Master of Science in Architecture Studies
The Master of Science in Architecture Studies (SMArchS), a two-year program of advanced study beyond the first professional degree in architecture, is founded on research and inquiry in architecture as a discipline and as a practice. Emphasis is on inquiry into contemporary problems of architectural design and practice in the US and around the world.
Within the HTC discipline, there are two areas of study for SMArchS students:
- History Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art
- Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture
SMArchS in History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art
SMArchS students in History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art will expand upon prior experience (which can be in design, theory, history, practice, or other post-undergraduate work) to explore compelling research that links historical or contemporary topics with methodological issues. Working alongside doctoral students in the program, SMArchS students will be exposed to a wide range of historical periods and theoretical approaches. It is expected that research topics will be developed in close discussion with HTC faculty, building on the required Methods seminar (taken twice) to clarify the appropriate scope and original sources required for the master's thesis. The HTC program is intensely interdisciplinary, and students are expected to enrich their core disciplines of history and theory with inquiry into other fields as appropriate for their research interests. Opportunities occasionally emerge for HTC students to become involved in editing, organizing research symposia, and preparing exhibitions; students will also be brought into discussion with colleagues from across the discipline groups in the SMArchS program.
SMArchS in Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture
The Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture (AKPIA) at MIT is a unique international graduate program designed to promote, sustain, and increase the teaching of architecture in the Islamic world. It prepares students for careers in research, design, and teaching. With strong links with the Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the Aga Khan Programs at Harvard, AKPIA concentrates on the critical study of the history and historiography of Islamic architecture; the interaction between architecture, society, and culture; strategies of urban and architectural preservation; design interventions in disaster areas and environmental and material-sensitive landscape research. The siting of AKPIA at MIT's Department of Architecture is intended to negate the polarizing dichotomy between the discipline of architecture (derived from Western architectural history and praxis) and Islamic Architecture, which is routinely relegated to area and cultural studies.
Admissions for SMArchS
Applicants compete each year for the approximately 25 places available in the SMArchS program. An admissions committee made up of both faculty and SMArchS students evaluates applicants individually. There is no specific "type" of applicant.
Deadline and Submissions
The application deadline is December 31. All 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.
SMArchS Admissions Requirements
Virtually all students entering this program hold a professional degree in architecture. However, since the Master of Science in Architecture Studies (SMArchS) is not itself a professional degree, students from other backgrounds may apply. The program requires the following academic preparation:
- At a minimum, a bachelor's degree with high academic standing from a recognized institution. In most cases SMArchS students hold professional degrees in architecture from accredited universities.
- Excellence in design, previous technical studies, proven facility in a computational environment and other specific skills may be used as admissions criteria depending on the area of study being pursued.
- In the statement of objectives, applicants should indicate clearly which SMArchS area of study they seek to enter and why. Statements should clearly outline the applicant's qualifications for research in that area. The study areas of choice include:
- Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture
- Architecture and Urbanism
- Architectural Design (new)
- Building Technology
- History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art
All applicants must use the Architecture specific online application, which is on the MIT Graduate Admissions website: http://web.mit.edu/admissions/graduate/. The Architecture Graduate Application will be activated in Mid-September, is unique to Architecture, and is not used by any other department.
Once begun, the online application can be completed at any point up until the deadline at midnight. Try not to begin your application the day before. You don't want something to happen at 11 p.m. before the system closes. After submitting the application, applicants will be able to edit their information.
Application to MIT requires a non-refundable fee of $75 USD. You will need to submit a credit card number on the Architecture Graduate Application to process this fee.
All applicants must submit at least three letters of recommendation. Applicants will use the online application system to invite recommenders to submit letters online.
We prefer that letters of recommendation be submitted through the online application system.
A scanned copy of a transcript (or English translation) from each university should be uploaded in the application. Uploaded versions can be student copies. 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.
Architecture Graduate Admissions
77 Massachusetts Ave., Room 7-337
Cambridge, MA 02139
Official transcripts must be requested as original documents from your previous schools. Transcripts may be forwarded by the applicant if they are in the original, sealed envelope. Non-English transcripts must be translated into English, and if necessary, signed by a licensed notary and accompanied by the original version.
Statement of Objectives
The applicant's statement of objectives and letters of recommendation are particularly important. Previous academic work and other experiences should demonstrate the applicant's intellectual achievement, motivation, discipline, responsibility, imagination, perception and open mind. Projects and experiences are judged not only on intrinsic merit but also as evidence of the applicant's ability to initiate and follow through on work that is personally meaningful.
English Proficiency Requirement
Applicants whose first language is not English are required to submit either an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score 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 SMArchS 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.
Graduate Record Examination
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required for SMArchS applicants.
A portfolio is required of all SMArchS applicants, including those who do not have a previous architecture degree or background.
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. Name, address 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 SMArchS applicants. 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:
Decisions and Notifications
Applicants will be notified by mail of the Department's decision by April 1. Decisions cannot be given by telephone.
