Students who enters the program must select a domain of study and construct a trajectory to guide their coursework. A degree candidate will be recommended for the Master in Design Studies degree upon satisfactory completion of 64 units of course work, including an 8-unit directed, collaborative capstone project in the final semester.

No more than 8 units from the total of 64 may be from independent study courses and no more than 16 units from non-GSD courses. The Domain Head may waive requirements or make exceptions to the maximum number of units allowed through non-GSD courses, however, a total of 64 units of course work must still be completed.

Specific course requirements are subject to change or substitution each academic year. The MDes Degree Requirements document in place at the time of matriculation serves as the official guideline for degree requirements. Specific requirements for each domain of study are available below and are also accessible from each domain’s web page. Recommended courses for each trajectory are available below.

Residence

Four terms of full-time study in residence are required for students entering into the program in the 2021-22 academic year.

Students pursuing concurrent masters’ degrees may be able to complete the program in a minimum of two semesters. Requirements should be discussed with the Domain Head and Program Coordinator.

Domains and Required Courses

Publics

SES 5486 The Gentrification Debates: Perceptions and Realities of Neighborhood Change
SES 5502 Urban Governance and the Politics of Planning in the Developing World
SES 5374 Community Development: History, Theory, and Imaginative Practice
SES 5382 Making Participation Relevant to Design
SES 5291 Theories for Practice in Conflict
DES 3348 The Idea of Environment
ADV 9202 Open Project

Ecologies

DES-3241 Theories of Landscape as Urbanism
SES-5210 Cities by Design I
SCI-6244 Climate by Design
ADV-9661 Proseminar in Urbanism, Landscape, Ecology
HIS 4115 History and Theory of Urban Interventions
SCI-6322 Mapping: Geographic Representation and Speculation
ADV 9202 Open Project

Narratives

HIS 4122 Buildings, Texts, and Contexts: Between Origins and Modernity
HIS 4223 Buildings, Texts, and Contexts: Modernism and Its Counter-Narratives
HIS 4387 Topology and Imagination: Between Chinese Landscape and Architecture
SES 5399 Race, Power, and Resistance in the City
ADV 9202 Open Project

Mediums

VIS 2314 Responsive Environments
SCI 6338 Introduction to Computational Design
SCI 6322 Mapping: Geographic Representation and Speculation
ADV 9202 Open Project

Note that first-year students may select courses across two domains with permission of Domain Heads.

Trajectories and Recommended Courses

These courses are recommended to complete particular trajectories. It is possible to combine more than one trajectory with permission of the MDes Program Director. Additional courses are available across Harvard University and at MIT.

Social Equity

SES 5373 Contemporary Developing Countries: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Intractable Problems
SES 5399 Race, Power, and Resistance in the City
SES 5398 New Spaces of Justice
HIS 4476 Architecture’s Bodies: Agency and Biopolitics
HIS 4479 Power & Place: Culture and Conflict in the Built Environment
HIS 4455 Cotton Kingdom, Now
DES 3358 An Unsentimental Look at Architecture and Social Craft
DES 3394 From Fallow: Equitable Futures for Landscapes of Injustice

Power and Place

DES 3333 Culture, Conservation & Design
HIS 4479 Power & Place: Culture and Conflict in the Built Environment
HIS 4476 Architecture’s Bodies: Agency and Biopolitics
SES 5291 Theories for Practice in Conflict, Crisis, and Recovery
SES 5386 Urban Ethnographies
SES 5399 Race, Power, and Resistance in the City
HIS-4304 North American Seacoasts and Landscapes: Discovery Period to the Present
HIS-4105 Studies of the Built North American Environment: 1580 to the Present
HIS 4395 Environmentalisms
DES-3241 Theories of Landscape as Urbanism
DES-3348 The Idea of Environment

Climate Change

SES 5395 Planning for Climate Change
SES 5206 Land Use and Environmental Law
SCI 6244 Climate by Design
SCI 6372 Advanced Topics on Embodied Carbon in Buildings
SCI 6482 Confronting Climate Change: A Foundation in Science, Technology, and Policy
SCI 6362 Climate Crisis—Beyond Adaptation & Resilience
SCI 6374 Advanced Applications in Sustainable Architecture
DES 3241 Theories of Landscape as Urbanism
DES 3391 Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle

Energy and Sustainability

SCI 6121, 6122 Environmental Systems
SCI 6125 Building Simulation
SCI GSD 6126 Materials
SCI-6338 Introduction to Computational Design
SCI-6361 Building Human Interaction
SCI 6374 Advanced Applications in Sustainable Architecture
SCI 6466 Optimizing Façade Performance
SES 5370 Environment, Economics, and Enterprise
DES 3397 Material World

Infrastructures as Social Structure

SES 5380 Experimental Infrastructures
SES 5381 Urban Design and the Color-Line
SES 5399 Race, Power, and Resistance in the City
DES 3397 Material World
DES 3241 Theories of Landscape as Urbanism
HIS 4374 Cities, Infrastructures, and Politics: From Renaissance to Smart Technologies
HIS 4115 Histories and Theories of Urban Interventions

