Graduate Required Courses



Arch 501 - Core Design Studio I

Ron Witte -100

It has been clear for decades that architecture can’t be introduced through some set of fundamental exercises without already invoking the full breadth and sophistication of architecture’s conceptual range (its subjectivities, its ideologies, its potentials). Since at least the 1960s, many have argued that architecture has no certainties at its center and, therefore, no canonical baseline. Prior to that, a de facto truism stipulated that it was impossible to begin architecture without an initiation in elementary, essential, even universal understandings about drawing types, building systems, cities, compositions, and histories, among other subjects. The starting point for ARCH 501 lies in a goading relationship between these two positions. It begins with the premise that there is no drawing, no piece of steel, no window, no city, and no elementary state that is not fully loaded with ideas. And, in turn, there is no theory, no speculation, and no ambition that can find traction without a full complement of sewers, floor plans, door knobs, spreadsheets, and moment diagrams. ARCH 501 will introduce architecture as a sticky undertaking that, beyond binding these frameworks to one another, uses each to accelerate the others.


Arch 502 - Core Design Studio II

Mark Wamble - CLub life: strategies for an urban compound

For the duration of the semester this studio will address the design of an Urban Compound. The idea of a compound, urban or otherwise, is shaped by the organization of diverse activities distributed across discreet zones within a single site and with limited orientation to the outside. Often, these activities are arranged with a strong inward focus by way of a common space, or set of spaces designed to mediate the interaction of internal activities. The site for the compound you will design is near the intersection of Bissonnet Street and Kirby Drive in Houston, Texas. The program for the Urban Compound is a day-to-night club called Club Life. Theoretical issues engaged by the design of this compound will relate urban continuity to architectural form, and architectural form to a saturated leisure program operating around the clock. Each of these issues will invoke the need for students to claim a new and relevant definition of architectural edge, developed to manage spatial relationships at both the interior and exterior limits of the site.


Arch 503 - Core Design Studio III

Section 1 - Carlos Jiménez - Strategies of Singular

Section 2 - Dawn Finley - Strategies of multiple

The third semester core studio continues the study of disciplinary concepts and techniques raised in the first year while introducing more complex issues related to program, form, and material. The studio investigates issues of public architecture through the design of a medium-scale public institutional building (library, courthouse, or other public building), and specifically examines the projective potentials of program and site in relation to form. The studio advances inventive, plausible building design strategies that exploit the operational and representational aspects of architecture. The studio will be taught as two separate sections, while sharing the resources of precedent research and seminars. Final projects in the sections will be differentiated by a clear organizational directive, program variations, and distinct site types.


Arch 504 - Core Design Studio IV


The studio seeks to become an exploration on how architectural form and urban organization interplay in shaping public space. Additionally, the projects also share a methodology, as they depart from an interrogation of existing typologies (the office tower, the parking garage and the urban public space), to then pursue the formulation of an innovative proposal for the development of a section of Downtown Houston. In following with this particular setup, the projects will ultimately differentiate themselves through the delineation of a triangle, defined by the relative distances imposed between the types being studied, the author and the proposal understood as a re-interpretation that looks forward. Through their experiments with appropriation, abstraction, mutation and replication, the projects in the studio will try to demonstrate that Architecture has its own ways to engage the built environment -just like Literature has on occasion engaged contemporary vernacular voices. Downtown Houston, with its unique mix of generic architectural form and urban state of exception will thus become the perfect testing ground for a collective exploration on the difficult but promising relationship between realism and innovation, as well as on the limit of our capacity to reconcile architecture as abstract ideas and concrete objects.

Section 2 - Neyran Turan - CAMPUS COMMONS

While understanding that architecture acts as part of a larger culture of thinking and making, the studio will explore the design of a clearly articulated architectural proposal for a campus project in the city of Istanbul. By exploring inherent tools and methods of architecture, students will be expected to demonstrate conceptual/critical thinking and analytical rigor, giving equal importance both to speculative and pragmatic aspects of the project articulated through the production of detailed drawings and models that are coordinated into a final review presentation. The studio emphasis is on architecture’s ability to construct alternative worlds through a constant dialogue established between the external systems of urbanism (material and cultural context), and the internal organization of the building and institution. Through a careful calibration, each student’s thesis is directed toward the articulation of a particular relationship between urban-scale systems, program and form through the potentials and limits of architectural thinking.


