person flipping through a portfolio with wooden models in the background

M.Arch design thesis information

Studio descriptions

2021 - 2022 studio presentations will take place on Monday, August 23 at 10:00am. Information on the remote session will be distributed to students via email.  See the 2021 - 2022 Welcome Letter for details about the studio selection / assignment process.


Graduate topics and electives

Presentations of fall term topics / electives will take place on Monday, August 23, 2021 at 2:00pm. Information on the remote session will be distributed to students via email. All Master of Architecture students must attend. See the 2021 - 2022 Welcome Letter for details about the selection / assignment process. M.Arch students must complete two technology topics and two history/theory topics. Six additional elective credits are required: these may be satisfied by additional topics courses (in technology or history/theory), and/or other approved electives. Students may take up to two 1.5-credit topics or one 3-credit elective per term. See Architecture program requirements for more details.

2021 - 2022 Course/Studio descriptions are continually being updated. Please check back often.

Fall 2021 

Topics session one

Topics session one: September 15 to October 13 (5 weeks), 1.5 credits
biomimetric material


ARCH 7030-T19
Theory of Biomimetic Design
Mercedes Garcia-Holguera

This is an introductory level course where students will explore the principles of biomimetic design and their application to architectural products. Students will learn about biologically inspired projects and materials, and will study current methods and tools used in academic and professional venues. Participants in this course will have the opportunity to apply the lessons learned in a self-directed biomimetic project.

ARCH 7000-T13 (Online Wed 1:30-5:20)
Architectural Lighting and Shadows
Ted Landrum

Lighting is one of the most interesting, poetic and fun facets of architecture, especially when considered together with shadows! This course explores how and why architects integrate natural and artificial light in design. Students research diverse lighting strategies, concepts, precedents, and equipment; present on artists and architects working with light; and share their own lighting research. Students conduct experiments, take field trips* to see exemplary lighting conditions, meet with experts*, and gather their discoveries in a final booklet. (*virtual/remote)


Topics session two

Topics session two:  October 27 to December 1 (5 weeks), 1.5 credits
child in the forest by a pond
Photo by Jingkieng Dieng Jri Living Root Bridges
ARCH 7010-T16
Technology and Indigenous Knowledge
Shawn Bailey and Honoure Black

Students will research how Indigenous knowledge, art, and technique can influence contemporary architectural methods. The aim is to introduce, through a land-focused lens, Indigenous ways of knowing, teaching connections to architectural technology and processes.  The design research will be guided by a series of lectures, workshops, individual and group discussions. Each student will apply their research and tease out a thoughtful design response.  Students will be encouraged to accelerate the boundaries of analogue and digital methods as they develop their interventions from a traditional perspective.

BIM model
Critical Applications of Building Information Modelling
Mark Meagher

This topics course focuses on a recent move in architecture’s digital culture toward open-ended proposals that enable community engagement in design. Building Information Modelling (BIM) provides a platform for collaborative design and the invention of new forms of architectural authorship. Participants will engage with the parametric functions of BIM (Revit and Dynamo) in developing architectural components capable of re-invention through participatory engagement. Weekly readings, case studies and a final project provide a theoretical basis and a practical grounding in built projects. The case studies and final project offer an opportunity to link the content of this course with personal interests and current engagement in studio and/or thesis projects.
painted over board.
ARCH 7020-T29
The Art-Architecture Complex
Eduardo Aquino

As you know, most of what the architect has by tradition been known to provide probably can be provided today by others more efficiently and to the point. What has always interested me is not what the architect can provide that others can also provide (which is a sort of parallelism), but that which only the architect can provide. And I believe strongly now, more than ever, that only the architect can provide that which can affect the spirit. Spirit is a huge, amorphic word, but anything less, or any pursuit or study or investigation that doesn’t move to that central issue—I was going to say irrelevant—but it’s not architecture. ― John Hejduk in Architectuur en Verbeelding

Design is all about desire, but strangely this desire seems almost subject-less today, or at least lack-less; that is, design seems to advance a new kind of narcissism, one that is all image and no interiority - an apotheosis of the subject that is also its disappearance. Poor little rich man: he is 'precluded from all future living and striving, developing and desiring' in the neo-Art Nouveau world of total design and Internet plenitude.
― Hal Foster in Design and Crime

There is no architecture without spirit and imagination. There are many overlapping factors that make up the associations between art & architecture. Artists often have a great interest in architecture (Piet Mondrian, Dan Graham, Tadashi Kawamata), while architects practice as artists as well (Le Corbusier, Will Alsop, Diller & Scofidio). Critic Hal Foster calls this short-circuit the “Art-Architecture Complex.” Foster uses terms like “encounter” and “connection” to describe the recent relationship between art and architecture to designate the many ensembles where art and architecture are juxtaposed and/or combined, sometimes with art in (what was once considered) the space of architecture, sometimes with architecture in (what was once considered) the place of art. Such ensembles might be the rule in traditions in the West and elsewhere, and the modernist moment of a relative separation of the arts the exception. By using the term “complex” Foster indicates how the capitalist subsumption of the culture into the economy often prompts the repurposing of such art-architecture combinations as points of attraction and/or sites of display, hence public art, installation art, etc.   

