The architecture thesis is a crucial part of your education as a student. You must develop a written paper as well as a design project that solves an issue related to architecture.
For more information on this, check out our article, Architecture thesis – everything you need to know.
For many, choosing a topic consumes a large amount of their time, which is what has lead to the creation of this list and collection of examples of past and present thesis projects.
In constant evolution, the below topics aim to provide a series of examples and source of inspiration to help support your topic.
Thesis topics & examples
Domestic Horizon by Jiaheng Xie, Rice University, M.Arch ‘20
This project tackles the issue of “Growing the city, shrinking the Footprint.” With cities becoming taller and more condensed, the student developed an Aerial Pedestrian Network system. In effect, it attempts to lift the domestic horizon, create a city above ground, and expand street life.
Simultaneously, Jiaheng’s thesis updates the Chinese Model of Density by mixing block scale development with expanded street life.
Moreover, Guangzhou requires design tools that the government can use for new developments that encourage new living experiences, are connected to the ground level, expand urban life, and preserve the sense of neighborhood.
Equivocal Elevations by Anna Kaertner, Harvard Graduate School of Design, M.Arch ‘21
Leipzig’s different names throughout history are indicators for the city’s changes in identity. After the bombing of Leipzig in 1943, political regimes and architects have used these histories to guide construction.
Meanwhile, the city’s identity is filled with unraveling, overlapping, and competing projections of the past and future. Ultimately, building elevations have been the main registration of each attempt to resolve the city’s identity crisis.
Equivocal Elevations proposes a Super Civic Service Center, which builds on the Bürgerzentrum, a city-government institution that addresses the converging individual identity, city bureaucracy, and civic identity.
The new center is founded from the elevations of the site, which come from studying the Leipzig archives. Therefore, Anna’s thesis aims to continue the uncertainty to the city’s identity while referring to its distinct various histories.
Bunker Reclamation by Demosthenes Sfakianakis, Syracuse University, B.Arch ‘20
This thesis explores the extreme conditions under the Communist regime in Albania. For example, the government manipulated citizens through punishing nonconformist architecture and enforcing acceptable color palettes and subjects in art.
The research also looks at the prison/labor camp system under Hoxha’s rule.
Additionally, this thesis proposes a collection of graphics that showcase the harsh conditions under Communist authority and the idea for bunkers to be reinterpreted from symbols of oppression to modes of collective healing.
ReThinking Home Waste by Elena Echarri Myers, Syracuse University, B.Arch ‘20
ReThinking Home Waste investigates the history of consumption around the world. Particularly, the shift from a society that locally consumes basic necessities to one that shops for pleasure and for items that are globally mass-produced with short lifespans.
As a solution, the thesis proposes a model to manage the abundance of waste in New York City. The project is a multi-family residential complex that incorporates less wasteful living, education of proper waste discharge practices, and sorting hubs for materials with an economic incentive.
Reshaping Reality: From Disneyland to Dismaland by Lina Wang, Syracuse University, M.Arch ‘18
Disneyland is a key example of a hyperreality, as the imaginary is presented as more realistic than reality itself. Moreover, the theme park draws in visitors by making the problems of the real world less relatable.
Evidently, society is more focused on entertainment than current political and social issues. Banksy’s Dismaland is a visual depiction that critiques this attitude.
In response, this thesis proposes to use the frame of Disneyland in New York City to showcase the opposite and dark issues like politics, climate, sustainability/energy, education, global environment.
Returning to Earth by Daniel Morely, Iowa State University, M.S. ‘20
For the past century, life and death have been perceived as opposites. Due to the common ignoring of the subject of death, the Western burial practices from the 19th and 20th centuries have been unquestioned.
In recent decades, however, Westerners have begun to realize that many of their burial practices are unsustainable.
As a result, Returning to Earth proposes a new form of burial that is concentrated in the Ouroboros, the eternal cycle of life and death, and humans place within that cycle.
Harnessing social networks in Khartoum’s informal tea places: The case of Mayo internally displaced persons camp by Rami Mannan, Iowa State University, M.S. ‘21
This thesis project looks at the social qualities of informal tea places in Khartoum, Sudan. Tea places are examined because they are good indicators of the social, political, economic, and environmental effects of the rapid population as a result of forced displacement in the region.
Additionally, they produce strengthened social networks, which are explored as a means of community development and in Iowa.
Work-Homes by Satya Charan Ganesuni, Iowa State University, M.Arch ‘18
While work homes have been utilized since ancient times, they have become more popularized because of their technological advantages, time savings, and budget savings.
In the past, researchers have defined the characteristics of integrated spaces. However, this thesis aims to use the advancements of technology and work-home principles to create a set of design elements that can make workspaces more efficient.
Between Land and Lake: Environments of Learning in Tonle Sap Lake by Julie Chau, University of California, Berkeley, M.Arch ‘14
The Tonle Sap River in Cambodia is a developing region that experiences flood pulse. In response, Julie’s thesis aims to provide an infrastructure for places of learning for children.
In doing so, she investigates the distinct features surrounding the lake, existing learning environments, and design solutions around the world.
This thesis proposes to use a redesign of the learning environments to teach children about the ecological conditions and reclaim local ownership and responsibility for the lake.
Robinhood Gardens 2.0 by Stathis Gerostathopoulos, University of California, Berkeley, M.Arch ‘14
As city buildings develop higher from the ground, architects and urban designers are tasked with recreating the ground as a space with activity between, through, and above buildings.
In a series of unfinished projects, architects Peter and Alison Smithson popularized the term “streets in the sky” and commissioned the Robin Hood Gardens housing estate in East London.
