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Master of Science, Matter Design Computation

Cornell University
College of Architecture, Art, and Planning
Ithaca, New York
United States
Computation & Digital Studies

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, and the Robotic Construction Laboratory 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

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Admission Requirements

A portfolio of creative work or equivalent must be submitted online via the CollegeNET application. Portfolios must be no larger than 20 MB or they will not successfully upload. All applicants are required to submit a portfolio which should represent the applicant’s best work, including prior academic or professional work in the areas of computational design and digital fabrication. Published scientific and technical papers may be submitted in addition to or in lieu of a portfolio. The entire portfolio must be uploaded as one PDF file, using a landscape (horizontal) format for each page, to ensure that the width of the screen is maximally used to view each portfolio page (approximately a 4:3 ratio). If any portfolio project, drawing, or model has been produced by several designers or if the design was produced in a professional setting, each drawing must be labeled, clearly stating the number of designers, which drawings or details of drawings were produced by the applicant and a list of the names of all members of the group project. If the project was produced in an office, an office setting, or as an assistant to an author, the office name, supervisor, and all members of the team must be identified. Please note: The portfolio must be uploaded at the same time as the application is submitted (deadline January 3). Please plan your application process accordingly.


– all Graduate School Requirements,


– TOEFL or IELTS Exam for Non-Native English Applicants


– two – three recommendations


– GRE general test


– Statement of Purpose


– Transcripts: International transcripts & International degree equivalencies

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General information
2 years full time
$ 29,500
+1 (607) 255-5236
129 Sibley Dome, Ithaca, NY 14853
Campus Location
The information of this Master's Degree was extracted from the Official Website of the program.
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