Degree requirements for SMArchS
The following information applies to SMArchS degree programs in all disciplines.
The minimum required residency for students enrolled in the SMArchS program is two full academic years.
A faculty advisor from the Department of Architecture is assigned to each SMArchS student at matriculation. The advisor weighs in on the student's initial plan of study and on each subsequent term's choice of subjects. This individual should be a faculty member with whom the student is in close contact. The advisor monitors the student's progress through completion of the degree.
Subjects and Credit Units
The SMArchS degree is awarded upon satisfactory completion of an approved program of at least 96 units, 42 of which must be H-level subjects, and an acceptable thesis.
Students, with their advisors, construct individual programs of study focused on their particular interests. Subjects that must be taken include:
- 4.221, Architecture Studies Faculty Colloquium (1st term)
- One or two core subjects in methods from the list below depending on the student’s area of study (1st and/or 2nd semester):
- Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture: 4.619 Historiography of Islamic Architecture and 4.621 Orientalism and Representation
- Architectural Design: 4.130 Architecture Design Theory and Methodologies
- Architecture and Urbanism: 4.225 Urban Design Theory and 4.162 Introductory Urban Design Studio
- Building Technology: 4.481, Building Technology Seminar
- Computation: 4.580, Inquiry into Computation and Design and 4.587 SMArchS Computation Pre-Thesis Preparation
- History, Theory and Criticism: 4.661, Theory and Method in the Study of Architecture and Art (HTC students are required to take this subject both fall terms of their residency)
- Six subjects within the student’s area of interest; in the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, one additional required subject is 4.612 Islamic Architecture and the Environment; in Architecture and Urbanism, two of the subjects must be 4.241J Theory of City Form and one approved option design studio
- 4.288, Preparation for SMArchS Thesis (3rd term)
- 4.THG, Graduate Thesis (final term)
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
SMArchS 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.
SMArchS Thesis Preparation and Thesis Schedule
Students enroll in Preparation for SMArchS Thesis (4.288) their third term of registration.
By Week 7, students finalize selecting a thesis advisor. The result of this 9-unit subject is a well-formulated thesis proposal and a department-scheduled presentation of the thesis proposal at the end of the term. By Week 14, students must submit a signed copy of the thesis proposal form and thesis proposal to the degree administrator for master's programs in the headquarters of the Department of Architecture. Once the SMArch Committee has approved the thesis proposals in consultation with the thesis advisor, students are permitted to register for thesis the following semester. Any student who is not able to produce an acceptable thesis proposal by the end of the term will be given until the end of IAP to produce a thesis proposal. If the proposal is still not acceptable, the student will be required to retake Preparation for SMArchS Thesis (4.288) their fourth term of registration.
The SMArchS thesis committee is composed of at least two and no more than three members. The thesis supervisor must be permanent member of the Department of Architecture faculty. The first reader must be a permanent faculty member of the Department of Architecture or a related department at MIT. The third member (second reader) may be any member of the MIT faculty or research staff, an outside professional or a faculty member from another institution.
Co-thesis supervision is permitted as long as one of the supervisors in a permanent member of the Department of Architecture faculty. The other supervisor may be any member of the MIT faculty or research staff, an outside professional or a faculty member from another institution.
SMArchS students who have an approved thesis proposal are required to register for 36 units of thesis (4.THG) in their fourth and final term.
During Week 7 (before Spring Vacation), each discipline area will schedule the thesis review for its students. At the review, students will submit a draft or prototype or complete conceptual design of the thesis to his/her thesis committee, and reviewers from across the discipline areas will attend the reviews. If a student's progress is not satisfactory, the student will not be permitted to present at the final review.
During Week 11, SMArchS students meet with their thesis committees to formally defend the thesis.
NOTE: The Week 11 defense is a penultimate review. Presenting at the final review is seen as a privilege, not a right. Faculty is under no compunction to pass inadequate work. If a student's work is found wanting, s/he will not be allowed to present at the public final review. The committee may decide not to pass the thesis, or alternatively, pass it only after the student undertakes additional work to meet targets set by the committee, on a date agreed on by the latter. An extension beyond the academic year will only be granted in response to a written petition by the student concerned. The petition must be addressed to the SMArchS committee, upon which the committee will reach a decision in consultation with the thesis advisor.
By Week 14, students will submit one copy of the thesis book minus final edits to his/her thesis committee and the SMArchS Degree Administrator.
The SMArchS thesis final presentations are scheduled by the Department during the last week of the term (Week 15). These presentations, also known as final reviews, are made to the Department of Architecture community, faculty, students, and invited external reviewers. A copy of each thesis book submitted during Week 14 will be available at the reviews.
The SMArchS 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. Consult the SMArchS Degree Administrator to confirm the thesis submission deadline. Students must adhere to the Specifications for Thesis Preparation published by the Institute Archives.