module specification

AR7017 - Design: Concept and Proposition (2020/21)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2020/21
Module status DELETED (This module is no longer running)
Module title Design: Concept and Proposition
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 40
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 400
319 hours Guided independent study
81 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 100%   Portfolio
Running in 2020/21

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year City Thursday Morning
Year City Thursday Afternoon

Module summary

This module invites the student, from within an individual design unit, to build upon the skills and knowledge developed through design research and established within a design project. The module exercises the student’s ability to propose design schemes that embody clear and appropriate conceptual outlook or scheme against which design proposals may be tested. Such a conceptual scheme should be derived with the context of a research framework and govern the rationale of the design proposal. The design proposals should be sufficiently developed through a process of rigorous testing to demonstrate the validity of the concepts in some detail and against a range of criteria, relevant to the built environment. 

The module aims to strengthen the student’s command of the design process, in practical and theoretical terms. The development of the design scheme will, within the wider context of the design research, establish the parameters and focus of the Design Thesis Proposal.

Prior learning requirements

AR7016 Design Research (co-requisite)


The syllabus for this module is specific to the programme of the different design units, each of which sets new projects each year.  The common framework for the module is established through a generic process which, while inherently developmental, will often be non-linear in character. LO1

Each design unit will set a project or related set of projects that require design solutions. These may be focused on any relevant aspect of the built environment field and may include, for example, architecture, urbanism, community regeneration, sustainable architecture, engineering, housing, proto-typical technologies. These topics may be weighted theoretically or practically.  The outline programme for each desigin unit (and therefore the paired design studio modules) is presented at the start of the academic session by the different design units and students may select which design unit and programme they wish to work with.

Students completing this module will normally have undertaken the design research module and have assembled a focused body of research, which should be used to inform this module.  This module, Concept and Proposition, focuses on the construction of a robust conceptual framework that can offer a rationale for the completed design proposal (or series of linked proposals); the final proposals should, therefore, be legibly propositional in character. LO1,LO2,LO3,LO4,LO5

The requirement for legibility entails the development of a well-tested design scheme, the various stages of which should be evident to demonstrate how the testing procedures have informed the development of the conceptual framework.  This ‘process’ is important as students should be making critical judgements about the relative value of their ideas as a project unfolds (editing, changing, discarding, reformulating, reconstructing etc.) in relation to complex  criteria.  ‘Concept’ and ‘Proposition’  are both contained in representational techniques and media that embody how the ideas work theoretically and practically.  The design process thus describes a dual activity, one that mediates between conceptual frameworks and testing procedures and encourages conceptual jumps as well logical procedures. LO2,LO3,LO4,LO5

This module focuses on the design process, as the critical vehicle, in integrating ‘concept and proposition’ with the aim of producing a well thought through design scheme, one founded on a rationale that digs deeper then conventional formats and one which encourages innovative thinking and original work. LO1,LO2,LO3,LO4,LO5

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Scheduled teaching ensures that independent study is effective and addresses the learning outcomes and assessment tasks. Students have the opportunity to study outside of scheduled classes – particularly in the working environment of the design studio. A range of learning strategies are deployed and individual learning styles accommodated. The module’s learning outcomes, its contents and delivery, are regularly reviewed to ensure an inclusive pedagogical approach.
The module and course utilise the University’s blended learning platform to support and reinforce learning. Peer-to-peer communication is fostered in group activities and tutorial support provided regularly. Reflective learning is promoted through assessment tasks and formative feedback, particularly in the traditional context of the design critique or ‘crit’. Students are encouraged to reflect on their progress and engage in sequential decision making through staged submissions, and to make recommendations to themselves for future development.
The School’s programme of employability events and embedded work-related learning within the curriculum supports personal development planning. Through these initiatives, students are increasingly able – as they progress – to understand the professional environment of their discipline, the various opportunities available to them, and how to shape their learning according to their ambitions and aspirations.

Learning outcomes

On completing the module, the student will be able to:

1. formulate and communicate clear and well-founded conceptual frameworks, that underpin design proposals;
2. construct effective design processes that can be used to rigorously test design concepts, against a wide range of practical and theoretical criteria, relevant to the built environment;
3. critically reflect upon the implications of intentional and unintentional propositions embedded in a design proposal;
4. direct and manage an appropriate design process, to achieve a convincing and well worked through design proposition;
5. communicate effectively  the ideas and intentions behind a design proposal, through an appropriate range of representational techniques.

Assessment strategy

Module assessment will be based on the presentation of a portfolio which will demonstrate through appropriate modes of documentation:
• a clearly communicated design concept that is perceptive in its analysis of key issues, well constructed in its rationale and engaging, in terms of ideas;
• a productive design process that identifies the range and relevance of the criteria involved and rigorously tests the design concepts and propositions, against those criteria;
• a process of critical evaluation, reflected in the progression of the design proposal;
• a well resolved and represented final design proposition that can sustain its argument.
Work will be evaluated in the above categories, against the following criteria:
• density - scope and ambition in resolving complex and contradictory issues;
• relevance;
• clarity of thinking;
• innovation;
• critical evaluation;
• quality of communication.
Modes of documentation may include: drawings; photographic material; multi-media material; quantitative data; qualitative data; 3D models or prototypes; web-based material.  All 3D and multi-media work should be recorded in graphic form and explained to a standard suitable for assessment purposes.


Each design unit will provide its own bibliography to suit the unit themes and interests for the year in question. The following reading list is designed to address the generic aims of the module at the level appropriate to the course of study.

Fraser, M. (2013) Design Research in Architecture: An Overview (Ashgate)
Groat, L. and Wang, D. (2002) Architectural Research Methods (John Wiley and Sons)
Lawson, B. (2002) ‘The subject that won't go away - But perhaps we are ahead of the game. Design as research.’ Architectural Research Quarterly, 6(2): 109-114
Plowright, P. (2014) Revealing Architectural Design: Methods, Frameworks and Tools, (Routledge)
Sharr, A. (ed.) (2012) Reading Architecture & Culture: Researching Buildings, Spaces and Documents (Routledge)

Architecture and Culture
Architectural Research Quarterly
Building Research and Information
Design Studies
Journal of Architectural Education
Journal of Architecture