M.Arch. Curriculum and Requirements

A View into M.Arch. Studios

From the Ordinary to the Extraordinary, third semester

From the Ordinary to the Extraordinary, a short film by Swedish filmmaker Vincent Skoglund, features the fall 2016 Computational Design Studio led by Jenny Sabin and Martin Miller. Also featured in the film is work by Hannah (Leslie Lok and Sasa Zivkovic with Cornell Robotic Construction Laboratory), Sasa Zivkovic's option studio, Villa Additiva (2016), and thesis work by Christopher Battaglia (M.Arch. '16).

A Different Way of Thinking, fifth semester

A Different Way of Thinking, a short film by Swedish filmmaker Vincent Skoglund, features the fall 2016 expanded practice studio titled Bogotá's los Cerros Orientales: Constructing a Sustainable Relationship Between City and Nature, led by Jeremy Foster and Julian Palacio.

Curriculum Overview

The professional Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) curriculum is designed to support and augment the design studio sequence while allowing each student flexibility to forge an individual path. The design sequence begins with the fundamentals of architectural design as a conceptual discipline, deployed at a range of scales. The second semester focuses on relational and ecological design thinking through the interpretive, analytical, programmatic and generative uses of digital and hybrid media. The Engaged Practices studio (3rd semester) foregrounds socio-cultural issues, and inclusive and resilient design. The Integrative Design studio (4th semester) develops the detailed design of a building.

This is followed by two semesters of Option Studios, where students study in NYC in the fall, with the possibility to elect a continuing NYC-based program (space permitting) or an Ithaca-based program in the spring. In the AAP NYC studios, urban issues are investigated in relation to ecological, technological and cultural practices.  In Ithaca, students select from a robust array of topical territories of investigation, including studios with a focus on ecological issues, social issues, emerging technology, and theory & representation, amongst others. These options allow increased self-determination for the student to hone their own trajectory before entering the final semester, which includes an independent research/design thesis supported by the faculty.

In addition to the design studios, the M.Arch. curriculum comprises a rich offering of required and elective classes in visual representation, architectural theory, history of architecture and urban development, building technology, and professional practice, as well as an array of electives throughout the greater university.

Sample Seven-Semester Curriculum

Below is a sample schedule of classes. This curriculum is for illustrative purposes only. Current students should visit the Courses of Study website for each year's official curriculum.

First-semester M.Arch. classes and credits.
First Semester (Ithaca) Credits
ARCH 5111 Core Design Studio I: FundamentalsIntroduction to fundamental concepts of architectural design and representation, including preliminary notions of site, program, and context. Emphasis on interpretive, analytical, and generative uses of drawing, physical modeling, and digital media in the design process. Focus on issues of context, program and architectonics in the design of a building; introduction to site planning. 6
ARCH 5301 Theories and Analyses of Architecture IIntroduces students to influential critical and creative themes in modern architecture. Topics cover influential 20th-century discourses and practices prior to the 1990s, the questions and contexts that they engage, and their implications for contemporary thinking and design. Discussions and assignments aim at developing critical and graphical readings of both works and writings as integral to the design process. 3
ARCH 5511 Constructed DrawingFocuses on bridging hand-drawing and sketching with digital representation as vehicles for design thinking and perception. Observational, analytical, and transformational exercises develop creative proficiency in freehand drawing and orthographic projection as well as computational thinking. Develops understanding of, and proficiency in, projective drawing, in both analog and digital forms. Students are introuced to a variety of digital representation applications, including modeling, rendering, animation, and scripting. 3
ARCH 5611 Environmental Systems I: Introduction to Sustainable DesignThis course examines the relationships between building, site, landscape and sustainability through the lens of ecology and systems thinking. Topics include: basic concepts of sustainability, energetic processes, climate, spatial data visualization, global warming, solar geometry, landscape processes, microclimates, site strategies and grading, building footprint & sustainable building metrics. 3
ARCH 5801 History of Architecture IThe history of the built environment as social and cultural expression from the earliest times to the beginning of the modern period is studied through selected examples from across the world. Themes, theories, and ideas in architecture and urban design are explored through texts, artifacts, buildings, cities, and landscapes. 3
Total 18


Second-semester M.Arch. classes and credits.
Second Semester (Ithaca) Credits
ARCH 5112 Core Design Studio II: Relational and Ecological DesignFocus on relational and ecological design thinking through interpretive, analytical, programmatic and generative uses of digital media. Emphasis on context, architectonics and systems in the design of a mid-scale building as informed by the analysis of precedents. 6
ARCH 5302 Theories and Analyses of Architecture IIContinuation of ARCH 5301 focusing on themes in architectural discourse, design, and inquiry from the 1990s to the present, and their creative/critical implications. 3
ARCH 5512 Digital Representation and FabricationDevelops understanding of, and proficiency in, projective drawing, in both analog and digital forms. Students continue to develop a variety of digital representation applications, including modeling, rendering, and animation, and scripting. 3
ARCH 5612 Structural ConceptsFundamental concepts of structural behavior. Statics and strength of materials. Introduction to and analysis of simple structural systems. 3
ARCH 5802 History of Architecture IIThe history of the built environment as social and cultural expression from the modern period to the present day is studied through selected examples from across the world. Architecture and urban design themes, theories, and ideas are explored through texts, artifacts, buildings, cities, and landscapes. 3
Total 18


