Architecture master of architecture degree

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At a time of significant transition in the profession, RIT's architecture program allows for full incorporation of the skills and knowledge critical to the 21st century architect. The program produces broad-thinking architects well grounded in the principles and practices of sustainability who can apply their knowledge and talents to the architectural problems posed by the modern city.

Plan of study

Students are required to complete 105 credit hours. Designed as a full-time program, courses are offered on campus, primarily during the day. Much of the course work is studio-based and includes technical courses, sustainability courses, and electives. In addition to three required sustainability courses, students take one sustainability elective. Students prepare a thesis during their final year of study. Students take four graduate electives, drawn from courses offered by the colleges of Art and Design, Business, Engineering, Engineering Technology, and Liberal Arts. In addition to course work, students must fulfill one co-op experience and one global experience.

The program is designed for students with a broad range of interests and backgrounds who are interested in studying architecture at the graduate level, whose undergraduate degrees were obtained in fields either inside or outside of architecture. The curriculum has been shaped by the global emphasis of sustainability, factors that impact urbanism, and the application of the principles of design and craft; along with a focus around building technology, materials, construction, and systems.


With a global need for a more sustainable world, including buildings and their impact on energy consumption and carbon footprints, the focus of many courses reflect the conditions of sustainable design and practice.


Design exploration is enhanced through the understanding of the implication of technology on both design process and product. The program enables students to focus and collaborate in many specialized areas of technology, including engineering, computer science, imaging science, materials and construction, and products and remanufacturing.


Because a degraded urban environment has grave implications for social, economic, cultural, and environmental health, the program pays particular attention to urban settings and urban principles. The complexity of the urban environment requires an interdisciplinary approach to architecture education—one that references economics, public policy, sociology, and regional culture. The program focuses on the practices and principles of preservation and adaptive reuse. The city of Rochester, New York, serves as an active learning environment for students.

Integrated learning/integrated practice

Like all strong design programs, the program’s core education takes place in the studio. The studio curriculum integrates construction technologies, material science, and mechanics into design. From the outset, students often approach design problems within teams, learning to value and leverage collective intelligence. The integrated learning model prepares students for the increasingly integrated practice of architecture, where integrated project delivery is fast becoming the dominant model, and architects are orchestrating teams of professionals from a variety of fields, including engineering, management, science, and computer science.


The master of architecture program received accreditation in 2017 by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB),  


  • Architecture and Planning

  • Interior Design

  • Design

  • Renewables and Environment

  • Government (Local, State, Federal)

  • Higher Education

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Architecture, M.Arch. degree, typical course sequence

Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
Architectural Representation I
This course introduces the range of architectural representation skills necessary to effectively document geometric forms and simple architectural form and space. Skill development will be both manual and digital and include free-hand sketching, 3-D modeling, 2-D drafting, paraline drawings, perspectives, and presentation techniques.
Architectural History I
Students will study the history of architecture for both western and non-western traditions from the beginning of human shelter and the patterns of early communities through the end of the Medieval period in Europe. The sub-theme of sustainability will be explored by illustrating how ancient building designs modified the effects of climate without the use of large amounts of wealth or energy.
Architectural Design I
Students will develop acuity of formal/spatial principles, and will develop presentation and self-critique skills. Projects articulate coherent sets of architectural intentions and aim to develop the spatial, structural, and organizational tools of the beginning designer. Students will also have the opportunity for basic synthesis and application of visual and tectonic communication skills necessary to convey architectural design concepts.
Understanding Sustainability
This course will introduce graduate students to the fundamental concepts related to interaction of industrial and environmental/ecological systems, sustainability challenges facing the current generation, and systems-based approaches required to create sustainable solutions for society. Students will understand critical thinking and the scientific method as it applies in a systems-based, transdisciplinary approach to sustainability, and be prepared to identify problems in sustainability and formulate appropriate solutions based in scientific research, architecture, or applied science.
Architectural Representation II
This course deepens the study of architectural representation skills necessary to effectively document more complex architectural form and space. Skill development will be both manual and digital and include free-hand sketching, 3-D modeling, 2-D drafting, paraline drawings, perspectives, and presentation techniques.
Architectural History II
Students will study the history of architecture for both western and non-western traditions from the Renaissance to the present day. The sub-theme of sustainability will be explored by illustrating how ancient building designs modified the effects of climate without the use of large amounts of wealth and energy.
Architectural Design II
With a focus on residential and small scale design, students will communicate and analyze building based architectural design concepts. Students will continue to develop acuity of formal/spatial principles, and will further develop presentation and self-critique skills. Projects articulate coherent sets of architectural intentions and aim to further develop the spatial, structural, and organizational tools of the beginning designer.
Fundamentals of Building Systems
In this course, students will receive an overview of the various systems that comprise a building project but also focus on residential construction. Systems studied will include architectural material and methods, land use, site, climate, human factors, building structure systems and active and passive support systems. The constraints that control these systems will also be studied such as building and zoning codes, construction costs, and sustainability factors.
Second Year
Architectural Studio I: Site
Building on the 1st year studios that explored basic communications between form and space this introduction to the 2nd year will investigate in greater depth the complexity and integrated nature of the architectural object and design process. Students will explore the artistic, conceptual, creative, and experiential side of architecture as a way of developing a rigorous process of architectural form-making. By developing methods, parameters, and alternatives of form-making, issues such as expression, perception, and representation will be explored. Although site design will be the focus of the course, full building designs will be examined in response to site parameters. Students will be expected to work in teams to explore communally a broad spectrum of design strategies at every opportunity.
Integrated Building Systems I
This course presents the various systems that comprise a project’s site work; architectural materials/methods, civil engineering, and landscaping architecture as well as site constraints.
Architectural Theory
A survey of architectural theory and criticism with emphasis on the period from the mid-twentieth century to the present. This course offers students the opportunity to investigate, learn, and apply critical thinking in the context of architecture and communicating these findings to others.
Architectural Studio II: Urban
Investigation of architectural design as a response to the modern urban context. This includes an understanding of urban design and planning, as well as community involvement.
Integrated Building Systems II
The major tectonic components of a building will be studied in this course focusing on the building envelope and typical structural configurations. Structural inquiry will fully cover the field of statics.
Urban and Regional Planning
This course immerses students in the field of urban and regional planning as individuals as well as part of a team. By working with area planning organizations/and or agencies, teams of students will provide community service in the design process for neighborhoods, small towns/villages, or regions.
Industrial Ecology Fundamentals
Industrial ecology is the study of the interaction between industrial and ecological systems. Students in this course learn to assess the impact and interrelations of built environments on the natural environment by utilizing life-cycle assessment tools and principles of sustainability.
Sustainable Building Metrics
This course addresses the measurement science, performance metrics, assessment tools, and fundamental data critical for the development and implementation of building systems associated with the life-cycle operation of buildings while simultaneously maintaining a healthy and productive indoor environment. Certification processes and design guides, such as LEED, Labs21®, and the Whole Building Design Guide, among others will also be reviewed.
Graduate Elective
Third Year
Architectural Studio III: Adaptive
This course examines the adaptive reuse of existing spaces, with implicit exposure to the basics of historic preservation. Students will examine and document an existing “real” space within the region, and propose coherent and rational architectural interventions for that space.
Integrated Building Systems III
Typical interior building components will be studied in this course from subdivision of space down to selection of material finishes as they realate to building code regulations. Structural inquiry will continue with full coverage of strength of materials.
Research Seminar/Thesis Prep
This seminar experience exposes architecture students to a range of contemporary architectural, social and urban issues along with the historical content that underlies the development of these issues. Selected readings from current periodicals, critical writing, group dialogue, presentations, and guest lectures will be integrated into the course as appropriate. In preparation for the culminating studio experience students will also engage in seminar format-research, through analysis of precedent, site investigation, critical readings and exploration of technique. Through this, each student will be required to develop a hypothesis as the basis for their thesis proposal.
Architectural Studio IV: Integrative
This studio provides the opportunity for students to execute a comprehensive and integrative project from schematic design through design development.
Integrated Building Systems IV
Various building core and sub-systems will be studied in this final course of the sequence including acoustics and illumination. A deeper inquiry into mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems will also occur.
Graduate Sustainability Elective
Graduate Electives
Fourth Year (fall only)
This course is the culminating studio experience for the M.Arch. program. Students will propose, design, and defend an architectural design or research problem, while working closely with a selected faculty committee.
Cooperative Education
This course provides a ten-week (350-400 hours) work experience in the field. Note: Second year program status
Professional Practice
Students will study the role and responsibilities of architects engaged in professional practice. One focus will be on the various players and the process of project delivery and management. Affiliated issues of ethics, professional development, and legal responsibilities will also be covered.
Graduate Electives
Global Experience
Total Semester Credit Hours

Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission to the M.Arch. program in architecture, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Complete a graduate application.
  • Hold a baccalaureate degree (B.Arch., BS, BA, BFA, or equivalent) from an accredited university or college from an accredited institution.
  • Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (or equivalent).
  • Submit official transcripts (in English) of all previously completed undergraduate and graduate course work.
  • Successfully complete at least one semester each of college-level math (e.g. algebra, pre-calculus, calculus, etc.) and science (e.g. physics, earth science, chemistry, etc.).
  • Submit a personal statement of educational objectives.
  • Submit scores from the GRE.
  • Submit two letters of recommendation from academic or professional sources.
  • Submit a PDF digital portfolio of creative work, which may include sketches, constructions, graphics, and/or photographs. While student portfolios do not require examples of architectural drawing/design, evidence of creative talent will be important in determining admission. (Refer to Portfolio Requirements for more information.)
  • International applicants whose native language is not English must submit scores from the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE. A minimum TOEFL score of 79 (internet-based) is required. A minimum IELTS score of 6.5 is required. The English language test score requirement is waived for native speakers of English or for those submitting transcripts from degrees earned at American institutions.
Portfolio Guidelines

All applications must be accompanied by a PDF digital portfolio. Print or bound portfolios or digital portfolios in formats other than PDF will not be accepted or reviewed. Please note, all PDF portfolios should be less than 6.0mb. Larger files will not be accepted or reviewed. In the event the review committee requires additional information or higher resolution images, the applicant will be notified.

Guidelines for portfolio preparation:

  • Image quality: A medium quality image setting on a digital camera is sufficient. No images should be pixelated.
  • File size: The total size in an 8.5"x11" format and cannot exceed 6.0mb. Alternatively students may use the PDF portfolio feature (found under FILE, in more recent versions of Adobe Acrobat) to create a portfolio.
  • Orientation: Landscape orientation is preferred.
  • Cropping: Crop out unnecessary objects from the images so that there are no distractions from work presented.
  • Image enhancement: If the image files of your work are not accurate after photographing, image-editing software is allowed to correct the appearance of the files submitted. Please use caution. It is important to maintain the integrity of the original artwork.
  • File name: Only one PDF portfolio file is allowed. It should be labeled using the following format: UARC_XX_LASTNAME.PDF, (XX is equal to the code for the academic year to which you are applying, ex: 2019 would be 19, 2020 would be 20, etc.) Enter last name in all capital letters in place of LASTNAME. Do not enter given names or middle names in this field.
  • Submission: All PDF portfolio files must be submitted via email to Students should include their name in the subject line of the email. Files delivered on CD/ROM or USB drives will not be reviewed or accepted.

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