In conceiving the first school of architecture in the United States, architect William Ware pledged MIT to a very important task of producing architecture and architects worthy of the future. Future is always part of an architect’s prospective task. It is constitutive of architectural thinking, of the five centuries old division between representing and constructing architectural objects, and it has been summoned repeatedly throughout history as the framework and the topic of hallucinating and willing new worlds, near and far beyond the present. More importantly, Ware’s qualifier binds architecture and future through qualitative judgment, inviting us to contemplate futures worth living, architectures worthy of those futures, and the criteria for evaluating them.
The MArch program at MIT is a laboratory in which we speculate on diverse forms of agency for future architectures. Future is not a singular construct. The most useful contemporary conception of ‘future’ may be as a series of increasingly dire prospects marching towards us, all collateral outcomes of the naïve faith of previous eras in unfettered progress. These include major migrations induced by climate change and patterns of global economy, extreme weather, resource depletion, uneven and unjust distribution of economic means, crumbling infrastructure, pollution…and so many other forms of alienation.
Turning these prospects into opportunities, or ensuring better prospects for all will require many types of architectural projects, of different temperaments and temporalities at once. Together MIT faculty, guest critics and students cultivate expertise, sensibilities and critical questioning necessary to deliver architectural objects with specific effects, architecture as an active participant in the production of urbanity and of material, political and environmental territories, architecture as the agent of industry’s transformation, architecture as a means to address largest societal questions, to critically intervene in discourse, to induce hesitation in the practice of daily life, and rewire the patterns of understanding and living. T, “technology”— given primacy in the name of the institute that houses our program—is simply a fact of life in all of these architectural domains. It solves problems as often as it creates them. Our deep critical understanding of this sets us up with an enormous advantage in the contemporary landscape of architectural academia. Technology, is always already cultural and political, and vice versa, culture and politics are not separable from technology.
At MIT we probe far beyond professional training. Relying on the deep expertise of discipline groups that contribute to the MArch education at MIT (Urbanism; Building Technology; History, Theory and Criticism; Art, Culture & Technology; Computation; and the Aga Kahn Program in Islamic Architecture) we collectively produce a space for challenging and redefining those very disciplines. On the other hand, this urge to go beyond professional training is what makes that very training uniquely MIT—the profession’s future is no more static than the future of the disciplines that contribute to the built environment, or the society that relies on and pulsates within that same environment. As researchers, authors and producers MIT faculty work on the edges where the present turns into the future. As pedagogues, they embrace the future by trusting their students, whose thinking and sensibilities will by definition defy the standards of the present. This position already prefigures the next. The thoughtful architects who are preparing to impact, and increase our future prospects, are, at MIT, equipped with technological and disciplinary know-how, and they are, with equal care and passion, supplied with intellectual and political prowess. These in turn ensure that students become increasingly self-aware about their position with respect to their technological tools, disciplinary understanding, and the ideologies and entanglements these invite into their architectural work. Preparing to be thrust into the unknown requires everything that is known, but also as Ware suggested, the capacity to evaluate and change the field, the status quo, the state of the art, the contemporary definition of the architect—to challenge the present into a better future.
The small size of MIT’s MArch program, with 25 students in each class, allows for absolutely unique trajectories through MIT’s pedagogical offerings and subsequently through the field and the profession of architecture. The program’s small size also ensures that the experiments are conducted in an atmosphere of engaged debate, occasionally inviting guests into the intimate fold of the program to share their points of view and expertise, or help us test the limits of our own. The daily life of the MIT Master of Architecture program, embedded within the Department of Architecture and the School of Architecture and Planning, is enriched by lectures and debates that are meant to frame and probe issues of different levels of urgency, with students running the most agile platforms for internal dialogue.
Though it feeds on everything that surrounds it, the MArch laboratory derives its energy from its key testing ground, the studio. Studio is a key site of iterative, embodied, design learning, where cultural meaning animates methods and materials with urgency. The MIT’s MArch studio sequence is both surrounded by and infused with deep disciplinary and interdisciplinary thinking, sometimes in support of and other times deliberately at odds with studio concerns. It is comprised of three distinct units: (3) Core Studios, (3) Research Studios and a Thesis Project.
The collective mission of the three Core studios is to deliver key architectural tools to the students, while opening up a series of different entries into the vocation of an architect, such that students can begin to develop their own positions and become well versed at initiating other entries and paths through the discipline. Each of the Core studios is oriented toward the contemporary conversations and the future of the discipline. Which means that they are constantly updated. Though each of them delimits a different set of cultural, technical and disciplinary issues, together they deliver skills, attitudes and questions that the MIT Architecture faculty deem fundamental for students who are establishing their own research projects and counter projects.
For one third to one half of the population of every incoming class of MArch students, these three studios will be the first experiences in: navigating uncertainty in the creative process, the exhilaration of giving form to ideas, imagining material assemblies with specific properties, searching for the appropriate ways to align architecture’s agency with their own cultural and social ambitions. These will be experienced with increasing levels of control throughout the life of the architect. Acknowledging that, and in preparation for it, iteration and experimentation form the underlying ethos of all three core studios. Our compact Core sequence begins the long-term cultivation of the thirst for experimentation, forms of criticality and for many, love of making.
Following Core, the Research Studios offer an array of topics at scales that range from 1:1 experimentation in assembly to the geographic scale. They fit, though never neatly, into several categories of inquiry: architectural, which includes design of buildings and urban life; urban, which includes design of landscape, territories and the urban fabric); and cross studios, which focus on interdisciplinary topics and open up the possibilities for the final deliverables of the studio to various media suited to the focus of their research.
