Architecture and philosophy


About this course

Design facilitates activity, modifies climate and thinks about the making. In all this it delights the user in whichever way he or she uses the building. The big challenge of design is its freedom: anything is possible, however a lot of what is possible is not very sensible. This means that every design decision has to be justified in some way. We need to know why we want to do this, rather than that. Design is a social institution; it concerns itself with applying the requisite technology and know-how to the production of a social space that answers our aspirations. Each design decision needs to be justified against an idea of what is desired and each desire must in turn be justified against experience and hope, preferably in the form of compelling (scientific) evidence. The course will draw from different subfields of philosophy (epistemology, aesthetics, philosophy of technology, ethics, political philosophy etc.) to investigate how design choices could both be understood and be justified, conceptualized and reasoned about, using philosophical ideas. Any designer, to come to a refined view of what might be a good design, needs to develop their frame of reference and be able to justify their choices sensibly. For this purpose the essay/position paper has proved itself a wonderful medium. It allows us to document and compare the experiences and ideas of others and to nuance these relative to a specific situation or problem that is our own specific concern. It is, as such crucial that a designer learns to formulate their attitude to a design task on the basis of a careful weighing of alternative views, opinions and facts. This is why this course is important to you.

The course is built up of five elements:

  1. A course of lectures in which various themes are introduced and used for
  2. Discussion
  3. The close reading and group analysis of relevant philosophical literature
  4. The writing and critiquing of an essay/position paper in a group
  5. The writing of a short essay in exam conditions

As such the course requires certain kinds of knowledge and skill, which we assume you already have:

  • The ability to participate actively in discussions about the relationship between design, building and thought, through the study of specific cases.
  • The ability to find relevant literature, read it critically, to summarise its core points and to find the arguments supporting its position. (Help in finding literature can be had from the library staff)
  • The ability to describe architecture and explain concepts and subject both to critical reflection. (This skill will of course be practised during this course but it is hoped you have had a little more experience in such things)
  • The ability to formulate and defend a position relative to the subject chosen and to formulate those arguments in such a way that together they become a coherent whole, leading to a conclusion in which the main arguments are summarised and the practical consequences of a position are explored.

Learning outcomes

Educational objectives
Through the concrete examination and critique of specific texts, buildings, designs and urban agglomerations from a specific point of view, you will, at the end of the course, be in a position to place your own efforts in design and design thinking within an increasingly refined and well-practised frame of reference, helping you to make considered design decisions within social space and thereby undertake and undergo the odyssey of the design process with greater awareness and therefore with greater freedom. The purpose of this course is to give you the opportunity to learn to:

  • Write an essay/position paper exploring your own theoretical position relative to a chosen topic.
  • Explain your choice for this topic in relation to your own ambitions as a practitioner
  • Formulate a specific research question which can be investigated using literature as well as concrete examples from the built environment in order to form a thoroughly argued attitude to the design process.
  • Contextualise the topic within the current debate about the built environment.
  • Summarise the positions of (two) other authors on this topic.
  • Nuance their theoretical positions and take up a position within the debate.
  • Define and underpin their own position with arguments and examples.
  • Perform research according to the accepted criteria of scholarship.

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of TU Eindhoven.


  • Start date

    3 February 2025

    • Ends
      6 April 2025
    • Term *
      Block GS3
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    Enrolment starts in 115 days
For guests registration, this course is handled by TU Eindhoven