Majors and Minors at MIT
When you apply to MIT, you apply to the entire university, not to a specific major or school. All first-year students begin MIT with an undeclared major. During freshman year, MIT will provide academic fairs, lectures, seminars, exploratory classes, and other programs to help students determine which major will suit them best; they then are free to choose from MIT’s majors, without any additional requirements or admission procedures.
MIT offers a total of 53 major and 58 minor programs. Choosing a major is an important decision and is not necessarily the same as choosing a career, but for many students, their undergraduate major choice leads directly to a specific field and/or career. MIT is an interdisciplinary institution with a wealth of ongoing cross-departmental research.
Students declare their majors prior to their sophomore year, though most students do so by the end of freshman year. Data on how many students choose each major is available from the MIT Registrar’s Office. Approximately 15 percent of students choose to double major; students may also choose up to two minors. Students who successfully complete a minor program will have the field of study specified on their student transcript, thus giving recognition of focused work in the discipline.
First-Year Pre-Orientation Program (FPOP)
FPOP is offered in August as a way for incoming first-year students to get a sneak preview of the school. The program provides a brief overview of the School and a four-day whirlwind tour of Boston. Students actively engage with the places visited by asking questions about how the buildings and neighborhoods change over time, how they are used by residents and visitors, and how they interact with their context. Students work on a hands-on project with assistance from current majors. FPOP program information can be found on the Office of the First-Year website.
First-Year Advising Seminars
4.A01 Art and Architecture of the MIT Campus
3 Units, Fall, Instructors: John Ochsendorf & Paul Pettigrew
The MIT campus in Cambridge has been a home to innovative works of art and architecture for more than 100 years. This seminar will introduce students to the art and architecture of MIT and we will learn from each other as we explore the history and design of our campus. Students will also have the opportunity to explore intersections of art, design and technology more broadly and to learn about opportunities to be creative at MIT and beyond. The seminar will meet weekly and we will have student presentations and special guests throughout the semester.
4.A22, Physics of Energy
6 units, Fall, Instructor Les Norford
Ever wonder what makes a motor turn? How a windmill can make electricity? How a flashlight you shake can make light? How the range of an electric go-cart you’ll drive compares to a gasoline-powered cart? In this seminar, we’ll explore all sorts of systems that make, use, and convert electric power. We’ll look at heat engines, electrical generators and motors, and circuits to control these devices. We will work in teams to develop energy experiments. Come if you’re excited to build and want to learn about energy!
Registration for Advising Seminars is through First-Year website.
Department of Architecture Introductory Subjects
4.02A Design Studio: How to Design Intensive
9 units, IAP, HASS-A
This class is for students who are intending to major or minor in architecture or design. It is the first in a series of required design studios that Introduces fundamental design principles and combines hands-on practice with design theory. The class meets daily for three weeks during IAP and students receive HASS-A credit. It is the equivalent of 4.021 offered during Fall and Spring terms.
4.021 Design Studio: How to Design
12 units, Fall and Spring, HASS-A, Skylar Tibbits & Paul Pettigrew
This class is for students who are intending to major or minor in architecture or design. It is the first in a series of required design studios that Introduces fundamental design principles and combines hands-on practice with design theory. Develops students’ ability to apply the foundations of design to any discipline. Students receive HASS-A credit.
4.110J Design Across Scales and Disciplines
12 units, Spring, HASS-A, Lee Moreau
This subject explores the reciprocal relationship between design, science, and technology. It covers a wide range of topics, such as industrial design, architecture, visualization/perception, design computation, material ecology, environmental design and environmental sustainability. Students examine how transformations in science and technology have influenced design thinking and vice versa, and develop methodologies for design research by collaboration on design solutions to interdisciplinary problems. It satisfies the HASS-A requirement.
4.605 A Global History of Architecture
12 units, Spring, HASS-A, Mark Jarzombek
This popular introductory class is a survey on the history of architecture and urbanism from Ancient Egypt to the present. The course satisfies one of the required classes for the major in Course 4, the HASS-A requirement, and provides a solid background for other classes in architecture history.
4.657 Design: The History of Making Things
12 Units, Spring, HASS-A, CI-H, Timothy Hyde & Kristel Smentek
The class examines themes in the history of design, with emphasis on Euro-American theory and practice in their global contexts. It addresses the historical design of communications, objects, and environments as meaningful processes of decision-making, adaptation, and innovation. It critically assesses the dynamic interaction of design with politics, economics, technology, and culture in the past and at present. Questions the class will pose include: How have processes and products of design been shaped by new technological possibilities? How have constraints, whether material, legislative, or aesthetic, impacted design? What role has design played in globalizing capitalist consumer desire, and how, in turn, has it been mobilized in the service of alternative economic and political systems? What are the ethics of design in the age of inequality and environmental crisis? Finally, how have the meanings we assign to design been mediated by magazines, exhibitions, corporate communication, glossy design monographs, and advertising?
