Taubman College

Master of Science / Areas of Concentration

Material Systems

The Master of Science concentration in Material Systems is a 2.5 semester (fall, winter, spring half), 36 credit-hour post-professional degree that introduces participants to intensive project-based research methodologies and design practices advancing the exploration of new materials and adaptive systems in their formation, assembly, and instrumentalized performance for architectural applications. A material system can be described as a spatial assembly that is formed through complex feedbacks between matter – its behavior and characteristics – and form, structure, energies, manufacturing processes, and interaction with environmental as well as human agents.

This program responds to recent shifts in the architectural paradigm. At one time, in the words of le Corbusier, architecture was described as the "masterly, correct and magnificent play of masses brought together in light." Now our attention is turned far more intently to the processes of formation and production that define these "masses" – which are increasingly understood as thickly layered assemblies with very specific material characteristics and environmental behaviors. They are not just in light, they shape and control it; as well as energy, air, humidity, acoustics, and with increasing frequency, information. Not only are we developing a deeper understanding of the characteristics and behaviors of materials themselves, but also we are now able to synthesize entirely new materials – polymers, composites, fibers, smart and energy converting materials. This, combined with the increasing sophistication and pervasiveness of processes for computationally driven design and fabrication technologies, has radically changed the design, composition, and modes of production of everything from clothing to cars – and architecture is trying to catch up.

Designing within this paradigm requires new tools, skills, and methods. This is where the Master of Science in Architecture concentration in Material Systems program is focused. The program fosters an understanding of materials - physically and also chemically – as well as the logics, processes, and machines that give them form. The program is also based in a deep engagement with computational tools that extends beyond form-finding and fabrication logics. The work is based in an understanding that material itself, intrinsically, has the capacity to compute, to process and exchange information with its environment. Candidates learn to develop design processes that begin working with matter's own computation, and its informational exchange with the forces of its environment, to develop instrumentalized spatial and physical forms. This methodology involves iterations that move between the digital and physical model environment, and culminates in operational prototypes and their evaluation. The move into the physical environment requires an understanding, and often a manipulation, of the tools of fabrication, manufacture and assembly. Ideal applicants to the program should have some prior experience with computational design and/or the digital fabrication environment. Computation can also be mechanically implemented within the material system through electronic and mechatronic components such as sensors, microprocessors, motors and actuators. A stream of research in this program focuses on responsive systems and the variety of performative capabilities that are availed through the integration of these technologies into architectural assemblies.

Due to the complexity of the design, simulation and physical development of Material Systems, the work is undertaken collaboratively, often with interdisciplinary inputs. Candidates will work in small teams with the program faculty to advance active areas of current research. The program also has connections with faculty in the departments of Material Science, Engineering, Computer Science, Interaction, Art & Design and the Center for Sustainable Systems, who are undertaking related research, and with whom members of group can learn from and collaborate. Taubman College and the University of Michigan possess unique resources, such as the Taubman College FAB Lab, the Duderstadt Center, the Environmental and Water Resources Engineering Lab, and the Engineering Research Center for Wireless Integrated MicroSystems (WIMS ERC). The Southeast Michigan region positions candidates in close proximity to some of the most advanced manufacturing facilities worldwide.

Degree Requirements

Completion of a minimum of 36 credit hours with a GPA of 3.0 (B) or better. Specifically a student must complete the following in good standing (grade of 'B' or better):

Core Requirements:

  • One course (3 credit hours) in MS Proseminar (Arch 714);
  • One course (3 credit hours) in MS Concentration Theory (Arch 706);
  • Two courses (6 credit hours) in MS Concentration Core A & B (Arch 707 / 708);
  • One course (6 credit hours) in MS Practicum (Arch 700, Section 002);
  • One course (6 credit hours) in MS Capstone (Arch 739, Section 002);

Electives (must be taken for letter grades):

  • Two courses Open Elective (6 credits).
  • Two courses Cognate Elective non-Architecture program graduate level defined by Rackham Graduate School (6 credits).

Sample Schedule

Fall Term Credits
Arch 714 MS Proseminar 3
Arch 706 Theories in Material Systems 3
Arch 707 Physical Pursuits 3
Arch 708 Technology Process MS 3
Open Elective 3
Total 15
Winter Term Credits
Arch 700 MS Practicum 6
Open Elective 3
Open Elective 3
Open Elective 3
Total 15
Spring Term Credits
Arch 739 MS Capstone 6
Total 6


Core Faculty

Kathy Velikov
M.S._M.S. Coordinator / Assistant Professor of Architecture
Design, theory, responsive systems

Sean Ahlquist
Assistant Professor of Architecture
Design, digital fabrication, technology

Geoffrey Thün
Associate Professor of Architecture
Design, sustainable systems, building envelopes

Cathlyn Newell
Assistant Professor of Architecture
Design, fabrication, material research

Milton S.F. Curry
Associate Dean / Director, Post-Professional Degrees and Associate Professor of Architecture
Design and Theory

MS_MS Affiliate Faculty

Craig Borum
Professor of Architecture

Adam Fure
Lecturer in Architecture

Harry Giles
Architecture Professor of Practice

Lars Junghans
Architecture Assistant Professor of Practice

Gregory A. Keoleian
Professor and Director, Center for Sustainable Systems, School of Natural Resources and Environment
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Victor C. Li
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Jerome P. Lynch
Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Steven Mankouche
Assistant Professor of Architecture

John Marshall
Assistant Professor of Art and Design
Assistant Professor of Architecture

Malcolm McCullough
Associate Professor of Architecture

Wesley McGee
Lecturer in Architecture

Max Shtein
Associate Professor of Material Science and Engineering and Macromolecular Science, Chemical Engineering
Associate Professor of Art and Design

To learn how to apply to this program, click here.