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Master of Design Research in City Design, Planning and Policy
1 YEAR (three terms)

About the program
Program sequence
Applying to SCIFI
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About the program

Future Initiatives at SCI-Arc is an intensive research-based, post-professional degree program and think tank dedicated to generating pertinent examinations of contemporary civic design, city formulation, and urban regulation.

The Future Initiatives curriculum takes a sequential approach to understanding and rethinking city making. Students focus on identifying adaptive and holistic—rather than rigid and segmented—responses to economic, social and environmental pressures. As a center for research and discussion, the program connects academics, theorists and architects with public agencies and those in private development to generate debate around the role of cities and urban systems. The Future Initiatives program promotes and extends its academic mission nationally and internationally via its publications, public forums, exhibitions and competitions.

Established in 2005 to complement other programs offered at SCI-Arc, Future Initiatives draws on the resources of the school, its faculty and the surrounding community. Additionally, it draws on the expertise of a global network of peers established to support its mission.

The Future Initiatives program is open to students who hold a professional degree in architecture or a bachelor's degree or equivalent in any field; it requires attendance in the fall, spring and summer terms.

Curriculum: Future Initiatives provides an integrated curricular focus on urban-scale issues. It is positioned as a center for the discussion of contingent and variable planning strategies and the development of new tools for urban research and design. Combining intensive research into the near-term future of cities with the use of open source design tools, Future Initiatives aims to invent new ways of modeling and testing variable design scenarios.

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Program Sequence

Working over three sequenced terms, students develop solution-seeking research and design grounded in the study of the history of urban and regional development methods, city planning and city management tools. In the fall term, the Future Initiatives program begins by introducing students to fundamental planning problems by operating at the scale of the urban parcel. In the spring, our research and design work quickly jump up in scale to encompass a series of complex issues associated with work within the urban district. Finally, during summer, the program investigates the wide variety of issues associated with regional urban planning. By moving from the unique and particular to the global and generic, Future Initiatives students gain expertise in the subject of city making through a comprehensive, nuanced understanding of design at all scales.

Skills and Knowledge Integration: Future Initiative students integrate skills from across SCI-Arc's programs, including design technologies, cultural studies and hard technology applications. The Future Initiative program is calibrated to incrementally build research skills, urban design expertise and unique strategic thinking about cities and urban regions. The sequencing of context and city-scaled based teaching and intensive workshop-based learning is intended to inculcate understanding of city formation along with mastery of urban research methodologies and design tools.

Final Projects and Research: The program culminates in the production of directed design or research projects in the final semester. Working individually with the Future Initiative program's core and visiting faculty, students generate deliverables—individually and as part of a group—that form the basis of a dissertation quality research portfolio. It is envisioned that students will be able to apply these experiences as part of an ongoing dialogue.

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Applying to SCIFI

SCIFI is open to applicants with a professional degree in Architecture or a Bachelor degree or equivalent in any field. The program welcomes interdisciplinary applicants from fields such as architecture, planning, urban design, landscape architecture, real estate and geography.

It is recommended that students entering the SCIFI program are familiar with the following software: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, After Effects, AutoCAD, Rhino, Maya and 3ds Max.

The deadline to apply for Fall 2016 admission into the MDesR SCIFI Future Initiatives post-graduate program is January 15, 2016. Late applications are considered on a case-by-case basis.

The application for the SCIFI post-professional program is available ONLINE.

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Contact Us

For more information about the SCIFI post-professional degree program or to schedule an informational interview, please contact SCI-Arc's Admissions Office at or 213 356 5320.


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Contact us at 213.356.5320, or use our INQUIRY link.

SCIFI Faculty

Elena Manferdini
Graduate Programs Chair

Hsinming Fung
Design Studio Faculty

Jesse Reiser
Visiting Faculty
Reiser+Umemoto, RUR Architecture

Peter Trummer
Visiting Faculty
University of Innsbruck

Nanako Umemoto
Visiting Faculty
Reiser+Umemoto, RUR Architecture