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B.Arch Course Catalog

Heading titleDesign Studios + Thesis (DS)


Nicknamed the “weird science fair,” this foundation studio takes the form of rigorous play with a vast assortment of diverse and quirky objects as students explore a broad array of digital and analogue architectural techniques.

Students are asked to form collections of found objects and to curate and modify their collections in increasingly individual ways over the course of three interconnected assignments. The studio emphasizes verbal communication alongside visual display with a view toward articulating specific aesthetic agendas with confidence and enjoyment. Breadth is privileged over depth as students are asked to consider both the relationships between things and how things exist in the world. A variety of linear and nonlinear workflows are used to challenge conventional ideas and hierarchies about architectural thinking and the tools of production.


From collections to cabinets, this second foundation studio asks students to design containers for the curated sets of things, exploring in a playful way the notion that architecture itself is always a form of ‘container.’

Building on individual conceptual thinking skills, aesthetic sensibilities, and formal techniques developed in the fall semester, this studio engages the organization of the interior in relation to building mass and asks students to consider how their ideas might be put into the world. The course evokes the German concept of Wunderkammer, or chamber of wonders, to explore the oddities, affinities, and surprises inherent in our contemporary culture of display. The semester culminates in the design of a small house that reconsiders the domestic residence as a new form of storage. A strong focus on verbal, real-time communication continues alongside the development of visual and design literacy.


This third foundation studio takes on the increasingly relevant agenda of adaptive reuse as a way to focus on the internal “stuff” of architecture.

Students engage contemporary urban programs like creative office spaces as they include social considerations of common space, sequences of movement and pause, and privacy in their design repertoire. Reimagining the current world of the workplace from the inside out, the course is broken into four faculty sections that each offer different typological and formal approaches on the same program. All sections emphasize workflows that move between analog forms of making and digital forms of modeling to continue to cultivate experimentation and authorship. Assignments will focus on the building section or cut as a way to visualize, create, and alter an architectural intervention, which is ultimately communicated in the form of stop-motion animated narratives.


This fourth foundation studio intensifies the level of complexity that students are asked to consider by examining architecture as interface: between inside and outside, between building and city, between people and technology, and between existing context and new form.

Complex urban sites are analyzed in detail with the help of cutting-edge digital tools like LIDAR (light detection and ranging) scanning, crowd-sourced content, and GIS (geographical information systems), and students are asked to integrate this fine-grained contextual data into their design approaches while maintaining and communicating their individual design visions. Contemporary programs such as e-sports arenas will be tackled with a focus on spatial mediation between public and private, urban and interior. The studio playfully explores the ability of the designer to creatively leverage data. While each section will propose different models for rethinking public engagement through architecture, all will work to develop critical thinking abilities via new forms of communication and representation. The studio culminates in a fully digital, narrative-based animation.


Building upon the attention paid in turn to the interior, event space, and context in the second year, this core studio asks students to explore the full complexity of a comprehensive architectural assembly in an urban environment.

The focus is on the design opportunities of cellularity and repetition, which are examined at the scale of an individual unit, a cluster of units, and a collection of clusters. Tasked with developing integrated proposals for an ordered, sequential program like that of a large housing complex or a high-rise, students are encouraged to design with an understanding of the dynamic and interdependent forces of economies, access, privacy, and infrastructure that affect these projects and their presence in the city. Case studies will be analyzed to understand how architecture can either cooperate with or operate independently from such vectors in the construction of novel architectural aesthetics. Continued emphasis will be placed on critical thinking skills, oral and visual communication, and the development of individual leadership qualities.


Building on Assemblies I, this core studio continues to explore the contemporary manifestation of architecture in more complex, integrated building projects.

The work examines interior organizations based on precedent, typology, and programmatic organization as well as the formal, tectonic development of the building object in the city. Driven by intense examinations of new programs, assemblies, and building technologies, the studio seeks to examine the cultural possibilities incited by a spherical building type, such as a theater, library, or other civic structure. Issues of context, sustainability, and building construction are studied within contemporary technical and theoretical frameworks. Projects are frequently located in large, foreign cities such as Mexico City and Barcelona, affording the opportunity to travel in order to gain first-hand knowledge of the new and oftentimes unfamiliar. Smaller groups of students make up sections within the larger studio, working intensely with their instructor to pursue a unique line of inquiry around a common problem. The differences in approach and methodology between the sections stimulate a vital discourse within the larger group, encouraging students to articulate individual conceptual and disciplinary positions in support of their work.


