talkistania

In Quest of the Rosy Picture

Noticing
the repetitive and redundant nature of thesis topics selected by my peers
(Themed Resort, Forest Resort, Eco-Tourist Camp, Health Retreat and Spa,
Equestrian Club, Tourism Hub, etc.), and the approach to thesis as a
large-scale version of the regular Design Studio, I was very disturbed and
decided to take some time off to disconnect myself from college and decide how
I would like to go about my thesis.

I went
through the topics of students from other colleges such as CEPT and MIT, and
noticed that none of them were able to fill in the blank: ‘Design of a _____.’
The stress seemed to be on something else entirely. After much thought and
navigation of unexplored territory, I decided that my thesis would be exploratory and open-ended
instead of generating a definitive solution. Even if such a solution were to be
arrived at in the end, it would be resultant of the exploration of my
capabilities and the potential of the topic, rather than a predetermined
outcome. When I returned to college a year later, I had done my homework, and
shifted my focus, but the faculty had not. 

I took
my time and was careful not to frame my topic so that it could be converted to
a fill-in-the-blank that would allow the conjuring of an image of a particular
building type and would sabotage what I was trying to do. Finally, I arrived at
Bringing Down the Walls: Contemporary Structures in the Historic Core. I
did not determine what I would be designing from the very beginning, and
instead concentrated on the study of a mohallah in the Old City,
the inherent problems, and possible need for intervention. Initially, my
internal guide did not have any problems with my direction of working. The
first two months were very open-ended, which the juror for the first internal
review termed ‘lacking in focus.’ The first stage being case-study, I presented
none, but only the reasoning behind why I selected the context that I had
scrutinized. My study would build up to what my role as an architect would be
in the scenario. I decidedly refrained from mentioning any building types for
lack of guarantee that one of these would be the ideal solution, and lest it be
classified as such and carved in stone till the time I reached the end of my
thesis. I was able to generate very few drawings at this stage. However, when
this presentation of a broad idea that would eventually converge did not fit
into the predetermined sequence of the thesis schedule, my internal guide
called for a ‘rosy picture’ that I should have foreseen when I began my thesis.

When
much of the study was over, I was able to fully understand what needed to be
done in the area to rejuvenate the activities and keep from losing its
character. The solution, I believe, is to reclaim a series of open spaces and
old structures that are currently abandoned or being misused, which would be
interconnected and form a network of informal activity in the mohalla. It
was not advisable to add more structures except the very basic to the already
existing narrow and chaotic streets. I altered my topic accordingly, to Bringing
Down the Walls: Contemporary Spaces in the Historic Core.
I was also able
to present the information graphically, in the language that architects speak
and understand. At this point, my priorities seemed to coincide with the preset
schedule, and everyone was happy. However, the lack of a definitive solution
that could be justified without loopholes posed a problem. It seemed that I
must not ‘bite off more than I could chew’ and work only within my means and
capabilities. I was simply not informed or equipped enough to design what I
think are relevant solutions to the issues I outlined; I was asked to concentrate
on a very peripheral aspect of the solution, because of missing information
which I would not be able to collect or handle with my limited skill-set.
Moreover, there is no guarantee that my solution would actually ‘work.’ Making
assumptions and exploring the way to an almost-rosy picture was out of the
question. In the end, it seemed, the juror’s comments and suggestions were
binding and had to be enforced as a dictum. 

From
the above experiences, I can only raise these questions: Is the purpose of a
thesis the providing of solutions that work with a guarantee, or is it the
journey of self-discovery that tells how capable you are and what your
potential is? After identifying a problem and outlining the potential solutions,
am I to abandon the idea due to lack of skill, and shift my focus to a marginal
part of the entire proposal just because it can be presented in the format of
plan-section-elevation within the time constraints? Is it necessary that
students dealing with larger scale projects also generate the same drawings as
those dealing with small-scale projects? How can an urban design project be
expected to show working drawings with the same level of detail as an interior
design? Also, does the satisfaction or conviction of the guide or juror, and the
success of the student in fully justifying their design determine the success
of the thesis? Why can’t I, as a student, hold a contradictory opinion to that
of the juror/ faculty, and also be allowed to take my own course regardless?

Isn’t that what thesis is all about: an unproved statement put forward
as a premise in an argument
(dictionary definition; the definition of
premise being ‘a statement that is assumed to be true and from which a
conclusion can be drawn’)?

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This entry was published on August 30, 2007 at 04:05 and is filed under ArchiRave. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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