Graduate Required Courses



Arch 501 - Core Design Studio I


A building is only architecture when it contracts with culture. Curiously, as essential as they are to what we do, culture and contract are also among the more enigmatic threads in architecture’s composition. The histories, presents, and futures of architecture depend on how we define these terms and, in turn, how we understand architecture’s role in asserting a certain, if unstable, relationship between them. What is culture? Asked in an essentialist tone, the breadth of this question renders it absurd. Asked editorially, the same question points toward possibility. Put another way, culture can’t be universalized across the relations that comprise architecture, but it can be understood in terms that are immediate, particular, and provocative. The project during this semester will be a new museum of 20th century art, sited in Berlin’s Kulturforum. Our aim will be to develop hypotheses about how we, architects, contract with cultural production.


Arch 502 - Core Design Studio II


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



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 approach of the studio is architectural and based on different layers of typological reading and innovation, but the scale of the project is close to planning. The studio emphasizes the creative reading of a place as the start engine of the design process. This is the first studio in the core sequence in which the students are exposed to working at an urban scale. The students also engage the city of Houston and its current dynamics of redevelopment in a critical manner. Real sites and development programs are introduced, allowing for a conversation with developers and land-owners. This is a unique opportunity for the students to tackle this kind of condition from the independence of an academic setting, before entering the profession.


In the fourth semester, core studio students will apply the skills and ideas of spatial relations developed in previous semesters to a broader, more complex context. Designing at the urban scale requires a new set of precedents, vocabulary, and understanding of constituents—particularly those related to the public realm. Housing as a program requires an intrinsic analysis of the human condition in order to produce adequate and contemporary dwelling units. Furthermore, a facade detail, with which much of the practice of architecture is consumed, relies on a thoughtful and intimate application of scale with grave implications. These three phases - urban design, dwelling unit and facade detail - will be the way this studio project, housing in Houston, Texas, will be approached and critiqued.


Arch 601 - Totalization


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.


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.


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


The idea of the studio is to explore a new typology for vertical affordable housing in the center of cites all over Mexico. Searching for a replicable scheme or strategy, each student will work on one of the given site in Mexico City. The project aims to develop architectural solutions to a flexible structure that allows for expansion so the developer can sell the potential to grow in order to make the complex economically viable.


The studio will work on a new model of density through the design of a single housing tower. Following the design of the tower, it will be duplicated to achieve 10,000 units at a density of 200 acres per unit and an approximate floor area ratio of 4.2. The completed project will house approximately 29,000 people. Forefront among the questions asked over the course of the semester is whether an entire program of urban reform be carried by the design of a single building?


A building is only architecture when it contracts with culture. Curiously, as essential as they are to what we do, culture and contract are also among the more enigmatic threads in architecture’s composition. The histories, presents, and futures of architecture depend on how we define these terms and, in turn, how we understand architecture’s role in asserting a certain, if unstable, relationship between them.


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


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




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


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)


This introductory course exposes students to challenges that have driven architects and theorists from the early twentieth century to the present. The course is structured around a sequence of fourteen themes that have recurred as major debates throughout architectural history. Focusing on topics, ranging from representation, to media, to politics, urbanity, or fabrication, each theme is presented as a debate between diverging viewpoints in order to expose seminal positions that have motivated both theory and practice. In weekly discussion sections, we will analyze buildings and discuss canonical texts. These sections provide opportunities for students to develop their own positions on the issues debated, and to refine their ability to make arguments. Open to non-architecture majors.


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


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)


This course considers 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. Open to non-architecture majors.


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


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


Students will explore the challenges, standards, expectations and demands that apply to a design professional. They will learn how to start, organize and manage a professional firm and protect it from preventable risks. They will study how a project becomes a reality, starting with marketing and sales efforts, writing and negotiating the contracts involved, turning a design idea into reality, getting it built and handling claims. Architects, engineers and constructors who are directly involved in the construction industry provide real world profiles of their practices. Students will also do case studies of completed projects. Open to non-architecture majors.