The formation of geopolitical borders has become more pronounced and salient in recent months. The pandemic has been used as a justification by nations to advance anti-migrant policies, and the agenda has been pushed to extremes, leaving people stratified, deported, denied visas, or kept…
How do we prepare for challenges that no longer conform to the boundaries of disciplines? The Master in Design Studies (MDes) program challenges students to understand and influence the underlying processes shaping contemporary life. More
Areas of Concentration
Art, Design, and the Public Domain
The program in Art, Design, and the Public Domain seeks creative and ambitious individuals from all backgrounds with a keen interest in contemporary issues of urban, historical, aesthetic and technological culture, and with a predilection for intervention, exhibition and public work.
The MDes program in Critical Conservation extends beyond issues of age, history and aesthetics to offer a framework of theory and research tools encompassing social, political and cultural meaning.
Energy and Environment
The Energy and Environments concentration focuses on buildings and landscapes as both small and large-scale thermodynamic systems that aim to optimize energy intake, use, and feedback, achieving broad design and ecological impacts.
History and Philosophy of Design and Media
History and Philosophy of Design is a platform for scholarly inquiry into design in the disciplines of architecture, urbanism and landscape architecture and in other aesthetic, spatial and technological practices.
Real Estate and the Built Environment
In the contemporary global economy, architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning and design must confront the complex mechanisms of finance and economics. Real Estate and the Built Environment engages both by considering design and investment as integrally connected.
Risk and Resilience
The Risk & Resilience concentration sets out to support novel approaches to socio-spatial planning through design, and prepares students to identify, articulate and propose preemptive forms of practice.
Coupling an intensive critical and theoretical approach with practical, lab-based projects, the Technology track allows post-professional students to pursue a broad spectrum of inquiries, including design computation, digital fabrication, robotics, and the exploration of responsive environments.
Urbanism, Landscape, Ecology
MDes candidates in the Urbanism, Landscape, Ecology concentration pursue advanced studies in topics related to contemporary urbanism, landscape, geography, or territory within the broader contexts of the global, social and natural environment.
If rapidly changing climates, media systems, energy flows, material economies, and migratory populations are the emerging challenges of our time, then the design disciplines offer unique insight on how to navigate these complex, open-ended conditions. Distinct from research in the sciences or humanities, design pedagogy involves highly interactive ways of thinking and learning, through hands-on, cross-disciplinary, multimedia practices that directly engage the technical, material, spatial, ecological, political, economic, thermodynamic and planetary dimensions of cultural life. Seeking to empower the next generation of designers and urbanists, the program utilizes novel and alternative methodologies in a collaborative, immersive environment. Ultimately, MDes at GSD challenges conventional ways of learning—through field work, fabrication, collaboration and dissemination—in a range of labs, seminars, workshops, initiatives, publications, and ongoing projects whose scope and diversity are unmatched by any other design school in the world.
The program consists of three semesters of coursework. Students in each area undertake a core set of courses, followed by research methods and related topical courses, selected from offerings within the GSD or from the many other schools and departments at Harvard. Students may elect to complete the program in three semesters of coursework, or they may extend their research into a fourth semester by pursuing an MDes Thesis Project, conducted independently or in collaboration with their peers and GSD faculty.
Whether it is to establish a research agenda for an academic career, retool for design practice, or enter design from an adjacent discipline, the MDes program is a nimble and flexible program designed to amplify and accelerate the cultivation of novel approaches to design for this century. Please review further information on the program’s areas of concentration and outcome throughout the GSD website. And, if possible, please join us for our Open House events to learn more about each of the programs.
K. Michael Hays, Eliot Noyes Professor of Architectural Theory
Inside Design Studies
Diane Davis on the GSD’s Risk and Resilience track: “As we face the global virus pandemic, our mission appears ever more important.”
In these tough times, when dystopian fears loom large and the design professions…
A Guidebook to an Empty Land: When the Indonesian government relocates its capital from Jakarta to Kalimantan, will Indigenous life there be erased?
“When an area is empty, there’s a desire to fill it in—it’s the colonizing mindset,”…