MAADMaster of Advanced Architectural Design
Establish a cross-disciplinary architecture practice in digital craft, urban design, or history, theory, and criticism.
The Master of Advanced Architectural Design (MAAD) is a one-year STEM-designated post-professional degree. Specialized for advanced students and mid-career architects, our curriculum emphasizes research and design through mentored study and a sequence of interdisciplinary electives. We offer three distinct areas of concentration: Digital Craft, Experimental History, and Urban Works. You’ll focus on one area during an intense year of advanced study that prepares you for a range of 21st century design challenges.
Study in the inspiring Bay Area
The San Francisco Bay Area is home to spectacular architecture, renowned museums, and innovative technology companies. Within a one-mile radius of campus, you’ll find Adobe, Autodesk, IDEO, Frog Design, Google AI, Redwood Robotics, and many other research and development groups. We’re also near the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, Minnesota Street Project, and numerous alternative art spaces that blur the lines between craft and digital design. You’ll forge lifelong connections with intellectuals, researchers, and practitioners who work across multiple disciplines.
Each MAAD concentration is connected to a unique research and project-based platform. It’s through our research labs that we translate our ideas about alternative futures into prototypes and solutions for the real world.
The Digital Craft Lab features experimental making through emerging technologies, teaching you about advanced computation, robotics, responsive environments, rapid prototyping, and more.
The Urban Works Agency responds to the politics of the contemporary city. Equity, ecological vitality, and economic resilience are reimagined through urban and territory scaled analysis, narratives, and arguments.
History Theory Experiments (HTX) is a platform for advanced interdisciplinary research and critical engagement in architecture that explores alternative modes of historical practice, discourse, and spatial activism.
Collaborate with outside partners
Many of your studios and seminars incorporate outside partners, from scientists and engineers to historians and nonprofit organizations. You’ll approach some of the most pressing issues of our time, such as climate change, gentrification, and urban density, with full-scale, collaborative solutions. Recent partnerships include the City of San Francisco, Autodesk, Google, and Resilient by Design.
Summer studios and study-abroad courses
Each summer, the architecture programs host a 333 Studio, which invites three outside critics to work with students for three weeks in a lab-like environment. From civil engineers to urban planners, you’ll meet leaders who specialize in a range of methods and materials.
We also encourage every student to study abroad during the summer semester. Recent courses have focused on the reimagining of urban sites and extra-large buildings in Berlin and the architectural experimentation of domestic spaces in Tokyo.
Your tools for material experimentation
- KUKA robotic arm in the Digital Craft Lab
- 3D printers in the Hybrid Lab
- Digital preservation tools
- Lathes, grinders, and sanders
- Milling machines
- CNC routers and laser cutters
Our high-profile, dedicated faculty believe that architecture and interior design are critical cultural practices. They research and write about a range of topics and experiment with alternative materials and processes. Their primary pedagogical tools—hands-on lab work and research—guide students throughout studio and seminar investigations, from experiments in collective living to the construction of ecologically resilient structures.
Irene Cheng is an architectural historian, critic, and educator. Her research explores the entanglements of architecture, culture, politics, race, and environmental concerns in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Her most recent book is The Shape of Utopia: The Architecture of Radical Reform in Nineteenth-Century America (University of Minnesota Press, 2023). She is also co-editor of Race and Modern Architecture: A Critical History from the Enlightenment to the Present (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020) and The State of Architecture at the Beginning of the 21st Century (The Monacelli Press, 2004).
Cheng is a founding principal of Cheng+Snyder, a multidisciplinary design practice that seeks to instigate critical debates about architecture, politics, and the city.
Associate Chair Alex Schofield is an Oakland-based designer focusing on emerging technologies, material research, and their implications within the built environment. He completed his M.Arch at University of California, Berkeley, where he received the Mario Ciampi Art in Architecture Award for his parafictional exploration in fabrication, agency, and form of an architecture built from coffee grounds. Alex Schofield worked as a researcher at UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design, in development of the printFARM (Print Facility for Architecture, Research, and Materials) for various 3D printed methods and materials, as well as with the innovative materials and technology-based design firm Emerging Objects. He has completed residencies at both Autodesk Pier 9 and Workshop Residence in San Francisco, and has lectured and exhibited his work abroad. Alex operates through his design workshop, Objects and Ideograms, where he continues rethinking spatial making with an emphasis on materiality. He leverages his unique education and experiences to further develop design, fabrication, and material research in efforts towards a symbiotic, more ecologically conscious, built environment.
Focus on your research and design priorities
You must complete 30 units over the course of two semesters. Each semester, you’ll take one advanced studio, two topic electives in your chosen concentration, and one open elective, which can be any course within the main Architecture division or across the college. Take open electives in visual critical studies, interaction design, interior design, sculpture, and other disciplines. MAAD-HTX students take two additional electives each semester in place of an Advanced Studio. View sample courses.
