The Master of Architecture is a three-year professional degree, which weaves together the highest level of disciplinary expertise with the critical and technical skills necessary to recast the boundaries of the discipline, building on a long legacy of groundbreaking innovation in the fields of architecture and design.
At Columbia GSAPP, architecture is understood as a form of knowledge situated within a broader context of environmental and global engagement, building on strong historical and theoretical foundations, which are always actively reframing our contemporary cultural condition.
By bringing together a progressive approach to architectural education—where pedagogy is simultaneously rigorously structured with definable objectives and constantly re-examined to respond to ever-changing contexts—the Master of Architecture program creates a sense of openness, inquisitiveness and intellectual generosity that enables individual development and collaborative thinking.
Being part of an elite research university located in a major global city has determined much of what is unique about the architecture program, which means that at Columbia GSAPP, architecture is always understood in relation to its urban and environmental context. In addition to its excellent full time faculty, at once deeply embedded in city and campus life, Columbia GSAPP is also able to draw upon the large and diverse community of architects, theorists, practitioners, and scholars in New York as well as from around the world. Thus the program exposes students to architecture as a complex, and diverse cultural endeavor.
As it seeks to impart basic principles and knowledge, to develop visual and analytical skills, and to relate creativity to given cultural situations, the school offers student-architects the means to use their knowledge and insight to better respond to and improve the built environment, while always contributing to expanding the field of architecture and design in meaningful ways.
The Master of Architecture program at GSAPP stresses the importance of understanding and applying architectural concepts in relation to broader historical and contemporary issues. The objective of the program is to enable students to develop a theoretical basis for decision making in design, while maintaining intense exposure to a broad spectrum of philosophical and cultural attitudes.
The Architecture Design Studio integrates the knowledge acquired in the five other areas of studies. The History and Theory Sequence broadens the student’s perceptions through the historical and theoretical examination. The Building Technology Sequence prepares the student to understand the structural, 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 Professional Practice Sequence prepares the student to undertake management and professional practice activities. The Elective Sequence permits the student to pursue individual interests in architectural and environmental topics.
While the Design Studio sequence is roughly divided between Core and Advanced Studios, the intent is for a gradient from Core to Advanced with every semester offering a combination of both, where small and large, local and global, the aesthetic and the performative, the real and its representation, the urban and the natural are all engaged not in opposition but in conversation, as student explore and redefine architecture as field, network and extended object all at once.
The core is 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 M.Arch 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 as a conclusion to the Core but also as a transition to the Advanced Studios, specifically transitioning to the 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.
Urban conditions continue to drive discourse on the global stage. As cities grow globally and see the effects 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 it efficient performance in buildings has become the critical issue across architecture to address the questions of global climate change. And 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 them as they graduate.
The technology sequence is fundamental to changing the course of architecture. It is an integral part of the school and part of the 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.