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    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
   
 
  Sep 24, 2017
 
 
    
Rensselaer Catalog 2017-2018

Master of Architecture - Professional Program


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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. This degree is completed in three years.

The M.Arch. 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-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, offered by institutions with U.S. regional accreditation, recognizes three types of degrees: the Bachelor of Architecture, the Master of Architecture, and the Doctor of Architecture. A program may be granted an eight-year, three-year, or two-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 in architecture for admission. However, the preprofessional degree is not, by itself, recognized as an accredited degree.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, School of Architecture offers the following NAAB accredited degree programs:

  • B.Arch. (171 undergraduate credits)
  • M.Arch (pre-professional Degree + 100 credits)
  • Next accreditation visit for all programs: 2024

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. 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 Integrated 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 Integrated 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. Currently available is 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 elsewhere in this catalog or special topics or experimental courses. Sample courses can be found here: https://rpi.acalogadmin.com/preview/preview_program.php?catoid=15&progoid=3274&preview.

The M.Arch. 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. curriculum sample template is provided under Programs.

Outcomes of the Graduate Curriculum
Students who successfully complete this program will exemplify:

  • Professional Communication Skills: ability to write and speak effectively and use representational media appropriate for both within the profession and with the general public.
  • Design Thinking Skills: ability to raise clear and precise questions, use abstract ideas to interpret information, consider diverse points of view, reach well-reasoned conclusions, and test alternative outcomes against relevant criteria and standards.
  • Investigative Skills: ability to gather, assess, record, and comparatively evaluate relevant information and performance in order to support conclusions related to a specific project or assignment.
  • Architectural Design Skills: ability to effectively use basic formal, organizational and environmental principles and the capacity of each to inform two- and three-dimensional design.
  • Ordering Systems: ability to apply the fundamentals of both natural and formal ordering systems and the capacity of each to inform two- and three-dimensional design.
  • Use of Precedents: ability to examine and comprehend the fundamental principles present in relevant precedents and to make informed choices about the incorporation of such principles into architecture and urban design projects.
  • History and Global Culture: understanding of the parallel and divergent histories of architecture and the cultural norms of a variety of indigenous, vernacular, local, and regional settings in terms of their political, economic, social, ecological, and technological factors.
  • Cultural Diversity and Social Equity: understanding of the diverse needs, values, behavioral norms, physical abilities, and social and spatial patterns that characterize different cultures and individuals and the responsibility of the architect to ensure equity of access to sites, buildings.
  • Pre-Design: ability to prepare a comprehensive program for an architectural project that includes an assessment of client and user needs; an inventory of spaces and their requirements; an analysis of site conditions (including existing buildings).
  • Site Design: ability to respond to site characteristics, including urban context and developmental patterning, historical fabric, soil, topography, ecology, climate, and building orientation, in the development of a project design.
  • Codes and Regulations: ability to design sites, facilities, and systems that are responsive to relevant codes and regulations, and include the principles of life-safety and accessibility standards.
  • Technical Documentation: ability to make technically clear drawings, prepare outline specifications, and construct models illustrating and identifying the assembly of materials, systems, and components appropriate for a building design.
  • Structural System: ability to demonstrate the basic principles of structural systems and their ability to withstand gravitational, seismic, and lateral forces, as well as the selection and application of the appropriate structural system.
  • Environmental Systems: ability to demonstrate the principles of environmental systems? design, how design criteria can vary by geographic region, and the tools used for performance assessment. This demonstration must include active and passive heating and cooling, solar geometry.
  • Building Envelope Systems and Assemblies: understanding of the basic principles involved in the appropriate selection and application of building envelope systems relative to fundamental performance, aesthetics, moisture transfer, durability, and energy and material resources.
  • Building Materials and Assemblies: understanding of the basic principles used in the appropriate selection of interior and exterior construction materials, finishes, products, components, and assemblies based on their inherent performance, including environmental impact and reuse.
  • Building Service Systems: understanding of the basic principles and appropriate application and performance of building service systems, including lighting, mechanical, plumbing, electrical, communication, vertical transportation, security, and fire protection systems.
  • Financial Considerations: understanding of the fundamentals of building costs, which must include project financing methods and feasibility, construction cost estimating, construction scheduling, operational costs, and life-cycle costs.
  • Research: understanding of the theoretical and applied research methodologies and practices used during the design process.
  • Integrated Evaluations and Decision-Making Design Process: ability to demonstrate the skills associated with making integrated decisions across multiple systems and variables in the completion of a design project. This demonstration includes problem identification, setting evaluative criteria, analyzing solutions.
  • Integrative Design: ability to make design decisions within a complex architectural project while demonstrating broad integration and consideration of environmental stewardship, technical documentation, accessibility, site conditions, life safety, environmental systems, structures.
  • Stakeholder Roles in Architecture: understanding of the relationships among key stakeholders in the design process?client, contractor, architect, user groups, local community?and the architect?s role to reconcile stakeholder needs.
  • Project Management: understanding of the methods for selecting consultants and assembling teams; identifying work plans, project schedules, and time requirements; and recommending project delivery methods.
  • Business Practices: understanding of the basic principles of a firm?s business practices, including financial management and business planning, marketing, organization, and entrepreneurship.
