Texas Tech University                                                                                                                                              Master of Architecture with Graduate Certificate in Urban + Community Design Studies

MaryAlice Torres-MacDonald, Director, Associate Professor                                                                                                                                                               Ph: 713-806-2548 Email: ma.torres-macdonald@ttu.edu 


This website is designed as an informational tool for TTU students already enrolled in the Master of Architecture degree program. It is structured to provide more information about educational and professional options provided to them in Houston through the last 1-1/2 years of the 173 hour Master of Architecture degree.  For admission requirements to this degree, please see: http://arch.ttu.edu/wiki/Admissions. For a detailed curriculum sheet, please see: http://arch.ttu.edu/w/images/7/70/Master_of_Architecture_2015-2016.pdf.

The Houston Option fulfills the professional degree requirement and includes a specialization in Urban and Community Design. When you enter the graduate coursework in the College, you have a few options for directing your graduate education. The Houston Professional Option is one of these. If this program interests you, you will complete a brief informational application and enter the program in the fall semester following your completion of comprehensive studio in Lubbock. This application form enables us to plan for the number of students that will attend so that equal access is provided.

Since students begin this program in the fall semester following integrative coursework (studio + systems), (Or, Spring, immediately following the fall semester of Urban Tech in Lubbock)  you must complete this before you make the transition to Houston. The spring semester at the Lubbock campus includes opportunities for these two courses and it is typically taught in the summer (although this is not guaranteed because it depends on successful funding of the summer budget for the College). 

Transfers from the Urban Tech Studio in Lubbock are allowed spring transfer into Houston, assuming conditions are met, but the student must have prior approval from the director. Other exceptions may be made on a case by case basis (contact the director). This allows you to coordinate your transfer with the director and allows you to complete your degree without additional coursework.

STUDIOS:    There are three studios towards the Professional Option. Studio I is taught during the fall semester and includes an overview of urban design within the larger context of architecture (see details under course descriptions). This is followed up with Studio II which includes a building design within an urban context (see details under course descriptions). Studio III is the Practicum Studio taught with support of mentors within the student's practicum firm and an instructor during the last fall semester. Students will be working full-time through a paid practicum experience during the summer and this last studio.

The program is not intended as a single practicum + studio program. Students are not admitted for this purpose.

NOTE: The opportunity for a Master of Science in Architecture with a Specialization in Urban + Community Design option is not currently available in Houston. The MS Architecture is a non-professional degree option for specialization in Urban + Community Design (pending approval with Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board) and is offered through the Lubbock Campus - College of Architecture at this time). (note: The Master of Science is a non-professional degree and not a part of the Master of Architecture degree offered in Houston).

For further information, please contact the director at:  ma.torres-macdonald@ttu.edu 


Overall: The studios are broken into three topical studios. Fall I, Spring II, and Practicum. The first two serve as a cumulative approach towards a micro to macro understanding of urban design and its application to the building design process. The final studio (Practicum Studio) is led by the director and taught in conjunction with the student's firm through mentor support.

Studio I (Fall Semester): This studio is one of three (5) hour studios taught in Houston. It focuses on the macro-scale of urbanism initially and then explores a medio-scale problem. The course addresses planning issues at a city region-scale (typically conveyed as a 'district') and applies this knowledge to the design of a public space. In this regard, the student is asked to move away from the building and deeply consider the contextual implications of design within the public realm, but must do so in consideration of the building fabric that exists within the current design problem context. Typically, the studio will explore public space design problems that carry considerable adjacent building context and in all cases, is enveloped within an urban setting. At times, the student has an opportunity to develop schematic building design solutions that respond to their individual design solution for the public space (infill construction potential). The studio is supplemented with a 9 week workshop in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) that serves as a research tool for studio analysis and problem synthesis. Typically, in professional practice, a design problem requires the consideration of adjacent public space. In particular, urban contexts assume responsibility for the understanding of this consideration as applicable to urban building design solutions. It is with this intention that the macro-scale approach is initiated. This is likely the first time a student has been asked to separate themselves from a particular building and consider the use of spaces that connect these buildings. This course is taught by Adelle Main, a landscape architect and urban design from Australia. She received her Master of International Urban and Environmental Management with Distinction from the Royal Institute of Melbourne and her Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from the University of Western Australia with Honors. 

