Undergraduate Programs

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.

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.

First-Year Subjects

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 Curriculum

Bachelor of Science in Architecture

See the BSA Curriculum Chart. 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.

Architecture Design Studios

  • 4.021 or 4.02A, Design Studio: How to Design (HASS-A, 12 or 9 units respectively) — 4.02A is an IAP intensive studio
  • 4.022, Design Studio: Introduction to Design Techniques & Technologies (12 units; prerequisite: 4.021/4.02A)
  • 4.023, Architecture Design Studio 1 (24 units; prerequisite: 4.022)
  • 4.024, Architecture Design Studio 2 (24 units; prerequisites: 4.023, 4.401 and 4.500)
  • 4.025, Architecture Design Studio 3 (24 units; prerequisites: 4.024 and 4.440J)
    • Students have a choice of either 4.025 or two elective subjects chosen from the list of Restricted Electives, below. 

Academic Subjects in Art, History, Computation and Building Technology

  • 4.302, Foundations in Art, Design and Spatial Practices, (CI-M, 12 units)
  • 4.401, Environmental Technologies in Buildings, (12 units)
  • 4.440J, Introduction to Structural Design, (GIR REST, 12 units; prerequisite: 18.02)
  • 4.500, Design Computing: Art, Objects and Space, (12 units)
  • 4.501 or 4.502
    • 4.501, Tiny Fab: Advancements in Rapid Design & Fabrication of Small Homes, (12 units; prerequisite: 4.500)
    • 4.502, Advanced Visualization: Architecture in Motion Graphics, (12 units; prereq: 4.500)
  • 4.603, Understanding Modern Architecture, (HASS-A, 12 units)
  • 4.605, 4.614 or 4.635
    • 4.605, The Global History of Architecture, (HASS-A, 12 units)
    • 4.614, Building Islam, (HASS-A, 12 units)
    • 4.635, Early Modern Architecture and Art, (HASS-A, 12 units)

Restricted Electives

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)

Computation

  • 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)

Communication Requirement

MIT's Communication Requirement is designed to ensure that all undergraduates learn to write and speak effectively. All undergraduates receive substantial instruction and practice in general expository writing and speaking as well as in the forms of discourse common to their professional fields.

MIT undergraduates must complete two Communication Intensive subjects in the humanities, arts and social sciences (CI-H) and two Communication Intensive subjects in their major (CI-M). By the end of freshman year, students should have completed one CI-H subject. One of the four Communication Intensive class to fulfill the requirement must be taken each year. A current list of available CI-H subjects can be found on the MIT Undergraduate Communication Requirement website.

The following subjects fulfill the CI-M requirement for Course 4 and 4B majors:

  • 4.023, Architecture Design Studio I (fall term; for BSA)
  • 4.302, Foundations in Art, Design and Spatial Practices (spring term; for BSA and BSAD)
  • 4.THT, Thesis Research Design Seminar (fall term; for BSAD)

4.302 is normally completed by the spring of the junior year. 4.023 is taken in the fall of the junior or senior year. 4.THT is taken in the fall of the senior year.

Course 4B Curriculum

Bachelor of Science in Art and Design

See the BSAD Curriculum Chart. The Bachelor of Science in Art and Design provides a rigorous but flexible program of study in which students learn fundamental principles of art and design and pursue an area of concentration across a spectrum of possibilities. The degree is granted once all 17 General Institute Requirements (GIRs) and all departmental requirements have been met.

Required Design Studios

  • 4.021 or 4.02A, Design Studio: How to Design, (HASS-A, 12 or 9 units respectively) — 4.02A is an IAP intensive studio
  • 4.022, Design Studio: Introduction to Design Techniques and Technologies, (12 units; prerequisite: 4.021/4.02A)
  • 4.031, Design Studio: Objects and Interaction (12 units; prerequisite: 4.022)
    OR   4.032, Design Studio: Information and Visualization (12 units; prerequisite: 4.022)

Required Foundation Subjects

  • 4.110, Design Across Scales and Disciplines (HASS-A, 12 units)
  • 4.302, Foundations in Art, Design and Spatial Practices, (CI-M, 12 units)
  • 4.500, Design Computing: Art, Objects and Space, (12 units)
  • 4.657, Design: The History of Making Things, (HASS-A, CI-H, 12 units)

Thesis Subjects

All 4-B majors are required to do a senior thesis and must take 4.THT, Thesis Research Design Seminar, the fall prior to submitting the thesis.

