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Master of Science in Architecture (M.S. in Architecture)

Program Overview

Penn State’s post-professional Master of Science in Architecture is an academic degree intended for students with professional degrees in architecture, and in exceptional cases, for students with nonprofessional architecture degrees who seek to develop a better understanding of architecture. The two-year M.S. in Architecture program is research-based, supporting a number of areas of research inquiry specially designed for students interested in advanced research and independent work. It is expected that such students will have previously studied the technical and professional aspects of architectural practice and are primarily interested in strengthening the intellectual underpinnings of their work through intensive studio investigations, design applications, and rigorous theoretical inquiry.

Faculty Research Clusters

The M.S. in Architecture program offers concentrated inquiry, research, study, and pedagogy in the following major areas of focus:

Culture, Society, Space: The Culture, Society, Space research cluster examines how built spaces – from the artifact to the urban – affect those who interact with them and, conversely, how cultural, societal, and disciplinary values shape the spaces we create. Projects can address individual buildings, public spaces, communities, or cities, as well as typological, institutional, and wider forms of inquiry. Research methods include formal, theoretical, historic/historiographical, sociological, and systemic analyses. Studies may focus on spaces and ideas as forms of cultural expression, the people who produce and use them, and/or the ideological forces in which they operate, including all aspects of their sustainability.

Design Computing: The Design Computing research cluster offers students critical knowledge and advanced skills in the use of digital technologies in architecture and related design fields, especially in the areas of visualization and fabrication. By critically examining contemporary discourse on digital media and architecture, this cluster examines the impact of emerging digital technologies on creative processes in shaping our built environment, and investigates how they can be productively utilized in sustainable design, interdisciplinary collaboration, and fabrication. The work of faculty and students in this group ranges from research on immersive environments and critical studies of design technologies, software development, to innovative uses of numerically controlled devices.

Material Matters: The Material Matters research cluster explores the inherent and expressive attributes of materials to generate design ideas that inform the conception of form and space in architecture and other creative disciplines. This cluster develops innovative, experimental, and sustainable attitudes and habits toward the use and reuse of materials and resources and produces artifacts that exemplify the behavior and phenomenal perception of materials. The work of the faculty and students in this cluster ranges from interdisciplinary research such as collaborative projects with material studies and engineering disciplines, to manual and digital prototyping, to various modes and scales of hands on explorations including full-scale execution and fabrication of designed artifacts.

Sustainability: The Sustainability research cluster investigates architecture's potential to improve the quality of life for current and future societies around the globe, addressing issues of natural resource consumption, pollution prevention, and organizational dependencies. Our faculty address aesthetic, technical, economic, and social issues in projects that cover multiple scales. From design processes, historical and theoretical aspects of sustainability, material reclamation and reuse, to identifying social structures preventing sustainable practice, this research cluster offers a comprehensive view of sustainability that promotes interdisciplinary integration. Faculty bring both practitioner and academic experience to their investigations, producing generalizable knowledge that can also be applied in the professional practice of architecture.

Recent Awards of M.S. in Architecture Students

Elena Vazquez: 2018 Penn State Distinguished Master's Thesis Award
Manal Anis: 2018 Penn State Graduate Exhibition 3rd Place
Angelica Rocio Rodriguez Ramirez: 2017 Penn State Graduate Exhibition 1st Place
Cansu Tari: 2016 Penn State Graduate Exhibition 1st Place
Dhaval Chheda: 2016 Penn State Graduate Exhibition 2nd Place
Shivaram Punathambekar: 2016 Penn State Graduate Exhibition 3rd Place
Farah Abdel Galil: 2015 Penn State Graduate Exhibition 2nd Place


M.S. in Architecture degree applicants should hold a five-year professional degree in architecture. Any exceptions must have the approval of the department head. International applicants with a five-year degree in architecture are considered equivalent to a graduate from a five-year NAAB-accredited program for admission purposes. In exceptional cases, the M.S. in Architecture program may serve students with a four-year architecture degree or other degrees who seek to develop a better understanding of the principles and theory that underlie the profession of architecture. It is understood that such students are interested in the academic path and eventually intend to pursue the doctorate degree. These students would be required to take remedial undergraduate or graduate courses and may have to significantly extend the duration of their study.

All applicants must have received a baccalaureate degree with a minimum undergraduate grade-point average  (GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale; a full description of the standards for baccalaureate degrees and the exceptions to the baccalaureate degree requirements for equivalent international degrees may be found at

Required Courses

  • ARCH 511 Theoretical Perspectives in Architecture (3 credits) 

  • ARCH 520 Methods of Inquiry in Architecture and Urban Design (3 credits)

  • ARCH 536 Design Inquiry (6 credits)
  • ARCH 550 Ethics in Architecture (3 credits)
  • Elective courses (9 credits)

  • ARCH 600 Thesis (6 credits)

30 credits are required for the M.S. in Architecture degree; 18 credits must be at the 500-level or above.

Most students complete the program in two academic years. With careful planning, students may be able to complete all requirements in one calendar year.

Integrated Undergrad/Grad Program

A limited number of academically superior students enrolled in the fourth year of the Penn State Bachelor of Architecture degree program have the opportunity to enroll in an integrated undergrad/grad program leading to both the B.Arch. and the M.S. in Architecture degrees.



Robert Reed Drawing Workshops

Cathy Braasch, assistant professor of architecture, was so moved by the passion of the late artist and educator Robert Reed that she has set out to share his life, work, and pedagogy with a whole new generation of students through the Robert Reed Drawing Workshops at Penn State and in New York at Hunter College and the Whitney Museum for American Art. Read the story.

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Department of Architecture
121 Stuckeman Family Building
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: 814.865.9535
Fax: 814.863.8137
Program Assistant: Jennifer Howard