A new program offered through the College of Architecture and Urban Studies’ Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center integrates the disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning to create a master’s-level concentration in urban design. The program, which is in its final stages of governance approval, will open its door to its first cohort of students for fall semester 2014.

The Urban Design concentration within the School of Architecture + Design’s existing Master of Science in Architecture degree program will leverage existing excellence in faculty and curriculum, including the graduate architecture and landscape architecture programs as well as courses within the Urban Affairs and Planning program focused on topics such as historic preservation, public process, land-use law, and sustainability.

“It’s a program for a generalist; for someone interested in the bigger issues in a city. It’s the perfect program to take advantage of the depth of the curriculums in the college and everything Alexandria has to offer,” said Susan Piedmont-Palladino, a professor of architecture at the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center and the program director for the new concentration.

Students will choose classes in the School of Public and International Affairs and the School of Architecture +Design, both schools within the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. The curriculum will focus on topics including livable cities and sustainable cities; areas where the college’s research will serve as a useful resource. Dean Jack Davis said, “As populations are increasingly moving to urban centers throughout the world, knowledge on environmental sustainability, public health in the urban core, and quality of life issues are critical to excellence in design. This concentration will address those issues and more.”

The plan is to keep the size of each incoming class small to allow for more personalized attention and customized education. “We hope students will come in with particular urban issues that they are interested in,” Piedmont-Palladino said. “So it will have a self-directed course of study.”

Piedmont-Palladino also says she hopes that the program attracts a diverse group of students so that each can benefit from learning from one another.

“The ideal candidate is someone who has a professional degree in landscape architecture or architecture and may have spent time abroad, time in a city, and been exposed to other cultures. Perhaps they have practiced for a few years and found themselves interested in problems beyond a single building and want to expand their knowledge of planning,” explained Piedmont-Palladino. With this program, they can come back to school for three semesters and get a master’s in architecture with an emphasis in urban design.”

The new concentration is not limited to those with degrees in architecture or landscape architecture, however. Students with non-professional degrees in architecture and landscape architecture can enroll for an extra semester. For students who do not have a relevant design degree, the program requires successful completion of a foundation studio to learn the basic principles of design and graphic communication. Such students would join aspiring landscape students with similar backgrounds in an introductory course for their first year at the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center.  

A board of advisors will help guide the curriculum and also provide professional relationships, creating a built-in network for the new graduates.



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