  • 4.THTJ, Thesis Research Design Seminar (CI-M, 12 units)
  • 4.THU, Undergraduate Thesis (12 units)

Restricted Electives

Select 48 units from among any of the three categories below

1. Objects

  • 4.031, *Design Studio: Objects and Interaction (12 units, prerequisite: 4.022)
  • 4.041, Design Studio: Advanced Product Design (12 units, prerequisite: 4.031)
  • 4.043, Design Studios: Advanced Interaction (12 units, prerequisite: 4.031)
  • 4.118, Creative Computing (12 units, prerequisite: 4.500)
  • 4.125, Furniture Making Workshop (9 units)
  • 4.451, Computational Structural Design & Optimization (12 units, prerequisite: 4.440 or 2.001 or 1.050 and 6.0001 + 6.0002 or 1.000)
  • 4.501, Advanced Design Projects in Digital Fabrication (12 units, prerequisite: 4.500)
  • 2.00A, Fundamentals of Engineering Design: Explore Space, Sea and Earth (9 units)
  • 2.00, Introduction to Design (6 units)
  • 2.007, Design and Manufacturing I (12 units)
  • 2.009, The Product Engineering Process (12 units)
  • EC.720J, 2.722J, D-Lab: Design (12 units)
  • MAS.377, Objectifications: How to Write (and Talk, and Think) about Objects (HASS-H, 9 units)

2. Information

  • 4.032, *Design Studio: Information and Visualization (12 units, prerequisite: 4.022)
  • 4.051, The Human Factor in Innovation and Design Strategy (12 units)
  • 4.053, Visual Communications Fundamentals (12 units)
  • 4.502, Advanced Visualization: Architecture in Motion Graphics (12 units, prerequisite: 4.500)
  • 4.520, Visual Computing 1 (12 units)
  • CMS.405, Visual Design (HASS-H, 12 units)
  • CMS.622, Applying Media Technologies in the Arts and Humanities (HASS-A, 12 units)
  • CMS.633, Digital Humanities I: Topics, Techniques, and Technologies (HASS-H, 12 units)
  • MAS.110, Fundamentals of Computational Media Design (HASS-A, CI-H, 12 units)

3. Art & Experience

  • 4.301, Introduction to Artistic Experimentation (HASS-A, 12 units)
  • 4.307, Art, Architecture and Urbanism in Dialogue (HASS-A, 12 units, prerequisite: 4.301 or 4.302)
  • 4.320, Introduction to Sound Creations (HASS-A, 12 units)
  • 4.322, Introduction to Three-Dimensional Art Work (HASS-A, 12 units)
  • 4.341, Introduction to Photography and Related Media (HASS-A, 12 units)
  • 4.354, Introduction to Video and Related Media (HASS-A, 12 units)
  • 4.602, Modern Art and Mass Culture  (HASS-A, 12 units)
  • 21M.603, Introduction to Design for the Theatre  (HASS-A, 9 units)
  • CMS.362, Civic Media Collaborative Design Studio  (HASS-S, 12 units)
  • CMS.634, Designing Interactions  (HASS-E, 12 units)

* Either 4.031 or 4.032 may be used as a restricted elective if not selected as part of the design studio requirement.

Communication Requirement

MIT's Communication Requirement is designed to ensure that all undergraduates learn to write and speak effectively. All undergraduates receive substantial instruction and practice in general expository writing and speaking as well as in the forms of discourse common to their professional fields.

MIT undergraduates must complete two Communication Intensive subjects in the humanities, arts and social sciences (CI-H) and two Communication Intensive subjects in their major (CI-M). By the end of freshman year, students should have completed one CI-H subject. One of the four Communication Intensive class to fulfill the requirement must be taken each year. A current list of available CI-H subjects can be found on the MIT Undergraduate Communication Requirement website.

The following subjects fulfill the CI-M requirement for Course 4 and 4B majors:

  • 4.023, Architecture Design Studio I (fall term; for BSA)
  • 4.302, Foundations in Art, Design and Spatial Practices (spring term; for BSA and BSAD)
  • 4.THT, Thesis Research Design Seminar (fall term; for BSAD)

4.302 is normally completed by the spring of the junior year. 4.023 is taken in the fall of the junior or senior year. 4.THT is taken in the fall of the senior year.

Course 4 Minors + HASS

A minor is a coherent program providing significant experience in the discipline. Students who successfully complete minor programs will have their fields of study specified as part of their Bachelor of Science degrees, thus giving public recognition of focused work in other disciplines.

The Department of Architecture offers four minors to MIT undergraduate students:

  • Architecturedesigned to give students a foundation in the multidisciplinary study of the built environment. The minor allows students to pursue a focused program of study across the architecture department’s diverse discipline groups.
  • Design- provides a cohesive program of study that exposes students to the cross-disciplinary field of design. It provides a rigorous conceptual foundation in design along with strong design skills. Gives an introduction to design from concept to completion through contextual critical thinking, experimentation representation, and physical production techniques, critique, iteration and reflection.
  • History of Architecture, Art, and Design (HASS)- designed to enable students to concentrate on the historical, theoretical, and critical issues associated with artistic and architectural production.
  • Art, Culture + Technology (HASS)designed for students interested in hands-on artistic practice and critical debate.