Arch 601 - Totalization

SECTION 1 - Andrew Colopy - Superficial Matters

Plastic is superficial. Fake. Cheap. Disposable. Hard, soft, shiny, matte, smooth, rough, transparent, translucent, opaque. So contradictory in its material qualities, plastic is rendered virtually immaterial. Plastic is all of those things that architecture – significant, authentic, valuable, lasting -- is not. But somewhere along the way, plastic seeped in, coating our walls, roofs and floors, insulating us from the weather, sound and electricity, covering every surface, filling every joint, every gap, until we were completely enveloped, until the thickness, weight and structure of architecture gave way to an impossibly thin membrane of performance. Plastic is superficial, but superficial matters. This course will open a line of research into new possibilities for plastic in architecture. The studio will explore the variable potential of plastic, questioning its status as a uniform material within an environment of spatial heterogeneity while valuing the potential offered by its sustained position of weakness.

Section 2 - Doug Oliver - Acoustic Contouring

This studio is committed to developing an understanding of the spatial and sensorial potential of acoustic contouring when catalyzed by the physics of instrumental sound. Research will take two principal tracks. The first will be the mastering of the principles and fundamentals of acoustic design required for the realization of effective musical performance space. This will be achieved through exercises that use simulation software such as EcoTect to graphically model acoustic performance and critical design input from specialized acoustic consultants. The second research subject will be a material and tectonic study of engineered woods, such as plywood, and sound absorptive material, such as synthetic foam. All live music based performance venues require an integrated and delicate balance of form/shape and absorptive & reflective surfaces; it is the semester’s goal to evaluate the architectural potential of this infinitely variable set of relationships.

Section 3 - Mark Wamble - Elastic Limit

In this studio students are asked to explore the structural steel diagram in relation to architectural form on a prominent site in Midtown Manhattan. Students will identify and work with one diagram for the duration of the semester. Understanding the abstract properties of the structural diagram is a priority, and will precede more conventional explorations of form and program on the site. The studio makes extensive use of case studies whereby students are required to extract structural principles from the steelwork found in their assigned case study and, since the structural diagram of each case study is unique, devise singular architectures from it. Students are asked to apply this research to a Retail Outlet and Corporate Headquarters for a major fashion designer. Final projects will incorporate a comprehensive range of building systems and services.


Arch 602 - Architectural Problems

SECTION 1 - Jeanne Gang - TBA

Section 2 - Albert Pope - Inventing Sha Tin

The semester will be divided into three discrete parts scheduled around a mid semester field trip to Hong Kong Sha Tin. The first part of the semester will involve research into Sha Tin and the manifestation of that research into a distinctive graphic space. More than just displaying information, graphic space invents a way to “see” Sha Tin as something more than a arbitrary and random collection of building objects. The second part of the studio will follow through on the research and graphic projection with a field trip. After constructing a way to “see” Sha Tin, we will actually go and see Sha Tin. This visit will alternate our limited number of days between touring the greater Hong Kong area and doing field research in Sha Tin. We will also be choosing sites for the design intervention that we will work on in the third part of the studio.


The Bacardi 2020 studio will examine the relationship among architecture, commerce, and work. The origin of the studio’s focus lies in the extraordinary role that a patron – the Bacardi Rum Company (now Bacardi Limited) – played in catalyzing modern architecture’s alliance with post-war corporate culture. In 1957 Bacardi commissioned Mies van der Rohe to design its Cuban headquarters in Santiago de Cuba. While this building was never built — the project was suspended by the Cuban revolution of 1959 — the design had a profound impact on not only corporate architecture but modern architecture as a whole. The design of Mies’s Nationalgalerie in Berlin, his unbuilt Schweinfurt museum project for Georg Schäfer, and the eventual 1972 Bacardi Bermuda headquarters building were a result of the work that Mies undertook for Bacardi. If Mies was the archetypal architect of modernism, Bacardi was modernism’s exemplary patron. The reach of Mies’s Bacardi work ran far and wide…into cultural projects, office buildings, civic architecture. It resonated not only across Mies’s own work but also influenced the work of countless other architects re-thinking a world that was entirely transformed during just a few decades in the middle of the twentieth century. Across these years, perhaps more than any other corporate entity, Bacardi wholly committed to rethinking its identity, its work culture, and its relationship to commerce in the midst of modernism’s exhilarating transformation of life, with architecture playing a pivotal role in that process. If the setup for this studio lies in an astonishing history, its aim is to speculate about what one can hope will be an equally astonishing future: what is the contemporary relationship among architecture, commerce, and work? In the same way that Bacardi and Mies looked onto a world that was nothing like that which had existed even a few decades earlier, today we look across a world that is nothing like that which Bacardi and Mies saw during the 20th century. How do we work in this new world? What should a corporate entity look like? How is trade carried out? What is the relationship between “corporate” and “culture” today? Most directly, what kind of architecture should house a contemporary corporation?