Third-semester M.Arch. classes and credits.
Third Semester (Ithaca) Credits
ARCH 5113 Core Design Studio III: Engaged PracticesThese studios use an expanded form of design practice to address meta-issues in contemporary society. They recognize that architectural production is becoming increasingly heterogeneous and networked, and that real-world projects are seldom defined by site boundaries, or the work of a single profession. Design research and speculation are used to situate projects within larger social, political and environmental systems, creatively and inclusively engage the perspectives of other actors shaping the built environment, and opportunistically orchestrate real world processes and interactions. 6
ARCH 5402 - Architecture, Culture, and SocietySocial and cultural values are both reflected in buildings, landscapes, and cities, and constructed by them. At the same time, this articulation of people and built environments is framed by general socio-economic and political systems of ordering that often transcend locale. This course explores how these complexities might impact design practice, drawing on concepts and methods from disciplines such as anthropology, geography and cultural studies, as well as architectural history and theory, and referring to examples from around the world. 3
ARCH 5613 - Structural SystemsBehavior and design of overall structural systems for buildings. Particular focus on systems used for resisting lateral loads (rigid frames, braced frames and shear walls) and for spanning long distances (trusses and space frames; cables and membranes; and arches, domes, and shells). 3
ARCH 5614 - Building Technology I: Materials and MethodsBuilding construction is examined from the following standpoints: life safety (including fire safety and zoning constraints on site planning); building service systems (plumbing, electrical, vertical transportation, security, fire protection); materials, sustainability, and life-cycle analysis; accessibility; technical documentation and outline specifications. 3

1 elective (Historytheoryvisual representation, or open)*

Total 18


Fourth-semester M.Arch. classes and credits.
Fourth Semester (Ithaca) Credits
ARCH 5114 Core Design Studios IV: Integrative Design PracticesFocus on the development of architectural ideas in constructed, material form. The studio explores emergent topics and constructive methods in contemporary architectural practice. Design study includes the creation of a comprehensive set of representations that describes an architectural project in detail. Students work in collaborative groups and in consultation with advisors drawn from professional practice to develop a project that engages a complex range of topical areas, including: structural and environmental systems, building envelope systems, materiality and construction, life-safety planning, and sustainability. 6
ARCH 5201 Professional PracticeExamination of organizational and management theories and practices for delivering professional design services. Includes a historic overview of the profession and a review of the architect's responsibilities from the pre-contract phase through cost estimating and specifications to construction. Application of computer technology in preparing specifications. 3
ARCH 5615 Building Technology II: Construction ElementsConcepts and procedures for the design, manufacture, and construction of structural components (e.g., walls, columns, beams, slabs) in steel, concrete, masonry, and timber. 3
ARCH 5616 Environmental Systems II: Building DynamicsThis course examines the design and analysis of the building envelope, with a focus on the material and energetic transformations taking place at the boundary between architecture and environment. Topics include: comfort, building thermodynamics, envelope assemblies, thermal modeling, active and passive control systems, daylighting and architectural acoustics. 3
Total 15


Fifth-semester M.Arch. classes and credits.
Fifth Semester (NYC) Credits
ARCH 5116 Vertical Design Option StudioThe vertical studios are topical in nature and engage contemporary issues in architectural practice and research. 6

3 Building tech, history, theory, or visual representation electives*

Total 15


Sixth-semester M.Arch. classes and credits.
Sixth Semester (Ithaca or NYC) Credits
ARCH 5117 Vertical Design Option StudioThe vertical studios are topical in nature and engage contemporary issues in architectural practice and research. 6
ARCH 8911 Proseminar in Design ResearchThis course offers a synthesis of design and research methods for the development of an independent thesis proposal. Course work includes exposure to different theories and practices of design inquiry, explorations of critical positions for individual development, and preparation of a document encapsulating research leading to a thesis proposition. Successful completion of the course, which includes approval of the thesis document, is a prerequisite for advancement into ARCH 8912 - Independent Design Thesis. 3

2 Open electives*

Total 15


Seventh-semester M.Arch. classes and credits.
Seventh Semester (Ithaca) Credits
ARCH 8912 Independent Design ThesisAn independent design project on a topic selected and developed by the student and researched in ARCH 8911. Marking the transition between academic and professional practices, the thesis project is an opportunity for each student to define an individual position with regard to the discipline of architecture. 9

2 Open electives*

Total 15

Total units/credit hours: 114

*A total of eight electives are required for graduation:

  • One required building technology elective
  • One required history elective
  • One required theory elective
  • One required visual representation elective
  • Four open elective classes of 3 or more credits each at the 5000 level or higher
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