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M.Arch programs that explore the social impact of design?

Kiiiwiiibiiird

I know it sounds cliche, but I want to ultimately  “make a difference” with my career. I’m interested in social justice and inequality, and am considering doing a one year Masters of Urban Design after my M.Arch.

I graduated with a BS Arch a couple years ago and am currently doing an unrelated AmeriCorps program. It is time to get back to architecture, and I’m researching grad school options.

I would love to hear any suggestions on architecture grad programs that sound like a good fit. My research has led me to schools like Berkeley and Michigan, but it is hard to tell what schools actually have this focus and what schools are saying so just for show. For example, I love this statement on equity from Columbia, but it is hard to tell if they actually incorporate that into the curriculum.

Any advice or suggestions are much appreciated!

 
Jun 14, 21 12:05 am
monosierra

I think Yale's Vlock and Auburn's Rural Studio are two programs that are long-running, though the Vlock lasts a summer only. Some schools offer what you might deem socially consicious studios on a term-by-term basis - say, if MASS Design or Marina Tabassum is teaching for a semester at the GSD.

Jun 14, 21 11:28 am  · 
2  · 
lower.case.yao

Agreed, it’s highly dependent on the critics teaching that semester. The Leong brothers are currently working with a native hawaiian architect on research in restoration and revitalization of native hawaiian habitats and culture, and they’ve been alternating between studios at columbia and MIT.

Jun 14, 21 11:50 am  · 
1  · 
monosierra

I'd add that OP should look into fellowships and grants as well. In general, I don't think one should limit one's options to what's being taught. It's grad school after all - make your own path. There is funding available for self initiated projects but it takes a lot of work outside studio to get your own thing up and running - and that is the whole point of it. MASS, for instance, started off as Murphy's own project way outside the GSD after he was dissatisfied with the opportunities in the curriculum. Midstory is another recent project from M.Arch graduates who forged their own, NGO path.

Jun 14, 21 1:26 pm  · 
1  · 
Kiiiwiiibiiird

Thank you, this is all really helpful! It sounds like there aren’t specific schools I should be focused on, maybe just look at schools with interesting courses. Then I can create my own path if possible at the school I’m in.

Jun 16, 21 10:27 am  · 
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monosierra

Not just courses but the visiting faculty that the program has hired before and the university's resources beyond the department, as well as the work of alumni.

Jun 16, 21 12:01 pm  · 
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square.

i was in a very similar situation at one point- one thing to think about, like you alluded to: many programs offer a lot of talk regarding "social justice and equality" issues, but little substance. it's even more bleak in the professional world, to be frank. 99% of firms are strictly businesses, and that is the extent of their interests.

so i would potentially look at this another way, which is to really focus on your options after you graduate. i would absolutely make sure you leave school with a very low level of debt, so that you might be able to work for alternative practices like nonprofits where the pay is low but you will be more likely engage with the work you want to. otherwise, if you go to a school like columbia, you might take a few interesting courses, but you'll be stuck with 6 figures of debt, which will highly restrict the type of work you can do. in that case you'll most likely have to go to the job which pays the most, in which case you will be doing very little social justice work.

in other words, go with the option that you can walk away with the least debt, i.e. the most financial freedom when choosing where you ultimately want to work.

Jun 14, 21 12:25 pm  · 
1  · 
Kiiiwiiibiiird

That makes a lot of sense when thinking about the bigger picture- thank you!

Jun 16, 21 10:17 am  · 
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archanonymous

Tulane and Auburn.

Jun 14, 21 12:58 pm  · 
1  · 
Kiiiwiiibiiird

This makes a lot of sense when thinking about the bigger picture-thank you!

Jun 16, 21 10:17 am  · 
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