Arch 620 - Architectural Problems Paris Program


The goal of the studio is to explore the implications, challenges and opportunities of architectural scale in large urban infrastructures. The capacity to merge urban and architectural scales through radical exploration of the ambiguity between superstructure (above ground) and infrastructure (below) creates an opportunity to escape the plan-based tradition of urbanism and explore sectional strategies. The notion of inhabited infrastructures is a way to move beyond the traditional understanding of cityscape (street, urban block, lot, building) and explore inversions and mutations of these four scales of urban fabric, not as a way to erase the city but as a way to invent different strategies to intervene in metropolitan contexts that are incredibly layered, complex, and intertwined. These explorations are especially relevant in contexts where the city fabric is interrupted by geographical barriers that create edge conditions (e.g., the Seine in Paris). There is a very long tradition of inhabited infrastructures; historically, inhabited bridges created a continuity of the urban fabric in discontinuous situations (the bridge is literally a street within). With the emergence of urbanism as an independent discipline, this tradition has disappeared. Attempts at reviving this trajectory emerged in the 60’s and 70’s with the utilization of overblown architectural scales as a territorial device. From Superstudio to Rem Koolhaas, these strategies were mostly critical projects and apparatuses, pretexts for a new architectural discourse. While addressing issues of scale and ‘bigness,’ this studio will aim to develop plausible, buildable structures that react to site conditions, program, and technical realities. In this case, size matters and it will be the driving force to explore the threshold between architectural practice and urban discourse.


Arch 702 - Pre-Thesis Preparation: Design Research

Scott Colman

Thesis at Rice is the culmination of the Master of Architecture curriculum and, as such, it is the moment when the student contributes to and advances the discipline. Students participate in thesis preparation during their penultimate semester; the aim of this course is to locate potential thesis topics and hone those topics by situating them within a lineage of architectural and urban paradigms. The aim is also to develop and rehearse a focused argument for your particular approach to the topic. The thesis design project tests this approach in a project, the underpinnings of which seek a synthesis of intellectual and design objectives. Thesis concludes with a public final review, where the project is evaluated both on its own terms and within the broader field of contemporary architectural discourse. Thesis work spans two semesters. This first semester is aimed at the articulation of a Thesis Proposal. The thesis proposal should clearly outline the problem to be addressed, its architectural implications, and its projected material results. It is essential that the proposal present a concept, design methodology, site, and program for the project. In short, the thesis proposal poses a question that motivates and provokes design work in the semester to follow. An annotated reading list and/or catalog of informational resources should also be included.


Arch 703 - Design Thesis

Scott Colman



Arch 507 Technology I - The Frame


This course introduces students to structural concepts that can be applied to a wide range of buildings. These concepts are placed in a context of material properties, natural forces, industrial systems, construction techniques, economic imperatives, sustainability, programmatic requirements, and architectural ideas to examine what factors drive the selection of structural systems. The first semester explores the trabeated frame as a structural system.


Arch 509 Technology II - The Shell


This course explores continuous structural systems including slabs, shells, shear planes, and monocoque, where structural members merge into an undifferentiated whole. This concept is placed in a context of material properties, structural behavior, natural forces, industrial systems, construction techniques, economic imperatives, sustainability, programatic requirements, and architectural ideas to examine what factors drive the selection of structural systems. Lectures focus on structural concepts, illustrated with wide variety of built examples from throughout the world. Home works focus on calculation, using structural analysis software. The final project involves the design, detailing, and calculation of a structural system for a selected program. As an extension of Technology I, this course explores the consequences of continuous structures and rigid connections, then moves on to non-orthogonal and undifferentiated systems.


Arch 514 Technology III - The Envelope

Gordon Wittenberg

The “Building Envelope” refers to the exterior “fabric” or “membrane” which separates the building’s interior from the exterior environment. The purpose of this course is to examine this surface from both a technical and a formal perspective. The study of this critical aspect of building technology has traditionally been treated as a by-product of material and construction technology. As a result of new technologies, materials, and fabrication processes, as well as concerns about sustainability and the environment, projects like Herzog and de Meuron’s Central Signal Box Structure of 1989 began an active investigation of new formal and technical potentials of the building envelope that has come to characterize contemporary practice. It could be argued that structure, so long a dominant element of form-making in modern architecture has become secondary to surface. The locus of technical innovation in the envelope has even led to the new specialty of "Façade Engineer" within the practice of engineering and architecture.