However, after State neglect and vandalism, it was set to be demolished in 2014. In response, Stathis proposes a mixed-use development with a new design approach to replace the Robin Hood Gardens.
The Beige Conundrum by Alma Crawford-Mendoza, University of Massachusetts Amherst, M.Arch ‘21
While color is part of everyday life, it is often not given much thought. For example, a person may decide to wear a pair of blue jeans and a white t-shirt. However, what compelled the person to wear those colors?
Similarly, you can ask questions about the factors that influence the exterior color selection of homes. To address this inquiry, the thesis aims to examine the reasoning behind the common beige color of homes in Massachusetts and color’s greater potential role in the built environment.
Housing for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Creating an Integrated Living Community in Salem, MA by Tara Pearce, University of Massachusetts Amherst, M.Arch ‘21
While some adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are high functioning and able to lead successful and independent lives, many still experience obstacles in locating and securing sufficient housing.
Not to mention, the increasing price for buying or renting an apartment makes many adults with autism have to live with their aging parents. Meanwhile, government funding and group homes for adults with ASD are limited.
In response, this thesis proposes a model living community in Salem Massachusetts for adults with ASD.
Through analyzing recent literature on autism-friendly design and interviewing professionals in the field and parents of adult children with ASD, Tara seeks to improve their living conditions and access to resources.
Adaptive Airport Architecture by Yash Mehta, University of Massachusetts Amherst, M.Arch ‘20
The main factors for determining the spatial requirements for an airport depend on its projected life span, security restrictions, and other socio-political influences.
Additionally, the initial stages of the design for any existing or new airport come from the ‘Master planning report,’ which includes airport layouts, environmental studies, analysis of runway orientation, land use plans, activity forecasts, capacity analysis, estimates of facilities, and more.
However, technological and infrastructural changes are key problems with airports. This thesis aims to analyze the different factors that prevent airport terminals from going along with these changes.
Moreover, the project proposes a re-design of the Bradley airport at Hartford that attempts to increase the efficiency and life span of airport terminals.
Humanity in Children’s Cancer Hospital by Sara Jandaghi Jafari, University of Massachusetts Amherst, M.Arch ‘17
Children sense their physical space and respond to it more directly than adults. Therefore, visiting hospitals can be emotionally challenging for children while they are stressed from being ill and experiencing painful medical procedures.
The research aims to identify what makes a supportive pediatric setting in the views of children and adolescents and explores how architecture can make hospital stays more pleasant.
Additionally, Jandaghi develops a vision for the sustainable hospital movement and showcases the importance of participatory research for healthcare design.
Changing Landscapes: Redefining Preservation for Legacy Neighborhoods by Kaitlyn Levesque, University of Pennsylvania, ‘19
Kaitlyn’s thesis focuses on traditional preservation policies and practices, which usually prioritized the physical form and fabric of heritage places over other values.
This issue disproportionately favors dominant cultures in historic narratives, leaving urban areas suffering from divestment.
Moreover, the project proposes a more equitable preservation process, which is applied to the North Philadelphia neighborhood of Strawberry Mansion.
Free Trade Zone in Transit by Andrew Lam, Cooper Union, B.Arch ‘14
The Panama Canal is a significant trading route that connects the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. After a history of conflict over control of the waterway, it was finally given to the Republic of Panama.
However, the growth of the global economic demand has led to an increase in container ships. Consequently, this has redefined the canal as a space that belongs to the world.
This thesis attempts to solve the issue by developing a community based on trade and interaction between the vessels and boats in the waterway. Additionally, this proposal aims to urbanize areas in the region that experience little activity.
A Deep Breath of Art by Sara Alkhatib, Virginia Tech, M.Arch ‘20
The busyness of meeting deadlines and completing daily tasks can keep artists away from their inner creativity. As a result, this research explores the role of architecture in producing more artistic experiences.
Sara proposes an artists retreat in the U.S. National Arboretum that holds an area for privacy for artists to self-reflect and a community space for artists to socialize and exchange knowledge.
Common Ground by Daniel Kuehn, Rice University, M.Arch ‘17
This thesis investigates the environment and the city as contemporary issues and how they merge to rethink the rhetoric of sustainability.
Specifically, the project involves a flexible urban framework located on Treasure Island, San Francisco, that tests the feasibility of augmenting coastal cities. This includes supporting the social, cultural, and environmental ecology from the immediate effects of climate change.
Moreover, Common Ground is a temporary community for first-world climate refugees that will change over time to accommodate the greater measures taken in San Francisco for combating sea-level rise and climate change.
Hang in there by Evio Isaac, Rice University, M.Arch ‘18
The reflected ceiling plan is a drawing used by architects to communicate the position of fixtures, mechanical penetrations, lighting, and finishes to the construction team.
However, it is typically a secondary drawing. Hang in there investigates the potential of using the reflected ceiling plan as a primary drawing, which challenges the absoluteness of the architectural plan.
Head Space: An Exploration into Design Code by Gaylon Lerch, Kennesaw State University, B.Arch ‘21
In response to the idea that today’s coding standards do not address the needs of occupants of the built environment, this thesis explores the field of medical research. Such as information from the fields of psychology, physical medicine, and architecture.
The effects of light, sound, and overall spatial quality on people using a space are observed to understand the criteria for healthy human function.
As a result, the research compares these findings to current building codes and establishes new guidelines for architects to follow.
Ultimately, the architecture field is about 20 years behind the knowledge of psychology and physical medicine on occupant behavior in residential spaces.
Overall, there are many topics to decide from for your architecture thesis. These examples can be used as inspiration or a starting point to understand what a thesis looks like.
Remember to choose one that you are passionate about and has a large amount of supporting research.