Subjects indicate a particular focus of a submission in any of the categories.
Clicking on a subject name brings it forward across all categories.
The list of subjects that the site knows about is limited to aspects that relate specifically to thematic design. If you feel a  particular subject is missing, please keep this limitation in mind. Let us know your suggestions, experience must lead to a updated list in the future.

The subjects are organised in six groups: TD forms, Relations, Territory, Tools, Education, and Location.
Each subject is identified by a single word. The following overview shows the groups and gives a brief explanation of what each word wants to stand for.

About  forms that represent different levels of intervention in the hierarchy of built environments:

Field: the continuity and inner structure of a built environment. It indicates the level  of an urban   design but the latter is constricted  to the boundaries of its intervention while the field identifies the fabric as such. Indeed, ‘fabric’ and ‘field’ are often used synonymous. Fields are always known by their ‘fabric’.

Base building: a building that contains what the community of inhabitants or workers needs collectively, and which offers space for individual inhabitants or workers to have their own ‘fit-out’.

Fit-out: The assembly of parts within a space of a base building to serve the needs of individual inhabitant or work units.

Furniture: Un-attached elements that are easily arranged by the user in the spaces provided by the fit-out in a base building.

Facade: The assembly of parts that constitute the skin or envelope of a building. Parts of it can be under control of inhabitants in which case these parts belong to the fit-out and identify the users to the outside.  Parts of it can be under control of the collective of inhabitants in which case these  parts belong to the base building.

About the various ways in which forms can restrict or influence, one another in space, share certain aspects or connect to one another.  Form relations determine and reflect the ways in which designers who design them relate to one another through their designs.

 Horizontal: Relations between forms ( particularly buildings but not restricted to those) on the same level of intervention, and under control of different parties.

Vertical: Relations between forms on different levels of intervention and/or between designers operating on different levels: for instance between fit-out and base-building or base-building and field.

Understanding: An implicit relation. The way in which relations among forms are maintained by their designers without any explicit discussion or any formal agreement. Working by ‘silent understanding’.

Agreeing:  The way in which relations among forms are arrived at or maintained by explicit, formal or informal mutual agreement.

Ruling:  The formal way to set relations among forms by a third party not necessarily as result of interaction among players.

Defined as a space under control of a specific party. Control meaning being able to decide who may enter it.

Boundary: (form): Forms that mark or delineate the edge of a territory. Varying from a line in the  sand to the Chinese wall.

Gate: Any form that marks the crossing of a territorial boundary. Varying from a stone positioned at a roadside to an elaborate building containing doors that can be closed.

A tool being any methodical convention in use by the design profession for the making of a design. The tools listed here are pertinent to all design but as a group cover particularly what is important to Thematic Design.

System:  A selection of material or spatial parts the positional and/or technical relations among which are defined. Any configuration of parts that follows a system’s selection and relational rules is a ‘variant’ in that system.  Systems are often technical in nature but patterns and types are also systemic while their technical specification may remain undefined. Systems, types and patterns are always products of human agreement or understanding as listed under ‘Relations’.

Pattern:  Relations between two or sometimes more physical entities maintained consistently in an area of the built environment. As proposed by Christopher Alexander but considered as the result of agreement or understanding among designers.

Type:  A configuration of a (sometimes large) number of material and/or spatial parts which is recognised as a whole and applied repeatedly by different designers who keep the identity of its parts and their spatial relations constant but may vary their number, detailing and size as well as the dimension of their spatial relations. In general, what we call a dwelling type or building type is a system as described above but one that is not necessarily explicitly defined but known as a theme revealed by its variants.

Levels:  A general hierarchical concept, particularly used in the Thematic Design context to indicate ‘levels of intervention’ by which the built environment is considered as a socially related material hierarchy.

Moves: A single unit of design intervention (change of a form) by which a design process proceeds.

Grids: A regular ‘modular’ subdivision of a given space – or of a surface that is part of a space –  defining ‘bands’ that are used to clarify the position of objects in that space.

Zones: A subdivision of a given space or surface used to position selected objects in it according to specific criteria.

Sections: Projection of a vertical cut through a building

Plan: View of a horizontal cut through a building, looking downward.

Elevation: Projection of  the exterior of a building

3D Model: Today known as a computer driven representation in three dimensions with variable view of it. In the past, and still today, a three dimensional scale copy in solid material.

Proportions: System of dimensional relations usually for aesthetic reasons.

Dominance: An a-symmetrical relation between two objects:  Say there are two objects A and B and we see that if A moves or changes B will adapt, but when B moves  or changes, A is not affected. In that case A dominates B and B is subjected to A. Example: a table with chairs around it. If the table is moved to another place we expect the chairs to come with it, but we can move a chair while the table stays where it is. In the same way a base-building dominates the fit-out in it.

Capacity: The capacity of a space is its ability to contain a number of functions depending on the norms we maintain for their design. Example: Given a lot in an urban design including the constraints attached to it, such as height  limitations and set-back rules, we can consider the various kinds of buildings that can be build in it. In that case we speak of a capacity study or capacity analysis for such a urban lot. In the same way a room can have the capacity to be a bedroom as well as a kitchen, according to the norms we maintain.


Ways of teaching and studying to gain skills in Thematic Design and knowledge about it.

DesignPlay: A means to achieve form making skills.

Studio: A collective way of learning design from a teacher

Workshop: a way of learning design by working collectively on a design task, usually led by a teacher.

Course: A structured lecture series with or without exercises or other assignments to teach a particular subject.

Observing: Looking at  a building or built environment on location and analysing it composition.

Research:  Investigating built environment to solve a question.

Different  parts of the man-made environment as subject of study and reflection.