Architecture Dissertation Topics

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Example architecture dissertation topic 1:

The changing nature of social housing architecture.

The pronouncement by Lloyd George in 1919 of the need for 'homes for heroes' did of course follow the Tudor Walters Report that had recommended a modern layout and a minimum size and number of rooms for social housing. Thereafter local authorities became the primary agents for the construction of social housing until the Thatcherite reforms of 1979 onwards. This dissertation charts the changing nature and needs of social housing in the twentieth century and how this has been shown in the architectural styles developed on such estates. Finally, it makes recommendations for future social housing, acknowledging the lessons of the past.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Chapman, T. and Hockey, J. (eds) (1999). Ideal homes? Social change and domestic life. London: Routledge.
  • Ravetz, A. (2001). Council housing and culture: The history of a social experiment. London: Routledge.
  • Taylor, P.J. (1979). "'Difficult-to-let", "difficult-to-live-in", and sometimes "difficult-to-get-out-of": An essay on the provision of council housing, with special reference to Killingworth', Environment and Planning A, Vol. 11(11), pp. 1305-1320.

Example architecture dissertation topic 2:

The urban village? Middle class architecture and the rise of suburbia in Britain, 1919-2000./

The expansion of suburbanisation in the inter-war years and thereafter with ribbon developments emanating from the majority of county boroughs nationwide heralded a return to the 'rural idyll' by the middle classes. Through this expansion of the urban townscape there was a desire to remain 'with the city' whilst also enjoying the rural lifestyle. This desire towards gentrification was particularly prominent in housing designs that incorporated the use of 'mock Tudor' facades. Using the example of Derby and its outer lying suburban areas this dissertation looks at the architectural and social clashes that developed from the 1930s onwards with particular reference to vernacular architectural styles used in the commissioning of both private residential estates and social housing estates of the period.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Archer, J. (2005). Architecture and suburbia: From English villa to American dream house, 1690-2000. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota.
  • Fishman, R. (1989). Bourgeois utopias: The rise and fall of suburbia. New York: Basic Books.
  • Maudlin, D. (2009). 'Constructing identity and tradition: Englishness, politics and the neo-traditional house', Journal of Architectural Education, Vol. 63, pp. 51-63.

Example architecture dissertation topic 3:

Mortgaging the future: Architecture and the PFI, 1997 - 2010.

As part of the 'education, education, education' agenda led by Tony Blair, some 70% of primary schools in England and Wales were either rebuilt or substantially remodelled during the period addressed by this dissertation. The primary means of financing this major investment in new buildings was the Public Finance Initiative (PFI), combining the practical concerns of building with the need for construction to be paid for. This dissertation evaluates the use of the PFI and the effects that it had not only upon building projects and architectural design in the 1997-2010 period but also the effects that the ongoing payments for such construction projects has had on the economy under the Coalition government.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Chiles, P. (2003). 'Classrooms for the future: 'An adventure in design' and research', Architectural Research Quarterly, Vol. 7(3/4), pp. 244-261.
  • Feilden, R. (2004). 'Design quality in new schools'. In, Macmillan, S. (ed.), Designing better buildings. London: Taylor and Francis, pp. 86-99.
  • Kakabadse, N.K., Kakabadse, A.P. and Summers, N. (2007). 'Effectiveness of private finance initiatives (PFI): Study of private financing for the provision of capital assets for schools', Public Administration and Development, Vol. 27, pp. 49-61.

Example architecture dissertation topic 4:

Building a better future: A case study of Heathrow.

The party political fallout in the late summer and autumn of 2012 over plans for a third (or even fourth) runway at Heathrow shows little sign of abatement. Environmentalists pitted against business, the role of 'Boris Island', the options to expand Luton or Stansted have all added to the options available. This dissertation argues that the civil expansion of Heathrow through either the construction of a third runway or the rebuilding of the entire airport to the west of its present site are the only two viable options to ensure that the UK retains the airport 'hub' that it requires to continue to prosper. This is a dissertation that combines architectural issues with environmental and planning issues and would be particularly suited to a student who seeks to build a career that spans these inter-related issues.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Docherty, L. (2010). How has the continuing expansion of London Heathrow Airport affected communities and the housing market within the local areas? BSc dissertation, University of Portsmouth.
  • Freestone, R. (2009). 'Planning, sustainability and airport-led urban development', International Planning Studies, Vol. 14(2), pp. 161-176.
  • Yaneva, A. (2012). Mapping controversies in architecture. Farnham: Ashgate.

