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 one year of conceptual design at a range of scales from the body to the city. Second year begins with a computational design and fabrication studio, followed by a semester in the AAP NYC space during which the integrative studio engages with New York City–based practices, consultants, and institutions. The third year, based in Ithaca, begins with the Expanded Practice studio which sets the conceptual thinking and making of previous studios next to global issues and non-standard practices. In the second to last semester of the program, students may choose from a robust array of option studios which allows each student to hone his/her own trajectory before entering the final semester, an independent research/design thesis supported by the faculty.

In support of the design studios, the M.Arch. curriculum comprises a rich offering of required and elective classes in visual representation, history and theory of architecture, building technology, and professional practice.

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 IIntroduction 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. 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 1960s, 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. 3
ARCH 5511 Constructed Drawing IFocuses 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 line drawing and orthographic projection as well as computational thinking. 3
ARCH 5611 Environmental Systems I: Site and SustainabilityThis 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 IIContinuation of subjects developed in the first term. Focus on issues of program and architectonics in the design of a building type in context; introduction to site planning. 6
ARCH 5302 Theories and Analyses of Architecture IIContinuation of  focusing on themes in architectural discourse, design, and inquiry from the 1960s to the present, and their creative/critical implications. 3
ARCH 5512 Constructed Drawing IIDevelops 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 IIIFocus on relational and ecological design thinking through interpretive, analytical, programmatic and generative uses of digital media. Emphasis on context, nonstandard architectonics and systems in the design of a mid-scale building. 6
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
History elective or theory elective* 3
Visual representation elective 3
Total 18


Fourth-semester M.Arch. classes and credits.
Fourth Semester (AAP NYC) 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 design, manufacturing, and construction in steel, concrete, masonry, timber, and new materials supplemented by examples and case studies. Taught concurrently with the integrative design studio, this course will also include field trips to construction sites, recently completed buildings, and/or fabrication shops/labs, in order to understand and design the integration of elements in both contemporary and emerging construction and fabrication. 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
Open elective 3
Total 18


Fifth-semester M.Arch. classes and credits.
Fifth Semester (Ithaca) Credits
ARCH 5115 Core Design Studios V: Expanded PracticesThese studios use an expanded form of design practice to address meta-issues in global urbanism. 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. On-site design research and speculation are used to situate projects within larger social, political and environmental systems, creatively 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
Visual representation elective 3
History or theory or visual representation elective* 3
Total 15


Sixth-semester M.Arch. classes and credits.
Sixth Semester (Ithaca) Credits
ARCH 5116 Vertical Design 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 . 3
Open elective 3
History or theory or visual representation elective* 3
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
Open elective 3
Total 12

Total units/credit hours: 114

*A total of eight electives are required for graduation:

  • One theory elective
  • One history elective
  • One visual representation elective
  • One building technology elective
  • Four open elective classes of 3 or more credits each at the 3000 level or higher
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