The academic programs at the USC School of Architecture give students numerous degree options to best pursue their individual interests and goals. Students complete courses in theory and history alongside hands-on studio courses and fieldwork in robust, interactive learning environments.
- MASTER OF ARCHITECTURE: FIRST-PROFESSIONAL
USC Graduate Architecture leverages the extensive experience and wide-ranging expertise of a deeply talented roster of licensed architects, design-thinkers, and design scholars to explore the power of design to change the built environment. With a deep commitment to disciplinary knowledge, civic and spatial justice, and innovation in architectural practice, we take the term Citizen Architect very seriously.
The Master of Architecture is built on three levels. The first level is dedicated to introducing essential disciplinary knowledge and the fundamental design skills required for the NAAB-accredited degree. The second level builds upon this foundation with increasingly refined vocational knowledge and advanced professional capability. The final level culminates with a year of individually directed design research, with master classes and a directed design research project (thesis) focused on the student’s emergent architectural interests. All three levels draw on the USC School of Architecture’s commitment to spatial justice, the University’s extended resources, and the inspiration of Los Angeles. Firmly rooted in an investigative mode of critical, professional practice, the program’s aim is for every graduate to be prepared for the challenges of the 21st century.
- MASTER OF ADVANCED ARCHITECTURAL STUDIES: POST-PROFESSIONAL
Under the vision of Dean Milton S. F. Curry and the directorship of Alvin Huang, the Master of Advanced Architectural Studies [M.AAS] has been redesigned as one of the most innovative and experimental programs anywhere in the world. By bringing together several of the most renowned and progressive faculty, the program aims to set a new standard for postgraduate education internationally.
This one-year, three-semester post-professional degree is intended for individuals who have completed a professional degree in architecture (B.Arch/M.Arch). Working across disciplines and at multiple scales, the program moves between real-world issues and innovative architecture proposals. Pedagogically, the program has a dual emphasis, integrating architecture and urban theory with cutting-edge design research and collaborative experimentation on issues of housing and urbanism, domestic life and technological adaptability.
Building upon the legacy of the Case Study House Program, the theme of dwelling and urbanism is a central focus. The degree program examines the 21st century city and the diverse social and cultural landscape of Los Angeles, looking beyond the single-family home to study topics of broader significance, such as homelessness, that Los Angeles and other major cities are experiencing. Conceived of as an urban laboratory that tackles the challenges of our time, the program teaches students to develop innovative solutions through critical and creative speculation and demonstrates that social issues and architectural excellence do not have to be mutually exclusive.
- MASTER OF BUILDING SCIENCE
Building Science at the USC School of Architecture recognizes that exemplary architecture requires innovative responses to natural forces. The integration of the study of building sciences with knowledge of current practices and new technologies creates synergistic and holistic architectural design that satisfies performative goals. The Chase L. Leavitt Master of Building Science program addresses the need for a new generation of design professionals prepared to bring appropriate technology to the design of a sustainable environment while recognizing the critical impacts that science and technology can play in social and cultural realms.
Within this context, the program emphasizes: 1) The integration of planning, design, and technology to form a coherent, interdependent force for the appropriate construction of urban places. 2) Recognition of the ecological importance of energy-conscious design and construction as well as the social value of “citizen architects” creating places in which natural forces and systems are utilized rather than suppressed. 3) The development of research and design methods suited to the complexity of building in urban settings and effective in the use of extensive information. Students are individually guided through their study and complete a thesis-based research project.
- MASTER OF HERITAGE CONSERVATION
USC’s Master of Heritage Conservation (MHC) program empowers students to improve people’s lives using historic places and the stories they tell. MHC students love history and relate it closely to physical space. They want to tell the stories of their community. They’re curious about the world around them. They see historic places as tools for social justice, community revitalization, and sustainability. They want an academic approach that integrates urban planning, elevates cultural heritage, and pushes the boundaries of the field. They want not only an advanced degree but a close community of scholars, friends, and future colleagues. Or, they’re not sure what they want and seek a supportive space in which to find out.
The global term for historic preservation, heritage conservation more accurately reflects the work within the discipline, as well as the continuum of conservation from the natural environment to built and intangible heritage. With a distinct perspective rooted in urban planning and design, the program focuses on three areas: modernism and the recent past, cultural and intangible heritage, and underrepresented communities. There’s no better place to explore these issues than Los Angeles— a postwar metropolis and one of the most diverse, complex, and fascinating cities on the planet.
And there’s no better place in Los Angeles than the USC School of Architecture, alma mater of architects both legendary and overlooked—including Paul R. Williams, whose archive we now steward in partnership with the Getty Research Institute. Much of the history we teach was made in Southern California, from a rich legacy of modern architecture to the long-standing fight for social justice.
The Heritage Conservation program exposes students to the vast possibilities in the field. Taught by both academics and leading conservation professionals, the curriculum gives students broad exposure to many disciplines throughout and beyond the School of Architecture. Topics range from history, theory, and policy to materials, documentation, climate change, and site management. Students can also study subjects across the university, including real estate, regional history, urban planning, and spatial sciences. See the MHC learning objectives here.
MHC students conduct groundbreaking research that aligns with their personal passions, as illustrated in our Master Thesis Showcase and on our podcast, Save As: NextGen Heritage Conservation. We honor one outstanding thesis each year.
- MASTER OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE + URBANISM
Landscapes are the intersection of nature, social conditions and the built environment. The Graduate Program of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism at the USC School of Architecture explores the role of Southern California and global geographies as generators and solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental challenges of climate change, social and environmental justice and the role of technology. In our program we research these issues and develop multi layered proposals using design thinking to address extreme natural and social conditions affecting people, infrastructure and the environment, especially as these issues present themselves in our everyday life.
