Master of Architecture

Laurie Hawkinson

Director: M.Arch Advanced Studios

Michael Bell

Director: M.Arch Core Studios

Hilary Sample

Coordinator: M.Arch Housing Studio

Galia Solomonoff

Coordinator: M.Arch Core Studio I

The Master of Architecture Program is a three-year first professional degree program that examines the importance of architectural design concepts in relation to historic and contemporary issues in an evolving culture.

Being part of a great university located in a major metropolis has determined much of what is unique about the Architecture Program. The School is not only able to attract excellent faculty members, but it is also able to draw upon the large and diverse community of architects, theorists, practitioners, and scholars in New York. Thus the program is able to expose student architects to architecture as a complex and pluralistic cultural endeavor.

At the same time that it explores the richness of architecture culture, the program seeks to provide an orderly system for integrating the various aspects of architectural study. Therefore, the curriculum is broadly divided into the study of history and theory, technology, methods, visual studies, and design. Learning about architecture involves, on the one hand, examining those historical, social, cultural, technical, and economic forces that shape buildings; on the other hand, it means mastering these forces with means traditionally available to the architect. The design studio is the main focus of the curriculum in that it offers the opportunity to integrate and synthesize what is being studied.

In general, the program seeks to impart basic principles and knowledge, to develop visual and analytical skills, and to relate creativity to given cultural situations. It is hoped that architects, thus trained, will be able to use their knowledge and insight by responding to and improving the built environment.

Summary of the Master of Architecture Program

To graduate with a Master of Architecture degree, a student is required to complete 108 graduate-level course points that are approved by the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. These course points are a combination of required courses, a certain number of points of distribution course requirements, and elective course points. The courses are divided into the following categories: Studio, History/Theory, Building Technologies, Visual Studies, Methods/Practice, and Elective. Each category (except Elective) has requirements that must be fulfilled.


The Master of Architecture Program attempts to distinguish itself from similar programs elsewhere by stressing the importance of developing an understanding of, and an ability to apply, architectural concepts in relation to broader historic and contemporary issues. The objective of the program is to assist the student in developing a theoretical basis for decision making in design, while maintaining intense exposure to a broad spectrum of philosophical and cultural attitudes. The faculty believes that a variety of pedagogical approaches delivered with clearly defined objectives best suits the needs of the heterogeneous graduate student population.

The program comprises four major components, together forming the educational matrix that is the core of the Columbia experience:

1. A student body with interest in the profession of architecture and with diverse backgrounds in many areas of intellectual endeavor, all contributing to the richness of the program.

2. A faculty of experienced teachers, both practitioners and researchers, all of whom are expected to relate their extracurricular work to their teaching responsibilities.

3. A program of study consisting of lectures, seminars, and studios, whose objectives are definable but whose form is malleable in response to changing cultural attitudes and social needs.

4. A setting of the most effective physical facilities, including classrooms, studios, auditoriums, shops, and libraries. In addition, the cultural milieu of New York City is an ever-present advantage that gives the program its unique qualities.

The focus of the entire program is the Architecture Design Studio. It is a carefully structured three-year course of study that prepares the student for roles related to the design of buildings and other environmental artifacts. This design activity is augmented by five other areas of study. The History/Theory Sequence broadens the student’s perceptions of his or her design activity, through the historical and theoretical examination of the cultural role of design activity. The Building Technologies Sequence prepares the student to understand the structural, constructional, and material consequences and constraints on design decisions. The Visual Studies Sequence provides specialized investigation that complements the normal studio work, including both manual and computer-aided drawing courses. The Methods/Practice Sequence prepares the student to undertake management and professional practice activities. The Elective Sequence, which permits the student to pursue individual interests in architectural and environmental topics, may become, in certain cases, the basis for pursuing advanced study in specialized areas beyond the M.Arch. degree.

Studio Culture

A dynamic and supportive studio culture is the central aspect of life at the GSAPP for both students and design faculty and the core of the learning culture. The studio environment is fundamentally collaborative, in both the formal sense of design studios such as the first semester of the second year requiring students to work in teams, and in the informal sense of students at all levels sharing skills, insights, and information. But also in the sense of faculty collaborating with students, particularly in the advanced studios. Mutual respect and shared enthusiasm drives the studio culture. Interdisciplinary work is encouraged. Faculty-to-student ratios are maintained that allow for optimal contact hours with each student. Core studio deadlines are coordinated with other core courses to avoid overload and final studio reviews and history/theory/technology assignments are staggered to minimize any overlap of deadline. Design reviews are conducted in the spirit of open debate among both faculty and students and are open to other students and visitors to the School. A comprehensive on-site computer infrastructure, installed and managed by the GSAPP, as well as on-site advanced modeling and fabrication facilities, encourage students to work in the design studios on a regular basis. Campus security allows students to feel comfortable 24 hours a day. This is supplemented with regular social activities, as well as a wide range of public, evening lectures and other events that enhance the overall GSAPP environment as a site of ongoing cultural exchange. In sum, the overall studio experience is one of the highlights of a GSAPP education.

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