The History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art (HTC) program aims to produce leading-edge scholars and intellectuals in the field of art and architectural history. We place a strong emphasis on historiography and analytical methodologies. Course offerings deal with the social and physical context of the built environment, the significant issues in current disciplinary thinking, as well as with the philosophical, political, and material contexts for works of art and architecture. We are proud of our long-standing relationship to and connection with peer institutions all around the world. Our faculty members explore the history of art and architectural works, the shifting attitudes towards their interpretation, and the geopolitical pressures on their appearance, preservation, and disappearance. We also seek to produce interdisciplinary tools for probing the wider significance of such shifts over time. The HTC Forum Lecture Series, the Aga Khan Lecture Series, and Thresholds (the departmental journal) are just some of the activities that we organize for the enrichment of all.
The goal of the HTC program is to prepare PhD students for an intellectual life in universities, in architecture schools, and in architectural practice; SMArchS graduates pursue a wide variety of fields ranging from historic park management to criticism. Emphasis is placed simultaneously on critical method and historical substance. Students are encouraged to identify research projects that are relevant to their own concerns and allow them to reflect on contemporary issues. At the same time, the program demands rigorous historical scholarship. It is this combination, we believe, that leads to real change in the ways we think about art and architecture and write their histories.
The HTC group teaches subjects that deal with the history of architecture and art, as well as the theoretical and political presuppositions informing that history. Offerings range in content and method. Some are motivated by questions derived from the problems of contemporary practice. Others work with a body of historical material investigated in ways that develop analytical skills applicable to a wide range of topics. Still others explore themes (e.g., Orientalism, ornament, sustainability) in their historical and theoretical dimensions. Subjects are taught from prehistoric times through the Renaissance to the present, with a strong focus on topics of modern art and architecture. Our curriculum focuses on materials that are both abstract and concrete, with scales that range from the architectural drawing to the art installation to the urban environment, and themes from Color to economic development and concepts of “the natural.” Topics centered in Europe as well as the Americas are balanced with a comparable set of offerings on the Islamic world developed by AKPIA and taught within the HTC group.
HTC is a unique program in American education. Its location within the oldest school of architecture in the U.S. focuses attention on interdisciplinary issues in contemporary practice and distinguishes it from the art history departments of universities. A number of the HTC faculty have both professional and academic degrees and this contributes to the interaction of practice and scholarship that is unique to this environment. Faculty also have strong ties to MIT Resources available to art and architectural historians as well as artists. Alone among the PhD programs in architecture schools, HTC hosts a substantial curriculum in art history. Its theoretical and critical orientation constitutes an important part of the education of all of the students in the program.
About the Graduate Degrees
The graduate degree programs have few requirements yielding a great deal of flexibility, encouraging work outside the curricular and disciplinary borders. Students do best when they understand their own direction and are able to assemble for themselves a curriculum and a set of advisors that take advantage of the wealth of resources available in Cambridge. Students come to HTC from design schools, from MA programs, from work, and directly from college. PhD and Master's students (enrolled in the SMArchS program) follow the same curriculum through the first three semesters of their enrollment. Master's students tend to return more frequently than PhD students to architectural practice and design teaching, but a large number also go on to PhD programs.
The History, Theory, and Criticism Program was founded in 1975 as one of the first to grant the PhD degree in a school of architecture. Its mission has been to generate advanced research within MIT's School of Architecture and Planning and to promote critical and theoretical reflection within the disciplines of architectural and art history. Students and faculty work in a variety of fields, covering diverse parts of the globe. Commitment to depth and diversity is an integral part of HTC's identity and one of the reasons for the success of its students, who come to Cambridge from around the world. Between 1975 and 2001 HTC awarded 50 PhDs and 47 Masters degrees, and the recipients of these degrees have gone on to teach in prominent universities and colleges worldwide. Unlike other architectural history departments in schools of architecture, HTC includes art historians on its permanent faculty and offers both a PhD and Master's in art history as well as in architectural history. The core faculty is annually supplemented by distinguished visiting scholars who contribute significantly to the intellectual life of the program.
Arranging a Graduate Admissions Meeting/Visit
To get a better sense of the academic culture at HTC and the academic interests of its faculty, it is recommended for applicants to meet with at least some of the HTC faculty, and if possible attend an HTC class. Faculty have varying schedules and travel when school is not in session, thus the summer and the month of January are not possible for meetings with faculty.
Visitors MUST have an appointment, and it is best to contact us at least two weeks prior to an intended visit. Anyone applying to this year's admission cycle is welcome to request phone appointments (no appointments for this year's cycle will be scheduled for after December 31) by sending an email to htc (at) mit.edu and give:
- your research area or field of interest
- the names of the HTC faculty with whom you would like to meet (see people section)
- the date(s) that you are available
- the particular class that you would like to attend (Fall and Spring terms only)
MIT conducts a general campus tour twice a day. The tours are mostly geared towards undergraduate applicants and their families, however all interested candidates and visitors may participate. For more information and scheduling, please go to the Visiting MIT page.