Course 4 and 4B Majors
The Department of Architecture offers two undergraduate majors providing a deep and broad education in the fields of architecture, art and design. Course 4 leads to the Bachelor of Science in Architecture (BSA), and Course 4B leads to the Bachelor of Science in Art and Design (BSAD).
Situated in MIT’s rich and intense educational environment, the program emphasizes the interconnected relationship between architecture, design, building technology, computation, and history, theory and criticism of architecture, art and design. The Department’s extensive offerings reflect the program’s commitment to the cultural, social, political, technological and ecological issues of the built environment, and the teaching of art and design not just as a means to an end, but as a form of knowledge and creative practice. Committed to a rigorous and interdisciplinary approach, both programs challenge our students to be creative, innovative, and responsible leaders in the field.
The curriculum for both the BSA and BSAD are structured to teach essential basics in multiple disciplines and provide flexibility for exploration. The range of studios, lectures, workshops and seminars provides an active learning environment in which individual creativity and criticality can be nurtured. The programs are continually evolving to engage new ways of thinking about architecture, art and design.
Approximately 250 students register in the department each year, of whom about 30 are undergraduate majors and 60 are undergraduate minors. The Department offers over 100 courses annually (graduate and undergraduate) taught by a faculty of 70.
Course 4 Curriculum
Bachelor of Science in Architecture (BSA)
The Bachelor of Science in Architecture (BSA) degree is granted once all 17 General Institute Requirements (GIRs) as well as the department requirements of 192 units have been completed. All architecture majors will take the following core subjects during the sophomore or junior year.
- 4.021 Design Studio: How to Design (FA/SP, HASS-A, 12 units) or
- 4.02A Design Studio: How to Design Intensive (IAP, HASS-A, 9 units)
- 4.022 Design Studio: Introduction to Design Techniques and Technologies (FA/SP, 12 units, preq., 4.021 or 4.02A)
- 4.302 Foundations in Art, Design & Spatial Practices (SP, CI-M, 12 units)
- 4.401 Environmental Technologies in Buildings (FA, 12 units)
- 4.440J Intro. to Structural Design (SP, REST, 12 units; preq: 18.02)
- 4.500 Design Computing: Art, Objects and Space (FA, 12 units)
- 4.603 Understanding Modern Architecture, (FA, HASS-A, 12 units)
In their junior and senior years, students take the following more advanced subjects:
- 4.023 Architecture Design Studio 1 (FA, CI-M, 24 units, preq., 4.022)
- 4.024 Architecture Design Studio 2 (SP, 24 units, preq., 4.023, 4.401, 4.500)
- 4.025 Architecture Design Studio 3 (FA, 24 units. preq., 4.023, 4.440) or
- Two subjects from the list of Restricted Electives
- 4.501 Advanced Design Projects in Digital Fabrication (SP, 12 units) or
- 4.502 Advanced Visualization: Architecture in Motion Graphics (FA, 12 units)
- 4.605 The Global History of Architecture, (SP, HASS-A, 12 units) or
- 4.614 Building Islam, (FA, HASS-A, 12 units) or
- 4.635 Early Modern Architecture and Art, (FA, HASS-A, 12 units)
Two of the restricted electives listed below can be used to substitute for the final studio, 4.025 Architecture Design Studio 3.