  • Legal Responsibilities: understanding of the architect?s responsibility to the public and the client as determined by regulations and legal considerations involving the practice of architecture and professional service contracts.
  • Professional Conduct: understanding of the ethical issues involved in the exercise of professional judgment in architectural design and practice and understanding the role of the NCARB Rules of Conduct and the AIA Code of Ethics in defining professional conduct.
  • ability to fully utilize a range of advanced 2D and 3D digital and fabrication technologies in the design and production workflow relating to: the generation of design ideas, the process of analysis and the rigorous development of design proposals associated with the built environment.
  • demonstrated willingness and propensity to explore new approaches to design challenges as well as an ability to implement a broad range of novel and experimental strategies throughout the design process.
  • demonstrated global awareness in celebration of the vast cultural, technological and environmental resources unique to a multicultural planet. Highlighting the significant importance of global citizenship for the profession, the contribution of an Architect to the natural and built environment is deemed a noble endeavor requiring life-long commitment.
  • demonstrated ability to creatively and critically integrate knowledge and information across disciplines as related to a multiplicity of constraints resulting in a comprehensive design proposal.
  • management of ideas from multiple sources engenders the research with an appreciation for interdisciplinary engagement and an increased sense of awareness of a changing world.
  • ability to write and speak effectively and use representational media appropriate for both within the profession and with the general public.
  • ability to raise clear and precise questions, use abstract ideas to interpret information, consider diverse points of view, reach well-reasoned conclusions, and test alternative outcomes against relevant criteria and standards.
  • ability to gather, assess, record, and comparatively evaluate relevant information and performance in order to support conclusions related to a specific project or assignment.
  • ability to effectively use basic formal, organizational and environmental principles and the capacity of each to inform two- and three-dimensional design.
  • ability to apply the fundamentals of both natural and formal ordering systems and the capacity of each to inform two- and three-dimensional design.
  • ability to examine and comprehend the fundamental principles present in relevant precedents and to make informed choices about the incorporation of such principles into architecture and urban design projects.
  • understanding of the parallel and divergent histories of architecture and the cultural norms of a variety of indigenous, vernacular, local, and regional settings in terms of their political, economic, social, ecological, and technological factors.
  • Understanding of the diverse needs, values, behavioral norms, physical abilities, and social and spatial patterns that characterize different cultures and individuals and the responsibility of the architect to ensure equity of access to sites, buildings, and structures.
  • ability to prepare a comprehensive program for an architectural project that includes an assessment of client and user needs; an inventory of spaces and their requirements; an analysis of site conditions (including existing buildings); a review of the relevant building codes and standards, including relevant sustainability requirements, and an assessment of their implications for the project; and a definition of site selection and design assessment criteria.
  • ability to respond to site characteristics, including urban context and developmental patterning, historical fabric, soil, topography, ecology, climate, and building orientation, in the development of a project design.
  • ability to design sites, facilities, and systems that are responsive to relevant codes and regulations, and include the principles of life-safety and accessibility standards.
  • ability to make technically clear drawings, prepare outline specifications, and construct models illustrating and identifying the assembly of materials, systems, and components appropriate for a building design.
  • ability to demonstrate the basic principles of structural systems and their ability to withstand gravitational, seismic, and lateral forces, as well as the selection and application of the appropriate structural system.
  • ability to demonstrate the principles of environmental systems’ design, how design criteria can vary by geographic region, and the tools used for performance assessment. This demonstration must include active and passive heating and cooling, solar geometry, daylighting, natural ventilation, indoor air quality, solar systems, lighting systems, and acoustics.
  • understanding of the basic principles involved in the appropriate selection and application of building envelope systems relative to fundamental performance, aesthetics, moisture transfer, durability, and energy and material resources.Understanding of the basic principles used in the appropriate selection of interior and exterior construction materials, finishes, products, components, and assemblies based on their inherent performance, including environmental impact and reuse.
  • understanding of the basic principles and appropriate application and performance of building service systems, including lighting, mechanical, plumbing, electrical, communication, vertical transportation, security, and fire protection systems.
  • understanding of the fundamentals of building costs, which must include project financing methods and feasibility, construction cost estimating, construction scheduling, operational costs, and life-cycle costs.
  • understanding of the theoretical and applied research methodologies and practices used during the design process.
  • ability to demonstrate the skills associated with making integrated decisions across multiple systems and variables in the completion of a design project. This demonstration includes problem identification, setting evaluative criteria, analyzing solutions, and predicting the effectiveness of implementation.
  • ability to make design decisions within a complex architectural project while demonstrating broad integration and consideration of environmental stewardship, technical documentation, accessibility, site conditions, life safety, environmental systems, structural systems, and building envelope systems and assemblies.
  • understanding of the relationships among key stakeholders in the design process—client, contractor, architect, user groups, local community—and the architect’s role to reconcile stakeholder needs.
  • understanding of the methods for selecting consultants and assembling teams; identifying work plans, project schedules, and time requirements; and recommending project delivery methods.
  • understanding of the basic principles of a firm’s business practices, including financial management and business planning, marketing, organization, and entrepreneurship.
  • understanding of the architect’s responsibility to the public and the client as determined by regulations and legal considerations involving the practice of architecture and professional service contracts.
  • understanding of the ethical issues involved in the exercise of professional judgment in architectural design and practice and understanding the role of the NCARB Rules of Conduct and the AIA Code of Ethics in defining professional conduct.

