Design Education and the Publicness of Thesis

By Nana Last.

Published by The International Journal of Design Education

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper examines the role and possibilities for thesis in architectural design education. While focusing on the specific issues of architectural design, the paper elucidates issues central to design education in general. The functioning of thesis is a particularly timely topic in light of ongoing debates over inter-relations between practice and theory in the design disciplines. The rise of research studios in further bringing to the fore complex relations between design in relation to research and as research has made the question of design thesis even more central. Engaged, as it is, in the production of knowledge, thesis harbors the potential to make apparent and enter into aspects of architecture education, the profession and more generally, design thought and production. The construct of thesis thus raises broad pedagogical and epistemological questions pertaining to design as a form of knowledge, relations between design disciplines, rifts between theory and practice and questions of interdisciplinarity. Through the public advancing of an argument that provides the design’s critical framework, thesis holds a unique position of explicitly making design thought visible. This paper argues that owing to its liminal position on the borders between theory and practice and education, thesis sets the stage for a series of questions that transform it from an individual undertaking to a matter of public and disciplinary concern. The contention is that thesis provides a particularly compelling position in which to advance design as a specific form of knowledge. The examination of the role and functioning of thesis reveals long held rifts in the thinking underlying design education while simultaneously pointing to emerging ideas within the fields of design, design education and relations between design education and that of other disciplines. The paper stresses architecture’s unique role in opening-up discussions between a range of design disciplines.

Keywords: Architecture, Design, Thesis, Theory, Education

The International Journal of Design Education, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp.23-29. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 213.826KB).

Nana Last

Associate Professor, Department of Architecture, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA

Nana Last is an associate professor at the University of Virginia School of Architecture, where she teaches courses in architecture theory and design. She received a Ph.D. in Architecture and Art: History, Theory and Criticism from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and holds a Masters degree in Architecture from Harvard University. Her research is concerned with issues in contemporary architecture theory and practice as well as relations between architecture, art, philosophy and cultural studies. She has published essays in journals including: Any, Assemblage, Harvard Design Magazine, Thresholds, Praxis, Art Journal and Visual Resources. Her work is included in a number of anthologies including Theory in Contemporary Art since 1985, “Architecture, Language, Critique: Around Paul Engelmann,” and “Text zum Werk von Thomas Struth.” Her book: Wittgenstein’s House: Language, Space and Architecture (2008) was published by Fordham University Press. She is currently completing a manuscript entitled: “From Both Sides: Thomas Struth, Architecture and Photography” and is continuing work on the topic of “fluidity.”