Arch 516 Technology IV - The Environment


This course is an introduction to Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems in residential and commercial buildings. Electrical and plumbing systems will also be addressed, but to a lesser degree. The course will address principles of human comfort, heat flow in buildings, types and characteristics of various HVAC equipment and air distribution types. Students will become familiar with basic HVAC concepts and will learn to select and estimate the size of an appropriate HVAC system. HVAC issues for specific building types will be discussed, along with how HVAC systems affect life safety, energy consumption and sustainability. Field trips will feature examples of relevant HVAC systems and how they integrate with architectural design. Each student’s class project will involve HVAC selection, sizing, layout and design for a specific building he/she selects. The goal is that you have sufficient ‘big picture’ understanding of MEP (mechanical / electrical / plumbing ) systems----so that you can effectively lead the design team, advise your client on options and design a building that is safe, comfortable, sustainable and affordable.


History & Theory

Arch 525 - History & Theory I (Introduction to Architectural Thinking)

Reto Geiser

As an inherent part of every society, architecture directly reflects the socio-political, technological and cultural conditions of its place and time. Architecture is not a self-sufficient discipline, but rather connected to a broad range of different fields, from science and technology, to art and literature, to philosophy and economics. An understanding of architecture is therefore inevitably interdisciplinary. But despite architecture’s wide breadth, there are positions and approaches that are specific to design practice and architectural thinking. The goal of this course is to expose students to such issues and debates that have driven architects and theorists from the late nineteenth century to the present, and to provoke students to develop their own positions on major issues. The course is structured around a sequence of fourteen themes that have recurred as major issues throughout architectural history. Each subject is presented as a debate between diverging projects, approaches, and points of view, in order to highlight the positions that have motivated and shaped both theory and practice. While the dialectical approach will serve as a productive vehicle to engage the class in an instant debate, our interest lies in a differentiated articulation of the disciplinary possibilities rather than in a polemic juxtaposition of fixed attitudes.


Arch 645 - History & Theory II (Pre-1890)

Farès el-dahdah

This course will explore the Ideal City as an imaginary object and a particularly stable program in the history of architecture always proposed as an exemplary model to be emulated, be it as a social machine, a technical accomplishment, or an esthetic desire. Latent in every ideal city is the conscious generation of rules bound by a social contract and where the city is less about repetition or regularity and more about the orchestration of urban facts, political power, and the communal obligation to live together, all of which materialized in building form. To study ideal cities, therefore, is to interrogate the acts and the instruments of social organizations that rely on a particularly architectural proposition: the plan that rules and regulates the disposition of buildings or monuments. Following a case study format, each week will consist of two lectures and a discussion session around assigned readings, topics, and issues covered in that week’s lectures.


Arch 646 - History & Theory III (1890-1968)

Scott Colman

This course surveys the history and theory of architecture and urbanism between 1890 and 1968, tracing the critical shifts in architectural thought and practice that inaugurated, constituted, and questioned architectural modernism. In particular, the course considers the development of architectural knowledge as the field engaged and contributed to the great social, political, cultural, and technological changes of the period. Organized around a series of significant case studies considered particular, designed responses to their material, intellectual, and sociopolitical context, the course elucidates the influence of contingent conditions on architectural design, but emphasizes the designer’s efforts to reinforce, reform, or transform those conditions. The course charts the ongoing attempt to account for this activity historically and theoretically and the operative role of these accounts both during the period and subsequently.


Arch 652 - History & Theory IV (1968-present)

Christopher hight

This course examines a series of recent architectural projects in the late 20th through the early 21st century, a timeframe characterized (in part) by problems of, one the one hand, the autonomy of architecture as a discipline, and on the other hand, the field's relevance to emerging social, cultural, and environmental transformations or crises. The course examines this simultaneous need for greater disciplinary expertise and broadening of interdisciplinary engagement through the rubric of “ecology.” Rather than simply instrumentalize ecology to assert a normative imperative, the course approaches it critically, as a means of retrospective and projective problematization of its objects of study. This use of ecology as an organizational and conceptual framework focuses on the relationship of relatively autonomous, finite and coherent systems within larger complexes of systems, or the environment. Both inform and transform each other; thus they are are distinct but also interdependent. Thus it may provide useful in advancing the understanding of architecture as a specific field of knowledge and distinctive way of operating within the world -- and transforming it.



Arch 623 - Professionalism & Management in Architectural Practice


This is the course that wraps everything up. You will learn what is expected of you as an architect in actual practice and as a professional under the law. We will discuss the many people you will deal with, the challenge of finding solid projects, how to start and preserve a firm, the essentials of the contracts that confront you in the profession, and what to do when it all goes badly.


Inside the RSA