In preparation for Vertical Studios and the independent Thesis Project, the last studio in the core sequence asks students to develop positions within the disciplinary domain of architecture.

These may include thoughts on form and materiality, domesticity and collectivity, instruments and techniques, formats and representation, and other contemporary sensibilities. Rather than starting from scratch, students develop their ideas in dialogue with another author by first closely modeling a building of their choice. They continue to make copies and deviations at another scale, on a new site, and with a different program, to gradually arrive at an independent position. In comparing the models and their corresponding photographs, students’ choices to copy or transform, to reproduce or edit out, become perceptible, even, at times, original. The studio gives rise to a variety of opinion through live debates, roundtables, and community dialogues.

Students work with Visiting Professors or select SCI-Arc faculty on specific topics in architecture, intended to expose them to a greater variety of positions within the discipline.

Students work with Visiting Professors or select SCI-Arc faculty on specific topics in architecture, intended to expose them to a greater variety of positions within the discipline. Projects produced reflect different approaches to form, technique, material, history, politics, the environment, and are intended to contribute real-time to contemporary discourse. Vertical Studios are chosen by students according to a lottery system.


The SCI-Arc Undergraduate Thesis is the culmination of the five-year B.Arch curriculum and builds directly on the disciplinary positions and trajectories of thought established in the Positions studio and the Rhetoric 1 seminar.

Throughout the semester, students hone their thesis positions on contemporary issues through live discourse and debate with their peers. A thesis project for a highly-resolved building design, both conceptually and technically, manifests the cumulative knowledge students have acquired throughout their education and acts as a point of trajectory from which to engage the discipline, field, and profession at large. The thesis project is continually refined through a series of community-based roundtables that focus on the design work and the intellectual position it advances. Imagination, critical thinking, and contemporary sensibilities play a central role throughout the development of the thesis project.

Heading titleLiberal Arts (LA)


Design Cultures is intended to survey the field of design as a human activity and to introduce students to the immense variety of pathways available to students as they move ahead in the world as a designer and as an architect.

The aims of the class are to expose students to a broad range of design work in the fields of furniture, architecture, interior space, set design, exhibition design, product design, and landscape; to give them a broad historical background of design activity, aesthetic epochs, and styles; and to develop in them the eye and senses of the curious and critical observer of the products of design culture. 


Forms of Writing is designed to teach writing and composition skills at a collegiate level. 

Different approaches to writing are explored through the reading and composing of literary analysis, persuasive essay, memoir, critical review, and a short research paper. Critical study includes the analysis of poetics, modes of writing organization, academic writing, literary style, the short story, and research strategies. Special attention is paid to close textual reading and analysis, peer review and editing. Through the use of rhetorical analysis students become versed in a variety of writing modes.  Throughout the course of the semester, attention is paid to sentence style and variety. Guidelines for the correct attribution and citation of primary and secondary sources when performing research are explained and reviewed. Pre-writing exercises help students to generate writing material, both creative and rhetorical. Captions and other editorial techniques are reviewed with an emphasis on clarity and coherence.


This course is meant to serve as an introduction to the history of film, its aesthetics, mechanics, languages and genres. 

By analyzing the expressive techniques, forms, and styles of a variety of films, students will assess the ways in which films produce meaning and the status of that meaning in the broader political, cultural, and aesthetic sphere. To best illustrate the changes and maturation of film practices over time, the course will begin with the beginnings of the Cinema itself as the 19th century soon turned into the 20th, focusing each week on a different decade.       


This course examines the history of the physical sciences and their role in reshaping the intellectual cosmology of the west and advancing the exercise of political and economic power by Europe and North America.

