May 28, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2007-2008 
Rensselaer Catalog 2007-2008 [Archived Catalog]

Master of Architecture I

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The curriculum for this professional degree program largely overlaps the B.Arch. program, albeit in an accelerated manner. It features a distinct individualized 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).

This degree provides a balanced education in architectural design, history, theory, and technology. As with the undergraduate program, it centers on the design studio where projects address a multitude of 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, which is the sole agency authorized to accredit U.S. professional degree programs in architecture, recognizes two types of degrees; the Bachelor of Architecture and the Master of Architecture. A program may be granted a six-year, three-year, or two-year term of accreditation, depending on its degree of conformance with established educational standards.

Master’s degree programs may consist of preprofessional and undergraduate degree and a professional graduate degree, which, when earned sequentially, comprise 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, have earned a 3.0 cumulative average (on a 4.0 scale) and have within their undergraduate studies a course in free hand or life-study drawing. They should also have 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 Office of 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.

Like the B.Arch. program, the M.Arch.I program incorporates and interconnects the important elements of design, history and theory, technology and building science, and computing. For a detailed description of Rensselaer’s approach to these elements, please refer to the Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) Curriculum section. Also noted within the Bachelor of Architecture Curriculum description are the School’s many professional electives and topic offerings 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. In addition to regularly offered electives (described in the back of this catalog), the faculty offers a number of topics or experimental courses as professional electives. A sample of these courses can be found in the details of the Architecture program.

The M.Arch. I program culminates with an individually initiated, planned, and developed thesis. Planning begins in the third year and involves an exchange of ideas with and a critique by a faculty adviser and review committee. The resulting proposals are published statements of interest from the faculty combined with the students’ experiences and areas of special concern. These 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 sees as significant to architecture.

To provide the clearest possible picture of the M.Arch.I curriculum structure, a sample template is provided below.

Summer Sessions 1 - 2

The program begins with a 12-week summer session that provides full immersion in architectural design. The summer studio is small and characterized by intense and highly individualized student-faculty interaction. The graduate professional student uses the summer session to prepare for entry into design at the second-year level in the fall; it also provides an opportunity to evaluate his or her design capacity.

First Year

Second Year

Third Year


  • Elective Credit Hours: 4


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

The degree requires 112 credits

Additional Requirements

In regard to the above template, please note that studios are generally sequential. ARCH 4300 Design Development studio should be taken after the completion of the ARCH 4360 Graduate Architecture Design 4 (urban) studio and before ARCH 6990 Thesis.

  • Technology courses: ARCH 2330 Structures 1 is sequential and prerequisite to ARCH 4330 Structures 2; ARCH 2360 Environmental and Ecological Systems is sequential and prerequisite to ARCH 4740 Building Systems and Environment. 
  • ARCH 2600 Graduate Design Studio, ARCH 2610 Graduate Architecture Design 1 through ARCH 4360 Graduate Architecture Design 4; and the ARCH 2330 Structures 1, ARCH 2360 Environmental and Ecological Systems, and ARCH 4330 Structures 2 series are prerequisites to ARCH 4300 Design Development studio. ARCH 4740 Building Systems and Environment may be taken concurrently with ARCH 4300 Design Development studio.

A Plan of Study is required for all graduate students. The degree requires 112 credit hours. Admission with advanced standing can fulfill a significant number of these credits, especially for students who have been enrolled in undergraduate pre-architecture programs or non-accredited professional programs.


  1. ARCH 6120 and ARCH 6130 address a variety of significant theoretical issues and are taught together. Topics alternate each year.
  2. Taken in the same semester as ARCH 4300.

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