Other things on campus: the general visit web pages for MIT, and on that web site is a link to the List Visual Arts Center and its public sculpture map. The Information Center has a self-guided architecture tour map. The information Center is located just inside 77 Mass Avenue entrance (to the right once inside).
To understand a campus address, look at the numbers on either side of the hyphen or dash individually. The first number, or the one on the left, is the building number. The numbers after the hyphen, or dash, on the right, is the room number within the building. The first digit of the numbers on the right gives you the floor number of the room. This means that 7-238 is in building 7 on the second floor. [7-238 is the address of the architecture and planning library called Rotch Library.] To use the campus map; put in the building number. It will not show a specific room location.
There are several ways to get to campus. Our offices are closest to the 77 Massachusetts Avenue entrance. The following directions are from the subway and/or on foot to traverse the campus.
by SUBWAY exiting at Central Square Station (red line)
to 77 Massachusetts Avenue: If you are traveling from Boston, exit at the back end of the train. If from Alewife or Harvard stations, exit at the front end of the train. In other words, you'll want the set of stairs that is closest to Boston.
Once topside, go straight--you are now on Mass Ave heading the in right direction. You will pass a firehouse with big red doors. If you are on the same side of the street as the firehouse, you will eventually cross the street, but it is easiest to do that when closer to campus.
After Vasser Street, 77 Mass Ave will be the 3rd building --although the buildings are all connected. So it's the one with the 3-story columns that you could walk around (not the kind of columns that are a relief in the stone).
to HTC in 3-305 & AKPIA in 10-390: Once at 77 Massachusetts Avenue, go up the steps and enter, you are in building 7. Take the elevator that is in the back left-hand corner to the third floor and exit to the right (alternatively take the stairs located near the elevator behind a set of double doors, exit to the left). Take the first left-hand corridor, go passed the 1st set of stairs and as you near the second stairway you will see a water cooler/fountain. 3-305 is the 2nd door before the cooler. Just before the 3rd set of stairs is the Aga Khan Program office in 10-390 on the left-hand side.
===== Alternate Route by Subway =====
by SUBWAY exiting at Kendall Square Station (red line):
If the train is coming from Boston, exit at the front of the train, and once topside cross the street (Main) and walk pass the other T-station entrance. If the train is coming from Alewife-Harvard direction, exit at the back end of the train, go up the stairs going straight up to the top. Take the escalator or if using the stairs, do not make the turn. You will come to Carleton Street, cross it, staying on the right hand side of the street, while going straight ahead.
Enter the first building entrance you come to (E25) and go across the lobby to the other set of doors. You will come out into the open courtyard. Follow the path straight (your heading West). You will see an abstract "MIT" off of one of the buildings--that's The List Visual Arts Center--which has art exhibitions. When you get to the street (Ames), you will see a building that comes to a point. You can enter there or go to the left-hand side of it to continue your journey outside.
to 3-305-HTC and 10-390-AKPIA:
option a) if you continue outside, and to the left side of the pointed building, go straight until you can't go any longer, up seven steps on the left and into the building-- it's #8. Now you are walking the Infinite Corridor. Go straight until you can to a stone walled lobby (called Lobby 10), just passed the dollar bill etched in the glass. Turn right at the opening to get to the elevators and go to the 3rd floor. If you don't want to take the elevator, take the stairs located just before the dollar bill. Once on the third floor return to the main corridor and turn right. Continue passed the water cooler and 3-305 is the second door on the right. However if you were to turn left once back on the main corridor, 10-390 is the second door on your left.
option b) if you go inside the building with the pointed end, follow the corridor to the elevator. Take that to the 4th floor. Exit right and follow the corridor--you will see the Gehry building to your right, sort of a low aerial view. Continue until it ends, turn left, then right, then left (you are now at the top of a set of stairs) turn right. [ie Once you make the first left you have to make the other turns until you get to the top of the stairs. At the top of the stairs face the very long corridor to continue.]
You are in building 8 when you get to the top of the stairs. Go through it, then 4 and 10. First is the AKPIA office in 10-390. 3-305 is just passed the next archway on the right.
option c) if you continue outside, and to the right side of the pointed building, go straight and then along the left side of the willow trees until you can't go any longer. [You will see the new Ellensweig and Gehry buildings to your right.] Enter the building there and at the corridor intersection turn right. Take the first elevator on your left to the fourth floor. Once there, make a u-turn to the left. Follow the corridor along turning right then right again to the Infinite corridor. Go until just before you get to the purple-lilac archway, and we are the last door on the right before the purple archway.
to The Long Lounge from our offices: Take the staircase nearest to 3-305, go up one flight and turn left. Walk until you must turn, and turn right. Walk passed the elevator and then straight ahead to The Long Lounge on the left.
to the The Long Lounge directly: use option a above and instead of taking the elevator near Lobby 10 continue straight until you come into a large three story domed space. This is Lobby 7 and 77 Massachussetts Avenue. As soon as you leave the corridor, turn right and you are walking towards the elevator. Take that to the fourth floor and turn left after exiting. Go straight. The room is on the left-hand side.