Art, Culture and Technology (ACT)
- 4.307 Art, Architecture and Urbanism in Dialogue (FA, 12 units, HASS-A)
- 4.322 Introduction to Three-Dimensional Art Work (FA, 12 units, HASS-A)
- 4.341 Introduction to Photography & Related Media
- (FA & SP, 12 units, HASS-A)
- 4.354 Introduction to Video and Related Media (FA, 12 units, HASS-A)
- 4.368 Studio Seminar in Public Art/Public Space (SP, 12 units, HASS-A)
Building Technology (BT)
- 4.411 D-LAB Schools: Building Technology Laboratory (FA, Lab, 12 units)
- 4.432 Modeling Urban Energy Flows for Sustainable Cities and Neighborhoods (SP, 12 units)
- 4.451 Computational Structural Design and Optimization (FA, 12 units)
- 4.501 Tiny Fab: Advanced Applications in Digital Fabrication (SP, 12 units)
- 4.502 Advanced Visualization: Architecture in Motion Graphics (FA, 12 units)
- 4.520 Visual Computing 1 (FA, 12 units)
History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture, Art, and Design (HTC)
- 4.601 Introduction to Art History (FA, 12 units, HASS-A)
- 4.602 Modern Art and Mass Culture (SP, 12 units, HASS-A)
- 4.605 A Global History of Architecture (SP, 12 units, HASS-A)
- 4.609 Seminar in the History of Art and Architecture (SP, 12 units, HASS-A)
- 4.614 Building Islam (FA, 12 units, HASS-A)
- 4.635 Early Modern Architecture and Art (FA, 12 units, HASS-A)
- 4.636 Topics in European Medieval Architecture and Art (FA, 12 units, HASS-A)
- 4.651 Art Since 1940 (SP, 12 units, HASS-A)
- 4.657 The History of Making Things (SP, 12 units, CI-H, HASS-A)
Design studios are at the heart of architecture education, and MIT offers a broad range of studios devoted to design projects of increasing complexity.
Architecture Design majors take five studios sequentially. The maximum size of the 4.023, 4.024, and 4.025 studio sections is 12 students. The final studio (4.025) is optional and can be substituted with two subjects chosen from the list of restricted elective classes.
4.021 or 4.02A Design Studio: How to Design
12 units, fall and Spring; 9 units, IAP, Hass-A
Introduces fundamental design principles as a way to demystify design and provide a basic introduction to all aspects of the design process. Through lectures and weekly exercises, students will develop their skills and enable creativity, abstract thinking, representation, iteration and design development. An introductory class intended for students without a design background geared towards enabling more effective collaboration with designers and the ability to apply the foundations of design to any discipline. Limited to 25; preference to Course 4 and 4B majors and Design and Architecture minors, and first- and second-year students.
4.022 Design Studio: Introduction to Design Techniques and Technologies
12 units, Fall and spring, prereq: 4.021 or 4.021A
Introduces the tools, techniques and technologies of design across a range of projects in a studio environment. The class will explore concepts related to form, function, materials, tools, and physical environments through project-based exercises. Develops familiarity with design process, critical observation, and the translation of design concepts into digital and physical reality. Utilizing traditional and contemporary design techniques and tools, faculty across various design disciplines expose students to a unique cross-section of inquiry. Limited to 25; preference to Course 4 and 4B majors and Design and Architecture minors.
4.023 Architecture Design Studio 1
24 units, fall, CI-M, prereq: 4.022
The first advanced design studio provides instruction in architectural design and project development within design constraints including architectural program and site. Students engage the design process through various two-dimensional and three-dimensional media. Working directly with representational and model making techniques, students gain experience in the conceptual, formal, spatial and material aspects of architecture. Instruction and practice in oral and written communication provided. Preference is given to Course 4 Majors and Minors.
4.024 Architecture Design Studio 2
24 units, Spring, preq: 4.023, 4.401, 4.500,
The second advanced studio provides instruction in architectural design and project development with an emphasis on social, cultural, or civic programs. The studio builds upon the foundational design skills with more complex constraints and context and integrates aspects of architectural theory, building technology, and computation into the design process. Preference is given to Course 4 Majors and Minors.
4.025 Architecture Design Studio 3 (Optional)
24 units, Fall, preq: 4.024, 4.440
The final, optional design studio provides instruction in more advanced architectural design projects. Students develop integrated design skills as they negotiate the complex issues of program, site, and form in a specific cultural context. The studio focuses on how architectural concepts and ideas translate into built environments that transform the public sphere. It is designed to prepare students for graduate studies in the field. Preference is given to Course 4 Majors.
Eligibility Requirements for Studio & Minimum Grade Requirements
Course 4 Majors take studios 4.021 - 4.025 sequentially. Students’ names must appear on the studio eligibility lists to ensure participation. This list is posted on-line prior to Registration Day. Students should notify the department degree administrators if they believe there is an error in their status.
Promotion from one studio to the next is not automatic. Grades lower than “C” will jeopardize advancement in the architecture design studio sequence. Advancement eligibility rules ensure that students who enter advanced studios are well prepared.
Transferring into Architecture
No Course 4 undergraduate who enters the Department as a sophomore or first term Junior and is performing well should have to spend an extra semester at MIT to complete the program. Students who transfer into the Department may complete the degree on time by substituting the final studio, 4.025, with two restricted electives.