May 6, 2020 - SCI-Arc - Master of Science in Design Theory and Pedagogy
e-flux Architecture
May 6, 2020
May 6, 2020


Installation view at Saatchi Gallery in London. Courtesy Juan Rincon-Gaviria.

Courtesy Claudia Wainer. 

Master of Science in Design Theory and Pedagogy
Formalizing the Training of the Architect-Theorist-Educator

Los Angeles Arts District
960 E Third Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Hours: Monday–Friday 6pm–9am

T +1 213 356 5320
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As university research models and new knowledge-based forms of architectural practice bridge the formerly strict separation between professional practice and academia, a new kind of hybrid career has emerged in architecture, which has become a progressively important voice in design culture: the architect-theorist-educator. Despite the importance of this new kind of architect, academia has yet to produce a program to prepare the next generation for it; at traditional universities, programs separate the education of architectural practitioners from scholars.

The Master of Science in Design Theory and Pedagogy program at SCI-Arc is specifically designed to occupy the space between these educational models, training graduates for a hybrid career in academia and practice. A part of SCI-Arc EDGE, Center for Advanced Studies in Architecture, Design Theory and Pedagogy is a one-year, three-semester program, where students become public intellectuals, preparing to launch a career that combines writing, critical thinking, teaching, lecturing, designing, and professional practice.

Focusing on the development of an intellectual framework that can sustain a life-long theoretical project in architecture, Design Theory and Pedagogy students are given substantial opportunities for acquiring practical teaching experiences in how such an intellectual framework can find synergies in pedagogical practices today. The program is designed to be a platform from which a new generation of academic architects can emerge, examining the history of architectural education, its current pedagogies, and encouraging the development of unconventional design research projects that wouldn’t be supported by traditional programs of advanced architectural scholarship. 

The core foci of the curriculum each semester are Design Studio and Design Lab, supported by an Advanced Architectural Studies course and elective seminars. The first two Design Theory and Pedagogy studios use SCI-Arc as a live teaching laboratory, integrating students into the teaching practices of the Core Curriculum and the pedagogies of SCI-Arc’s advanced Vertical Studios as they develop syllabi and studio briefs. Students actively observe both Core Studios, for exposure to the first year of architectural education, and Vertical Studios, SCI-Arc’s most advanced studio offerings, for access to the highest-level research questions being put on the table in contemporary architectural education. Weekly group discussions challenge students to propose ways for changing, innovating, and ultimately contributing to this, in preparation for the final studio, which tasks students with deploying the studio briefs they produced during the spring semester.

Design Lab coursework builds a deep historical and theoretical understanding of design theory and pedagogy and challenges students to develop individual theoretical positions and strategies for conducting scholarly research as they look ahead in building an academic career. 

Furthering research opportunities, the Advanced Architectural Studies seminar sequence brings together all SCI-Arc EDGE students and acts as a hub to discuss the theoretical problems that impact design and the contemporary world. Students form interdisciplinary teams to produce and execute a well-developed research proposal. For Design Theory and Pedagogy students, in particular, this is where they begin to articulate a theoretical and conceptual position of a project, argue for its relevance, and situate it within a longer history and projected future.

Design Theory and Pedagogy students have produced unique projects that have expanded upon the normal studio deliverable. Viviano Villarreal-Buerón produced a pro-simulation studio, which looked at how young architects would establish their practices and sought to address some of the challenges they would encounter and simulate them within the classroom. Juan Rincón Gaviria investigated the post-industrial landscape and its role as a cultural incubator for architecture. Beginning within the context of SCI-Arc, he co-curated an exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London. Claudia Wainer researched how feminist discourse in architecture could enter pedagogy through design. Ryan Scavnicky looked at how contemporary platforms of communication could be vehicles for producing discourse. Program graduates are all on the faculty of major institutions around the globe.

Unique within architectural offerings, the Design Theory and Pedagogy program at SCI-Arc is a space where ideas not only about what is taught, but also about how to teach are proposed, debated, and incubated. As Program Coordinator Marcelyn Gow emphasizes, “We’re focused on building discourse. That is what is occurring within the context of the program and it is also what our graduates are leaving the school with. They have constructed a discourse that they are bringing out into the world and which will shape how we reflect on practice. So, this is not something that is about a parallel career in anticipation of practice; this is a form of practice.”

Applications for fall 2020 are reviewed on a rolling basis. To view student work, visit the SCI-Arc Design and Critical Theory series on SCI-Arc Channel. To request more information email admissions [​at​] or call T 213.356.5320.

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