Year 1: Fall semester (15 units total)
- Advanced Studio or Independent Study (6 units)
- Two Topic Electives (6 units)
- Open Elective (3 units)
Year 1: Spring semester (15 units total)
- Advanced Studio or Independent Study (6 units)
- MAAD Pro Seminar (3 units)
- Topic Elective (3 units)
- Open Elective (3 units)
MAAD Digital Craft
The MAAD Digital Craft concentration focuses on contemporary digital design technologies and digital craft. You’ll get both broad and in-depth exposure to contemporary topics such as parametric design, advanced computation, digital fabrication, robotic techniques, and building information modeling. During your first semester, you’ll develop a specific research trajectory. You’ll integrate digital design concepts with fabrication and prototyping tools in your second semester to realize a full-scale project.
MAAD Urban Works
The MAAD Urban Works concentration focuses on architecture and urbanism. You’ll learn how to leverage architectural design and form to impact social justice, ecological vitality, and economic resilience within communities. You’ll advance novel strategies of research, design, and scholarship to model new forms of practice and develop innovative solutions to urban challenges.
The MAAD History/Theory/Experiments concentration offers an intense year of advanced study in architectural and urban history, theory, and criticism, culminating in an independent research project. You’ll explore politically engaged forms of spatial activism, historical research methods, architectural writing, and more. During your first semester, you’ll take a required course in architectural theory, advanced seminars in research and interpretation, along with an open elective. You’ll complete an independent thesis project in your second semester, guided by a faculty mentor and an optional external advisor.
Our students enter the program as early- to mid-career professionals and graduate as highly collaborative and experimental design leaders. Many stay in the Bay Area, working for leading design practices or for technology companies like Google and Airbnb, while others take their knowledge back home as leaders in their profession. Their year of immersive research and material exploration helps them make a positive impact at any scale, from workplaces and parklets to municipal agencies and vast urban territories.
Potential career paths
- Licensed architect in a small-scale regional practice
- Licensed architect in a large-scale global practice
- Urban designer for planning and policy of urban development
- Landscape architect in ecological and living systems integration
- Design strategist
- Fabricator (digital and analog methods)
The Master of Advanced Architectural Design is a one-year, two-semester post-professional degree program. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in architecture. Overall, admission is based on the strength of your portfolio and transcripts.
Start your application
You’ll apply to CCA and submit all required application materials via SlideRoom. Afterward, you may be contacted for an interview with a faculty member as part of the application process. Being selected for an interview doesn’t indicate applicant status or increase or decrease an applicant’s chances of being admitted into their desired graduate program. Interviews are conducted at the program’s discretion and are used to gain more insight into an application.
MAAD application requirements
- Application and $70 nonrefundable application fee
To be completed and submitted on SlideRoom.
- Resume/curriculum vitae
Please outline your educational and professional background and relevant experiences and activities, including community work. Resumes/CVs must be in PDF document format.
- Two recommendation letters
You’ll request two letters of recommendation from academic or professional sources in SlideRoom by entering the contact information for your recommenders/references. They will then receive an automated email from SlideRoom with instructions for uploading their letter of recommendation.
- Unofficial college transcripts
You are required to provide your complete undergraduate academic history. Students who have already taken graduate courses are encouraged to submit those transcripts, too. For international applicants, all transcripts must be in English or accompanied by a certified English translation.
Please provide an unofficial transcript from the college where you will receive or have received your bachelor’s degree, as well as unofficial transcripts for all other undergraduate coursework. Unofficial transcripts will be used for review purposes.
Once you have been admitted and enrolled, all students will need to submit official, sealed transcripts showing the completion of a bachelor’s degree to our graduate admissions office by August 1 of the fall semester they begin enrollment at CCA.
- Proof of English proficiency (international applicants only)
Review and plan to meet our English proficiency requirements for graduate students.
Your portfolio should provide clear evidence of your architectural education and demonstrate your level of ability. In addition to examples of academic and professional work, we encourage you to submit personal projects.
Assemble your portfolio into one PDF document no longer than 30 pages and no larger than 10 MB. You may provide links to relevant external materials (videos, websites, etc.) within the PDF.
- Personal essay
In a personal essay, submitted as a PDF, write 500 to 1,000 words about what motivates you to pursue a degree in architecture and how this overlaps with one or more of our program’s strengths:
- Integration of artistic, critical, and material approaches to architecture
- Alternative models of fabrication and practice
- Current investigations of culture, media, technology, and their relationship to architectural production
- Our location within a multidisciplinary art school in the vibrant San Francisco Bay Area