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Master of Architecture

Overview

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.

Curriculum

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
Spring 2019
Hilary Sample, Core Design Studios
At the GSAPP, the Core Design Studios introduce students to architecture through an inclusive understanding of history, cities, typology, and performance. Today, students engage the world through the increasingly global information on buildings, materials, structures, digital processes, media, and communications. These digital processes and networks that were once theorized have become a commonplace part of our contemporary world. As a result, architecture is less and less of an exclusive and autonomous profession. These social aspects are perhaps the hardest things to teach within a school, but remain a critical part of the Columbia GSAPP pedagogy.

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.

David Benjamin, Advanced Design Studios
The Advanced Studios build on the ideas and skills developed in the Core Studios, and bring together students in the Master of Architecture and Master of Sciences in Advanced Architectural Design programs. These studios, which take place during the students’ final two semesters at the School, have always explored the future of architecture in a diversity of ways. Each studio creates its own world—with its own intersection of social, cultural, formal, material, economic, and environmental concerns—and students have almost 20 worlds to choose from. After selecting a studio, students conduct experiments and develop projects through concepts and massings, programs and forms, drawings and models, materials and atmospheres, metrics and narratives.

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.

Lola Ben-Alon, Building Science and Technology
For the next generation of architects, technology has become a greater and more differentiating force than ever before. As computational power increases at exponential rates and data becomes ubiquitous, formal methodologies in architectural design are giving way to an evidence basis. New modes of making in architecture are being disrupted through changes in manufacturing, materials, and information technologies in a globalized world. While bricks and mortar may have been central to earlier methods of architecture, today the focus is squarely on performance of design in the built environment. Does design drive greater productivity? A better sense of community and well-being? Lower energy use? Less material waste? Broader and shared economic development? The subjective narratives of decades past on these subjects are today turning into data and hard facts. Performance and its measurement and verification have become a function of an architecture searching for the right solutions.

Urban conditions continue to drive discourse on the global stage. As cities grow globally and see the impact of unprecedented migration, the effects of design are ever present. Scarcity of resources, driven by rapid population growth and demographic change, need to be addressed head-on by the architectural community. Energy and its efficient performance in buildings has become the critical issue across architecture to address the questions of global climate change. Even while working harder inside the building construct, architects must think outside the building boundary, to wider notions of integration in systems including water, transportation, waste, and energy. These are the pieces of a global puzzle that will be waiting for students as they graduate.

The Building Science and Technology sequence is fundamental in changing the course of architecture. It is an integral part of the school and training for the next generation of architects that will shape our built environment. Students must explore and experiment as always, but realize that abilities to rationalize and prove are more interconnected with design as it touches every aspect of development across the world.

Reinhold Martin, History and Theory
The History and Theory of Architecture curriculum at Columbia GSAPP aims to develop a critical, historical consciousness among students preparing for diverse forms of architectural practice. Central to this is a worldly understanding, in depth and in breadth, of a complex cultural, social, ecological, and technological past. The bearing of that past on contemporary debates and practices is an important focus, as is the relation of architectural history to other disciplines. From the outset, the curriculum equips students with questions suited to ongoing inquiry into “global” or planetary history, with an emphasis on both continuity and change.
The process of critical inquiry begins in the first year, with the two-semester core sequence, “Questions in Architectural History,” focused on the interaction of architecture and modernity across two centuries and taught by a group of senior history and theory faculty. In addition to introducing students to key examples, themes, and relationships, the course asks whose history is being studied, how, and why. The sequence continues into the second and third years with a series of distribution requirements that allow students to pursue selected topics in greater depth, while ensuring exposure to a range of geographically, culturally, and historically diverse contexts and subject matter. Students may also take related courses in humanities departments across the University to meet or supplement these requirements.
Laura Kurgan, Visual Studies
Visualization is never just presentation—it is a way of thinking, designing, and drawing spaces at all scales. In a series of courses across all programs, the Visual Studies sequence exposes students to a wide range of tools and techniques and foregrounds both their uses and their limits. The sequence seeks to initiate interdisciplinary dialogues across the school and address the dynamic nature of our visual culture.
The courses and workshops are divided into three broad sets of methods in visualization: quantitative, qualitative, and translational (hybrid). The variety of trajectories possible within the sequence of classes—required and elective—promotes an individual exploration of visualization, fostering innovation and creative methods. Courses are either full semester (3 credits) or half semester (7 weeks, 1.5 credits). Teaching generally follows a “flipped classroom” format with students acquiring skills in tutorials outside of class and devoting class work to methodological and creative discussions exploring the limits and underlying concepts which guide those techniques.
Current Faculty
Olga Aleksakova
Mark Anderson
José Aragüez
Erieta Attali
Nitzan Bartov
Amina Blacksher
Jelisa Blumberg
Gabrielle Brainard
Joseph Brennan
Laurel Broughton
Julia Burdova
Benjamin Cadena
Tei Carpenter
Christopher Cowell
Phillip Crupi
Jason Danforth
Nicole Dosso
Kyle Dugdale
Yasser Elsheshtawy
Adam Frampton
Jared Friedman
Emily Fuhrman
James Graham
Robert Heintges
Robert Herrmann
Andrew Heumann
Celeste Layne
Amy Lelyveld
Giuseppe Lignano
Stephanie Lin
Robert Marino
Jacqueline Martinez
Rustam Mehta
Catherine Murphy
Anton Nelson
Davidson Norris
Toshihiro Oki
Alessandro Orsini
Nicolai Ouroussoff
Ilias Papageorgiou
Daniel Perlin
Paul Preissner
Anna Puigjaner
Michael Rock
Rachely Rotem
Ana Paula Ruiz Galindo
Victoria Sanger
Greg Schleusner
Kevin Schorn
Eva Schreiner
Martino Stierli
Salim Tamari
Andreas Tjeldflaat
Dimitra Tsachrelia
Marc Tsurumaki
Shanta Tucker
Michael Vahrenwald
David van der Leer
Zachary White
Lindsey Wikstrom
Chris Woebken
Alexander Wood
Lydia Xynogala
Andrea Zanderigo
Emmett Zeifman
Snoweria Zhang

Summer 2021 Courses

Course Semester Title Student Work Instructor Syllabus Requirements & Sequence Location & Time Session & Points Call No.
A4050‑1 Summer 2021
Arch Elective Internship
Karen Cover SEE KAREN COVER
1.5 Points
12161
A6900‑1 Summer 2021
Research I
Danielle Smoller
2 or 3 Points
12530

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