Harvard GSD MDesS Technology // University of Stuttgart ICD/ITKE - ITECH


Hi! Long time lurker / first time poster here! This post is going to be TL;DR.

This is for past and current students of either Harvard GSD MDesS Technology or the University of Stuttgart ICD/ITKE - ITECH. 

I just submitted applications for these programs, and while I've done the research of going through the program website, brochures, contacted faculty (didn't really get the answers I was looking for but responses were still substantial and apt) etc., I was hoping to get feedback or insights from those who graduated from or who are currently in these programs. (Yes I've tried contacting Archinect users affiliated to these programs based on their profiles but they are either too busy or their accounts have been untouched for years) Also, since there's no thread about this topic yet I thought it would also help those who will apply to these programs eventually. 

- How do you think are the programs different from each other?

- What's the learning environment like? (Teacher-student ratio, teacher-student dynamics like how much time is spent on class discussions, consultations vs your own studio/research time)

- How's Boston or Stuttgart? If you've been to both or one of either, how are the cities alike and different?

Here's my comparative list of both so far:

Harvard GSD - Master of Design Studies Technology

- Primarily focused on Computational Design and Digital Media, but has courses on mapping, fabrication, robotics etc. that allows the student to explore and apply the tools, techniques and methodologies, even from across other specializations under the Design Studies program (Art, Design and the Public Domain; Energy & Environments; Ecology, Landscape and Urbanism, etc)

- Not as reputable as ICD/ITKE in terms of being a mecca of computational design, but Harvard's MDesS Tech program has more choices in terms of what tool or medium you want to focus on depending on the track of your study; in short, as Prof. Dianne Davis mentioned to me through email correspondence, the design studies program is very transdisciplinary and flexible and that most students do studies and courses from across all tracks.

- of course it's Harvard, so it's $50k a year. but for the faculty, facilities, access to MIT, and the ivy league gravitas, and the STEM accreditation, it seems worth it among other tech-related programs especially in the US. I like that it's a 2 year program because i think a 1 year duration seems too short to truly grasp the critical thinking, mastery and depth of study for a graduate level program.

University of Stuttgart ICD/ITKE Master of Science Integrative Technologies and Architectural Design Research

- Like Harvard's MDesS Tech program, this one's also focused on Computational Design, but leans toward robotics and fabrication, materials science, engineering, construction, natural sciences (biology, biomimmetics), etc.

- Every year, as a synthesis of a year's worth of research, they have this experimental pavilion project which is designed and built by faculty, students and resident researchers (and robots).

- Also a 2 year program, ICD/ITKE is definitely cheaper in terms of tuition. Stuttgart (and the region it's in) remains as the only jurisdiction of Germany that still charges tuition fees (esp. for international students). Most of Germany is tuition free already (inc. international students). The institute is headed (or was once headed) by Prof. Menges who once taught and directed the EMTECH program at the AA at one point (one of my references was his former student) which has a similar pedagogy to ITECH.

I've covered everything I know so far. If you have any further information, insight or feedback, it would be highly appreciated! Thanks!

Jan 16, 19 11:39 am
Non Sequitur

$50K per year?  No architecture degree is worth that much coin... not even close.

Jan 16, 19 11:45 am

I should note that ICD/ITKE's tuition is approximately $10k less than (Eu1500 per semester plus minor fees) for the entire program's duration (2 years) not including living expenses of course. But that's how much compared to Harvard's $50k (not including living expenses i believe).


gund is cramped a.f., you won't get a desk (no mdes students get desks), the fab lab staff is phenomenal but see above: no space. harvard mdes students are second class citizens to core design students (arch/la/maud).  core dominates everything: resource allocation (what equipment gets purchased and where it goes), staffing and teaching facilities (have fun taking class in 7 sumner), and aid/awards. 

yes, dropping the h bomb is nice but for people who know (the people who will be hiring you), ICD/ITKE is a fantastic choice. 

cambridge is also an expensive place to live.  

Jan 16, 19 10:02 pm

Thanks! I'll keep your comment in mind. It's quite insightful actually coming from a Harvard student (or graduate?)! So wait, if arch/la/maud get dibs on practically the entire Gund Hall, where do other students from other programs go or station themselves (UP/mdess/mde)? I watched a video on Youtube for like open house and I saw some had desks (or was that only for open house hahaha!)


