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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.

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Graduate Programs
Master’s Programs





    Alvin Huang, AIADirector and Selwyn TingAssociate Director



    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.




    Alvin Huang, AIA

    Under the vision of Dean Milton S. F. Curry and the directorship of Alvin Huang, the Master of Advanced Architectural Research Studies (M.AARS) is designed to align with the mission and priorities of the USC School of Architecture, a dynamic platform for educating and inspiring citizen architects, designers and scholars to analyze problems and create design solutions that both respond to the challenges of our time and embrace the promise of a better built environment.

    This one-year, three-semester post-professional graduate degree is focused on degree concentrations:

    1. City Design + Housing

    2. Performative Design + Technology


    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.


    USC’s Master of Heritage Conservation (MHC) Program prepares students to strengthen communities using existing places and the stories they tell. Offering the only master’s degree of its kind on the West Coast, the program focuses on cultural and intangible heritage, the impact of underrecognized communities on the built environment (and vice versa), and modernism and the recent past. 

    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. Much of the history we teach was made in Southern California, from an unparalleled legacy of modern architecture to major milestones in the fight for social justice. 

    The global term for historic preservation, heritage conservation more accurately reflects the work we do and the close connections between the natural environment, the built environment, and intangible heritage. The MHC curriculum encompasses social and architectural history, planning theory and policy, assessing and documenting sites and materials, climate change and sustainability, and more. We offer dual degrees with Heritage Conservation and Urban Planning, Landscape Architecture + Urbanism, and Building Science. 

    MHC students envision the future through the lens of the past. They learn about context—what was here before, why and how it took shape, and how it evolved or disappeared over time. How do we use what we already have and sustain the evidence of our past? How do we choose which places and stories matter? Who tells those stories, how, and to what end? 

    Our students have a range of backgrounds and interests, but they share some common traits. They love history and want to tell the stories of their community. They see heritage conservation as a tool for social justice, community revitalization, housing, and sustainability. They want to learn from leaders in the field and from each other. Our award-winning podcast, Save As: NextGen Heritage Conservation, interviews students and alumni about their work, their diverse career paths, and their thoughts on the future of the field. Please visit our program page to learn more, and reach out with any questions.






    Alison Hirsch, Ph.D., FAARDirector and Esther MarguliesAssistant Director



    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.

Dual Degree Programs

    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.





    Alison Hirsch, Ph.D., FAAR, Director and Esther Margulies, Assistant Director

    Qualified students who are admitted to the Master of Landscape Architecture program in the School of Architecture and to the graduate program in the USC Price School of Public Policy may complete both degrees in a highly integrated five-seven semester program.


    The Master of Heritage Conservation/Master of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism dual degree program facilitates highly related cross-disciplinary studies in heritage conservation and in landscape architecture at the master’s level. Those enrolled in the dual degree program will learn the histories, theories, and practices of landscape architecture and heritage conservation.


    The Master of Heritage Conservation/Master of Building Science dual degree program facilitates highly related cross-disciplinary studies in heritage conservation and in building science 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 building science and heritage conservation. This curriculum has been developed so that students will graduate from this program with a broad practical knowledge of the techniques and strategies for conserving the existing built environment through the lens of science and technology. 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.

Certificate Programs

    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.


    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.


    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.


    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. 


    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.


    The Graduate Certificate program in Building Façade Art Science and Technology is designed to provide students with the deep knowledge and skills necessary for careers in the increasingly technical field of façade system design, fabrication, delivery and operation. Study areas include design, fabrication and construction processes, an expanding materials palette, energy and carbon performance, resilience and sustainability considerations, health, comfort and wellness attributes, computational analytics and digital workflows and the aesthetics of the building skin.

Summer Courses

    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.


Program Directors

Quick Facts
  • 306

    Graduate Students

  • 7:1

    Student to faculty ratio

  • 23%

    of students are first generation students

  • 120

    students received scholarship grants in 2020

  • 100

    faculty members

  • $155k

    in research grants awarded to faculty and students in 2020

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The study and practice of heritage conservation focuses on more than museums and architectural masterworks. It also helps keep neighborhoods vibrant and reveals erased or ...