The thesis at the Architectural Association is not currently a compulsory piece of work; students may alternatively elect to write two term-papers, each related to a seminar course chosen from a wide range. Those who do write a thesis are explicitly encouraged to see it, not as an isolated academic piece of work, but as an opportunity to explore the issues which lie behind their project work, and to broaden the scope in which an architectural project is situated. In this way, project work and thesis are seen as part of an always interconnected culture in which architecture and writing have specific roles to play.
Christopher Schulte's these explores the notion of masterplanning in relation to the concrete topography of Dunkerque, the site for his unit's project work this year. Dunkerque has been repeatedly masterplanned since the 17th century. Each time, the 'complete vision' of the masterplan has been made redundant, either through physical destruction or through obsolescence, perhaps both. Directly addressing the most recent masterplan, produced by the Richard Rogers Partnership and commissioned by the City of Dunkerque, Christopher's concern is not to propose an alternative 'solution', another totalising projection. Instead the thesis sets out to reveal a powerful culture of masterplanning, which contains within it both its ability to make sense of a situation and the flaws which lead to its constant lack of fulfilment. It is with this background the project work evolves, again recognising the need to work within a culture which it reveals, rather than against a culture by proposing alternative new constructs. If Christopher's 'mutations of infrastructure' are understood in this light, the richness of the impeccable prose of his argument can be most fully appreciated.