First Year


Second Year


Fall


  • Electives Credit Hours: 4
  • Professional Elective Credit Hours: 4

Third Year


Spring


  • Professional Elective Credit Hours: 4
  • General Electives Credit Hours: 6
     

The degree requires 100 credits.


A Plan of Study is required for all graduate students. Admission with advanced standing can fulfill a significant number of the required 100 credits, especially for students who have been enrolled in undergraduate pre-architecture programs or non-accredited professional programs. Advanced standing requires approval by the School’s Graduate Program Director and the Office of Graduate Education. The final approval of advanced standing will be recorded on the student’s Plan of Study.

Additional Requirements


In addition to the Institute-wide academic regulations outlined in this catalog, the following pertain to graduate programs in architecture:

  • Academic Progress—To earn the professional M.Arch. degree, students must maintain a 3.0 or higher average in the following courses: Design Explorations (ARCH 6110, ARCH 6120 and ARCH 6130) and 6 credits of 6000-level electives.  Students whose cumulative averages for all course work drop below 3.0 will be reviewed for satisfactory progress. The architecture faculty, as part of its academic review process, will review professional M.Arch. students earning grades of C+ or below. A student earning a C+ or below in a subsequent required design course must either repeat the course or take another course specified by the faculty before advancing to the next course in the design sequence. Students who fail to earn a grade of B or better in the repeated or specified course or who earn a third C+ or lower in design may not continue in the design sequence.
  • Retention of Student Work—All student drawings and models created as part of the instructional program are the property of the Institute until the instructor releases them. The School of Architecture, at its option, may retain certain works for academic purposes.

During their second year, M.Arch. students participate in a semester-long program in New York City at Rensselaer’s Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE), hosted at the renowned architecture firm Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM).  The program allows M.Arch. students to study in a collaborative interdisciplinary research environment focused on the development of advanced, next-generation building systems and sustainable technologies.

In certain cases, M.Arch. students may participate in a semester-long program of study abroad. Students interested in international programs must develop a Plan of Study with the Graduate Program Director that insures the completion of required coursework in an appropriate sequence. A program fee is required.

In regard to the above template, please note that although studios are generally sequential, ARCH 6630 Integrated Design Development studio should be taken after the completion of the ARCH 6620 Graduate Architecture Design 4 studio and before ARCH 6980 Graduate Final Project.

  • Technology courses: ARCH 5140 Structures 1 is sequential and prerequisite to ARCH 5150 Structures 2; ARCH 5310 Environmental and Ecological Systems is sequential and prerequisite to ARCH 5360 Building Systems and Environment.
  • ARCH 5200 Graduate Architecture Design 1 through ARCH 6620 Graduate Architecture Design 4; and the ARCH 5140 Structures 1, ARCH 5310 Environmental and Ecological Systems, and ARCH 5150 Structures 2 series are prerequisites to ARCH 6630  Integrated Design Development studio. ARCH 5360 Building Systems and Environment may be taken concurrently with ARCH 6620 Graduate Architecture Design 4 (Integrated Design Studio).

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