module specification

AR7P24 - Design Thesis Project: Specialisation and Proposition (2023/24)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2023/24
Module title Design Thesis Project: Specialisation 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
Dissertation 100%   Portfolio
Running in 2023/24

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

Module summary

This module establishes a specialisation and through it develops a design proposal.
The 40-credit module synthesises the advanced design process and applied technical skills honed in the previous year (the year 4 design unit programme) and orients the student towards the professional practice of architecture. This is measured through their independence in managing the design process and their ability to relate this process to external and professional worlds. 

The premise of the module is that design skills at this level are inherently transferable and that they are best developed through highly focused work that demands a detailed understanding of complex problems. This premise reflects the contemporary practice of architecture. All the design modules are located in design units which work in a similar way to practices in that each has a specific set of interests in the built environment which may be described as ‘specialised’. The aim of this module is to focus this sense of specificity, encouraging the student to take responsibility for the direction of the work in relation to the agenda of a unit and the broader context of the academic and professional field. In doing so, the module rehearses a student’s ability to act as an independent learner, providing a test laboratory for operating within the complex environment of contemporary architectural practice.
The module represents the first part of the integrated final thesis design project undertaken in year 5 (final year for full-time students; penultimate year for part-time students).  It requires a student to have developed an appropriate design process and generated an outline proposition for a coherent architectural design which can be fully resolved in Semester 2.

The module runs in Semester 1 and 2 of year 5 and is assessed at the end of the academic year. Its emphasis is on developing self-directed, personal focus whilst acknowledging external and professional reference points. In Semester 1, M-level shared option modules (offered in dialogue with the School’s MA Courses) allow students to engage with specialist and critical interests in a range of related areas.

Prior learning requirements

AR7021: Design Level 4: Subject and Context and, AR7030: Design Level 4: Subject and Context (pre-requisite);
AR7P25 Design Thesis Project: Resolution (co-requisite)


Students will study this module through one of the MArch design units. Each design unit will state an overall agenda/interest within the built environment and also a project or related set of projects.  These vary from year to year. The outline programme for each design unit is presented in turn at the beginning of the Autumn term (Semester 1) at which time students will have an opportunity to rank their choice of design unit and programme they wish to work with.

The detailed syllabus for the module rests with the individual student. The design unit remains responsible for setting the broad agenda to the design project/s and for sourcing general learning material. However, in this module the student will take responsibility for developing a project brief, identifying and researching project issues, developing appropriate design processes, securing the required knowledge and so forth.  The establishment of more explicit external models as references and extending students knowledge of the variety of models available within the built environment field encourage this. Therefore, students will position themselves and their emergent design project with respect to the following professional concerns:
• regulatory requirements of building proposals including development control, building control legislation, health and safety;
• the environment, human wellbeing, energy consumption and sustainability;
• structural, material and cost implications;
• social, political and ethical consequences. 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 successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

1. devise and manage a self-directed program of appropriate research;
2. develop a well-grounded and detailed project brief and outline design proposition for a coherent architectural design which integrates knowledge of the social, political, economic, cultural and the arts, environmental and professional context which guides building construction;
3. construct a well-judged and rigorous design process;
4. work effectively with the skills and knowledge involved in an area of specialization;
5. collate and document the critical design development process to a professional standard of presentation.

Assessment strategy

Module assessment will be based on the presentation of a portfolio, which will demonstrate through appropriate modes of documentation:
• a well-constructed project brief for a coherent architectural design founded on relevant research;
• a well-managed, thoughtful and productive design process;
• a focused body of work that identifies and integrates within the design proposal, specialist issues and skills, and understanding and knowledge of the context of professional architectural practice;
• evidence of self-determination and self-management;
• communication skills in representing work to professional standards;
• evidence of an outline design proposition at a sufficient level of ambition and complexity to allow development and resolution as the thesis design project in Semester 2.

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)
McCarter, R. and J. Pallasmaa (2012) Understanding Architecture (Phaidon)
Moore, R. (2012) Why We Build (Picador)
Sharr, A. (ed) (2012) Reading Architecture & Culture: Researching Buildings, Spaces and Documents (Routledge)
Wilson, C. St. J. (1988) Architectural Reflections (Butterworth-Heinemann)
Online resources:
The RIBA website’s ‘Explore Architecture’ pages:
Journal of Architecture
Architecture & Culture
Architectural Research Quarterly