Thanks for posting this! I am currently in a similar boat. Considering to accept an offer for the iTECH programme starting in Oct 2019. I didn't apply to other programmes because I am currently working in Europe and would like to remain here (originally from North America). Since applying I've somewhat regretted not also applying to Harvard DDes or MDes, but the cost seriously deterred me. I am originally an engineer and am working in tech now, so I don't really come from the design world per se. I don't have a solid idea on the reputation of the iTECH programme within the design world, and whether it's recognized as the institution for robust education / research in computational design and emerging technologies impacting architecture. Would really welcome some insight on the reputation that the programme has within the design and architecture world.  

Apr 12, 19 7:32 am

See Dangermouse's comment above and archinet's comment below! Definitely accept the ITECH offer!


Thanks, this thread has been so insightful.. Congratulation on getting into Harvard!


ITECH graduates easily get jobs in Germany, I can only speak for Germany bc that is where I have most of my experience and that program definitely opens doors for a phd in computational design. One guy I know even worked part time in engineering companies that focused on bridges and stadiums and their skills were needed there.  He managed to finish with barley any debt. Prolly ppl from ITECH also do well in other countries. I know a person that did the Mdes in computation. The person I know that did Mdes went their bc they wanted to stay in North America and also be close to their family. Yes having the Harvard on their resume helped them get academic appointments. But this person also went into debt.  On the other hand Mdes allows you the option to be more conceptual, but is limited in terms of technical facilities.

If you do not have any personal connections or reasons to be in Boston (i.e. family) and if cost is a factor, do ITECH. Also choose ITECH if you are into fabrication.  Both Boston and Stuttgart kind of suck- but at least Suttgart looks better. 

Apr 12, 19 7:56 am

Oh I was referring to ICD/ITKE when I wrote ITECH- my bad


Thanks for the feedback, guys! 

After a month or two of waiting and deciding, I was accepted to Harvard GSD's MDes Tech but, unfortunately, was not accepted to ICD/ITKE's ITECH Program at Stuttgart and ETH Zurich's MAS DFAB (Yes I also applied here but didn't bother mentioning since it's almost similar in pedagogy with ITECH, but only a year shorter. It's also cheaper in terms of tuition, like a quarter of how much you'll spend for two years at Harvard, but living costs in Zurich is much more expensive than Cambridge/Boston.). 

With costs/expenses being a high consideration on my part and having no luck finding other scholarships outside of Harvard/source of funding for the entire duration of the program, I decided to defer and let go of Harvard GSD for now. I would've picked either ITECH or ETH (but mostly ETH) whether I did or didn't get in the GSD. Peace and love! 

Apr 12, 19 10:46 am

Hello, I was accepted to ETH DFAB as well, but rejected by ITECH. Do you know any about career prospect after graduating for ETH DFAB?


Sorry my bad, didn't read your words clearly. The thing I want to clarify is the job prospect of these digital-fabrication-based program in Europe. I was accepted to ETH and CITAstudio at KADK, which makes me hard to do my decision.


ETH Zurich is regarded as the Harvard/MIT (more like MIT) of Europe. As mentioned above in other comments, this program, like the ITECH, can lead to doctoral programs as well as jobs in research, architecure, design, engineering, fab labs, etc The challenge of employability is choosing where you want to go and reside/work after the degree, especially if there's a particular language you have to learn. Luckily, ITECH and DFAB are both taught in English, but the jobs available in the market might require you to learn/speak German or what foreign language is in demand wherever you end up going. You'll definitely get your foot in the door anywhere in the EU with an ETH degree, esp in Switzerla
nd or Germany (you just have to learn the language), but might encounter some challenges in the UK and US (as they tend to have a higher pride with their respective schools)


@deathbydesign you should apply to ITECH again....I knew a guy who got rejected one year yet managed to get in the next year. He did work on a project that required advanced digital skills in our office for a year then applied again.


And one thing I know is that ITECH pick their applicants from different fields, to maintain the variety of student backgrounds. I heard it directly form their prof when he visited my college this year. He said they would like to choose students with coding,
engineering, digital fabrication, construction or even natural sciences.


@ archinet - I will definitely try again next year! My only problem if I get accepted is I (might not) don't qualify for DAAD because I've been out of school for almost a decade and they require that the last graded exam (not counting licensure exam i believe) you've taken is not more than 6 yrs!


@ yanfenchan - actually, my background on coding and digital fabrication is very limited (though they did mention via email that it's not a prerequisite as they require foundation/beginners courses to equalize everyone since the backgrounds are very different/diverse) but I slightly take that into account as to why I possibly got rejected.

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