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Etudes and Variations : Waiting Rooms for a Practice to Come.

Tutor: Jo Van Den Berghe

Master thesis studio

Engagement: Mediating Tactics

Language: NL (but jury in English).


The architectural fragment occupies a strategic position as ‘middle ground’ between the architectural whole and the architectural detail. Adopting the architectural fragment as the ‘place of embarkment’ for a process of architectural creation facilitates a swift transition into the detail and the whole during the drawing process, permitting the drawing architect, who decides to dwell in the fragment, to absorb and merge energy and information from the two other scales of creation. Ultimately, the architect can understand this smart oscillating on the whole-fragment-detail axis, hence integrate the anatomies of the topography with the anatomies of the architectural detail.

The drawing student needs to investigate how topographies and architectural details can co-exist in the elaborate creation of the architectural fragment. The drawing student needs to test-by-drawing how a basic Etude of an architectural fragment can be slightly altered through developing Variations on the initial Etude of a fragment, and how and to what extent these Variations can exist next to one another, for the drawing architect and his ‘audience’ to be savoured—enjoyed—together and to the full extent, without having to exclude the quality of one Variation for the sake of the mandatory choice for another Variation. Having to make a final choice between Variations is not the point here. Rather, drawing and discussing the co-presence of Variations, and how this contributes to a more complete ‘delight’ in the experience of architecture, is at stake in this master thesis studio.

Finally, it is to be understood here how and to what extent drawing architectural fragments, emerging from this oscillating process, can constitute a personal repository for the student, a growing repertoire as the foundation for an emerging architectural practice. This new practice may be calling the young architect, hence what can the young architect draw in response to this calling? By doing so, these Etudes and their Variations become ‘Waiting Rooms for a Practice to come’.

Timing and Studio brief

The fall semester will be dedicated to the exploration and drawing of architectural references, and to the agency of the architectural fragment in architectural history and in a design process.

The spring semester will bank on the investigations of the fall semester and will be dedicated to the design of a series of rooms and corners as architectural fragments that constitute your series of Etudes and Variations (see above). These fragments need to be fully elaborated, and as a series they form a personal repository, the onset of a personal repertoire, a prediction of your own critical reflective architectural practice. These rooms and corners both ‘project’ your future imaginations ànd strongly draw from your personal memories of spaces and haunting architectural bodies that populate your past and present.

Method: Drawing.

Drawing (mostly by hand) constitutes the core of the method of this master thesis studio (drawing, here, also includes scale modeling). More specifically, the drawing processes start from drawing vertical sections (including the topographies these sections belong to), into which central perspectives will gradually show emerging corners, rooms, and spaces. From these sections and their integrated central perspectives, fragments of a plan are derived.

By drawing so, an Etude emerges from the process, existing of vertical sections, integrated central perspectives, and derived plans.

Consequently, this Etude is being critically questioned and re-drawn as Variations on the Etude, enabling all these Variations, and their originating Etude, to co-exist for reflection, evaluation, appreciation, and debate. The Variations originate from the Etude by critically evaluating the Etude through re-drawing the latter into new versions—Variations—through Critical Sequential Drawing (CSD)(Van Den Berghe 2021).

The student is expected to develop at least 7 Etudes with their co-existing Variations.

These drawing sessions will be accompagnied by in-depth reference studies in architecture. These references—possibly fragments of them—may have to be drawn and discussed as well. They are

either brought in the discussions by the student or by the promoter of the thesis studio. The latter will have the authority to ‘impose’ a reference study by drawing that will have to be made by the student.


  1. at least 7 architectural fragments (mostly scale 1/10), developed through drawing Etudes and their Variations, in the form of rooms and architectural corners, elaborated as far their architectural details (scale 1/1). ‘Waiting Rooms as Fragments of a Practice to come’.
  2. an academic architectural discourse in a written document (17 pages) as a record of the drawing process and the contextualization of the Etudes and Variations in the landscape of architectural references the student will adopt.
  3. choreographing the jury moment through a meticulous set-up of the exhibition, the drawn and spoken discourse with reference to the written document, and the public behaviours the young architect will demonstrate at the occasion of the jury moment, all are an integral part of the output and evaluation.
  4. finally, the student will explain how, and to what extent, the developed repository of Etudes and Variations is expected to act as a repository and propeller for an emerging critical reflective


The evaluation will be done on three scales.

  1. the student will be evaluated and calibrated on a weekly basis, at the occasion of the weekly studio day that will be spent on this master thesis project.
  2. three milestone evaluations will be organized during this master thesis project: one at the end of the first period (end of the fall semester), one in the last session before Easter holiday, and one approximately two weeks before the final jury moment.
  3. evidently, the final evaluation will be done through/in a jury-exhibition setting, where a selected group of (international) jury members will be invited to look at the work, and to discuss the process and the output with the student.


The studio will be taught in Dutch. However, the jury moment will be done in English, to enable the student to develop his/her skills in an international perspective, and to amplify this perspective by inviting international practitioners/professors with competences in the research fields this thesis project is embedded in.


  • Eisenman, (2012). The Piranesi Variations. 13th Venice Architecture Biennale.
  • Miglietta, E. and Postiglione, G. (2021). Sigurd Lewerentz. The Paradox of Construction, in Lewerentz Fragments, edited by Jonathan Foote, Hansjörg Göritz, Matthew Hall and Nathan Mat- teson, 188-201. New York: Actar Publishers.
  • Miglietta, E., Postiglione, G. and Van Den Berghe, J. (2024). Re-Reading Form through the Agency of the The Archaeological Attitude of Design Driven Research. PhD Dissertation Politecnico di Milano/ KU Leuven Faculty of Architecture.
  • Piranesi, (1756). Plan of Roma (https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/363048).
  • Van Den Berghe, (2021). Critical Sequential Drawing: a drawing method to close the gap between the Poetic Image and its Material Presence. Stoà, pp. 168-179.
  • Van Den Berghe, (2023). Antiphon for a Sabbatical: Revisiting the Mind of a Man formerly known as an Architect. Works+Words Biennale. Royal Academy, Copenhagen.
  • van Schaik, (2008). Spatial Intelligence: New Futures for Architecture, John Wiley & Sons Ltd., Chichester.