Master of Architecture

The MArch degree prepares students for professional registration as architects in the United States. The MIT Department of Architecture offers the MArch degree, which is a professional degree structured to educate those who aspire to licensed registration as architects. It is the centerpiece of the Department of Architecture.

Architectural design studios are the center of the MArch program. Faculty in the Design discipline group provide the core of the professional education through the studio program. Studios begin with a 'core' sequence of three studios, followed by three 'option' studios and culminating with a design thesis. The great majority of students enter the program and graduate in 3.5 years. A small number of students who have completed a four-year undergraduate degree in architecture at another school, may be admitted with advanced entry to the program and graduate in 2.5 years.

The pedagogical approaches that faculty bring to the teaching of architectural design derive both from their years of professional (often award-winning) practice and from their engagement with design research within the environments at MIT and beyond. The 'core' sequence of studios is structured to provide students with an intense and immersive experience in the contemporary discipline of design, where the understanding of drawing, geometry, representation and fabrication is integrated with classes that bring a core understanding of building technology and sustainability, architectural culture and precedent, urban theory and computation in architecture. During this three-semester sequence, students work through a series of exercises of increased complexity which form the launching pad for further investigative design studies in the option studios.

The three semester 'options' studios engage both MIT design faculty and a series of visiting studio professors noted for their work in contemporary practice. The problems that are chosen that relate to the issues in practice and society challenging the architectural profession and include a variety of offerings that vary in scale, context and content. Studios are also offered that interface to the joint program in City Design and Development. Studios often address cultural or urban problems in other countries- and recent studios have traveled to India, Japan, Iceland, Taipei, Brazil and China. Other studios might work on sites close to MIT including downtown Boston, its greater metropolitan area, and surrounding towns and cities- or might focus on theoretical or technical issues that culminate in fabrication and assembly, or even publications. In general design problems always include an awareness of issues of ecology and the broader debates of sustainability, and urbanism that combine with the search for appropriate expression of the specific culture and locale.

Studios will address problems that may, on the surface, be more technical, dealing for example, with the development of new building envelopes that have improved environmental as well as visual performance. Others may be more experimental in nature, utilizing some of the new digitally based tools for fabrication and assembly, as well as techniques for testing and simulation.

Students in the MArch program recognize the many possible roles within the architecture profession, and therefore should develop a responsibility for structuring their own educational programs, particularly in the selection of elective classes. While the curriculum specifies that students enroll in a range of subjects in several interrelated fields, they have some choice within each study area and an opportunity to concentrate in an area which they may define. Students are urged to have the concentration be reflected in their design theses.

Subsection

Admissions for MArch

Applicants seeking admission to the MArch program compete each year for the approximately 30 places available. An admissions committee made up of both faculty and MArch students evaluates applicants individually. There is no specific "type" of applicant; MIT seeks to accept people with varied backgrounds and experiences. Applicants must demonstrate intellectual achievement, motivation, discipline, responsibility, imagination, perception and an open mind. Projects and experiences are judged, not only on their intrinsic merit, but also on evidence of the applicant's ability to initiate and follow through on work that is personally meaningful.

Students entering without any previous formal study of architecture will normally take 3-1/2 years to complete the MArch degree program. We admit a large enough group of graduate students in this category to form a cohesive class. They begin with one year of common architectural design studio and develop a sense of continuity and support for each other and for the activities of the department.

Those applicants who have taken architectural design at accredited architecture schools may be given some credit and/or advanced standing for their previous academic work. Their point of entry into the design sequence is determined by the admissions committee and if approved, will be admitted with advanced entry to complete the program in 2-1/2 years of study.

Applicants who already hold professional degrees are not admitted to the MArch program but instead should apply to the SMArchS program of their choice. A professional degree in architecture is a degree that provides training to become a licensed architect.

Deadline and Submissions

MArch Admissions Requirements

The program requires the following academic preparation:

  • A Bachelor's degree with high academic standing from a recognized institution or, in the judgment of the department, the equivalent of this degree.
  • Two semesters of satisfactory study in college-level mathematics (such as, algebra, geometry, pre-calculus, calculus).
  • Two semesters of satisfactory study in college-level natural sciences (such as, physics, biology, chemistry).
  • Six semesters of satisfactory study in college-level humanities and/or social sciences.

Students may be admitted with limited deficiencies in 2, 3, or 4 above, but this deficiency must be removed prior to entry into the second year of graduate study in the department.

Online Application

Application Fee

Recommendations

Transcripts

Statement of Objectives

English Proficiency Requirement

The minimum score required for MArch candidates is 7 and the minimum TOEFL score is 600 (250 for computer-based test, 100 for Internet-based test). While either test score is accepted, the IELTS score is preferred.

Graduate Record Examination

Portfolio

A non-returnable portfolio is required of all MArch applicants, including those who do not have a previous architecture degree or background.

Interviews

Interviews are not required for MArch applicants, however, we encourage all MArch applicants to attend our Open House event in mid November. All prospective students are welcome to visit the Department. If you would like to visit the campus for a student tour of the Department, please contact in advance of your trip:

Annette Horne-Williams

Decisions and Notifications

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Subsection

Degree requirements for MArch

Residency

Those who have not yet studied in a department of architecture and are admitted to MArch at Year 1 require 3½ academic years of residency to fulfill the degree requirements. Students who have graduated with a four-year architectural design undergraduate degree at an accredited architectural school can be considered for advanced entry to Year 2, subject to compatibility with the Year 1 curriculum and an acceptable design portfolio.

Faculty Advising

A faculty advisor with a design background will be assigned to each MArch student before the first term of registration. This advisor will monitor the student’s progress through completion of the degree. 