Example architecture dissertation topic 5:

The redevelopment of St Pancras and Kings Cross: An architectural assessment.

Threatened with demolition in the 1960s, John Betjeman spearheaded the campaign to save St Pancras station from the bulldozer. Fifty years later it has not only been reinvented as the gateway to Europe (through its being the base for Eurostar) but has been totally rejuvenated with the former underground coal sheds becoming a parade of shops, the construction of the longest champagne bar in Europe and the reopening of the St Pancras Hotel. Now, it is the turn of its railway neighbour, King's Cross, to be redeveloped. With a new entrance hall already completed it is envisaged that the space between the two will eventually becoming an open plaza serving the two stations. From initial planning to final unveiling, this dissertation not only charts the renaissance enjoyed by the stations but also assess the architectural merits of the redevelopments through a substantial literature review and the collation of primary data in the form of users' opinions.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Holgersen, S. and Haarstad, H. (2009). 'Class, community and communicative planning: Urban redevelopment at King's Cross, London', Antipode, Vol. 41, pp. 348-370.
  • Inglis, A. (2007). Railway lands: Catching St Pancras and King's Cross. Leicester: Matador.
  • Littlefield, D. (2012). 'King's Cross', Architectural Design, Vol. 82, pp. 32-35.

Example architecture dissertation topic 6:

Architectural guardian of the nation? The role of the Church of England in maintaining architecture.

Using the Diocese of Durham as a case study, this dissertation evaluates the challenges of maintenance, restoration and usage that the Church of England faces as the country's largest landowner of listed buildings that remain in constant (or semi-constant use). The decision to sell Auckland Castle (the home of the Bishops of Durham for over 800 years), and the attempt to strip the building of the Zurbaran paintings (themselves listed) has been widely condemned in the national press. At the same time, the five-yearly architectural reports produced for each parish in the Diocese suggests that the Church may be failing to maintain its listed properties fully. Moreover, the Diocese has been faced with an unprecedented level of attack on its buildings as metal thieves increasingly target its churches for copper and lead. This paper seeks to address the difficult balancing act that the Diocese faces in relation to the maintenance of its buildings, the cost of their upkeep and the need to ensure that they are 'fit for purpose'. This is a challenging dissertation title that would require not only the in-depth study of individual churches but also issues pertaining to architectural maintenance planning and the Diocese's chequered history in recent years with regard to listed building consent.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Feilden, B. (2004). Conservation of historic buildings. Oxford: Elsevier.
  • Last, K.V. (2002). 'The privileged position of the Church of England in the control of works to historic buildings: The provenance of the ecclesiastical exemption from listed building control', Common Law World Review, Vol. 31(205), pp. 205-212.
  • Mansfield, J. (2007). 'Evolving heritage control and practice: The case of Anglican churches in English parishes', Structural Survey, Vol. 25(3), pp. 265-278.

Example architecture dissertation topic 7:

The wilful destruction of the urban landscape.

Using Bristol as an example, this dissertation argues that central planners were cumulatively responsible, within the two cities, for the wilful destruction of distinctive architecture with the period 1930-1970. In so doing, this dissertation uses a range of primary sources from local opinion polls to the records of organisations such as the Bristol Civic Society who were vocal critics of such regeneration schemes such as that undertaken at Broadmead. This dissertation uses not only a knowledge of architectural movements within the mid-decades of the twentieth century but also benefits from an understanding of the needs of architectural preservation. Accordingly, it argues that within Bristol more effort should have been taken to the adaptation of buildings (through, for instance, the retention of facades whilst 'gutting' the interior), rather than the wholesale demolition of the entirety of buildings to make way for the modern.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Foyle, A. (2004). Bristol: Pevsner city guide. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  • Inglis, J. (2009). 'The changing fortunes of Britain's 'heritage' of historic buildings since 1945', History Compass, Vol. 7, pp. 1509-1525.
  • King, A.D. (2004). Spaces of global cultures: Architecture, urbanism, identity. London: Routledge.

