Description and aim
Matter Space Structure (MSS) understands architecture as a cultural practice. Architecture has the ability to transform urban culture and shape relations between individuals, collectives, objects, and environments in ways that go beyond mere problem solving. It does so through physical intervention as well as through the production of effects and desires. In addition, the practice and discipline of architecture can be understood as a culture in itself – as the result of a combination of buildings, discourse, technology, and media. By engaging aesthetical, practical, as well as theoretical concerns, an MSS thesis project should be able to contribute to both these aspects of architecture as culture.
MSS recognizes that architectural design currently operates under the influence of constant flows of information and materials. The world is characterized by an excess of images and statements, as well as by an excess of buildings and objects. An important part of design today is to be able to sift through these flows against an evolving professional and disciplinary horizon. This requires an opportunistic mindset in which existing entities and ideas are selectively appropriated and transformed for the purposes of design and research. It requires the ability to form ideas and entities into characters and narratives that enter into conversation with the city and its inhabitants.
As means to productively engage in this condition, MSS will draw from an expansive field of approaches and techniques. We will explore how design can depart from an existing stock of buildings, materials or found forms in order to address a context. We will experiment with representation techniques such as scanning that allow us to capture, draw, and transform aspects of real entities and environments. We will interrogate the role that images and objects play in contemporary architecture. These and many other issues will be explored creatively and critically. While we will be looking to ‘improve’ practice, we will in addition take an interest in the by-products and unintentional effects that for example construction and design technologies can produce.
Ultimately, MSS is invested in bringing these agendas to fruition though the design of buildings, spaces, and structures. Synthesizing external influences and expertise through design becomes a way to integrate them into the practice and discipline of architecture.
Method and process
Artistic and design driven research
Matter Space Structure emphasises a design research approach in which artistic
development of each student and the development of common knowledge and discourse
in the direction is pursued in tandem. Projects are developed through focused
and informed experimentation and an iterative process that evolves through phases.
The artefacts and media that are the outcome of the work embody artistic and
disciplinary approaches, and through their process of making, they also generate
methods and know-how.Architectural representation
Our direction investigates the role of architectural representation in the conception
and production of architecture. Architects do not build, we design through drawings,
models, descriptions as well as through an ever-expanding assortment of techniques
such as collage, videos, photographs, scanning, simulations, and mock-ups. Means
of representation are explored as design mediums and transfers between those mediums
are explored as design opportunities. We expect students to critically expand
and develop their repertoire of architectural representation, from early explorations to
articulation of design.Thesis booklet
Work developed during the thesis will be laid out into an evolving thesis booklet. This
involves the continuous documentation, formatting, annotation, and curation of
material produced. Information becomes diagrams, sketches are scanned, models
photographed, analysis is concluded, references to work or readings are
reformulated and turned into arguments, conclusions are formed, etc.Design explorations and project
Most MSS thesis projects follow a process that begins with open ended design
explorations and reference studies in parallel, and proceeds towards a more concrete
design project. This process should be iterated at least twice during the thesis
semester, i.e., it is a requirement that a first pass at a more definite design project
should be made for the mid-term seminar. Thesis projects may pursue several
smaller design projects or options as an outcome, but the number of such projects or
options should be kept low (3?) to allow for necessary depth in the design. Deviations
from these guidelines should be discussed with the examiner and supervisor well
before the mid-term.
Specific evaluation criteria
In addition to the common evaluation criteria defined for the master’s thesis at Chalmers School of Architecture, Matter Space Structure places special emphasis on
the following aspects:
Ability to synthesize a research agenda into a design project.
Ability to integrate design, discourse, and research into a comprehensive argument.
Ability to use techniques for representation, technologies, and/or materials to uncover new ideas, methods, or ways to practice architecture.
Specific submission requirements
Students submit their work for review during the thesis semester as follows. Seminars below will involve verbal presentations of boards, models, etc., as well as submission of an updated thesis booklet. A detailed set of requirements and guidelines for each seminar will be handed out at the beginning of the thesis semester.
Project plan seminar, beginning of spring semester
Interim seminar 1, ¼ of spring semester:
Thesis statement, Reference studies, Design explorations, Process and method outline, Project context, Project brief, Design project in progress. Be very inclusive when editing the material into a presentation – include explorations that you regard as successful as well as explorations that you consider as less successful. Not all material needs a high level of finish – can be rough material.
Mid-term seminar, ½ of spring semester:
Thesis statement, Reference studies, Design explorations, Process and method outline, Draft design project drawings that indicate final project (site plan, plans, sections, elevations, axons, diagrams, details, views, illustrations), Models and model photographs. Be inclusive when editing the material into a presentation – include explorations that you regard as successful as well as explorations that you consider as less successful. Conclude design explorations. Present material that indicates a final design project.
Interim seminar 2, ¾ of spring semester:
Thesis statement, Reference studies, Design explorations, Process and method outline, Draft design project drawings complete set (site plan, plans, sections, elevations, axons, diagrams, details, views, illustrations), Models and model photographs. Edit the material into a presentation and be more selective – include less important material only if it contributes to a narrative.
Final seminar, end of spring semester
Open seminar, end of spring semester
Final submission, after end of spring semester
Examination and grading
Participation at a minimum of 80% attendance to all compulsory activities, including supervision sessions, seminars, pin-ups, and reviews is required to pass the course.
