Master of Architecture Curriculum

The heart of architectural education is the design studio, where students learn to synthesize a wide range of ideas, issues, and technologies required for the conceptualization of architecture. It is also the place where aspects of architectural practice are tested out and where history, theory, and technology are integrated into design.

The first three semesters introduce the culture of architecture and the nature of the discipline through rigorous studios that are open to graduate students only.

The following two semesters, students choose from a series of elective studios that focus on a broad selection of topics and design methodologies, ranging from speculative to comprehensive building strategies.

The final studio semester is spent developing a design thesis that questions the limits of our discipline and asks students to take risks, experiment, and be bold with their architectural speculations.

Students present their thesis work to a design jury of established professionals, theoreticians, and designers. A public exhibition showcases the graduating class’s work to both the CCA community and the Bay Area.

The MArch curriculum has four areas of concentration that are addressed by our studios and seminars:

  • Design Media
    Courses develop primary skills necessary for the visualization and representation of an architectural project and give students tools to work with a range of advanced digital design and fabrication technologies.

    Electives within the sequence experiment with parametric design methodologies, robotic architecture, building information modeling and advanced digital fabrication techniques.

  • History & Theory
    Courses ground studio practice in the world of ideas through an in-depth study of the history of architecture placing architecture in the broader context of culture, politics, technology, and philosophy.

    Electives within the sequence tackle contemporary issues of nature, utopia and global modernism.

  • Building Technology
    Courses build knowledge and skills related to technology and practice issues. Courses in sustainable building systems, building energy, structures, materials, and methods of construction form the heart of this sequence.

    Electives within the sequence include courses in green building practices, advanced building construction, and advanced material systems.

  • Urban Landscape
    ourses explore the relationship of our built environment to the ecologies and cultural landscapes of our cities. Courses in landscape theory, landscape analysis and ecology address core principals in urban and landscape design.

    Electives within the sequence explore pop-up urbanism, resource driven urbanism and extreme sites such as demilitarized zones and post-industrial landscapes.

Degree Requirements

The following are course requirements (total 90 units) for the Master of Architecture degree. 

Advanced standing may be granted to those who have some previous education in the field. Placement is based on a review of portfolio and undergraduate transcripts.

View the MArch Curriculum Chart >>

First Year, Fall
MArch Studio 1 (6 units)
Design Media 1 (3 units)
Materials and Methods (3 units)
History of Architecture 1 (3 units)

First Year, Spring
MArch Studio 2 (6 units)
Design Media 2 (3 units)
Structures (3 units)
History of Architecture 2 (3 units)

Second Year, Fall
MArch Studio 3 (6 units)
Building Energy (3 units)
Architectural Theory (3 units)
Architectural Analysis (3 units)

Second Year, Spring
Advanced Studio or Integrated Building Design Studio (6 units)
Integrated Technological Systems (3 units)
Graduate Seminar Elective (any discipline) (3 units)
Open Elective (3 units)
Internship (0 units)

Third Year, Fall
Advanced Studio or Integrated Building Design Studio (6 units)
Advanced Research Seminar (3 units)
Architectural Research Lab (3 units)
Open Elective (3 units)

Third Year, Spring
Thesis Studio (6 units)
Building Technology Elective (3 units)
Professional Practice (3 units)
Open Elective (3 units)


General Inquiries:

Leah Kandel
Program Manager
Master of Architecture
Master of Advanced Architectural Design

Postal Address
Graduate Architecture Programs
California College of the Arts
1111 Eighth Street
San Francisco CA 94107-2247

Architecture Staff
See a complete staff list for the division of Architecture »