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Master of Science in Architecture – Concentration in Urban Design

Master of Science in Architecture – Concentration in Urban Design

The Master of Science in Architecture with a concentration in urban design [MS ARCH Urban Design] is a post-professional degree focusing on contemporary urbanity. The degree provides an integrative way of looking at all of the complexity of the contemporary city, exploring the potentials and opportunities that are already inherent in urban thinking. This program is an immersive experience, graduating creative problem solvers capable of facilitating community discussions about livable, sustainable, and healthy cities. Our goal is to create strategic thinkers who lead multidisciplinary design teams.

Through their interdisciplinary studies in the MS ARCH in Urban Design program students:

  • Prepare to assess and examine wide-ranging urban issues, including economic development, urban design, landscape and infrastructure integration, ecological systems, urban energy systems, and building performance
  • Gain a working understanding of the legal, economic, and regulatory framework of federal, state, and local environmental policies
  • Make the business case for resilience and pursuing sustainable development
  • Define and promote sustainable community development
  • Demonstrate the ability to manage collaborative community engagement processes upholding social and environmental justice and problem-solving
  • Articulate sustainable environmental strategies with verifiable indicators and metrics while developing professional written, oral, and visual communication skills 

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, global cities were defined by massive change. In the developing world, urban expansion was so rapid that conventional planning systems could not keep pace with growth. In the developed world, existing infrastructure and urbanism are often unable to accommodate shifting realities. In both settings, threats of climate change, environmental degradation, failing infrastructures, and public health issues are challenging the livability of our cities. New models are needed to address these major challenges. 

This program concentration seeks to provide those new models. Its focus is not solely on issues of policy or design or community development but rather an integrative way of looking at the complexity of the contemporary city. It seeks to merge planning, design, and ecological thinking, in an acknowledgment that the challenges of the contemporary city cannot be addressed through policy or design alone. The program provides students a means to intervene in the city in productive, innovative ways – across disciplines, platforms, and methodologies. 

The Megalopolis: Houston 

The MS ARCH in Urban Design takes full advantage of Houston as a laboratory for invention and intervention. Investigations range from community development initiatives in disadvantaged neighborhoods to large-scale public works projects, long-term environmental studies, designs of city segments, and speculative projects exploring new concepts for evolving cities across the globe.   

Houston has been described as a “problem-rich” ideal place for research, scholarship, and design of future urbanism – a city in transformation. It is the United States’ fourth largest city at the center of a region of over four million people, with the country’s largest port and largest petrochemical complex. Its growing economy is in the formational stages of transit-oriented land use and design policies, revitalizing neighborhoods, and recovering coastal edge habitats. It is a dynamic and culturally diverse city facing natural and manmade environmental challenges whose solutions are of growing importance. 

Degree Plan

This program concentration is a design-based program centered on the studio for students already possessing a professional degree in architecture, urban planning, urban design, landscape architecture, or related design fields. It integrates aspects of urban design, planning, and environmental thinking within the context of the design studio in order to provide new methodologies for envisioning the contemporary city. The program prepares students for design-based research and professional practice at the front edge of urban thinking. The two-semester program consists of 36 academic credits in consecutive fall and spring semesters.

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