Students majoring in Course 4 or 4B may not minor in either Architecture or Design. However, they may minor in either of the two Humanities, Arts & Social Science (HASS) minors: History of Architecture, Art and Design (HTC) or Art, Culture and Technology (ACT). Download a minor application form for the Architecture and Design Minors. For more information on HASS minors and instructions on how to apply, go to the SHASS website.

The HASS Concentration is an integral part of the General Institute Requirements. The Department of Architecture offers two HASS concentrations:

In consultation with the Concentration Advisor, students develop a program of four related subjects to promote increased knowledge in that particular field. 

Design Studios

Design studios are at the heart of architecture, art and design education, and MIT offers a broad range of studios devoted to design projects of increasing complexity. Students are introduced to the design process from concept to completion through critical thinking, experimentation, and representation and physical production techniques. Introductory studio provides the background and vocabulary of design. It also helps undergraduates decide whether they want to continue in one of the majors. Fundamental and advanced studios provide a progressive range of experience in form-making.

    Introductory Studios

    Undergraduate Course 4 and 4B majors take two 12-unit introductory studios: 

    • 4.021 or 4.02A, Design Studio: How to Design (12 or 9 units respectively; HASS-A) — 4.02A is an IAP intensive studio
      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. 
    • 4.022, Design Studio: Introduction to Design Techniques and Technologies  (12 units; prerequisite: 4.021 or 4.02A)
      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 student to a unique cross-section of inquiry.

    Advanced Studios- Course 4

    Course 4 BSA majors take three more advanced 24-unit architecture design studios:

    • 4.023, Architecture Design Studio 1  (24 units; prerequisite: 4.022)
      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. Although the only prerequisite is 4.022, it is advisable to have 4.401, 4.500 and 4.603 completed prior to enrollment in 4.023. It will help inform your work in the class.
    • 4.024, Architecture Design Studio 2  (24 units; prerequisite: 4.023, 4.401 and 4.500)
      Provides instruction in architectural design and project development with an emphasis on social, cultural, or civic programs. Builds on foundational design skills with more complex constraints and contexts. Integrates aspects of architectural theory, building technology, and computation into the design process. 
    • 4.025, Architecture Design Studio 3  (optional - 24 units; prerequisite: 4.024 and 4.440J)
      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. Focuses on how architectural concepts and ideas translate into built environments that transform the public sphere. Studio designed to prepare students for graduate studies in the field and often requires travel.   

    Two subjects chosen from the list of BSA Restricted Electives may substitute the final studio, 4.025. This option is often used by students who switch into the major after sophomore year and still wish to graduate within the four year undergraduate period.

      Advanced Studios- Course 4B

      Course 4B BSAD majors take one more required 12-unit studio. Students may choose between the following two subjects:

      • 4.031, Design Studio: Objects and Interaction (12 units; prerequisite 4.022)
        Overview of design as the giving of form, order, and interactivity to the objects that define our daily life. Follows the path from project to interactive product. Covers the overall design process, preparing students for work in a hands-on studio learning environment. Emphasizes design development and constraints. Topics include the analysis of objects: interaction design and user experience; design methodologies, current dialogues in design; economies of scale vs. means; and role of technology in design. Provides a foundation in prototyping skills such as carpentry, fasting, digital fabrication, electronics, and coding.
      • 4.032, Design Studio: Information and Visualization (12 units; prerequisite 4.022)
        Provides and introduction to working with information, data and visualization in a hands-on studio learning environment. Studies the history and theory of information, filled by a series of projects in which students apply the ideas directly. Progresses through basic data analysis, visual designing presentation, and more sophisticated interaction techniques. Topics include storytelling and narrative, choosing representations, understanding audiences, and the role of designers working with data. 

      Thesis

      See the Thesis Checklist and Thesis Proposal Form.

      The senior thesis is intended for students who wish to culminate their education with a challenge that would demand advanced work and reward them with portfolio material and developed viewpoints on a topic of importance. It is required for the Bachelor of Science in Art and Design (4B) and optional for the Bachelor of Science in Architecture (4). When optional, it can be used to fulfill 12 units of unrestricted elective requirements.

      The nature of the work may be an original research or design project that involves additional learning of a substantive nature. The work must be documented with a written thesis, completed to institute specifications, within the final term of the senior year. For information on thesis deadlines and guidelines regarding thesis review and submission, go to the thesis website at archthesis.mit.edu.