The physical sciences, and the technologies with which they co-evolved, have been instrumental in creating the modern understanding of the universe around us, yet they have also played an active role in shaping that universe. Students will investigate the paradoxical dual role of physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, and climatology as both interpreters of a pristine natural world beyond the pettiness of human conflict, and as active constructors of that world through the mechanisms of technology and ideology. The shifting allegiances between the physical sciences and the major political and religious power structures of early modern and modern European and American history will be a persistent theme. 


Art History I surveys the visual arts from antiquity to the Renaissance to modern art during the interwar period in the 20th century. 

Artistic styles, art movements, and methods of art production will be contextualized within larger societal, intellectual, and ideological shifts.  Students will learn to conduct formal analysis of individual works of art as well as critically engage with key primary and secondary art historical texts through short writing assignments and rigorous in-class discussions.


This course charts the genesis of modern biology from a range of intellectual, social, and political factors.

At its core, we will explore how laboratory physiology, natural history, and demography coalesced into a single scientific discipline through the Darwinian Revolution of the mid-nineteenth century and the Modern Synthesis of the mid-twentieth, and how that discipline rose to dominate universities and the medical-industrial complex following the emergence of molecular genetics between 1953-83. Along the way, the ideological function of biology in areas such as "scientific" racism, eugenics, population control, neoliberal economics, and ecological politics will be investigated. Students will be asked to respond to various theories of nature from contemporary thinkers, and to use material and life sciences as evidence for the development and refinement of these theories and claims.


Art History II focuses on the field of contemporary art from 1945 to the present and the artistic and theoretical debates that have structured this discourse.

Beginning with Abstract Expressionism in the postwar period, the course explores the rise of experimental, post-studio artistic practices such as Conceptual art, installation art, performance art, relational aesthetics, new media forms, in addition to the resurgence of painting and sculpture since the art market boom of the 1980s. Issues in contemporary art including questions of authorship, feminism, post-colonialism, and the ethics of spectatorship will be addressed.


This course introduces students to foundational issues initiating the Western philosophical tradition, which include: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and political philosophy. 

Moving from the ancient Greek texts of Plato and Aristotle, the course will survey thinkers from the medieval and early modern philosophical tradition, including Aquinas, Descartes, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, and Hume. Readings will concern: the nature of the good; the just; the ideal political form; the limits and possibilities of knowledge; virtue; the nature and existence of God; free will; primary and secondary qualities; substance; essence; causality; principles of identity.


This course explores the vital and complex intersections between the arts of film and architecture – from the representation of architects in film to the role of architecture in film and of course the architectural qualities of film itself.

This course explores the vital and complex intersections between the arts of film and architecture – from the representation of architects in film to the role of architecture in film and of course the architectural qualities of film itself. Much of the class will focus on films strongly invested in architecture, exploring the relationship between directors, art directors and production designers in the construction of cinematic architecture. Students will be asked to consider the unique architecture of several of the classic Hollywood film studios themselves, as well as the work of architects and designers who have worked in and with film, and have embedded their architecture and design practice in various cultures of the moving image. By the end of the course students will a have a new perspective on the impact that films have had on the practice of architecture and the way we experience our built environments.


An introduction to continental philosophy by tracing the challenge and critique of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment through competing notions of history, time, and critique.

Beginning with Kant’s “critical philosophy” and its reception through the 20th century, this course offers an introduction to continental philosophy by tracing the challenge and critique of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment through competing notions of history, time, and critique. To provide an endcap to the philosophy sequence, the course includes an immersive engagement with a singular contemporary philosophical text. Students are required to conduct close reading, vigorous analysis, and supplementary research to support argumentation and debate in classroom seminars on the text in question. The text is chosen annually and is held in common throughout the school. Possible readings include: Bataille, Ortega y Gassett, Barthes, Derrida, Deleuze, Foucault, Arendt, Adorno, Irigaray, Benjamin, and Heidegger. 


This course precedes Thesis in order to connect studio work and architecture with real-time, relevant issues in the world.  

Issues of technology, geopolitics, the environment, current events and media will be underscored by an emerging sensibility of a post-human/anthropocene in the contemporary era. This course is an advanced seminar led by an expert discourse leader w with engaged discussion and graduate-level writing required for all students.  


