While most undergraduates studying architecture don't pursue it, honors architecture students can choose to write a thesis. Doing so will give them an advantage over their peers who go into master's programs having never attempted a long writing assignment. The benefits of writing a thesis extend into doctoral programs, as the students will have already written two theses, for their bachelor's and master's degrees, before attempting the dissertation.
Topics for Theses
The challenge presented by the thesis is finding an original research topic or an original angle on topics that have been researched by other scholars. While intimidating, this trains students to think critically about architecture as a theoretical field. Students who take the challenge will find that they can study many aspects of architecture that will fascinate them, such as its role in religion. In the case of a topic like religion, students could do historical research -- such as the study of sculpture and iconography in the Vatican under a specific pope -- or they could look at a modern phenomenon like the role of architecture in modern church design.
Architecture is at heart a practical discipline, since so much of our social structure is based on the physical structures in which we interact. The magazine "Architect" argues that the thesis need not be about complexity, that "architecture is often the result of simple, elegant ideas of sufficient intellectual depth and rich possibilities". Students who wish to explore architecture's simpler but sometimes-unnoticed functions will find thesis topics like examining airport architecture and its impact on travelers engaging. Other possible topics along these lines would include how noise can be controlled via building structures in places such as malls or libraries.
Architecture is an interdisciplinary field, as it touches almost all aspects of life. Students interested in pursuing how architecture intersects with art will find interesting possibilities like studying the relationship between art movements and the architecture of the time. Students can narrow the topic even further by limiting themselves to a specific decade. By the same token, students interested in photography could investigate what it means for architecture to be photogenic, and how this goal affects modern building. The interplay between architecture and landscape will also prove a fruitful study.
Finally, architecture lends itself to historical studies, since buildings are designed to stand the test of time and often tell a lot about a culture decades after its heyday. Along these lines, architecture undergraduates interested in history can research theses about movements like the German Garden Movement of the early 20th century or possibly even older buildings like 13th century Franciscan architecture in Italy. These types of studies will also engage students who are interested in cultures outside of the United States.
Anthony Fonseca is the library director at Elms College in Massachusetts. He has a doctorate in English and has taught various writing courses and literature survey courses. His books include readers' advisory guides, pop culture encyclopedias and academic librarianship studies.