While historically architecture has been associated with other grand artforms (music, painting, and sculpture), after the second world war architecture gradually distanced itself from this tradition to become more of a service provider to the construction industry, defaulting to a more consumeristic role. In this process architecture lost its connection to art, phenomenology, and poetry. The integral relationship between art & architecture has been for the past four decades experiencing a new renaissance of recovering architecture’s intrinsic quality as an art form, and a result not only of an individual’s or a collective’s pragmatic needs, but to reclaim the role of architecture as a poetic act, resulting from one’s imagination, and reaching people’s spirit. This topics course will discuss the relationship art-architecture through projects and texts, providing a critical forum to guide anyone to establish personal design strategies to bring imagination and spirit back into the project. The course will include a tour to the Winnipeg Art Gallery, where one of the classes will take place in “Tapume”.


Interdisciplinary electives

Interdisciplinary electives: September 8 to December 10 (13 weeks), 3 Credits
tree branches with brown rock and blue sky in the background
Photo by Ralph Stern
ARCH 7120 (history/theory topics credits)
ARCG 7070 (elective credits)
EVDS 3710 (undergraduate credits)
Wednesday 14:30 - 17:15
Indigenous Pasts, Presents & Futures: A Pan-American Perspective
Prof. Dipl.-Ing Ralph Stern RA, MAA

Overview: This course supports the premise that Indigeneity cannot be inscribed within national, political, institutional or disciplinary boundaries without re-inscribing the structures and strictures of colonization. This course also supports Indigenous knowledge as having an epistemic order that is distinct from Western thought and spatial organizations that are distinct from those that govern Western culture. This course proposes that Indigenous design cannot unfold within the parameters of disciplinary knowledge, including the discipline of architecture. The purpose of the course is to explore trans-disciplinary alternatives aligning with Indigenous knowledge such that pasts and presents can be projected into Indigenous futures.

Deliverables: Attendance, extensive readings, discussion participation and a term paper constitute the course requirements. The paper will focus on either on a text or event of significance. Individual topics will be developed in consultation with the Instructor.

Questions: Are always welcome, please don’t be shy. For students interested in the course or any other pertinent enquiries, please feel free to contact me at my email address:

Instructor: A Colorado native, Ralph Stern has been visiting Indigenous lands much of his life and has a deeply personal interest in the material and musical histories of various Indigenous peoples. As Dean of the Faculty of Architecture, he was responsible for various Faculty initiatives regarding increasing Indigenous enrolment, supporting Indigenous scholarships and awards, and providing opportunities for Indigenous students. Through the Dean’s Lecture Series, he invited prominent speakers to address Indigenous tropics, and hosted or supported a variety of conferences and cooperative endeavors both in Manitoba and abroad. He has lectured on Indigenous design topics for the Federation of German Architects (2018) and, together with Marcella Eaton, offered the Faculty’s first Interdisciplinary Indigenous Design Studio (2015). In the 2019-20 academic year, he initiated the Guatemala Studio, addressing Indigenous rights and the recent history of genocide against Indigenous peoples in Guatemala. In the 2020-21 academic year the work with Guatemala continued within the framework of a Graduate Thesis project.


Winter 2022

Topics session one

Topics session one:  January 19 to  February 16 (5 weeks), 1.5 credits
Frozen fabric ice shells.
Photo by Frozen fabric ice shells by Heinz Isler (H. Isler)
Frozen Forms/Fluid Forces
Lancelot Coar

Towards the end of his life, acclaimed structural engineer Luigi Nervi revealed that due to our reliance on using static principles (structures at rest) to guide our methods for designing, analyzing and building structures, we have invariably excluded dynamic principles (structures in motion) from being included in our collective structural intuition. He suggested that until we expand our design language to include dynamic behaviours and material intelligence, our design of structures will continue to exclude the inherent efficiencies and beauty of structures found in the natural world which use dynamic conditions to be formed.
This course explores how we can work with the dynamic properties of flexible and wet materials to create highly efficient structural forms akin to those found in nature. We will accomplish this through the creation of fabric formed ice shell structures. We will work at both a model scale as well as a ‘full scale’ using the unique qualities of our dry cold winter climate to assist in the stiffening of wet fabric membranes to transform them into frozen self-supporting structures.
Students will develop construction methods and design strategies for producing shell structures that engage directly with the properties of building materials and the active forces that move through them. We will examine past and current works of pioneering structural shell maestros such as Luigi Nervi, Felix Candela, Caitlin Mueller, Sigrid Adriaenssens and Heinz Isler (who pioneered the use of fabric and ice construction). Through this work students will expand their understanding of structural design as a practice that can transform passive matter into an active participate in design processes and a teacher of structural intuition.