Studio II (Spring Semester): This studio uses the basic research tools learned in Studio I and applies them to a building design within an urban context. The larger design problem is organized in phases. The building design selection includes a public space component and as such, enables the student to use learned knowledge from Studio I and apply it to Studio II. Students utilize learned abilities in GIS to explore hidden relationships in contextual application towards the design solution. Often, the design problem is generated through a community service initiative with the intention of creating greater interest for a particular building design in need of funding, or in an effort to raise local awareness about a relevant site opportunity. In this regard, the student gains experience in community service as a component of the architectural profession. Students have the opportunity to meet with local leaders and learn about the process necessary in public or organizational building design. This studio serves as a learning medium for the practical application of community projects typical in the practice of architecture. This course is currently taught by instructor, John Clegg, AIA, Design Principal at Page. Mr. Clegg holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Rice University and a Master of Architecture in Urban Design from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

Studio III (Practicum - Fall II): This studio serves as a penultimate studio for the program. Students work on a series of design problems generated through direction of the instructor with its genesis evolving from the work of their practicum firm and in collaboration with a firm mentor. Resilience is the generative topic. The instructor works with each firm to define design problems and then brings all students together periodically to learn from the work produced by all. The design problems (3-4) cannot be duplicated from existing work for which the student is paid, rather its intention is to serve as a learned supplement to an existing firm project(s). In addition, the design problems will serve as measurements for improving weaknesses identified during the students comprehensive review process (if applicable). This course is currently taught by Associate Professor, MaryAlice Torres-MacDonald. Ms. Torres-MacDonald serves as the director of The Houston Professional Option and the Graduate Certificate in Urban + Community Design. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Science in Architecture Studies (Environmental Design) from M.I.T. 


© 2012, 2014 MATorresMacDonald + Gibran Villalobos

Texas Tech University College of Architecture - Mail Stop 42091, Lubbock, TX 79409-2091, Phone 806-742-3136.

Other Courses:

Maker Workshop / Geographic Information Systems (GIS): This 1 hour workshop includes an introduction to making that enables the student to fully understand the use of tools and equipment necessary for building models required in coursework. In addition, the use of the GIS software systems used by local, state and federal entities, as well as private-sector practitioners is introduced to the students with guidance on further development of this skill set. Students will have access to software needed at no charge through the the use of ESRI - ARC 10. The workshop is taught once a week for 3 hours each week and runs for 9 weeks in the initial part of the fall semester. This workshop is currently taught by Nick Popovich with ESRI. ESRI is the leader in GIS Software development and is the contractor for GIS with Texas Tech University and Jerel Gue, Architectural Designer at Page in Houston. Each brings specific architectural expertise to this one hour workshop course.  

Infrastructure in the Urban Environment (Fall I): This 3 hour course addresses the broader understanding of 'infrastructure' as it applies to the city. The course considers the multiple entities necessary in the operations of the city (and county as is applicable) and emphasizes the impact that these relationships have on the built environment. There are three components to the course: guest lecture series, public space journal, and a research paper. Students can expect to meet many local leaders with the potential for establishing a relevant professional network in Houston. The course is currently taught by Houston City Council Member At-Large 2, David Robinson, AIA. Mr. Robinson holds a Bachelor of Arts (Architecture) from Rice University and a Master of Architecture from Yale University.

Urban Theory (Fall I): This required course is taught as an online course through distance education methods. The course explores the various theoretical approaches and considerations affecting urbanism from micro to macro scales. Research papers are a component of this course. Students in Houston meet together during the class period as the Lubbock students and dean are streamed from the distance education classroom. This course is currently taught by Dean, Andrew Vernooy, AIA. Dean Vernooy holds a Bachelor of Engineering from Princeton University, a Master of Civil Engineering and a Master of Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin; and a Master of Design Studies (Urban Design) from the Harvard University.

Professional Practice (Fall I or Spring I): This course is an online course taught through distance education and includes both self-paced and required-paced components. The course addresses the relevant aspects of the practice of architecture as it relates to business, management, ethics, organizational development, consultant relationships and registration processes. There are three primary tracks to this course that include: online guest lectures, online content lectures, and a mock firm project (business-focused). The intention is to establish an understanding of the business of architecture, while providing an opportunity for students to learn from professionals active in the profession through online resources. This course is currently taught by: Associate Professor, MaryAlice Torres-MacDonald. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Science in Architecture Studies (Environmental Design) from M.I.T.

Community Design & Development Resources (S) (Spring I): This course is an applied service-learning, online course taught through distance education. The course explores the relationship of urban and community design and development to the profession of architecture, explores the relationship of governmental resources towards project development and funding, and includes a service learning project as a means for introducing students to this method of project execution.  This course is currently taught by: Associate Professor, MaryAlice Torres-MacDonald. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Science in Architecture Studies (Environmental Design) from M.I.T.

Advanced Construction (Spring I): This required course addresses a particular topic focused area of construction selected by the instructor of record as an online course through distance education. Currently, this includes practical applications towards construction methods. It includes both hand drawing of details and wall section model building as a method of learning. This course prepares the student for integration into the practicum work placement immediately following. This course is currently taught by Thomas Bayer, Principal, HOK, Inc.  Mr. Bayer has over 28 years experience specific to this field of coursestudy.

Special Problems in Architecture - Research (Summer I in Houston): This online course is taught through distance education serves two primary purposes. It enables students to apply their knowledge and skill in design-based research towards an applicable design problem(s) and it enables students to improve upon any deficiencies identified during their Graduate Comprehensive Review. This course is currently taught by: Associate Professor, MaryAlice Torres-MacDonald. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Science in Architecture Studies (Environmental Design) from M.I.T.