. This enables the emergence of discord between the canonical structure of knowledge and formal annexation of the building and its relationship with architecture.

It is usually understood that the one addresses the problem will, in turn resolve that problem or the conduct of program is architecture. This is very limiting and conclusive without expanding the architectural question. 

But if one has to turn around the process, and begin the inquiry with area of interest with architectural specificity, it would allow interdisciplinary references from multiple sources. This enables the architectural inquiry as a system (Architecture is a sub set of various other disciplines and study of set of principles across the discipline to allow organization of architectural knowledge and method). This method engages the accumulation of architectural information and larger value system. Hence, this is actually building for the next stage where one begins to conceptualize architecture; one begins to look at architecture in a broader context 
At this stage the architectural system begins to draw the idea of pattern, the forces that influence architecture. It aids the conceptualization process and development of broad ideas specific to sites (place, culture).
One can also begin with the area of your interest that you have in architecture. This method allows beginning with the accumulation of work of similar area of interest, almost like an autonomous researcher. The word autonomous means you are an individual, you are a research scholar and you are interested in a particular aspect of architecture which is not really predefined. Then we come to the second stage where we see architecture as a discursive means there is a kind of disciplinarian kind of engagement in looking at architectural inquiry and conceptualization of architecture with relationship to the site. Now this is where your site comes into the picture. This is the second phase where your site comes. And the third is where you try to put it together and the kind of formal expression, manifestation.
However this is not as linear as it appears to be. One could really swap this process. You can look at architecture as a discursive, as a beginning point. You might think let me just try to examine disciplines. Let me try to understand the relationship of architecture with something that is really important. But architecture remains at the center. So someone might have interest in sociological understanding or an anthropological understanding to begin with but then one needs to articulate the specific knowledge that informs architecture. Now when you reverse this question you are obliged to take up a case study. In this case you need to study what has already been done, what kind of architecture has already been produced, what is the literature that has been produced. The case studies are the prime support for your architectural thesis. Hence one can’t just claim that as a researcher one is re-imagining. The re-imagining cannot supersede one idea of inquiry and discussion and discourse. The re-imagining comes when one is really taking this process in a way which it systematically evolves kind of inquiry that are bridging the gap of earlier research.
This is more about generating a discussion looking at the thesis process and it also kinds of brings in the idea of the way in which we understand method and methodology. We sometimes assume that it a research question. Sometimes we assume that we have done research but actually we have only collected the data. You have not yet established the larger value system attached to the data. This point where the dis-junction is and we need to equip ourselves to handle the emergence of dis-junction. 

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