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Selected Thesis Exhibition 2020 Film Documents Pioneering Graduate Projects

This year, SCI-Arc’s 2020 Graduate Thesis was held virtually, culminating in a lively, immersive online Thesis Weekend in September. As the school’s largest annual event, Graduate Thesis Weekend represents the culmination of the graduate curricula at SCI-Arc and presents an invaluable opportunity for graduating M.Arch 1 and 2 students to articulate and defend their stunning work to SCI-Arc faculty and leadership, fellow students, esteemed visiting critics, and the global design community at large.

hands holding architecture model
Wendy Guerrero

The 2020 SCI-Arc Selected Graduate Thesis exhibition, a juried collection of the most exceptional Graduate Thesis projects of the year, took the form of a short documentary produced by SCI-Arc Channel released to the public on October 12. The Selected Thesis exhibition film itself is comprised of interviews with the selected students about their projects, drawings and renderings of their work, plus a field of models from the M.Arch Thesis class.

“Thesis is by definition a moment where students question the world around them,” comments Graduate Programs Chair Elena Manferdini in the film. “They try to find a way and a lens through which to look at it and they also want to reinvent I think the role of architecture in society.”

Pink barber shop
Irvin Shaifa

The exhibition, which features the award-winning 2020 Graduate Thesis projects, includes work from the recipients of the SCI-Arc Gehry Prize [2020 Gehry League] Saleh Jamsheer (M.Arch 2), Zoe Małecki (M.Arch 1), Richard Mapes (M.Arch 2), Justine Poulin (M.Arch 2), and Irvin Shaifa (M.Arch 2), as well as projects by Merit Graduate Thesis Prize winners Linzi Ai (M.Arch 2) and Juicheng Hung (M.Arch 2), Christina Griggs (M.Arch 2), Wendy Guerrero (M.Arch 1), Sam Kaufman (M.Arch 1), Liu Qiao (M.Arch 2), Rish Ryusuke Saito (M.Arch 1), Robert Sipchen (M.Arch 1), and Vincent Yung (M.Arch 1).

In describing his approach to his Thesis project, Mapes notes, “If we look at architecture as a portrait, then we begin to understand things as certain references that go into making that portrait—different objects and images and memories all combining into this kind of mental construction of a space and the identity of that space and then the identity of perhaps the people that inhabit that space.”

room divider cherry blossoms
Richard Mapes

“The idea of making the singular act an architecture that is just one building I believe is no more, but instead multiple buildings within that bounding box; to create these new realms for sort of community,” explains Shaifa, whose thesis is entitled Zealots of Compton and primarily focuses on community revitalization within the titular historic South Central Los Angeles neighborhood.

architecture render
Linzi Ai + Juicheng Hung

Other noteworthy projects featured in the exhibition film include those by Gehry Prize winners Jamsheer, Małecki, and Poulin, as well as Merit winners Ai and Hung, Griggs, Guerrero, Kaufman, Qiao, Saito, Sipchen, and Yung.

“Thesis never an individual journey; it's always a collective one,” continues Manferdini. “Truly it’s a community that has developed the strength to be self-confident and has a vision about what architecture should be; it's always something that we share.”