Master of Science, Matter Design Computation

The Matter Design Computation (MDC) program is a two-year research degree culminating in a master of science. Students pursue architectural research in areas of material computation, adaptive architecture, and digital fabrication. Two of the most promising technologies are 3D printing and rapid assembly via robotics for manufacturing of individual and continuous component parts. Together, these technologies are geared towards becoming indispensable tools for nonlinear manufacturing and design, automated building construction, as well as complex form making.

The MDC program, directed by Jenny Sabin, aims to engage and develop a new material practice in architecture through nonlinear generative and digital fabrication of material and form across disciplines. Students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds investigate the intersections of architecture and science and apply insights and theories from biology and mathematics to the design, fabrication, and production of material structures. While nonlinear concepts are widely applied in analysis and generative design in architecture, they have not yet convincingly translated into the material realm of fabrication and construction. No longer solely privileging column, beam, and arch, this definition of architectural tectonics has broadened alongside advancements made in computational design at the intersection of architecture, biology, materials science, and engineering. How have these advancements impacted material practice in architecture, engineering, and construction at economic, technological, and cultural levels? How might these issues be addressed during the design process? The main thrust of this program concerns the evolution, discourse, and application of material and digital fabrication processes in architecture and in the built environment.

Specific subtopics within these broad categories include:

  • Biomimicry and bioinspired design
  • Sustainability
  • Ecological architecture
  • Computational design
  • Experimental structures
  • Applications of material science
  • Emerging technologies
  • Robotic fabrication and 3D printing

The MDC is an interdisciplinary program housed in the Graduate Field of Architecture and represented by a core of faculty from the departments of Architecture, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Fiber Science and Apparel Design, Materials Science and Engineering, Computer Science, and Biological and Environmental Engineering. Students with an undergraduate or graduate degree in architecture, engineering, biological or materials science, or computer science are likely candidates for the MDC program.

The M.S. MDC program is now designated as a STEM program in Architectural and Building Sciences/Technology (CIP code 04.0902) making international M.S. AAD graduates eligible to extend their F-1 visas for up to three years in order to work in the United States.

Students enrolling in the MDC program use the facilities of Cornell AAP, the Sabin Design Lab, the Robotic Construction Laboratory, the Environmental Systems Lab, and the Circular Construction Lab within the Department of Architecture.

Program Objectives

  • To afford an opportunity for students of architecture to expand their creative design potential by increasing their knowledge and understanding of material and computational design, digital fabrication, and emerging materials and technologies at the nexus of biology, materials science, and architecture
  • To provide a framework within which students who have graduated from other disciplines may explore advanced architectural design, material and computational design, and digital fabrication
  • To promote transdisciplinary collaboration and hybrid thinking in design to prepare students for emerging careers in both the academy and in practice and industry

M.S. MDC Curriculum and Requirements


M.S. MDC Affiliated Faculty

screenshot of a computer with blue and white background and a workflow window
Environmental Systems Lab image / provided
blue, white, and brown stained glass behind metal branch construction
Circular Construction Lab copyright / Zoey Braun, Stuttgart
people standing around a robotic arm
Sabin Lab photo / William Staffeld
robotic chainsaw arm preparing to cut a log
Cornell Robotic Construction Laboratory photo / provided
Environmental Systems Lab image / provided Circular Construction Lab copyright / Zoey Braun, Stuttgart Sabin Lab photo / William Staffeld Cornell Robotic Construction Laboratory photo / provided

Assistant Professor Timur Dogan
Faculty Profile
Environmental Systems Lab

Assistant Professor Felix Heisel
Faculty Profile
Circular Construction Lab

Assistant Professor Leslie Lok
Faculty Profile

Assistant Professor of Practice Martin Miller
Faculty Profile

Arthur L. and Isabel B. Wiesenberger Professor in Architecture and Director of the M.S. MDC program Jenny E. Sabin
Faculty Profile
Sabin Lab

Assistant Professor Sasa Zivkovic
Faculty Profile
The Cornell Robotic Construction Lab

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