Critical Issues in the Design Professionals

Critical Issues in the Design Professionals

Critical Issues in the Design Professions is the subject of our final paper. It is a chance to consider a specific point of controversy or debate that you think will impact the work of architects, interior designers or landscape architects in the near future. Critical means the issue is an important one. It also means, for this paper, that solutions, while possible, may not be easy to come by.

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Possible examples:

* How do you conserve resources in a society built around their consumption?

* How do you preserve historic or culturally significant buildings that may be difficult to adapt to modern needs?

* How do you attract people back into cities when it seems that most Americans are perfectly content in the suburbs?

* Similarly, how do you gentrify neighborhoods, with the possibility of stabilizing and/or improving marginalized neighborhoods without pushing out long-time residents of limited economic means?

* With buildings in high-profile locations, how should the rights of private developers to build whatever they want balance a community’s expectation that buildings will enhance the public realm?


You can focus on Las Vegas again, if you like. Possible questions to explore:

* Should the city help subsidize a sports arena?

* Should proposed buildings go before some kind of design review board made up of architects,        designers, planners, and maybe concerned citizens?

* How do we address the city’s pressing water issues?

* Should Las Vegas pursue a formal urban growth boundary?

* What kinds of investments in public transit, if any, should the Las Vegas Valley consider making?


I’ll expect your papers will achieve the following goals:

Adequate background on the challenge/issue in question that you choose to address.

A specific case study that you can use to explore that challenge, in Las Vegas or elsewhere.

A fair presentation of competing interests.

A proposed way of addressing or solving the challenge:

either by picking a side,

arguing for a new side

finding a way for the sides to compromise

or by reframing the question/debate altogether (in effect saying that we’re asking the wrong question).

This latter means you should think of the paper building to or unfolding from a strong, clearly stated thesis.


I’d like your papers to include at least six sources, one of which must come from a reading or lecture from class. No Wikipedia or other dubious sources. One source should be an actual book. With this paper, please submit a formal MLA Works Cited page and in-text citations — see the final page of this file for an example or check Purdue’s OWL site online.




Again, same as before: Convince me that what you are writing may be of interest to a community of readers, i.e., this class. How do you create value? By answering a question that hasn’t been answered yet. By reframing an important issue. By communicating to readers that they will benefit from what you are writing, that they will learn something new or understand something they thought they knew at a deeper level. You don’t have to convince readers that what you are writing is life or death, but you do have to show that what you’re dealing with matters.


Thoroughness and Rigor

As your paper comes together, you should imagine your curious reader taking a look at it and asking questions, poking holes, looking for weakness — moments where your thinking could be stronger, where you could provide more information or better sources, where there’s an obvious question or objection or concern that goes unanswered.

Along the same line, make sure to be on the lookout for alternative points of view on your topic. Be on the lookout for other ways facts can be interpreted. And always challenge your facts. Are they right? Are there other facts that paint a more accurate picture?



The structure of your paper should be clear and engaging. Entice readers in with a compelling introduction, provide sufficient background or context on the topic you’re exploring, and carefully elaborate the points that support your thesis. Your thesis can be at the start of the paper (its traditional location) or toward the end.



Daring. Be bold. Take a chance. Challenge yourself to really think through all the implications of an important issue. As always, papers that convey a writer’s passion or genuine curiosity for a subject will tend to be more successful than papers that do not.

Due to the high volume of students, I can’t review rough drafts ahead of time. But feel free to send me a one-page abstract laying out your thesis and central points, and I can give you feedback on whether I think you’re heading in the right direction. As always, let me know if you get stuck formulating an idea.



* Strong point of view

* Strong context

* The quality of your observations and details counts more than the quantity.

* Clarity and coherence of your ideas. * Clean writing, minimal errors of punctuation, grammar and usage.



A superior, largely flawless paper. Your observations about the building in question are original, rigorously thought through, and clearly presented. Your enthusiasm is strong but doesn’t go over the top. The paper will provide the context we need to fully understand the building, and your description of the building is clear. Grammatical errors are at a minimum.



Think A paper with no mistakes at all.


A- / B+

High-quality work. Your observations are clear and well presented. They may lack some rigor — meaning readers will sense you have a good idea or good point going but you haven’t thought it through all the way. (Constantly ask yourself, “What is this paper missing? Are there weaknesses in the position I’m taking?” Papers that get an A will answer those questions. A-/B+ papers will not answer them as completely or convincingly.) There will be some grammar errors, but they won’t be too distracting.


B / B-

Decent, competent papers that meet the objectives of the assignment but will feel a little rote. Perhaps the observations or insights are too obvious — meaning readers won’t feel like you’re telling them something they don’t already know. Context or background about the building will be only adequately presented. There may be a piece of the assignment that is not completed. There will be enough grammar errors that it becomes somewhat irritating for readers.

C+ / C

Barely mediocre. C+ / C papers will fail to provide any strong or compelling ideas or observations. The paper will not complete required portions of the assignment. Grammar errors will distract readers.


C- / D

Basically unacceptable work. The difference between a C+ / C paper and lower is the sense of effort. On papers that aren’t great or that have a lot of issues I may award a C+ or C if I feel the writer is putting the effort in and sincerely trying his or her best to do well with the assignment. With C- / D papers, the lack of effort will feel apparent.


(Sample) Works Cited

Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Trans. Maria Jolas. New York: Orion Press, 1964.


De Certeau, Michel. The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. Steven F. Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.


Donnell, Sally B. “A New Tack for Airport Screening: Behave Yourself.” TIME 17 May, 2006.,8816,1195330,00.html


Duncan, Carol. Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums. New York: Routledge, 1995.


Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage Books, 1979.


Foucault, Michel. “Of Other Spaces.” Trans. Jay Miskowiec. Diacritics, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Spring, 1986), 22-27.


Frank, Thomas. “Airport Screeners’ Strains, Sprains Highest.” USA Today 10 January, 2006.


Gordon, Alastar. Naked Airport: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Revolutionary Structure. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2004

Rzewski, Larry. Personal interview. 17 May 2006.


Turner, Victor. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1969.


Turner, Victor. From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play. New York: PAJ Publications, 1982.

Van Gennep, Arnold. The Rites of Passage. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1960.

Uzawa, Hirofumi. Economic Theory and Global Warming. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003. Print.

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