Academic research is a wonderful opportunity that allows students to expand their creativity in resolving grounded practical issues faced by the industry. The architectural thesis produced by students in their final year is a thrilling journey of an explorer seeking solutions into the vast expanse of case studies, reviews, journals and documentations. While the thesis marks the joy of having the finish line in view, choosing a topic can be a confusing and harrowing phase. This article can be a step up for those who have an eye on public architecture and community designing. It is true that the subject must be highly individual and something you are passionate about, but here are 20 topics related to community architecture to spur your brain to creative action!

1. Community recuperation in the face of a global pandemic | Community Architecture

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Social distancing reformations on the Federal Street in New Zealand ©

While the COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a plethora of life changes, the use of public spaces and communal areas are the hot topics of concern and discussion. The way we live, move and behave as a community is to be reset. As architects and designers, the spaces we design can shape and influence the community’s behaviour and attitudes towards a healthier and safer society. What would be some shifts that we as designers should make in this regard?

2. The identity of temporal public spaces in an instantaneous society

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Art installation ‘Her secret is patience’ by Janet Echelman in Phoenix, Arizona ©

As technology overtakes the contemporary world, we live in a world of instant messaging, online shopping and fast food. Everything is available at a click and the constant ‘feed’ of information and visuals train the mind to require constant change in scene and settings to be able to garner interest. How would public spaces cater to this constant ‘need’ of a changing landscape? What identity would temporal public spaces popping up in unexpected places hold in this instantaneous generation?

3. The role of community gardens in urban neighbourhoods | Community Architecture

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Community Gardening Revived © /category/agriculture/urban-agriculture/

While research increasingly indicates the need for the human-nature connection for healthy societies, the practical issues of over-population and urbanisation have resulted in tight urban neighbourhoods suffocating from lack of any form of natural/green spaces. Further aggravation is caused by the modern lifestyle that highly reduces neighbourly interactions making cities dead and lifeless. It is the role and responsibility of the designers to find creative ways to sustain these vital relationships. Could community gardens address this twin issue faced in increasingly urban neighbourhoods?

4. Creating resilient communities in the face of natural disasters

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Urban recovery post-Christchurch earthquakes ©

Natural disasters, while identifiable to an extent, are usually unexpected and leave behind unforeseen impacts and damages to not just infrastructure but also to communities. Therefore, it is highly significant in natural disaster management scenarios to not just address the rebuilding of a broken community but also measures to empower the communities to withstand and sustain any future disasters. Could past lessons help in creating a resilient future?

5. Resurfacing the persona of public architecture through placemaking | Community Architecture

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A scene at the Lunar New Year at Ho Chi Men city, Vietnam ©

While public architecture universally seeks to cultivate public interaction, the lack of an individualistic personality leads to a stale and stagnant space – a mindless repetition with no vitality. A downside of modern architecture is the ‘created labels’ for public architecture where every mall has an atrium and every city has a botanic garden. What makes these spaces distinct and enjoyably sustaining in the long run would be the unique character and connection they hold to the cultural context. Could we revive the persona of public architecture through the art of placemaking?

6. Redefining the public realm with modern technology

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Christmas light projections on buildings in Melbourne, Australia ©

As modern technology permeates our life from daily routines to work to play, it is inevitable that the public realm which is the heartbeat of life in cities should incorporate these ‘tech components’. From using lights and projections to music and artificial intelligence, artists, engineers and designers have joined hands to create fabulous installations. What would the tech-public realm look like in the future?

7. Uplifting public spaces with universal access principles

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Significance of universal access in public places – Workshop in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia ©

Thanks to modern inventions, differently abled people can live and move independently. It is therefore imperative that public places are inclusive and easily accessible for such people. While newly created spaces are designed with their needs in mind, do we need to consider creative and practical upgrade measures to make existing public places universally accessible?

8. Aligning design to the voices of the community | Community Architecture

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Community engagement sessions at Willoughby, Australia ©

While architecture has always been the art of expressing oneself – primarily the designer, when it comes to community architecture, a shift is required to make the end user the primary expression. As the community is the ultimate benefactor of the space, the voices of the community become chief drivers of communal design. Could we explore effective methods to blend the voices of the community into the creative and technical flair of the designers to attain a successful outcome?

9. The role of design in the identity of a community

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Nurturing the forgotten Firs and Bromford valley community to life ©

In designing to the strengths of a community, the designer holds the key to influencing society positively. A successful design would not just tick the boxes but accentuate the identity of the community.  While every community has multiple facets with diverse strengths, the challenge lies in identifying the unifying thread that would tug them together. How significant a role does design play in defining and empowering a community?

10. The role of the designer as an intermediate between people and the built environment | Community Architecture

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A Brimbank Council Park reflecting the contextual nature reserve ©

The behavioural psychology and diversity of people makes designing public spaces a grey area.  The designer plays the role of an intermediary in reconciling the needs of the people with an appropriate built solution. It is just the tip of the iceberg that this matchmaker role requires competent assessment of needs on one side and potential on the other to meet these needs. What more does this role initiate?

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Chrysolyte Gladys is an explorer who looks for the reason behind things, employing diligent architectural research to discover practical solutions for issues plaguing contemporary designers. She treasures the influential ability of designers in creating better living environments and highly appreciates the intertwining of natural and historical context with the built outcome.