The curriculum for this professional degree program parallels the B.Arch. program, albeit in an accelerated manner. It features a distinct pedagogical core through an advanced history and theory course sequence. On average, this degree is completed in three and a half years (one summer plus three academic years).
The M.Arch.I degree provides a balanced education in architectural design, history, theory, and technology. As a professional program, it centers on the design studio where projects address myriad design issues through multiple strategies ranging from the design of carefully crafted objects to architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design.
The National Architectural Accreditation Board (NAAB) accredits the Rensselaer School of Architecture’s Master of Architecture three and a half-year program. The following statement is included in the catalog, pursuant to NAAB requirements:
In the United States, most state registration boards require a degree from an accredited professional degree program as a prerequisite for licensure. The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), which is the sole agency authorized to accredit U.S. professional degree programs in architecture, recognizes three types of degrees: the Bachelor of Architecture, the Master of Architecture, and the Doctor of Architecture. A program may be granted a 6-year, 3-year, or 2-year term of accreditation, depending on the extent of its conformance with established educational standards.
Doctor of Architecture and Master of Architecture degree programs may consist of a pre-professional undergraduate degree and a professional graduate degree that, when earned sequentially, constitute an accredited professional education. However, the preprofessional degree is not, by itself, recognized as an accredited degree.
Applicants to this program must have a bachelor’s degree. It is strongly recommended that candidates have within their undergraduate studies a course in free hand or life-study drawing and eight to 10 courses in humanities and social sciences, one year of mathematics with a course in calculus, a course in physics, and additional courses in the sciences. Course work in the arts and art history is also desirable. A portfolio of creative works and critical commentary on those works is required for admission. Application is made to the Institute’s Office of Graduate Admissions. Students with previous architecture courses will be considered for advanced standing in this program. Enrollment in the initial summer studio is usually necessary to determine placement in the design sequence. For information regarding program tuition and financial aid, please refer to the Tuition and Financial Aid section of this catalog.
Rensselaer’s M.Arch.I program incorporates and interconnects the following important elements:
- Design—The design studio forms the core of all architecture degree programs. The design studio brings together the many aspects of architecture and presents a wide range of design issues, beginning with the development of the tools, skills, and judgments that underlie the production of architecture.
The skills area emphasizes that the hand is as important as the computer in the development and representation of ideas. The ability to freely manipulate space, surface, structure, and texture is central to the formation of architecture. The tools component develops confidence in the technologies that form architecture and are essential support to creativity. Finally, the judgments aspect is developed through projects premised on the continual evolution of architecture as a manifestation of the social, economic, political, and technological forces within a culture. Typically, the design studios draw on the exceptional range of urban and architectural contexts near the campus; from the historic towns in upstate New York to great cities of the region such as New York, Boston, Montreal, and Philadelphia.
In the design studio there is no singular, provable, or perfect answer to any of the problems presented. Students explore and develop their design proposals based on their growing knowledge of architecture and emerging abilities. Initial studios introduce students to a full-range of issues, skills, and judgments encountered in design and initiate and reinforce design as critical inquiry. The advanced studios consider larger-scale, more complex, or significant problems in architecture. They include students from across the professional programs. Students select projects and faculty, thereby allowing them to direct their education. The Design Development Studio is a comprehensive design studio in which a prior project is subjected to detailed structural, mechanical, construction materials, and professional practice considerations.
- History and Theory—A required six-course sequence presents the diversity of architectural works and ideas relative to the contexts within which architecture emerges and exposes students to key historical and theoretical issues in the discipline. Following this sequence, students may take additional advanced architectural history/theory electives as a part of their professional or free electives.
- Technology and Building Science—Technological issues are introduced from the beginning as essential to the conception and creation, delivery, and performance of architecture. New technologies can also be understood as generative of both form and inhabitable space. A series of six required technology courses considers both qualitative and quantitative views of building technologies. These include statics and strength of materials; basic structures and framing; design of wood, steel, and concrete structures; criteria for selecting building materials and systems; environmental and ecological systems; building systems, including heating, ventilation, air conditioning, plumbing, and electrical systems; sensory environments, including the luminous, acoustical, and tactile dimensions of space; codes and contract documents. Following this sequence, students may take additional advanced technology and building science electives as a part of their professional or free elective selections. Integration of technological considerations is central to many of the studios with a focused emphasis on integrating building technologies especially in the required upper level Design Development Studio.
- Computation Design—Computational proficiency is central to the practice of architecture. From the first year, students are able to expand their knowledge and skill through course work, which integrates computing concepts and applications—in some cases within the design studios—and through independent experimentation in the many computer labs at the School and Institute. These labs are also complimented by a facility for the fabrication and physical prototyping of design work. We currently have a range of equipment varying from a 3-axis CNC mill, two laser cutters, a 3D printer, and a vacuum-forming machine, as well as access to water and plasma cutters. Students have access to the latest in three-dimensional design software, critical visualization tools, and more specific evaluation based software.
These elements – Design, History and Theory, Technology and Building Science, and Computation – are provided through the required courses as well as many professional electives and topics in such areas as architectural and urban history and theory, technology, computing, building economics, community design, practice and management, architectural lighting, and acoustics in architecture. M.Arch students may augment their required courses with either regularly offered electives described in the back of this catalog or special topics or experimental courses. Sample courses include, but are not limited to:
Advanced Ceramic Composite Lab
Advanced Architectural Modeling
Analogical Models: Contemporary Art Theory and Practice
Architectural Acoustics 1 and 2
Bedford Technology Seminar
Between Dissociation and Merging
Built Ecologies 1
Built Ecologies 2
Design Philosophies:Towards a New Technique
Duchamp Sem: Anarchism Umped
Electronic Media: Critical Visualization
Electronic Media: Physical Design Processes
Emergent Design Philosophies and Techniques
Environmental History and Theory
Human Environment Interaction
Human Factors in Lighting
Latin American Architecture
Lighting Technologies and Applications
Materials Systems and Productions
Seminar in Sensory Culture
Surface as Structure as Form
Sustainable Building Design Metrics
The Culture of Transparency
The Man Next Door: Alfred Hitchock and the Architecture of Fear
The M.Arch.I program culminates with an individually initiated, planned, and developed thesis. Planning begins in the second year and involves an exchange of ideas with and a critique by a faculty adviser and review committee. Resulting proposals may emerge from a synthesis of previous work applying gained knowledge to advanced issues, or alternatively, make use of experiences to date as a base from which to explore and to innovate. This final year begins with a short competition project in which all participate. An integrated design research phase then lasts the remainder of the first and throughout the second semester.
The thesis is an opportunity to develop a point of view about architecture and its place in the world, to question conventions, habitual responses, and routine approaches to architectural design, and to investigate issues that the student demonstrates as significant to architecture.
The M.Arch.I curriculum sample template is provided below.