The MArch design programme structure differ significantly from the old BArch programme. The two-stage structure is preserved, but the first stage now consists of three semesters (three standalone design projects) instead of one semester of preliminary design studies. The three semesters of first stage has to be completed before embarking on the final Design Thesis.
The three semesters of first stage are known as:
i. MBEA1119 Design Pre-Thesis I (Socio-culture)
ii. MBEA1129 Design Pre-Thesis II (Urban)
iii. MBEA2139 Design Pre-Thesis III (Sustainable Technologies)
There is no pre-requisite of taking any of the pre-thesis courses. Students are free to choose whichever approach that appeals to them first based on whatever criteria they see fit. However, the choices are limited to the options set by the Department, mainly due to manpower, facility and/or resource limitations. Eventually, students need to complete all three courses before proceeding to the second stage: MBEA2149 Design Thesis.
The diagram above illustrates an example of design components of each semester of the pre-thesis course. Each semester is a complete design project, complying on specific emphasis of each approach. Should a student fail any particular course, they may choose to immediately retake them in the following semester, or take a different course first before resitting that particular course.
Once the three pre-theses have been completed, students will need to prepare themselves for their final Design Thesis. The Design Thesis is an original work in which the student proposes their own subject matter, approach, brief, client and eventually the final product. Usually the Design Thesis contributes something, one way or another, to the body of knowledge. So students would always try to inject a new element, reinvent, relook, juxtapose over a new context, use different methodology, technology, adopt new laws or regulations and other sorts to make it an original piece.
When approaching the final Design Thesis, the students have the opportunity to look back at their three pre-thesis semesters and decide what they want to do for their finals. By revisiting the design components from the previous semester, they would be able to construct a complete Design Thesis without having to build everything from scratch. The diagram above fragments the design components into puzzle pieces. Students can now pick and match whichever components they prefer.
In alternative A, instead of starting fresh, they would have three different sites to choose from, and these are complete site study that they have already visited, researched and used before. And this will happen for every design component they have, apart from the Design itself. In the example above, a student matches Issue/Concept from Socio-culture with Site from Urban and Programme and Technologies from Sustainable Technologies. In the end, he introduces new Client/User, and eventually comes up with the final complete design project, making it into a holistic Architectural Design Thesis.
In this alternative, the student may choose several elements from one particular semester that he prefers (perhaps because he likes the project, or it was his strongest project, or perhaps there’s a potential room for further development not fully realised in the previous semester). In the example above, the student drops the Programme and Design components from the previous Urban semester. This practically means that he is restarting/redoing his project, but maintaining all other components in place.
To construct an entirely new, fresh and completely unbounded Design Thesis would require more time, and the school discourages this. But it’s not entirely impossible for outstanding students to start everything fresh!