Under the vision of Dean Qingyun Ma and the directorship of Gail Peter Borden, the Masters programs in architecture have been redesigned as two of the most innovative and experimental programs anywhere in the world. By bringing together several of the most renowned and progressive instructors, the programs aim to set new standards for postgraduate education internationally. Offering two degree strains, the School of Architecture has both a professional Master of Architecture degree program (M.Arch) and a post-professional Master of Advanced Architecture degree program (MAArch). The USC School of Architecture occupies a key position in design pedagogy in the global design community, the Pacific Rim and Los Angeles in particular. The programs draw their inspiration from the energy and dynamism of the city of Los Angeles itself. This city is a complex laboratory of urban life, a melting pot of different cultures with an astonishingly rich ethnic diversity. The city is a dystopian/utopian mix of rich and poor, privileged and underprivileged, a range of contested territories and ever evolving ethnic geographies. Blessed by a benign climate, and yet ever at risk from earthquakes and other natural or manmade disasters, it is a city that has learnt to take environmental and ecological questions seriously. Above all, Los Angeles is a highly original and experimental city that has consistently challenged preconceptions and served as an incubator for new ideas and practices. The Masters programs in architecture are based in the transformative power of advanced concepts and strategies, which are tested every day in the laboratory of Los Angeles. By locating our design research within the unpredictable, problematic and resistant environment of reality, we actively confront culture, site and construction in preparation for practice in the contemporary city.
The M.Arch program is a 2-year NAAB-accredited professional degree intended for individuals who have completed a pre-professional undergraduate major in architecture. The M.Arch program draws upon the tradition of inspired experimental architectural design in Los Angeles, typified by two of its most distinguished graduates, Pritzker Prize-winning alumni, Frank Gehry and Thom Mayne. The first section of the program is dedicated to a thorough introduction to the essential knowledge and skills as required by NAAB to obtain an accredited degree. The final section builds upon this background in a more experimental and explorative fashion, drawing on the resources and inspiration of Los Angeles itself. Firmly rooted in an investigative mode of critical professional practice, the faculty include: Gail Borden, Christophe Cornubert, David Gerber, Frank Gehry, Dan Meis, Greg Otto, Gary Paige, Lawrence Scarpa, Doris Sung, Warren Techentin, Selwyn Ting and Olivier Touraine.
The M.Arch degree program extends USC's long commitment to experimental practice. As a NAAB accredited degree, the four-semester program has three semesters of intensive core studios followed by a fourth semester of topical investigations interfacing with the Master of Advanced Architecture Degree program.
The first semester design studio focuses on multiple communicative tools and advanced design skills that allow students to develop and document architectural concepts. Paramount in this semester is the focus on tectonic and construction systems with a particular emphasis on structural integration as a design instigator.
The second semester design studio similarly engages tectonics but with a more performative and sustainable systems based approach. Emphasizing technology and responsibility from a more performative and sustainable systems based approach, the comprehensive design project is undertaken to engage site, place, climate, energy and full systems as instigating factors. The urban context of Los Angeles is examined through student led programming of mixed use designs set in a supercharged context that engages the broader networks of information, transportation and social infrastructures.
The third semester design studio is a platform for research and design topics that expand contemporary discussions in architecture. Envisioned as a comprehensive studio but one focused on advanced systems, it engages computational modeling systems, environmental factors, energy, form, perception and material to produce an architectural agenda through performative feedback loops. Coupled with these information based models, CAD-CAM and rapid prototyping through three dimensional physical prototyping and advanced representational techniques become focused methodologies in the design process.
The final and fourth semester studio is a more topical, narrow and deeper engagement. A diverse selection of option studios are offered and shared with students in the Master of Advanced Architecture Program. Content is driven by opportunity, faculty interest and expertise, and varies widely, but clusters broadly under three distinct goals:  architectural urban studies using Los Angeles as a laboratory to engage global issues;  advanced computation/fabrication and digital technology; and  performative architecture with an emphasis on sustainable systems. These offerings represent specific design and research directions initiated by our faculty and fully supported by additional resources from the University of Southern California and the city of Los Angeles.
NAAB Catalog Statement
In the United States, most state registration boards require a degree from an accredited professional degree program as a prerequisite for licensure. The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), which is the sole agency authorized to accredit U.S. professional degree programs in architecture, recognizes three types of degrees: the Bachelor of Architecture, the Master of Architecture, and the Doctor of Architecture. A program may be granted a 6-year, 3-year, or 2-year term of accreditation, depending on the extent of its conformance with established educational standards.
Doctor of Architecture and Master of Architecture degree programs may consist of a pre-professional undergraduate degree and a professional graduate degree that, when earned sequentially, constitute an accredited professional education. However, the preprofessional degree is not, by itself, recognized as an accredited degree.
The University of Southern California School of Architecture offers the following NAAB-accredited degree programs:
B. Arch (160 undergraduate credits)
Next Accreditation visit for B.Arch: 2014
M. Arch (pre-professional degree + 64 graduate credits)
Next accreditation visit for M.Arch: 2014
Download the most recent Visiting Team Report