Master of Architecture

Architecture is a highly synthetic discipline that requires a complex mix of cultural awareness, technical expertise, and creative facility. This is architecture’s great draw, and its great challenge. How do we engage a world that is marked by diverse people, ever-changing digital technologies and dynamic ecologies?

The Master of Architecture program at the Knowlton School is dedicated to all aspects of this pursuit and is grounded in an understanding of architecture as a cultural enterprise. We are invested in the knowledge of architecture’s traditions through strengths in history and theory while we transform the discipline through technology and engagement with the world. Seminars in history and theory are supplemented by courses in systems, sustainability, structures and professional practice, reinforced by the school’s extensive fabrication and computing facilities. Most importantly, cultural breadth and technical depth are synthesized in the school’s intensive studio culture where students creatively engage real world issues. In addition, the program offers opportunities for internships and international travel and is able to provide more than half of our students with financial support.

The Master of Architecture degree at the Knowlton School has a single degree structure with a three-year sequence and two entry points. Students with non-architecture undergraduate degrees, and some continuing students, enter in the first year, which focuses on the development of the student’s critical, technical and aesthetic sensibility within the domain of architectural design. Students who have completed a four-year undergraduate degree from an NAAB-accredited program may be granted advanced placement to enter the second year on the basis of academic performance and portfolio review. The students then advance to the third year that concentrates on developing disciplinary expertise through advanced research. Students are helped in this endeavor by the Herbert Baumer Distinguished Visiting Professorship that is awarded annually to a prominent practitioner in the field of architecture. During the course of that academic year, the practitioner leads a graduate design studio at the Knowlton School. The practitioner also leads a seminar in conjunction with a regular Knowlton School faculty member that reviews the practitioners career - including an in-depth exploration of one project. This seminar results in a volume of the school’s Source Books in Architecture series. The practicioner also participates in the school’s Lecture Series.

Finally, instead of a traditional thesis, the Knowlton School's MArch program culminates with the Exit Review program. The Exit Reviews are a series of public presentations given by each graduating student during their last semester in the program. The process of the Exit Review, which constitutes a student’s Master Examination, diverges from the conventions of thesis in that each student is asked to pause from studio design production in order to both situate their work and more importantly their architectural ideas within the context of the larger flows of cultural history. They are asked to critically examine their own design agenda and to position it relative to larger disciplinary transformations occurring due to the evolving position of the Architect in society. The institutional goal is to have each student exit the program prepared to be an agent of change within the discipline. The School strongly believes that this process will prepare each student to be actively involved in what it means to be an Architect today.


The Master of Architecture curriculum couples advanced professional knowledge with a speculative disciplinary agenda. The G1 year is the foundation year, which develops a student’s critical, technical, and aesthetic sensibilities. The G2 year grounds students in professional competency, while the third year cultivates disciplinary expertise through advanced research. Students admitted with advanced standing bypass the G1 year curriculum unless otherwise notified.

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Year One (G1)

The first year of the MArch program provides students with an immersion into issues pertinent to the discipline and profession of architecture with studios and support courses that focus on the development of the student’s critical, technical, and aesthetic sensibilities.

The G1 studio sequence (ARCH 6410 and 6420) introduces and develops disciplinary and representational fundamentals with a focus on form, ordering systems, drawing conventions, diagrammatic analysis, and the use of historical precedents. Basic issues of site, program, and building tectonics are also introduced.

An autumn-term course, Issues in Contemporary Architecture (ARCH 6210), introduces incoming students to contemporary architectural design and theory, providing them with an introduction to the discipline and a vocabulary of terms and concepts with which to orient themselves within the design studio and the field of architecture more broadly. G1 students take a full year of architectural history (ARCH 5110 and 5120), a full year of building construction (ARCH 5510 and 5520), and the first of two courses in environmental systems (ARCH 5810).

ARCH 6410 Accelerated Arch Design I 6
ARCH 5110 History of Architecture I 4
ARCH 6210 Architectural Theory I 3
ARCH 5510 Construction I 3
Total   16
ARCH 6420 Accelerated Arch Design II 6
ARCH 5120 History of Architecture II 4
ARCH 5810 Systems I 3
ARCH 5520 Construction II 3
Total   16

Year Two (G2)

The second year of the MArch program immerses students in contemporary architectural culture while providing rigorous technical training in building tectonics, structures, mechanical systems, and sustainability.

The first G2 studio (ARCH 7410) develops the disciplinary and representational fundamentals introduced in the first year and establishes a common vocabulary for rising G1 and advanced-placement G2 students. Technical issues related to site, program, structures, building tectonics, and mechanical systems are introduced in the fall term and developed with increasing rigor in the spring comprehensive studio.

History of Architecture 3 (ARCH 5130) provides G2 students with a firm grounding in contemporary architectural culture, with a focus on architectural history and theory of the past fifty years. Technical instruction is provided with a full year of structures (ARCH 5710 and 5720) and the second of two courses in environmental systems (ARCH 5820). In the spring term, students take a second course in architectural theory (ARCH 7220) and the first of three elective seminars, choosing from offerings in architectural history and theory (ARCH 5290), social and political issues (ARCH 5390), and representational and technical issues (ARCH 5590).

ARCH 7410 Advanced Arch Design I 6
ARCH 5710 Structures I * 4
ARCH 5130 History of Architecture III 3
ELECTIVE Elective 3
Total   16
ARCH 7420 Advanced Arch Design II 8
ARCH 7220 Architectural Theory II 3
ARCH 6710 Structures II 3
ARCH 6810 Systems II 3
Total   17

Year Three (G3)

The third year of the MArch program develops all aspects of previous years in the program and positions students to take a leading role in shaping the future of the field. The fall studio (ARCH 7310) is an advanced topic-driven studio led by Knowlton faculty and distinguished visiting faculty (recent visiting faculty include Andrew Atwood, Laura Bouwman, Jackilin Hah Bloom, and Florencia Pita). In these studios, speculative design agendas are the norm, with recent studios focusing on topics including experimental representational and modeling techniques, networked computing, distributed architectural labor, artificial intelligence, and virtual/augmented reality.

In fall, MArch students participate in the Baumer Seminars, a long-standing series of discussions with major practitioners and theorists in contemporary architecture and related fields (recent participants include Rem Koolhaas, Mark Lee and Sharon Johnston, and Mark Z. Danielewski). Students also take a preparatory seminar (ARCH 8220) for their spring Master Project (ARCH 8420), which, based on consultation with architecture faculty, takes the form of an individually determined speculative research project or an advanced studio-based design project and culminates in a group exhibition and symposium. G3 students also take a course in professional practice (ARCH 7310) and two additional elective seminars (ARCH 5290, 5390, or 5590) which support their individual interests and ambitions.

ARCH 8410 Advanced Arch Design III 8
ARCH 8210 Master Practitioner Seminar 3
ARCH 8220 Master Project Prep 3
ELECTIVE Elective 3
Total   17
ARCH 8420 Advanced Arch Design IV 8
ARCH 7310 Professional Practice 3
ELECTIVE Elective 3
Total   14
Need more information? Please contact:

Beth Blostein
Professor of Architecture,
Graduate Studies Chair