Subjects and Credit Units

The MArch is awarded upon satisfactory completion of an approved program of at least 164 units, 96 of which must be H-level subjects, and an acceptable thesis. Those who have not yet studied in a department of architecture must complete a program of 312 units, 96 of which must be H-level subjects, and an acceptable 24-unit thesis. 

Subjects required for the 3½-year program include:

  • Six architectural design studios (3 core studios and 3 option studios)
  • Freehand Drawing (4.103)—Applicable for students entering 2010 or earlier.
  • Geometric Disciplines and Architectural Skills (4.105)
  • Complete Fabrication Workshop (4.109)
  • Introduction to Computation (4.561)
  • Four Building Technology subjects (4.461, 4.462, 4.463, 4.464)
  • Precedents in Critical Practice (4.210)
  • Architecture from 1750 to the Present (4.645)
  • One History, Theory and Criticism restricted elective (4.607, 4.647 or 4.646)
  • One History, Theory and Criticism open elective (4.6xx)
  • Urban Design elective
  • Professional Practice (4.222)
  • Computation/Media Lab elective
  • ACT elective (4.3xx)
  • Three elective subjects that form a concentration
  • Two free elective subjects
  • MArch Thesis Preparation (4.189)
  • Thesis (4.ThG)

All elective subjects must be at least nine units.

MArch Curriculum Chart (PDF) download

Credit for Previous Academic Work

MArch students who have successfully completed the equivalent of one or more required architecture subjects outside MIT (or within MIT as undergraduates) may be given advanced credit for those subjects by submitting a petition for curriculum adjustment with all relevant material including a transcript, syllabi, reading lists, problem sets, paper assignments, and portfolios of work for ACT/Visual Arts electives. Petitions are submitted to [#Cynthia Stewart] by the end of the first week of the term, and are then reviewed by the MArch Program Committee, which is composed of one faculty member from each of the four discipline groups, and acted on in the first month of the semester. Depending on the subject for which MIT credit is requested, students may substitute an elective in the discipline group or substitute a free elective. All requests for advanced credit must be resolved by the beginning of the penultimate semester.

Students admitted to Year 2 receive two semesters of studio credit with the letter of admission. It is assumed these students will have completed a curriculum roughly equivalent to the MIT Year 1 at their previous universities. The Program Committee reviews transcripts for these students in the summer before they enter and make recommendations for any necessary curriculum adjustments. Students and faculty advisors are notified of these recommendations before Registration Day.

English Proficiency Requirement

All students whose first language is not English are required to take the English Evaluation Test (EET) prior to registration at MIT. Even students who satisfy the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) requirement for admission may be required to take specialized subjects in English as a Second Language (ESL), depending on their EET results. These subjects do not count toward the required units but will prove helpful to students who need to develop the skills necessary to write a thesis.

Policy on Incomplete Subjects and Thesis Semester

MArch students may have no more than one incomplete in a required subject when they register for thesis (4.THG). This incomplete can be no older than one term (received the term prior to thesis registration).

Students who have incompletes from several subjects or incompletes from earlier terms will be denied registration until those subjects are finished and graded. This policy applies to incompletes in subjects required by the degree curriculum or needed for units toward the degree. 

Academic Audits

A chart indicating progress through the academic requirements will be maintained as part of each student’s file. The administrator of master’s degree programs will distribute this audit to students at the end of each regular term and to faculty advisors on Registration Day each term.

Concentration

The concentration required within the MArch curriculum is a sequence of at least three elective subjects that cohere around a defined set of educational goals. The intent of the concentration requirement is to provide structure for a student’s own exploration of MIT’s resources. The concentration often provides effective preparation for the thesis.

Concentration affects the student’s curriculum beginning in the second semester of Year 2.  Each student must complete a concentration form and present it to his or her academic advisor on or before Registration Day of the second term at Year 2. 

The statement on the concentration form must

  • identify the student’s issue or proposed focus;
  • describe how the set of subjects coheres and how the concentration might lead to thesis;
  • list as many subjects as possible that seem relevant.

Academic advisors will discuss and approve concentration proposals on Registration Day of the student’s second semester of Year 2. A copy of the concentration proposal, signed by the academic advisor, must be filed with the administrator for master’s degree programs. The academic advisor and the administrator for master’s degree programs monitor each student’s progress in his/her concentration.

Thesis Preparation and Thesis

The core of the MArch thesis is architecture design. Students enroll in Preparation for MArch Thesis (4.189) during their next-to-last term of registration. The result of this 9-unit subject is a thesis proposal. 

The MArch thesis committee is composed of three members. The thesis supervisor must be a permanent member of the Department of Architecture faculty with an architecture design background. The second and third members may be any member of the MIT faculty or research staff, an outside professional, or a faculty member from another institution. Download Thesis Committee Guidelines here.

Thesis co-supervision is permitted as long as one of the supervisors is a permanent member of the Department of Architecture faculty with an architecture design background. The other supervisor may be any member of the MIT faculty or research staff, an outside professional, or a faculty member from another institution.

MArch students are required to register for 24 units of thesis (4.THG) the final term. 

The thesis proposal, including a thesis proposal form signed by all the thesis committee members, is due the first week of the term in which the student registers for thesis.

The MArch thesis review schedule includes deadlines for content review, schematic design review, public mid-review, penultimate review, final review and final thesis document.

The MArch degree is awarded after all the degree requirements have been met, and after two copies of the approved, archival-ready thesis have been submitted to the headquarters of the Department of Architecture by the Institute deadline for master’s theses as published in the MIT Academic Calendar. Students must adhere to the Specifications for Thesis Preparation published by the Institute Archives.

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