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MIT student blogger Cristen C. '10

The School of Architecture + Planning by Cristen C. '10

What happened to "science"? "Engineering"? "Technology"?!

So, there are pretty much five schools at MIT. From most popular onwards, they are Engineering, Management, Science, Architecture+Planning, and Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. (Here are some statistics on all the schools and majors and degrees if you are curious.)

As you might know from the handy banner above, I am a Course 4 (Architecture) major. I have recently completed my HASS Concentration in Course 11 (Urban Planning) and really want to pursue a minor but probably won’t due to time constraints. Neither courses are overwhelmingly popular majors here, and in fact the entire School of Architecture+Planning is pretty small. The school encompasses three undergraduate and some more graduate programs at MIT; the undergraduate majors are Course 4 (Architecture), Course 11 (Urban Planning), and Course MAS (Media Arts and Sciences).

The Architecture major itself requires, after six core subjects, a choice of one of five concentrations leading to the Bachelor of Science in Art and Design degree:

    • Architectural Design. The overwhelmingly popular concentration; this is what everyone thinks of when they hear “architecture major.” We learn how to design and how to express our design’s intentions with models, drawings, and photos through a sequence of studio classes, each more intense than the last.. :)

      The first introductory studio.
      A graduate studio!

    • Building Technology. Akin to ‘building science’ or ‘architectural engineering’; this is the one I’m studying. It is a joint program between Course 4, Course 1 (Civil & Environmental Engineering) and Course 2 (Mechanical Engineering). Here we focus in areas such as structures, materials, energy and lighting in buildings, HVAC systems, air quality control, and building simulation. In other words, we make buildings work so they don’t fall down, grow mold between the walls, or leave you unbearably hot or cold. :) We can also go above and beyond this, by not only building normal functioning buildings, but also designing and constructing places in such a way as to maximize natural daylighting, eliminate heat losses, or perfect acoustics.


    • Computation. This one is new. Use technology/computers to design! Researcher Larry Sass, who teaches the intro class here at MIT, fabricated a house featured in a MoMA exhibit last summer (there I am in it below!). It’s made up of smaller parts designed to fit together. No glue, no staples, no screws.


    • Visual Arts. Why yes, you CAN major in art at MIT. Here it has more of a studio art flavor, and so there are no drawing or painting classes here..
    • History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art. I think it’s self explanatory. I don’t know too much about it, but according to its website “its mission has been to generate advanced research within MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning and to promote critical and theoretical reflection within the disciplines of architectural and art history.”


So there you have it regarding one of MIT’s smallest and least-known schools. :) For those curious to find out more about Course 11, Karen and Anthony will have some relevant information. For art, ARTalk always makes for a fun read.

20 responses to “The School of Architecture + Planning”

  1. Anonymous says:

    how cn i get to mit for engineering

  2. Snively says:

    Hey! Maddie ’11 worked on that fabricated house, we took a trip to NY to see it! It’s really very cool.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sigh. There’s been only one decent comment on this post, and I hate being offtopic, but I must ask… Why doesn’t MIT offer industrial engineering? I asked this on a previous post but got no reply.
    Thanks in advance.

  4. cristen says:

    Anonymous: It’s not called that at MIT. Also not offered to undergraduates.. yeah I don’t know why. Looks like one would just have to choose a specific industry instead for undergrad :p

  5. Anonymous says:

    Wait, what’s the difference between “drawing and painting” and “studio art”?

  6. anonymous says:

    well ,it’s a stupid question that am going to ask …but don u think that in that fabricated house ,the stairs are leaning against a wall …i mean should not they be leaning on the door or somewhere else ?

  7. Thanks for the reply cristen! It’s quite sad that industrial engineering is only for graduates. I was quite looking forward to studying that.. Sigh. Who knows. The administration might decide to extend it to undergraduates. =P
    I can hope.

  8. Awesome post! You should make more posts!

  9. a '13er says:

    hey cool, I’m planning to study art at MIT(What?? What?? Don’t judge me!)
    but I really do have to echo Anon 1:27 PM above. What IS the diff between “drawing & painting” and studio art? =/

  10. Mono says:

    my EC was from architecture and Urban Planning! I saw his degrees. O.o.

  11. cristen says:

    re: studio art vs. drawing/painting art

    I suppose I’m skewing the term ‘studio art’ here a bit..

    But what’s here at MIT under the Visual Arts Program mainly is sculpture, photography, performance art, public art, video, and the like.

  12. Becca! says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m interested in the architecture school at MIT but it seems as if every admissions rep I talk to doesn’t know much other than that it exists. The concentrations set up is great and I’d probably do the technology focus if I get in (app due Thursday!)

    Thanks again for a really helpful and concise post that answered a lot of my questions.

  13. Charlie says:

    My interviewer was a director of housing in my city. He mentioned that it was cheaper to build buildings that were cookie cutter.
    I argued that the compromise was buildings that were designed cheaper because a building fits in one place only.
    Please support my argument.

    ~pre un admitted applicant of architecture.

  14. Charlie says:

    For instance, you mentioned: “way as to maximize natural daylighting, eliminate heat losses, or perfect acoustics.”

    You mean orientation east to west? Well the entire city has to be built that way and you’d have to look at the environment but I wish it were done. I want to discuss this further, can someone in archi email me so that I can give them my aim to talk further?
    I have ears w/ perfect pitch and huge hearing range for the acoustics too :(

    Course you could also use the heliostats to reflect sunlight in a controlled way during winters. I have a few more ideas on earthquakes, cost from the interviewers q, etc but I’m not getting into MIT and that’s the only school I can apply architecture. I don’t want the ideas to be lost. So I’ll be posting on my website. But I want someone from MIT to actually know about them.

  15. Charlie says:

    I saw the computational a while ago on science channel. MIT does everything doesn’t it?
    This decreases costs as far as I know because machines are faster. Needs some mechanical engineers though.
    Are the houses assembled in the shop or on site? I like the dubai method. lift the individual floors of the ground by crane then lock and stack them on each other. Seems stronger as one piece.

    I split this into three posts to make it easier to read.

  16. Victor says:

    Wow… Can’t wait to do course 11!

  17. T.Y. says:

    I’m applying MIT and “School of Architecture” is my dream…

    hope see u around next year!

  18. zhiren says:

    Building TechnologyÔºÅSounds like what I’m looking for~