This course examines contemporary debates emerging in the wake of critical theory and continental philosophy.

Topics include: aesthetics; radical democracy; speculative realism; utopian theory; geo-politics; discourse ethics; post-modernism; gender theory; and identity. Particular emphasis is placed on the development of positions in relation to Thesis work. Live conversation is the primary vehicle of this class.

Heading titleHistory + Theory of Architecture (HT)


This course provides a chronological review of major movements in global architecture and urbanism from pre-history to the 16th century. 

Students will analyze major movements and key works in order to understand the cultural, religious, anthropological, and sociological factors involved in the design of buildings and cities throughout the world. Particular attention will be paid to the analysis of specific relationships between the organization, configuration, and articulation of buildings and cities as well as the historical, conceptual, and political contexts with which they are associated. 


This course provides a chronological review of major movements in global architecture and urbanism from the 16th to the 20th century.

Students will analyze major movements and key works in order to understand the cultural, religious, anthropological, and sociological factors involved in the design of buildings and cities throughout the world. Particular attention will be paid to the analysis of specific relationships between the organization, configuration, and articulation of buildings and cities as well as the historical, conceptual, and political contexts with which they are associated.


This course provides a chronological review of major movements in global architecture and urbanism from the 20th century to the present. 

Students will analyze major movements and key works in order to understand the cultural, religious, anthropological, and sociological factors involved in the design of buildings and cities throughout the world. Particular attention will be paid to the analysis of specific relationships between the organization, configuration, and articulation of buildings and cities as well as the historical, conceptual, and political contexts with which they are associated.


This course offers an introduction to contemporary debates and discourse in architecture.

It surveys practices and firms of the recent era, as well as examines key texts associated with the formation of the architectural contemporary. Students will be introduced to topical subjects, such as figures, objects, effects, sensations, color – and asked to reflect on these topics as engaged in debate. This course emphasizes reading and debate.


During the Thesis Project Research semester, students are introduced to research methods in advance of the Thesis Studio.

The seminar provides a structured environment for students to articulate architectural research programs embedded in both the discipline and the contemporary situation in architecture. Students draw upon work from previous studios and identify new trajectories supporting individual inquiry.

Heading titleApplied Studies (AS)


This course is intended as an introduction to environmental systems in architecture. 

Beginning with an understanding of basic thermodynamics and climatic conditions, the course will use architectural precedents to examine the fundamental issues of passive energy systems as they apply to architectural production and performance. Students will learn the physics of the building environment, basic environmental conditions and human comfort. Particular attention will be paid to issues of sustainability. Design strategies that leverage careful site analysis in order to inform building location, orientation, massing and geometry will be thoroughly discussed. Significant historical, cultural, theoretical, and technological developments in environmental engineering will also be discussed. Finally, contemporary simulation technologies will be introduced as a tool for design and the application of concepts covered in the course.


This course introduces students to statics and mechanics of materials. 

These subjects provide a basis for understanding how a structure supports itself and its occupants. Students will also explore strength of materials, i.e. how materials fail. Students will become familiar with analytical methods for finding equilibrium of forces, evaluating material stress and strain, and determining the conditions of stability. Significant historical, cultural, theoretical, and technological developments in structures will also be discussed.


This course provides students with a basic understanding of the engineering principles governing gravity, framing systems and lateral load resistance within buildings. 

By first examining the underlying mechanics of these systems and later reviewing real world examples, this course sheds light on the creative application of these principles. The concept of structural loads – both gravity and lateral loading – will be defined both in the context of physical phenomena and according to Building Code requirements. This course will also include an introduction and precedent comparison of various structural theories across the history of architectural discourse, including debates concerning structural representation and expression or obfuscation, performance, systems convergences and divergence, and the complex relation between architecture and engineering. 


This course focuses on advanced building systems and technologies with a special emphasis on environmental systems, sustainability, performative architecture, and integration of building systems.

