September 22, 2007

My Thesis, My Life

Hey All,

Here's the latest version of my Hypothesis and Thesis statement for your reading (dis)pleasure.


I returned from studying in Biloxi, MS encouraged by the work I participated in and observed dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I was heartened to see architects and designers offering their services to people who would not usually be able to afford them and yet would benefit from them. Returning to Minnesota, I did not know where to look to find an opportunity to do similar work in an architecture firm. I began to wonder what a humanitarian practice of architecture, one for those unable to purchase design services, would look like. Questions began to surface such as: How does one go about forming a practice around this idea? Who will the client be? Who will fund the projects? Are there current models within the discipline of architecture that could be used for such a firm? I know from empirical experience that there are people using design skill to improve the lives of others, so it seems to me that an architect could practice exclusively in this way.

Thesis Statement:

People and groups within the discipline are using their design skills to better the lives of individuals and communities. Many firms devote a small portion of their services on a pro-bono basis. Some, such as the organization Architecture for Humanity, work to connect designers with projects and funding and to increase awareness of needs that exist. Numerous colleges and universities have educational programs designed to teach students while also providing design services to peoples in need. Community design centers also provide design services to neighborhoods and larger communities across the nation. Each of these groups and individuals meet legitimate public needs in various ways and at various scales. I am interested in exploring a humanitarian practice of architecture—one dedicated to help meet peoples’ basic human needs. My thesis proposes that an architecture firm dedicated solely to meeting humanitarian needs can be sustainable. Here sustainable refers to the continual maintenance of every operational aspect of a normal firm: clients, work, finances, liability, as well as construction and administration. The goal is to explore the possibility of a firm that can reasonably support its employees and itself while working to improve the lives of others.

There you have it. I hope you are all making some headway on your theses. If any of you need any help with your thesis, don't hesitate to ask.



August 31, 2007

And so it Begins

Greetings All,

I have enjoyed our discussions thus far and have found them to be most helpful. Here, for your pre-Labor Day Weekend reading pleasure, is version 1.2 of my Hypothesis and Thesis Statement.


I returned from studying in Biloxi, MS encouraged by the work dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina I participated in and observed. I was encouraged to see architects and designers offering their services to people who would not usually be able to afford those services yet were in need of them. Returning to Minnesota, I did not know where to look to find an opportunity to do a similar type of work. I began to wonder what a humanitarian practice of architecture for those unable to purchase design services would look like. Questions began to surface such as: How does one go about forming a practice around this idea? Who will the client be? Who will fund the projects? Can the current model of practice be used to this end or must a new model be made? The peoples of the world have many needs and problems for which the skills of an architect can be of assistance in reliving, yet it seems that the general practice of architecture serves those needs in a piecemeal way at best.

Thesis Statement:

The praxis of architecture should provide design services to those who, though unable to pay for them, need assistance meeting their basic human needs.

I hope you all enjoy the long weekend, the last respite before school begins.

August 29, 2007

meeting notes: August 29

For everyone who couldn’t make it (or the people who did come and forgot what was said) here’s what happened last night at the weekly jamboree. We planned to come with the first assignment so that we could get some feedback and focus our ideas before class.

Wonder of wonders … people actually brought their work and ideas to the meeting tonight. Keep reading for a very rough paraphrase of each person's idea and then notes on the discussion we had following it. Also, next week our brave students face a new challenge – the return of formal class schedules – whatever shall they do? Find out at the end!

Continue reading "meeting notes: August 29" »

Thoughts on a Hypothesis

After meeting with the Onion group last week, I confronted the harsh reality of composing my thoughts and the responsibility of making decisions...until today, I have successfully set that reality aside. (I think it is on a stick somewhere at the State Fair) To gather my thoughts, I am trying to answer the question posed to me, What a successful thesis is to me? I found myself tapping into the original interests that lead me into architecture: culture and language. So, now I have my passion, which I think is a great start ( for May) and I need to direct it. These thoughts led me to semiology and Charles Jencks, which led me to wanting to shoot my foot. So, I am still thinking...

A first crack...



This spring, the University of Minnesota sent seven students (including myself) on a life-changing ‘study abroad’ journey to Katrina-devastated Biloxi, Mississippi. The clear need for humanitarian efforts to help families in Biloxi and on the Gulf Coast opened my eyes to similar needs unmet here in Minnesota. Biloxi is my inspiration to constantly endeavor.

Working in downtown Minneapolis this summer, I walk the long blocks of Nicollet Mall each day. The street is flanked with shops and bustling with the activity of many business people. But those same long stretches of streets, shops, and business people, house the homeless. On an average walk to and from work, passing eight homeless people isn’t out of the ordinary.

The National Law Center on in 50 cities found that in virtually every city, the city's official estimated number of homeless people greatly exceeded the number of emergency shelter and transitional housing spaces..........[more to come].


__Thesis Statement

“Everybody wants the same thing, rich or poor … not only a warm, dry room, but a shelter for the soul.?

[more to come]

August 28, 2007

The First Assignment

OK, folks. We all promised to have something in writing for the meeting tomorrow. Try to bang something out and post if here, even if you aren't going to be able to make it to the Onion. Here's mine.

Continue reading "The First Assignment" »

August 23, 2007

Getting Started

As we began our foray into the world of the Masters Thesis with our hypotheses and thesis statements, I thought some inspiration to be in order. To that end, the following link provides some examples of how not to start. Unless, of course, you want the next eight months to be a grotesque adventure of epic proportions.

Happy Writing.

August 22, 2007

meeting notes: August 22

For everyone who missed it, we had another productive meeting last night. Everyone went around the table and said what they were thinking about and we gave each other some suggestions for focusing topics and extending research. Justin suggested that we might use a business technique called the SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths / Weaknesses / Opportunities / Threats and allows you to try to predict where your ideas might fail and then address those issues. We'll think about that for next time.

Also for next meeting everyone should try to bring a first draft of their Hypothesis and Thesis Statement. Since its due in less than two weeks anyway this isn't any hardship and it'll be a good kick in the pants to get moving on it for those of us (me!) who've been avoiding it. Looking forward to next week. Same time, same station.

August 16, 2007

Testing the Waters

Well, here goes nothing. I resolved at the end of my first round of observing thesis that I would be doing it all differently when my turn came around. No procrastinating. No excuses. I would tap every resource and try anything to streamline the process and get around the bureaucratic hitches of the school. One of my clearest observations was that people didn’t do enough shared writing and editing and that it would be vital to create some sort of writers group to get through it. Now that my time has actually come, we’ll see how that goes. But I do think it behooves me to go this far with the creation of an informal support network. Thus, in the manner required by our first assignment *due the first day of class, folks*
I propose …

Hypothesis: Architecture students are skittish about writing in general and the writing of a thesis tends to terrify us out of all rationality. We haven’t, as a rule, spent a lot of time translating architecture into words and the prospect of producing a 40-odd page document about it is daunting. Add to that the awe inspiring title of “thesis? and the mind runs to panic. Although class work and the current M Arch system make creating a thesis much easier than it would be without any formal system, we are all nonetheless desperate for more support and guidance.

Thesis Statement: My thesis proposes that an extra-curricular writer support group (this blog) can help us through the process by providing moral support, between-deadline motivation and an external sounding board.

To this end I will also continue to hang out at a coffee shop near campus every Wednesday from 7:00 to whenever working on my thesis and happy to exchange ideas with anyone else who shows up. Look forward to seeing you there.