Emergent Urbanisms

DES 3396 Thinking Landscape—Making Cities
DES 3472 Urban Grids: Open Form for City Design
HIS 4374 Cities, Infrastructures, and Politics: From Renaissance to Smart Technologies
SES 5337 Housing and Urbanization in Global Cities
SES 5347 Urbanization and Development
SES 5397 Cities and Urban Informal Economy: Rethinking Development, Urban Design, and Planning
SES 5399 Race, Power, and Resistance in the City
DES 3241 Theories of Landscape as Urbanism
DES 3391 Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle

Risk, Recovery, and Preemptive Practice

DES 3358 The Idea of Environment
DES 3397 Material World
SES 5395 Planning for Climate Change
SES 5291 Theories for Practice in Conflict, Crisis, and Recovery
SES 5215 Analytic Methods of Urban Planning: Quantitative
SES 5216 Analytic Methods of Urban Planning: Qualitative
SES 5399 Race, Power, and Resistance in the City
VIS 2129 Spatial Analysis and the Built Environment
SCI 6322 Mapping: Geographic Representation and Speculation

Health (Use in combination with a primary trajectory in the domains of Publics or Ecologies.)

SES 5391 Public Health in an Era of Epidemics
SES 5330 Healthy Places: COVID 19 and Cities
SCI 6374 Advanced Applications in Sustainable Architecture
SCI 6482 Confronting Climate Change: A Foundation in Science, Technology, and Policy
SCI 6126 Materials

Housing (Use in combination with a primary trajectory in the domains of Publics or Ecologies.)

SES 5206 Land Use and Environmental Law
SES 5326 Housing and Urbanization in the United States
SES 5103 Public and Private Development
SES 5337 Housing and Urbanization in Global Cities
SES 5367 U.S. Housing Markets, Problems, and Policies
SES 5374 Community Development: History, Theory, and Imaginative Practice
SES 5433 Modern Housing and Urban Districts: Concepts, Cases, and Comparisons
SES 5490 Affordable and Mixed-Income Housing Development, Finance, and Management
SES 5495 Market Analysis and Urban Economics
PRO 7449 Elements of Urban Stack

Architecture and Its Texts

HIS 4490 Architecture and Its Texts
HIS 4398 Postmodernism and Poststructuralism
HIA 4141 Histories of Landscape Architecture: Textuality and the Practice of Landscape Architecture
HIS 4454 The Project and Territory: Japan Story
HIS 4455 Cotton Kingdom, Now
HIS 4385 Mountains and the Rise of Landscapes
HIS 4356 Screens—Projecting Media and the Visual Arts
HIS 4395 Environmentalisms
HIS 4397 Environmental Histories, Archived Landscapes
HIS 4428 Visionary Architecture

Conservation (Use in combination with a primary trajectory in the domains of Publics, Ecologies, or Narratives).

HIS 4382 Building Conservation and Renewal
HIS 4399 Architecture and Construction: From the Vitruvian Tradition to the Digital
HIS 4392 Case Studies in Conservation and Adaptive Re-use
SCI 6481 Ecosystem Restoration
SCI 6375 Re-Wilding Harvard
DES 3241 Theories of Landscape as Urbanism
DES 3391 Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle
DES 3394 From Fallow: Equitable Futures for Landscapes of Injustice

Interdisciplinary Art and Design Practice

VIS2482 Art, Design and the Public Domain
VIS 2481 Public Projection: Projection as a Tool for Expression and Communication in Public Space
VIS 2228 Digital Media: Artifacts
VIS 2229 Digital Media: Composition
VIS 2344 Constructing Visual Narratives of Place
VIS 2425 Paper or Plastic: Reinventing Shelf Life in the Supermaket Landscape
HIS 4451 Materiality, Visual Culture, and Media
HIS 4356 Screens—Projecting Media and the Visual Arts
SCI 6317 Material Systems: Digital Design and Fabrication
SCI 6360 Digital Fabrication and Robotics
SCI 6368, Pre- and Post-
SCI 6322 Mapping: Geographic Representation and Speculation
DES 3357 Experiments in Public Freedom
DES 3365 Material, Atmosphere, and Ambience
DES 3241 Landscape as Urbanism
ADV 9153 Forms of Assembly

Responsive Environments

DES 3357 Experiments in Public Freedom
DES 3365 Material, Atmosphere, and Ambience
DES 3386 Acoustic Space: An Archeology of Building Types
SCI-6322 Mapping: Geographic Representation and Speculation
SCI 6373 Domestic Logistics
SCI-6343 Cartographic Audition
VIS 2228 Digital Media: Artifacts

Digital Fabrication

SCI 6317 Material Systems: Digital Design and Fabrication
SCI 6478 Informal Robotics / New Paradigms for Design and Construction
VIS 2223 Digital Media: Telepresence
VIS 2227 Digital Media: Writing Form
VIS 2225 Digital Media: Design Systems
HIS 4399 Architecture and Construction: From the Vitruvian Tradition to the Digital
DES 3365 Material, Atmosphere, and Ambience
ADV 9153 Forms of Assembly

Human-Machine Interaction

SCI 6359 Interface Design: Integrating Material Perceptions
SCI 6365 Enactive Design: Applications through Concurrent Human-Machine Interaction
SCI 6368 Pre- and Post-
SCI 6477 Nano Micro Macro: Adaptive Material Laboratory
DES 3381 Artificial Intelligence in Contemporary Design Practice

For students who entered the MDes program prior to Academic Year 2021-2022, please see the Requirements Pre-Fall 2021 page.