Master of Architecture Studios

First Year Studio (Fall): Fundamentals 

The first year, first semester of the three-year graduate program focuses on the tools, techniques, methods, and methodologies of architectural design. The studio investigates the articulation of space, tectonic assembly, and human behavior as critical foundations of the making of the built environment.

The studio focuses on developing core drawing, making, thinking, and communication skills via a series of discrete projects that aggregate into a comprehensive body of work. Analytical investigation of the techniques and methods of architectural design and representation are interwoven with an analytical investigation of site, place, inhabitation, and elemental spatial archetypes.

The studio is largely comprised of two primary projects (Composite City and Inhabited Archetypes), with specific internal phases and deliverables, structured to operate as a complementary whole. Composite City comprises a series of studies in drawing, modeling and making that dissect the layers, components and phenomena of the built environment, via questions of narrative, memory, space, tectonics, systems and compositions. Inhabited Archetypes comprises a series of spatial explorations that employ the preceding analyses as sites of operation. Four archetypes (bridge, tower, wall, stair) prompt fundamental questions of architectural space (tectonics and inhabitation) and design processes. Working iteratively and comparatively, each archetype will be a medium to investigate issues of structure, skin, thickness, thinness, material, assembly, inhabitation and narrative. The semester culminates with the process of assembling student portfolios.

First Year Studio (Spring): Architecture in the City 

The first year, second semester of the of the three-year graduate program focuses on the development of the fundamental aspects of form, space, structure, and materiality explored through the design of a small neighborhood library, which is an essential building-block of the city. The design-based investigation focuses on the study of spatial organization, public space, user experiences and basic tectonic principles, as well as examining the arrangement of and relations between the parts and elements of the urban environment.

Through a series of assignments, students are guided step by step through the design process. The first part of the semester focuses on understanding the project’s context through the careful investigation of current issues, historical and contemporary precedents, and an in-depth analysis and documentation of a particular site within a specific neighborhood in Chicago. This process is followed by forecasting, conceptual framing, and schematic explorations, and culminates with the strategic development and conceptual detailing of a building and its environs. Design projects are developed individually with the support of team research. A strong emphasis is placed on craft, making, the communication of ideas, and documentation of process. The semester culminates by assembling student portfolios of design work.

Second Year Studio (Fall): Living in the City  

The second year, first semester of the three-year graduate program (and the first semester of the two year, advanced standing program) focuses on the design and structural engineering of high-volume residential buildings, or “housing.” The design of housing in cities such as Chicago is a story of bold experimentation and innovation, but also contradictions and controversy. Chicago has been at the forefront of developing new types of public and private housing and design strategies to improve and maintain public health since the city’s founding in the mid 19th century. Students are exposed to a variety of housing and hybrid buildings, and undertake research projects in select cities around the world to compare and contrast a variety of issues such as: density, dwelling unit types, mixed use programing, materiality, development models, cultural norms, and relationships between functionality and luxury.

The studio is structured around three primary assignments beginning with research and drawing assignments of housing types in Chicago, followed by analyses of dense, urban housing projects in global cities, to the final design project. The studio’s principle concern is giving form, shape, and character to collectively inhabited high-rise buildings, and to the streets and public spaces that surround them. Several lectures, presentations and field trips throughout the semester highlight discernable and meaningful connections between people and places, movement and morphology, natural resources and the artificial fabric of the city. A particular focus is on place-making, environmental stewardship, social equity, and economic vitality of urban neighborhoods. The studio operates as a laboratory in which to explore new possibilities for urban living in Chicago, specifically within a selected neighborhood and project site.

Second Year Studio (Spring): Working in the City 

The second year, second semester of the three-year graduate program (and the second semester of the two year, advanced standing program) focuses on the design of urban industrial architecture. Industrial buildings house large number of workers operating complex, high-tech machinery and equipment. Industrial buildings have gradually become a vital part of the architecture of the 21th century. Thanks to the constant advancement of non-polluting micro-technologies, industrial buildings are emerging in the center of service-oriented cities around the globe.

The first part of the semester focuses on understanding the typology of industrial buildings through the careful investigation of current workplace issues, historical and contemporary precedents, and an in-depth analysis and documentation of a particular site within a specific neighborhood in the city of Chicago. The second part of the studio focuses on aesthetic qualities of industrial architecture, and design issues related to: building facades and layered skins; proportioning and division of large volumes of enclosed space; harmony of structural and internal spatial elements; orderly placement of people, machinery and equipment; and, systematic arrangement of logistical operations to and from the project site.

Emphasis is placed on the environmental sustainability of the building design approach and execution. Special attention is given to material/spatial efficiency, mechanical system selection and envelope design. Students are encouraged to evaluate and provide proof-of-concept data for decisions pertaining to energy use and efficiency, recycling and the reuse of natural resources.

Third Year: Advanced Studios

Advanced Studios engage both IIT architecture faculty and a select group of visiting studio professors noted for their outstanding professional experience in contemporary practice. The focus of the each studio is strong design experimentation that is implemented in highly resolved, complex architectural design projects. Studios work on sites within Chicago, explore urban areas around the globe, and/or focus on hypothetical or technological challenges that shape the built environment. Students design structural and material systems that recognize issues of ecology as well as the broader, integrated concerns of climate, energy and natural resource use, and sustainability. Uniting the diverse strands of urban place making, economic diversity, social equity and environmental stewardship, Advanced Studios promote the design of places that reflect the values of their inhabitants, and create a lasting sense of community with meaningful identity.

The Advanced Studio program provides the intellectual climate as well as material infrastructure to explore the larger forces that influence the growth of cities. In the contemporary world, developing alternative models of design are necessary to make a transformative impact on the built environment. Design work in Advanced Studios at IIT directly engages real-life challenges and design-based solutions. As they seek to synthesize and impart principles and knowledge, to advance aesthetic and analytical skills, and to creatively expand upon given cultural norms, the Advanced Studios offer students the means to leverage their intuitions and insights to find better ways to enhance the built environment.