Our program curriculum is focused on a balanced core of design studios, media and representation, history & theory, construction documentation, plant materials and ecology, and urbanism. The studio sequence is designed to build design and communication skills within the process of understanding site, context and strategies for intervention. We begin with small local urban sites where intensive field work is critical to site understanding and build up to a year-long investigation of relevant topics and site investigations in the third-year design research seminar and studios. Students synthesize their coursework in history, plant materials, ecology, construction and urbanism with their studio work. Second year studios provide opportunities to investigate design responses to climate change impacts and options to collaborate with architecture students in an integrated setting. Elective courses in our curriculum come from a wide range of offerings in the School of Architecture and related real estate, planning, GIS and cinema courses offered at USC.
We are fortunate to inhabit one of the most culturally and environmentally diverse geographies in the world. We are located within an hour’s drive from the Pacific Ocean, the San Gabriel Mountains and the western edge of the Sonoran Desert. Los Angeles is the most vibrant and diverse city on the West Coast of the US. We are known as the city that is constantly reinventing ourselves. At the beginning of the 21st century we are engaged in efforts to re-define our City and our relationship to natural systems. We are optimistic that this generation, with the benefit of increased attention to the qualities and power of the landscape will prove to be more resilient than the last.
- MASTER OF ADV. ARCH. STUDIES POST-PROF. / MASTER OF URBAN PLANNING
The Master of Urban Planning/Master of Advanced Architectural Studies Post-Professional dual degree program facilitates highly related cross-disciplinary studies in architecture and in planning at the master’s level. This program offers students interested in developing a career in urban design an opportunity to make more substantial commitments in both disciplines and to achieve a more coherent and extensive knowledge in the design of built environments and public policy. This dual degree program normally requires five semesters in residence.
- MASTER OF HERITAGE CONSERVATION / MASTER OF URBAN PLANNING
The Master of Heritage Conservation/Master of Urban Planning dual degree program facilitates highly related cross-disciplinary studies in heritage conservation and in urban planning at the master’s level. The primary objective of the dual degree curriculum is to impart to students a basic familiarity with the origins and development of the philosophies, theories, and practices of planning and heritage conservation. This curriculum has been developed so that students will graduate from this program with a broad practical knowledge of the laws, regulations, and policies that apply to planning and conservation practice in the United States and internationally. This expertise will include knowledge of urban design, public policy, and architectural and planning history and theory. Students will be expected to understand the critical methodological tools necessary for a professional engaged in the investigation, interpretation, and evaluation of the urban built environment.
- MASTER OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE / MASTER OF URBAN PLANNING
- CERTIFICATE IN ARCHITECTURE
The focus of this program is on understanding the broad and complex role of architecture within the urban context. Studies focus on cities throughout the world where conditions of increasing density, environmental challenges and cultural complexity require design initiatives that support amenity, sustainability and cultural meaning. The certificate is open to graduate students not pursuing a degree in Architecture.
- CERTIFICATE IN BUILDING SCIENCE
Building science at USC recognizes that exemplary architecture requires a creative response to natural forces, based on informed good judgment in the areas of architectural technology. The Certificate in Building Science is intended as a supplement for students enrolled in graduate course work in architecture, landscape architecture, historic preservation, urban planning or related discipline.
- CERTIFICATE IN HERITAGE CONSERVATION
Ideal for professionals who wish to augment their academic credentials in order to facilitate their work on heritage conservation projects, the 14-unit certificate program includes four core classes that impart the fundamentals of the discipline. The certificate is also an ideal complement to a graduate studies in architecture, landscape architecture, building science, planning, public art administration, geography, anthropology, or other related disciplines.
- CERTIFICATE IN LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE
This program is intended to introduce at the graduate level the basic subjects inherent to the field of landscape architecture: plant materials suitable to urban conditions; urban utility and transportation systems in relation to topography, natural drainage and pathways; plant and wildlife communities; as well as inquiries about landscape infrastructure and ecology, and the history of human settlement in the evolution of urban landscapes. Southern California and Los Angeles provide an exceptionally valuable natural and sociocultural laboratory for landscape architecture studies.
- CERTIFICATE IN SUSTAINABLE DESIGN
This multidisciplinary program provides students with the tools necessary to understand and quantify the sources of energy use in buildings and landscapes. Studies emphasize improving sustainable design choices regarding natural and man-made systems considering the performance of the built environment, the reduction of its embodied and operational energies, and the influence of other resource issues.
Sustainability is an imperative for our planet as climate change, population growth and dwindling oil supplies are all reminders that our resources are finite and we need a new paradigm to adjust to these global changes. The built environment represents the majority of our energy use and design can help reduce both the embodied and operational energy of our buildings and urban landscape.
This certificate provides students with the tools necessary to understand and quantify sources of energy use in buildings and landscapes and to use design of natural and man-made systems to reduce their energy use. This certificate will give students the background to help them make sustainable design choices through informed decision making that considers the performance of the built environment related to the energy required to make it, the energy it absorbs or releases, the energy required to maintain it, and the energy required to replace it. Environmental, economic and socially responsible solutions will be explored through the coursework.
- HERITAGE CONSERVATION SUMMER COURSE
The Summer Short Course in Heritage Conservation offer clusters of lecture and field-based learning sessions about the fundamentals of the discipline in an intensive two-week format. Taught by a team of practicing professionals in fields ranging from conservation and engineering to economics and law, the course also includes visits to historic sites, such as the Gamble and Freeman Houses, the laboratories of the Getty Conservation Institute, and current rehabilitation projects. Designed for those interested in a career change, city officials needing to brush up on the basics, or students interested in learning more about the field, the Summer Short Course can be taken in sections or as a complete for-credit course.