MArch

As the first program of its kind in the United States, the professional degree program at MIT also has a particular responsibility to the future. Defined by the intersection of design and research, our professional program serves as a laboratory for all the innovation and scholarship within the department — while also serving as a laboratory for the future of architectural education itself.

In this laboratory, our students are leaders. The small size of MIT’s MArch program, with 25 students in each class, allows for unique trajectories through MIT, into the profession of architecture and beyond. The program’s size also ensures that our experiments together are conducted in an atmosphere of engaged debate—with ourselves, with guests, and with the larger communities which we serve. As well as within the classroom, this culture extends through public lectures and programs within the department, the School of Architecture and Planning and all of MIT, with students curating the most agile platforms for 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. 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 comprises three distinct units: (3) Core Studios, (3) Research Studios and a Thesis Project.

The collective mission of the three Core studios is to offer fundamental architectural methods 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 approaches, attitudes and questions that we deem essential for students who are establishing their own research projects and agenda.

For a large part 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, and 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 our creative lives. Enabling a lifelong process of iteration and experimentation is the underlying ethos of all three core studios.

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 take place in 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.