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ARC8051 : Tools for Thinking About Architecture

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Adam Sharr
  • Owning School: Architecture, Planning & Landscape
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module introduces students to a broad range of topics in architectural research and the tools with which to carry out critical inquiry. It serves as a primer that prepares students to undertake advanced individual and group research in a chosen area of specialization in subsequent semesters.

The main aims of the module are:
•       To broaden students’ understanding of the social, cultural, political and economic context of architecture as a professional discipline and a field of scholarly inquiry
•       To familiarize students with theories and research methods for the critical examination of the built environment
•       To stimulate intellectual enquiry into the origin and development of architectural ideas and their contextual relationship
•       To explore productive ways of working with theoretical concepts in architectural design
•       To develop a positive critical attitude in the designer to both their own creative work and that of others

Outline Of Syllabus

Weekly lectures and seminars focusing on a range of research themes including:
Technology, Tectonics & Material Culture
Landscape, Ecology & Urban Form
Vision, Surveillance and the City
Media, Creativity & Style
Philosophy, Ideology & Criticism
History, Heritage & Memory
Habitat, Identity & Lifestyle

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture142:0028:00Lectures (synchronous online)
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion147:0047:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading153:0053:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00Seminars (PIP).
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities102:0020:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching21:002:00Assessment preparation supervision tutorial (synchronous discussion in small groups).
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study140:0040:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures are organised in 20 min slots, with breaks. Module leader introduces students to research methods and theoretical approaches; guest lecturers demonstrate a range of disciplinary perspectives and approaches that can be applied to architectural research.

Seminars give an opportunity for close reading and debating this range, with the preparation of a given reading text, and a live discussion. The guided workshop allows students to build up their research and analytical skills in preparation of their assessed written coursework. Structured activities are supported by directed reading, and skills practice between module activity days, and towards the end of the semester by assessment preparation.

–       The module lectures are intended to be delivered online (synchronous). This guarantees social distancing and facilitates the logistics of organising lectures and the presentation during the induction week in September involving a cohort of circa 100 students and staff.

–       Seminars are intended to be delivered on campus. They will afford the development of all the skills and outcomes described above. These different formats of contact will allow students the opportunity to test out and develop their ideas in preparation for their final assessment of an essay.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Portfolio1M10010x400 word academic blog posts, assessed at the end of module as a combined portfolio.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The blog posts are intended to allow students to make use of research methods and approaches, and critical reading and writing skills covered in the module in developing their own subject of study, and acts as a primer for more sustained research in subsequent semesters (Dissertation or Linked Research).

General Assessment Criteria includes:
•       Degree of knowledge and understanding of the ideas, themes and topics elaborated in the theoretical material considered
•       Depth and persuasiveness of the analysis, reflection, interpretation of that material
•       Quality of the lines of enquiry, questions and architectural implications drawn from explorations
•       Level of the communication of complex ideas in verbal, visual and written form

The assessor might downgrade the mark if the word count of the submission is outside of +/- 10% of that required.

Reading Lists