Example architecture dissertation topic 8:

Constructing the green campus - different approaches to environmentalism within the HE sector.

Using the campuses of Newcastle, York, and Durham as examples, this study surveys the different architectural and landscaping techniques deployed by the three universities to embrace the concepts of sustainable and carbon-neutral developments within the UK's higher education sector. Recently, the City of York criticised York University (not participants in the EcoCampus scheme) for failing to meet its green targets ; in contrast, the University of Durham and Newcastle University received silver and platinum awards from EcoCampus in 2012 for their contributions to sustainable campuses. These three universities have, therefore, adopted different stances with regards to embracing environmentally positive developments that embrace sustainable architecture goals, and this dissertation evaluates their individual successes and suggests areas where further improvements could be made.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Campo, P. (2008). Sustainable education campus in Spain: Nature and architecture for training. Paris: OECD.
  • Coulson, J., Roberts, P. and Taylor, I. (2010). University planning and architecture: The search for perfection. New York: Routledge.
  • Godschalk, D.R. and Howes, J.B. (2012). The dynamic decade: Creating the sustainable campus the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2001-2012. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina.

Example architecture dissertation topic 9:

From Bradford Town Hall to Foster's Reichstag and the Edinburgh Parliament building: Changing civic architecture.

Designed in the Venetian style, Bradford Town Hall is also richly decorated, on the outside, with 35 statues of past monarchs in chronological order on the façade. Like Manchester Town Hall before it, these buildings were built in commanding positions and in styles designed to show the civic grandeur and aspirations of the towns they blessed. In contrasting such monuments of late Victorian-Edwardian style with the redesigned Reichstag and the 'thinking pods' of the Edinburgh Parliament, this dissertation comments on what the changing architectural styles employed tell us about the place of civic pride in modern architectural design and seeks to assess which, if either, is more appropriate from a public perception viewpoint.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Koepnik, L. (2001). 'Redeeming history? Foster's dome and the political aesthetic of the Berlin Republic', German Studies Review, Vol. 24(2), pp. 303-323.
  • Morley, I. (2009). 'Revelations, predicaments and civic design: The Americanization of the British urban environment, c.1900-14', Cercles, Vol. 19, pp. 124-140.
  • Rogers, B. (2004). Reinventing the town hall: A handbook. London: Institute for Public Policy Research.

Example architecture dissertation topic 10:

The placing of 'utilities' - a comparison of the university buildings of Basil Spence with the Lloyds of London building.

The internalisation of 'utilities' such as downward drainpipes and guttering in buildings designed for universities by Basil Spence (for example, Falmer House, University of Sussex and St Aidan's College, Durham), is in direct contrast to the externalisation of pipework on the Lloyds of London building (by Richard Rogers). The former design was inspired by a desire to create clean lines but has created challenges for maintenance as a result of listed status not allowing the construction of new 'outward' systems of drainage once those first designed were no longer fit for purpose. In contrast, the externalisation of such facilities on the Lloyd's building has made repair easier but has resulted in a more controversially more aesthetically pleasing structure. This dissertation compares and contrasts the buildings noted and the architectural techniques used within them. This dissertation could be further extended and expanded by also conducting primary interviews with the users of the buildings involved to see how they react to the architecture in which they work and study.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Abley, I. (2005). Expressing more than structure', Architectural Design, Vol. 75, pp. 119-121.
  • Gardner-Medwin, R. (1956). 'The decline of architecture', Higher Education Quarterly, Vol. 10, pp. 132-142.
  • Long, P. and Thomas, J (2008). Basil Spence, architect. Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland.

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