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Master of Architecture Theses 2016: Architectures of Cultural Transformation
Master of Architecture Theses 2016: Architectures of Cultural Transformation

A major component of the Master of Architecture degree at Portland State University is the design thesis, which takes place in the final year of this program. The aim of our design thesis program is not to rest simply in proposing another building. As the culmination of a graduate architectural education, the design thesis is a singular opportunity for an individual to proclaim a position, state a case, articulate what matters and communicate this through the language of architecture. 

Through a combination of rigorous research and creative exploration of a polemical issue framed as a question, our thesis students discover their passion for the contribution architecture can make to the transformation of culture. The response to this question is developed and shared in the form of hand and digital drawings, material studies, scale models, artifacts, and writing, which are presented by the student to a panel of resident and visiting faculty and professionals in an hour-long oral defense. Every student also compiles their thesis research and design process in a professionally printed book. 

Below are selected images taken from three outstanding theses from the 2016 Master of Architecture class. These students' thesis books, together with books representing the theses from all six years of the program since its inception in 2010, are on display at the Center for Architecture | AIA Portland in our exhibition THESIS: Architectures of Cultural Transformation, through November 4. Visit the event page to learn more.


Nicolas Pectol: Vanport Necropolis

How can architecture provide a place of burial for the former residents of Vanport, Oregon who were drowned or displaced in the Vanport flood of 1948, as well as a memorial for contemporary visitors to experience and come to terms with the death and displacement of this shipbuilding community?


Tim Ruppel: River Craft: The Artifact of Architectural Sediment

What kind of architecture would facilitate a network of craft makers along the Willamette River, cultivating industrial land with human activity, art, culture, and craft?


Matt Rusnac: Dwelling in Wanderlust:  Architecture as a Vessel for Human Stories

How can a story-driven architecture—confident in the cosmos—fortify a person’s sense of humanity, identity and community in an objectifying, disorienting, and isolating age?


Kalina vander Poel: Narrative (dis)Placement: The Place of Culture in Healthy Architecture

How can architects bring culture and place into the design process in order to make informed design decisions as they intentionally design for wellbeing at the Alaska Native Medical Center?