Public safety building.
Thinking Brutalist Architecture
Jeffrey Thorsteinson

This course offers an overview of Brutalist architecture. Among the questions the course will tackle are: What is Brutalist architecture? Is there a clear definition? Was this mode primarily defined by aesthetic style or a new way of thinking about design practice? Did Brutalism mean different things in different places? And was there a Canadian Brutalism? These questions will be considered through the writing and work of such figures as Reyner Banham, Peter and Alison Smithson, Colin St. John Wilson, Paul Rudolph, Rejean Legault, and Jonathan Meades. In so doing Brutalism will be read as a field related to a growing sense of historicity within the Modern Movement at the mid-point of the 20th century. We will debate to what degree a highly diverse set of practices might be consider as a linked cluster of practices and interests, among them the use of raw and rough materials, visual forcefulness, a rejection of traditional concepts of photographic beauty, and links to the post-war building practices of the welfare state.

Pink and purple collage of a digitized city.
Photo by Andrés Jaque and Office for Political Innovation, Being Silica (2021),
ARCH 7030-T24 | Wednesdays 1:30-5:15 pm
Theatres of Architectural Agency
Lisa Landrum

Architects are increasingly directing design and representational skills to social advocacy and creative-critical insurgency, resulting in not only new buildings but new ways to imagine and enact situational transformation. This seminar explores the history, theory and potential of architectural agency in dialogue with drama. Students will study performative practices of theatre-makers and citizen-architects, while devising multi-media micro-events. The course elaborates themes, questions and strategies developed in a recent Theatres of Architectural Imagination seminar, related symposium and exhibition, and a series of Archimagination events staged for the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale.


Topics session two

Topics session two: March 9 to April 6 (5 weeks), 1.5 credits
Collage of masonry styles and students mortaring a wall.


Wednesday 1:30 - 5:15 pm
Hands on Masonry
Ted Landrum

This course covers the awe-inspiring history and future of masonry, together with wide-ranging  principles, precedents and concerns. Coursework includes a hands-on masonry workshop and a field trip to a stone quarry shop. Students meet industry experts; lay bricks; inspect full scale mock-ups and materials; and review detailed shop drawings produced by master masons. Students present a variety of readings on masonry traditions and innovations, and assemble their individual research in a final booklet.

Red hued model featuring tree bark and eggshell looking forms.

Place: Experience and Embodied Meaning in Architecture
Carlos Rueda

In generative processes for architectural projects, it is frequent to prioritize aspects of drawing and composition, and ‘dissect’ human necessities turned into programmatic diagrams, all of which arguable risks to reduces design to ‘problem-solving’ via abstraction. It is less frequent instead, but certainly no less relevant, for design to explore ways to re-create more concrete aspects of human lived experience which make up our lives in place.

Place-making, an evident core objective of architectural design, broadly considered, is inseparable from experiencing subjects. Addressing qualities of our experience of place should remain at the core of our métier, for architecture might properly be considered the making of meaningful experience: this is, the building of a better place, or eutopia.

Understanding the notions of place, and its inextricable relationship with that of experience, and their combined relevance in the construction of meaning for humans constitutes the purpose of this seminar. Is made up of readings and practical explorations on ways to address qualitative aspects of architecture. We will immerse in tools for poetic imagining and explore creative writing in their potential to enlighten architectural design.


Interdisciplinary electives

Interdisciplinary electives: January 24 to April 25 (13 weeks), 3 credits
Section drawing.


ARCG 7070
Monday: 5:30 - 8:20 pm
Wednesday: 2:30 - 3:20 pm
Interdisciplinary Design
Neil Minuk

Main theme: Bringing ideas into practice

In this interdisciplinary design course, architecture and engineering students will be able to participate in a simulated building development process based on an actual project. The course is framed around a practical non-idealized real life situation. Since every building design is unique and renovation projects are especially unique and complex the course will demand solutions that don’t rely on default solutions from textbooks and websites.
Additionally, the course will focus on working cooperatively and in a manner integrated with other related professionals. Integrated design processes and integrated project delivery are increasingly become very common methods by which buildings are designed, constructed and commissioned. Real life practical opportunities are rare in the university context. 


Additional resources

Past course descriptions