Grading is cumulative across the duration of the semester. The final grade (Pass / Fail) thus takes progress during the entire thesis into account, as well as the quantity and quality of the work presented at the final review. The work is in addition assessed for its level of effort, engagement with themes presented in the studio brief, and graphic and verbal presentation.
Suggested literature and projects
This is list provides a rough outline of the direction, focusing on three main areas:
Architecture that departs from existing environments and materials, architectural
representation, and design research. Further literature, projects, and other references
will be developed in relation to each project and in dialogue with each student. Many
of the items below contain further references to projects and practices.
Allen, Laura, and Luke Pearson, eds. 2016. Drawing Futures: Speculations in
Contemporary Drawing for Art and Architecture. London: UCL Press.
Allen, Stan. 2020. “Thinking in Models.” Log, no. 50: 17-27.
Bair, Kelly, Kristy Balliet, Adam Fure, and Kyle Miller, eds. 2018. Possible Mediums.
Baker-Brown, Duncan. 2017. The Re-Use Atlas: A Designers Guide Towards a
Circular Economy. London: RIBA Publishing.
Borasi, Giovanna, Maarten Gielen, and Konstantinos Pantazis. 2018. ”Specifying
from a Broader Catalogue.” Canadian Centre for Architecture.
Bourriaud, Nicholas. 2002. “The Use of Objects.” In Postproduction. New York: Lukas
Brand, Stewart. 1994. How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built.
Cairns, Stephen, and Jane M. Jacobs. 2014. Buildings Must Die: A Perverse View of
Architecture. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Flores, Ricardo, and Eva Prats. 2020. “The discipline of the existing, after Sala
Beckett.” In Sala Beckett: International Drama Centre, 190-195. Arquine.
Hicks, Stewart, and Allison Newmeyer, eds. MAS Context 32: Character.
Hopkins, Owen. 2021. “What is Multiform?” In Multiform: Architecture in an Age of
Transition, edited by Owen Hopkins and Erin McKellar, 6-11. John Wiley & Sons.
Iturbe, Elisa. 2019. “Architecture and the Death of Carbon Modernity.” Log 47:
Overcoming Carbon Form.
Jacob, Sam. 2018. “The Great Roe.” In Lineament: Material, Representation and the
Physical Figure in Architectural Production, 177-184. Oxon: Routledge.
Kinney, Dale, and Richard Brilliant, eds. 2011. Reuse Value: Spolia and
Appropriation in Art and Architecture from Constantine to Sherrie Levine. Ashgate
Kuan, Seng, and Angela Pang, eds. 2017. “architecten de vylder vinck taillieu”,
special issue, Architecture and Urbanism, no. 561.
Latour, Bruno, and Albena Yaneva. 2008. “’Give Me a Gun and I Will Make All
Buildings Move’: An ANT’s View of Architecture”. In Explorations in Architecture:
Teaching, Design, Research, 80-89. Basel: Birkhäuser.
Mattern, Shannon. 2018. ”Maintenance and Care.” Places Journal, November 2018,
Miljacki, Ana, and Irene Wang, eds. 2014. Under the Influence. Cambridge: SA+P
Riegl, Alois. 1996. “The Modern Cult of Monuments: Its Essence and its
Development.” In Historical and Philosophical Issues in the Conservation of Cultural
Heritage, edited by N. S. Price, M. K. Talley, and A. Melucco Vaccaro, 69-83. Los
Angeles: The Getty Conservation Institute.
Sample, Hilary. 2016. Maintenance Architecture. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Smith, Maria, Matthew Dalziel, Phineas Harper, and Cecilie Sachs Olsen, curators.
2019. “Enough: The Architecture of Degrowth.” The 2019 Oslo Architecture
Turan, Neyran. 2019. Architecture as Measure. New York and Barcelona: Actar.
Vassallo, Jesús. 2016. ”Dirty Realism” and “Radical Contextualism.” In Seamless:
Digital Collage and Dirty Realism in Contemporary Architecture, 178-189. Zürich:
Wigley, Mark. 2021. “Returning the Gift: Running Architecture in Reverse.” In Non-
Extractive Architecture: On Designing without Depletion, edited by Space Caviar, 41- 57. V-A-C Press and Sternberg Press.
Exemplary thesis projects
Stories below: The park as a palimpsest of fact and fiction
A new alphabet: Casting a catalogue of possible form
Do not touch? Speculations on historical intentions and their place in cultural heritage
Ad hoc architecture: Exploring the preservation and activation of a site’s identity in a degrowth scenario
Garbage prison: Exposing unwanted phenomena in society through an encircled town on top of a dump
Rudimentary architecture: Photo-graphic design methods Maria Lagging To transcend the tide: Transitions in Architecture and Nature
Drawing the square – queered: Phenomenological thoughts through a graphic novel
Josephine Rapp Thomas
To belong: Site-specific characters and the narrative of a place
Ornament & structure: A reconnection to ornament through concrete shapes
Daniel Norell (examiner, supervisor) is an architect, senior lecturer at Chalmers Architecture, and co-founder of Norell/Rodhe.
Naima Callenberg (supervisor) is an architect, curator, lecturer at Chalmers Architecture, and co-founder of Studio Nock.
Peter Christensson (supervisor) is an artist and lecturer at Chalmers Architecture. firstname.lastname@example.org