Seminars and Lecture courses drill down into historical and disciplinary expertise, which contextualize, challenge and sometimes enable studio’s instrumental thinking, while Workshops provide a platform for faster, more discrete experimentation than is normally conducted in studios. All of these are mechanisms by which faculty involve students into the deep depths of their own research.
The Thesis semester caps the MArch studio sequence. It provides to students a precious and sustained space for their own experimentation with framing the terms of engagement with the world. The size of the program becomes relevant here once again. Many forms and formats of work are possible for this self-directed project; a student could choose to see their contribution at this stage as feeding into a larger project already well under way in the department, or one of the labs currently operating, or as a more intimate dialogue with individual faculty. The buzz, the energy, and the production that take place during the MArch thesis ferment into material artifacts, processes, statements—knowledge—that probes the edges of architecture. The final Thesis presentation, set to be the last event of the semester, is when the faculty involved in the MArch program together with students and guest critics celebrate our students’ ideas, risks taken, decisions made in the course of their thesis projects, and all those yet to come.
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. Be sure to review the Application Instructions.
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. If your goal is to become a licensed professional architect in the United States, you may apply to have your current degree evaluated by the Education Evaluation Services for Architects (EESA). EESA will compare your degree to the US National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) education standard; they will identify any deficiencies. This means you may have to take only a few classes, if any, on your path to becoming a licensed architect in the US instead of completing a second professional degree.
The Application Deadline is December 31 at midnight for all applications. Application material must be submitted by the deadline. Late applications will not be reviewed. It is the responsibility of the applicant to be sure that the application is completed.
Three letters of recommendation. Letters from instructors are preferred unless you have been working for several years, in which case supervisors may be included. The application can be submitted with fewer than three letters, but be sure to remind your instructors to complete their letters. Applications still missing two or more letters when review begins will not be reviewed. Review the instructions for letter submission in the «Letters Status» section of the application system. Applicants will send prepared emails to the recommenders containing a secure link to the recommendation form. We prefer that letters be submitted through the online application, and not a third-party letter distributor.
Transcripts for all relevant degrees, official or unofficial, must be uploaded to the application system. PDFs must be clearly readable and oriented correctly on the screen. Only those applicants who are accepted for admission will be required to send a hard copy of an official, sealed transcript (with English translation) from each school attended. Please do not have official copies sent to our office unless you are admitted. Certificate and community college transcripts do not need to be sent unless the courses are not also listed on your primary college transcripts. Non-English transcripts must be translated into English, and if necessary, signed by a licensed notary and accompanied by the original version.
In addition to transcripts, applicants should complete the Subjects Taken section with any relevant course work. If you have taken studios, indicate this on the Test Scores/Experience/Electronic Portfolio section.
IELTS or TOEFL Score.
Applicants whose first language is not English are required to submit either an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score (Academic test) or a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), regardless of citizenship or residency in the U.S. while attending other educational institutions. No exceptions are made. The admissions committee regards English proficiency as crucial for success in all degree programs. In order to meet the admissions deadline, it is recommended that candidates take the IELTS or TOEFL on the earliest possible date.
Applicants must request that an official copy of their test results be sent directly to MIT by IELTS International or Educational Testing Service. IELTS and TOEFL Scores must be no older than two years as of the date of application. To avoid delays, please use the following codes when having your TOEFL scores sent to MIT:
-Institutional Code: 3514
-Department Code: 12
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.
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 IELTS/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 degree credits.
Curriculum Vitae, uploaded to the system.
A portfolio of work, uploaded to the application. See MArch-specific instructions for portfolio requirements, below.
An Essay of one or two pages must be uploaded to the application system. Indicate why you are applying, and describe your qualifications for the degree.
A non-refundable Application Fee of $75 USD. You will need to submit a credit card number on the Architecture Graduate Application to process this fee. If you have a financial hardship, you may apply for an Application Fee Waiver: http://gradadmissions.mit.edu/feewaiver
Submission of completed application form by the application deadline.
You may apply to two different programs within the Department of Architecture. If you are considering two programs, it may be useful for you to discuss your plans with our admissions staff. The link to apply is: http://gradapply.mit.edu/architecture/apply.
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.
One semester of satisfactory study in college-level mathematics (such as, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus, calculus).
One semester of satisfactory study in college-level natural sciences (such as, physics, biology, chemistry).
Two 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.
Graduate Record Examination
Applicants are required to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. In order to meet the admissions deadline, it is recommended that candidates take the GRE on the earliest possible test date. Test scores must be no more than five years old. To avoid delays, please use the following codes when having your scores sent to MIT:
-Institution Code is 3514
-Department Code is 4401
A digital portfolio is required of all MArch applicants, including those who do not have a previous architecture degree or background. The portfolio file should be exported as PDF for screen viewing. The file should contain no more than 30 pages with a file size not larger than 15MB. Two-page spreads are allowed, but each spread counts as one of the 30 pages.
The portfolio should include evidence of recent creative work, whether personal, academic or professional. Choose what you care about, what you think is representative of your best work, and what is expressive of you. Work done collaboratively should be identified as such and the applicant’s role in the project defined. Your name, and program to which you are applying should also be included. We expect the portfolio to be the applicant’s own work. Applicants whose programs require portfolios will upload a 30-page maximum), 15MB (maximum) PDF file to the online application system. The dimensions should be exported for screen viewing. Two page «spreads» are counted as one page.
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: