Columbia GSAPP’s Master of Architecture program is a three-year accredited professional degree program and is regularly ranked one of the top architecture graduate programs in the country. At GSAPP, architecture is understood as a form of knowledge inextricably linked to a broader context of environmental and global action—one that is oriented not towards what architecture is but towards what it could be. Today, the Master of Architecture program pushes this understanding of architectural experimentation and re-invention forward, with faculty and students weaving together critical discourse with technological skill, disciplinary expertise with expanded modes of practices, and design speculation with engagement in the issues of our time.
Building on the School’s recent commitment to advancing architecture alongside more global and contemporary perspectives, GSAPP’s Master of Architecture program has focused on expanding its design capacities, building practices, and discursive potentials. The program finds its strength in the diversity of its faculty and their approaches to architecture. Its pedagogy is, simultaneously, rigorously structured and constantly re-examined to respond to ever-changing contexts—welcoming the openness, inquisitiveness, and intellectual generosity that enable and foster new avenues for individual development and collective directions for the field.
The Master of Architecture is a designated STEM program eligible under the CIP (Classification of Instructional Programs) Code 04.0902: Architectural and Building Sciences/Technology. Learn more about STEM designation.
All Master of Architecture students must complete prerequisites before the start of the program. Please review the M.ARCH Prerequisites webpage for full details.
The Master of Architecture program is centered on the Architecture Design Studio and the three curricular sequences that orbit it: History and Theory, Visual Studies, and Technology. While the sequences run in parallel, they are also designed to be brought together at critical junctures: through the intersection of specific exercises and through broader project integration. Supplementing these main pedagogical tracks is an Elective sequence and a required Professional Practice course. Prior to graduation, students are required to submit a portfolio of representative work from each semester, which is evaluated by all studio faculty. Portfolio reviews are a hallmark event at the school and the top portfolios are awarded the most prestigious prizes at the annual Commencement Ceremony.
The Architecture Design Studio sequence is divided between Core and Advanced Studios. The Core Studios consists of the first three semesters. It is structured to build knowledge on the fundamentals of architectural design through the theme of “Architecture and the City” and through an inclusive and expansive understanding of history, cities, typology, and performance. Core I focuses on acquiring analytical and drawing skills; Core II tackles the design of an institutional building; and Core III concludes the sequence with the Housing Studio.
Advanced Studios consists of the last three semesters, with the last two composed of nearly eighteen studios that together explore new instruments, techniques, and formats of design across a multiplicity of existing realities. The studios function as laboratories for discussion, where students and critics practice new ways of mobilizing architectural concepts, programs, tools, and methods to intervene on specific layers of the everyday. After focusing on the problem of architectural practice and its agency in the world, from spring 2019, the sequence focuses on “Architecture and Environment” as a fundamental question for the field.
The History and Theory curriculum stresses a b road social and cultural approach to architectural history, with particular attention to emerging global concerns. Architectural history is seen in terms of a rich matrix of parameters—political, economic, artistic, technological, and discursive—that have had a role in shaping the discipline. Students are introduced to a range of subjects broadly distributed in both space (geography) and time (chronology), and are encouraged to think and work across categorical East-West and North-South distinctions and the asymmetries these binaries often reproduce, and to consider both continuity and change across 1800 as the threshold that marks the end of the European Enlightenment and the beginning of worldwide industrialization.
The Visual Studies curriculum registers how the visual in design has multiplied exponentially, especially by way of computation, and invites students and faculty to rethink how it intersects with pedagogy, projects, and practices. Through a careful survey of drawing’s new temporal nature, students discover methods to harness the potential of drawing, engage with today’s visual diversity, and communicate extraordinary visions. The sequence offers a wide range of tools and techniques designed to expose students to the potentials and limits of these tools and techniques and is divided into three broad sets of workshops: analysis/representation, design environments, and fabrication. This variety of possible trajectories promotes individual approaches to visualization and fosters invention.
The Technology curriculum is founded on the belief that the realities of building technology are integral to design exploration and experimentation, especially as computational power and data have become ubiquitous, and changes in manufacturing, materials, and information technologies are shaping new modes of thinking and making. Recognizing how performance—its measurement and verification—has become not only a primary function of architectural “solutions,” but also a generator of architectural concepts, the sequence aims to encourage critical and creative approaches to data and measurement and the discovery of new design opportunities and paradigms.
GSAPP End of Year Show
1 - UP Project
2 - Pool Project
The Core Studios are structured through a sequence of carefully constructed design studios where students increasingly gain new knowledge through making, implementing ideas and experimenting with the problems of architecture: from form to materials, from small to large scale, and from comfort to environment. Studios explore architecture within urban contexts from New York City and other cities around the world, situating experimental architectural thought within the world-at-large.
Rather than moving from the extra small to the large, the Core sequence builds in the small and the large in relation to one another throughout the first three semesters of the Master of Architecture sequence. After the first semester’s focus on acquiring analytical and drawing skills, Core II takes as a project the design of an institutional building, and Core III culminates in the housing studio. This semester serves not only as a conclusion to the core sequence but also as a transition to the Advanced Studios, specifically transitioning to the Advanced Studio IV: Scales of Environment.
While the studios are structured to present knowledge about fundamentals of architecture as they apply to design, from the scale of a house to that of a building or housing project, the core sequence aims to inspire a shift in thinking about architecture in relation to the world.
At the same time, the various students and faculty of the Advanced Studios engage in a shared discussion about the most interesting research, practice, ideas, and design of the built environment. In the fall of 2018 this shared discussion focused on the theme of “Global Practice,” and during the following spring it focused on “Architecture and Environment.” Global Practice covered design as the distinctive tool of architects in contributing to the construction of the future. It investigated the field’s extraordinary accumulation of essays and research that can be considered a cross-section of the present. Architecture and Environment built on the hypothesis that climate change is ground zero for a shared discussion about architecture’s engagement with the world. Responding to climate change involves not only technical aspects (such as energy consumption and carbon footprint) but also social and political aspects (such as inequality and public policy). In this context, the Advanced Studios were framed as a unique opportunity to address climate change at the scale of the building and to address climate change through design.
Throughout each semester, studio-wide sessions involve a series of conversations and resources for the studios to draw on, including external guest lectures, faculty project talks, and paired studio exchanges. This concludes with a Super-Crit session during which each studio shares a single student project and guest critics respond to the studio-wide themes and issues.
To this end, the Building Science and Technology sequence is geared towards creating novel and radical experimental forms of technology, while celebrating the tactile interaction between people, materials, structures, and the built environments. The sequence covers a range of topics, from fabrication technologies and emerging healthy assemblies, through supply chain mechanisms of low-carbon and readily available building materials, to net zero and passive housing. The Tech elective course selection not only provides tools for performance analysis, but also to crafting new ways of understanding and imagining socially equitable and environmentally sound futures.
Also awaiting your discovery are the sequence event series. From the Tech Walks to the Tech Shops, the sequence offers events that converge lectures, street walking, software learning, and architecture technology and ecology in the local context of NYC. Focusing on the social and environmental impacts of building and urban technologies and narratives, the sequence event series include creative interventions with a revised outlook on social, cultural, and economic forces on building and ecological systems.
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Arch Elective Internship
Mapping and Data