For graduate students at SCI-Arc, ongoing thesis coursework is the culmination of years of study. Students begin their considerations early in the timeline of study with access to a unique line up of architectural thinkers when deciding which professional issues his or her thesis should address.
In the past, students have attended graduate thesis lectures of one guest professor; this year, five guests have been scheduled to address the M.Arch 1 and M.Arch 2 thesis students. “These guests will also be super jurors in the final graduate thesis show this September, the biggest student exhibition at SCI-Arc,” says Florencia Pita, graduate thesis coordinator for SCI-Arc. “And they have already met with the students individually in theory planning, so they will be familiar with the students’ path to achievement.”
Axel Kilian addressed a technology track of focus. The MIT scholar, who now teaches computational design at Princeton, reviewed the evolution of technology and how it influences design--from robotics to scripting to fabrication. As the director of Princeton's architectural robot lab, his embrace of new fabrication methods and design, coupled with a history of technology within the profession, was a unique perspective for students, Pita says.
Founding partner of architectural firm Weiss Manfredi and Graham Chair Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania Marion Weiss focused on thesis concepts in built, urban projects. “She was clear in her explanation of urban projects and how they’ve changed certain parts of cities,” Pita says. “She has a very clear message because she can embrace many ideas, from historical to contemporary, from client needs to [abstract] ideas, and though her talk was project oriented, it was not just the isolation of practice. She was able to bridge both.”
Sylvia Lavin, head of the Ph.D. in architecture program at UCLA, emphasized the critical impact of theses that are relevant to culture. In addition to sharing examples, she also shared methods for students to judge themselves and their own thesis work. By spanning the history of the architectural discipline, her lecture helped students understand the role of the thesis in architecture today.
Joe Day, a member of the board and faculty at SCI-Arc, as well as an alumnus, shared his ideas on diagrams, both as a map of the discipline and as a map of ideas. Students can contextualize architecture through formal diagrams, but Day also unveiled diagram applications for different scenarios, various points of view, multiple practices, and various sensibilities.
“As a student, it is good to see where you could fall into, to build on the work of others and keep pushing an agenda,” says Keith Marks (M.Arch 2) who anticipates a September 2017 graduation. “[These lectures] showed a breadth of categories and the effects on the profession, and connected me to the community of the practice rather than making me feel like I’m out there alone.”
Stan Allen, former dean of architecture at Princeton, will be lecturing on Friday, March 3. Like all guest graduate thesis lectures, his presentation will be open to the entire SCI-Arc student body.