The content includes generative and active building environmental systems and design strategies and their integration and optimization with the building site, orientation, and envelope/façade, in relationship to renewable natural resources and occupant needs. The seminar also covers building systems and services such as plumbing, electrical, fire protection, vertical transportation, security and building management systems; focusing on architectural considerations and overall systems integration. Through a series of lectures, software tutorials, assignments, student presentations, quizzes and exams, advanced systems, design strategies and architectural precedents will be explored and critically analyzed using various qualitative and quantitative techniques including benchmarks/rule-of-thumbs, prescriptive (building codes and standards), and dynamic building performance simulations. This course will also include an introduction to various environmental systems theories and a study of these ideas through precedent analysis.  


This course focuses on tectonics (predominantly building envelopes) and performance (largely consisting of technical, technological, cultural, and environmental dimensions). 

Working in groups throughout the semester, students analyze and document a precedent in order to formulate a series of hypotheses in an attempt to construct a number of interrelated tectonic conjectures. In scrutinizing building assemblies, the class will attempt to position construction analysis so as to produce both technical knowledge and critical awareness of embedded cultural habits. The class will thus seek out an alternative understanding of the tectonics, one that not only mirrors the realm of construction – materials, methods, sequences, tolerances, etc. – but also embraces architectural processes of expression, encompassing issues of geometry and technique; posture and character.


The course investigates issues related to the implementation of design: technology, the use of materials, systems integration, and the archetypal analytical strategies of force, order and character. 

The course includes a review of basic and advanced construction methods, analysis of building codes, the design of structural and mechanical systems, environmental systems, buildings service systems, the development of building materials and the integration of building components and systems. The intent of this course is to develop a cohesive understanding of how architects communicate complex building systems for the built environment and to demonstrate the ability to document a comprehensive architectural project and stewardship of the environment. This course is taught in conjunction with the 3B “comprehensive design studio”.   


The course aims to equip students with the knowledge, skill and judgment needed to fit an architect for his/her professional duties, and to understand how an office organization and a design project are managed for this purpose. 

Architecture is a comprehensive field of practice existing within dynamic, social, organizational, economic, professional and cognitive contexts. This course focuses on the organizational and managerial issues to carry an architectural design from concept to implementation. It explores principles and concepts essential to managing projects applied to a variety of design and project delivery cases. Each class contains a case study that describes the real experience of practicing architects and project teams. Cases focus on specialized practice; the role of the architect in new forms of project delivery; resolving design conflicts between the community, project team and the client; collaboration; making contractors perform; working in another country; the use of new technology in design and management.  This course will also give an introduction to the following professional guidelines and organizations: APA, ARE, IDP, NCARB, CAB, and the AIA.

Heading titleVisual Studies (VS)


Visual Studies I introduces the mechanics and principals of two and three-dimensional geometry, both as descriptive and transformative operations. 

It introduces basic tools and operations in two and three-dimensional software and places all these operations within the context of the role of drawing in the culture of architecture. The exercises move from general geometric transformations to the precise translation of them into models and orthographic views thereby placing them within the conventions of plan, elevation, section, and other architectural projections. As with other required Visual Studies courses, there is some coordination with the topics and needs of the concurrent design studio. However, it is also considered to be an independent sequence with its own logic and progression from course to course. Lectures, tutorials and readings cover both technical drawing questions and provide an introduction to important drawings in architecture and art.


Visual Studies II expands on the tools and techniques introduced in Visual Studies I and introduces new software and a more expanded consideration of studio technique beyond the conventions of drawing. 

Advanced solid modeling in Rhino and an introduction to polygon modeling in Maya also serves to introduce students to a wider range of non-classical, spline based geometries and their transformations. Where Visual Studies I introduces the legacy of drawing within the culture of architecture, this course - through lectures, tutorials, and readings - reviews the status of drawings and the move to other, less conventional creative outputs. 


Visual Studies III culminates the technical sequence of required Visual Studies courses. 

The course introduces scripting-based tools (currently, Grasshopper for Rhino) as well as advanced rendering and animation tools. As the need for, and definition of, advanced tools changes rapidly, the exact composition of the tools and techniques covered will evolve from year to year. In every case, it will include a rigorous introduction to scripting (a pre-modeling tool) and a set of post-modeling tools for the advanced representation of projects. Lectures and readings will place these representational tools into the contemporary discourse on the status of representation and abstraction in architecture.