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

About the program
Program sequence
Eligibility & Application procedure
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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, Future Intiative 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 term, 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, in the summer term, 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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The Future Initiatives program promotes and extends its academic mission nationally and internationally via its publications, public forums, exhibitions and competitions. Additionally, it draws on the expertise of an extensive network of peers established to support its mission.

Los Angeles Cleantech Corridor & Green District Competition/2010
Imagining an innovative urban vision for the recently designated Los Angeles Cleantech district in downtown Los Angeles was the focus of SCI-Arc's Future Initiatives program. Under the direction of design faculty Peter Zellner and David Bergman, the post-professional degree program partnered with The Architect's Newspaper to sponsor its latest open ideas competition, Los Angeles Cleantech Corridor & Green District Competition.

The competition asked architects, landscape architects, designers, engineers, urban planners, students and environmental professionals to create an innovative urban vision for Los Angeles' Cleantech Corridor, a several-mile-long development zone on the eastern edge of downtown LA. It asked entrants to move beyond industrial uses—creating an integrated economic, residential, clean energy, and cultural engine for the city through architectural and urban strategies.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, civic, business, and architecture and design thought-leaders gathered at SCI-Arc to review and celebrate the Cleantech 2010 winning projects. An exhibition of the projects was on view in the SCI‐Arc Library.

Competition jurors included Stan Allen, Dean of the School of Architecture at Princeton University and Principal of Stan Allen Architect; Hsinming Fung, Director of Academic Affairs at SCI-Arc and Principal of Hodgetts+Fung Design and Architecture; Cris B. Liban, D.Env., P.E., Environmental Compliance and Services Department Manager at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority; Michael Maltzan, Principal of Michael Maltzan Architecture; Dennis McGlade, President and Partner of OLIN; Romel Pascual City of Los Angeles Deputy Mayor, Energy and Environment; Nikolas Patsaouras former president of the Board of the Water and Power Commissioners and former board member of the MTA; and Donald Spivack, Deputy Chief of Operations and Policy of the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles.

More about Cleantech 2010 >>

A New Infrastructure: Innovative Transit Solutions for LA/2009
An open ideas competition invited architects, engineers, urban planners and students to propose new ideas for LA County's transit infrastructure. The Future Initiatives competition, developed in partnership with The Architect's Newspaper, encouraged entrants to develop solutions that dramatically reconfigured the relationship between transit systems, public space and urban redevelopment. Competitors were encouraged to work within the parameters of LA County's Measure R, which provided major new funding for infrastructure. More than 70 entries from five countries were received.

The competition jury included Thom Mayne, principal and founder of Morphosis Architects and professor at UCLA; Aspet Davidian, director of Project Engineering Facilities at LA Metro; Neil Denari, professor at UCLA and principal at Neil M. Denari Architects; Gail Goldberg, director of planning for the City of Los Angeles; Roland Genick, urban designer for the Exposition Line; Cecilia V. Estolano, CEO CRA/LA-Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles; Eric Owen Moss, director of SCI-Arc and founder of Eric Owen Moss Architects, and Geoff Wardle, director of advanced mobility research at the Art Center College of Design.

Following an exhibit of the winning entries in the student and professional categories, public forums were held at Metro Headquarters, the MAK Center at the Schindler House, GOOD Space, and as part of the AIA Mobius/ Dwell Conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The competition launched numerous other conversations about the future of transit infrastructure in Los Angeles. The entries and surrounding commentary are the subject of a book published by the SCI-Arc Press.

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Eligibility & Application Procedure

SCIFI is open to applicants with a professional degree in Architecture or a Bachelor degree or equivalent in any field. SCIFI 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 early decision deadline for Fall 2014 admission into the MDesR SCIFI Future Initiatives post-graduate program is March 1, 2014. Regular admissions deadline is April 15, 2014. 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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SCIFI Faculty

Peter Zellner
Program Coordinator
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Hsinming Fung
Director of Academic Affairs, SCI-Arc; Principal, Hodgetts+Fung

Jesse Reiser
Visiting Faculty
Reiser+Umemoto, RUR Architecture

Peter Trummer
Visiting Faculty
University of Innsbruck

Nanako Umemoto
Visiting Faculty
Reiser+Umemoto, RUR Architecture

SCIFI Global Network Members 2012-2013

Stan Allen
Dean, Princeton University School of Architecture
Stan Allen Architect

Odile Decq
ODBC, Paris
Director, Ecole Special d'Architecture, Paris

Neil M. Denari
Neil M. Denari Architects
Professor, UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Design

Jeffrey Kipnis
Professor, Ohio State University

Laurie D. Olin
Founder and Partner, OLIN, Philadelphia and Los Angeles

Alexander Lehnerer
Assistant Professor and Director, Department of Urban Speculation, School of Architecture, UIC, Chicago

Sam Lubell
The Architect's Newspaper

Michael Maltzan
Founder and Principal, Michael Maltzan Architecture

Neville Mars
Architect and Chairman of the Dynamic City Foundation, Beijing

Thom Mayne
Professor, UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Design

Rene Peralta
Generica, Tijuana
Associate Professor, Woodbury University School of Architecture, San Diego

Wolf Prix
Coop Himmel(b)lau

Michel Rojkind
Michel Rojkind Arquitectos, Mexico City

Peter Trummer
Head, Institute of Urban Design, University of Innsbruck, Austria