Books written by MED alumni
Books written by M.E.D. alumni, many the result of M.E.D. research.

The Master of Environmental Design program is a two-year, tuition-free, research-based program culminating in an independent project. Started in 1967, the M.E.D. program remains one of the first and most intensive of its kind with a history that is particularly relevant today.

The program has long addressed the aggregate of objects, networks, and socio-political influences that shape spatial environments. Today that environmental scope turns to many interdependent contemporary issues including climate change, global inequality, racial injustice, large socio-technical organizations, and planetary political solidarity. Returning to its activist roots, the program conceives of design as a practice that applies disciplinary skills to new responsibilities and a platform for interdisciplinary collaborations that reach beyond the academy to address urgent issues.

The M.E.D. program prepares students for a critical practice in spatial activism, public scholarship, advocacy, teaching, curatorial work, and experimental design. It may also provide a foundation for future Ph.D. studies in architecture and related fields. M.E.D. graduates build spatial fluency in culture, articulate the political and environmental instrumentality of space, and lend more authority to spatial practices in culture and governance.

The program culminates in a final project document. While a rigorously researched text accompanies each project, students and advisors develop a methodology and tailor a unique document to address the specifics of the inquiry. This document may include experimental design proposals, mappings, web archives, opinion pieces, field guides, exhibitions, conference proceedings, or documentations of activist organizing.

Situated to cross reference all the programs at YSoA and many disciplines at Yale, M.E.D. students have a special agency. Roundtables held each semester are a crossroads for guests from all across the university as well as practitioners and activists working in the field. Researchers may teach, access archives, or take part in symposia and collaborative projects within the university. But students are also encouraged to do the work of building broader coalitions for future work outside the university.

Eligibility and Admissions

The MED program is intended for qualified applicants with a graduate or undergraduate degree in architecture or a related discipline who exhibit a strong capacity for independent research. The final degree of Master of Environmental Design (M.E.D.) is a nonprofessional degree that does not fulfill prerequisites for licensure.

The main criterion for admission to the program is a well-defined research proposal for independent study that engages one or more of the study areas listed below. The proposal should outline a study plan that the candidate can accomplish in four academic terms with support by faculty available to students in the M.E.D. program. Students are chosen to be one in a collegial cohort that pursues rigorous inquiries with inventive methodologies. Prospective applicants may contact the M.E.D. director and attend a Q and A session held each fall.

Areas of study

In the over fifty-year history of the program, M.E.D. students have generated a diverse inventory of projects that can be viewed in the archive below. Some recurring areas of research include:

Spatial Activism and Advocacy

Developing documents and modes of organizing to support activist partners in the field; crafting an advocate’s voice for opinion and long-form journalism pieces that foreground spatial practices; studying the impacts of cultural persuasions on political climates.

Design Ecologies

Studying contemporary and historical forces shaping climate change, inequality, racial injustice, land tenure, socio-technical infrastructures, and environmental justice; developing and advocating for innovative forms of design to reverse environmental/social abuse.

History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Urbanism

Studying the history and theory of architecture, urbanism and landscape and their intersections with broader cultural aesthetics and politics; developing a voice for architectural criticism and public scholarship.

Media Studies and Design

Contributing spatial evidence to studies of media and infrastructure; using digital tools for mapping, visualizing data, and fabricating building components; developing exhibitions and curatorial strategies.

Course of study and requirements

In course titles, a designates fall term, and b designates spring term. The School reserves the right to change the prescribed course of study as necessary.

The program of study is a combination of required classes, electives, and independent research. A total of 72 credits is required for completion of the M.E.D. program, allocated as 18 credits each term. A minimum of 21 credits is assigned to electives and 6 to the required M.E.D. courses. A maximum of 45 credits is assigned to independent research (3092a or b). The electives and course distribution are determined in consultation with the student’s primary adviser and the director of the program.

Course requirements for the M.E.D. Program

M.E.D. students are required to take a course in research methodologies (3091a) in the fall term of their first year and a course in architectural theory (3022b) in the spring term of their first year. All other course work is distributed among electives chosen from School of Architecture and other Yale University courses. (See descriptions of courses in the M.Arch. curriculum as well as in the bulletins of other schools of Yale University and online at Yale Course Search.) All M.E.D. students are required to take 3092a or b each term to develop their independent project.

Note: Design studios offered in the M.Arch. program are closed to M.E.D. students. Exceptions are considered only if the design studio is directly related to a student’s research, and are subject to approval by the M.E.D. chair, the dean, and the studio instructor.

M.E.D.: Total Requirement: 72 credits
First Year (Fall)

3091a, Methods and Research Workshop 3
3092a, Independent Research and Electives 15

First Year (Spring)

3012b, Architectural Theory 3
3092b, Independent Research and Electives 15

Second Year (Fall)

3092a, Independent Research and Electives 18

Second Year (Spring)

3092b, Independent Research and Electives 18

Summer preparation courses for incoming M.E.D. students

In the week before the beginning of the fall term, the School offers two preparation courses that are required for incoming M.E.D. students.

  1. Summer Digital Media Orientation Course. This half-day orientation covers accessing the School’s servers, use of the School’s equipment, and the School’s digital media policies and procedures.
  2. Arts Library Research Methodology Course. This course covers research methodologies and tools specific to the M.E.D. curriculum.

Advisors and M.E.D. Program Committee

Students work closely with one or two advisers on their independent project. Advisers are primarily drawn from the School of Architecture faculty. Additional advisers are drawn from other Schools at Yale. The following faculty members serve on the M.E.D. committee, which reviews all independent work each term.

Keller Easterling, YSoA, Chair
Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen, YSoA
Alan Plattus, YSoA
Elihu Rubin, YSoA

Faculty from the following schools and groups at Yale also serve as M.E.D. advisors and readers: Agrarian Studies, American Studies, School of Art, History of Art, Anthropology, Center for Collaborative Arts and Media (CCAM), East Asian Studies, Environmental Humanities, English, Film and Media Studies, History, History of Science and Medicine, Latin American Studies, Native American Cultural Center, Yale Group for the Study of Native America, Asian Studies, and Yale School of the Environment (YSE).

Academic rules and regulations

Four terms must be spent in residence. Under exceptional circumstances, and with permission of the dean and the School’s Rules Committee, students may apply for half-time status (9 credits per term), after successful completion of the first term (18 credits). The in absentia tuition fee is $250 per term. Additional procedures and restrictions for the M.E.D. program can be found in the School’s “Academic Rules and Regulations” section of the School of Architecture Handbook.

Design and Visualization 1

Spring 2024
Books and Architecture
Luke Bulman

Technology and Practice 5

Spring 2024
Design Computation
Michael Szivos
Spring 2024
Exploring New Value in Design Practice
Phillip Bernstein
Spring 2024
The Mechanical Artifact
Dana Karwas, Ariel Ekblaw
Spring 2024
The Architect As: Recasting the Role of the Architect in the Development Lifecycle
Antonia Devine
Spring 2024
Building Disasters: When Things Go Wrong
John D. Jacobson

History and Theory 3

Spring 2024
Architecture and Modernity I: Sites and Spaces
Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen
Spring 2024
Independent M.E.D. Research
Keller Easterling
Spring 2024
Contemporary Architectural Discourse
Keller Easterling

Urbanism and Landscape 6

Spring 2024
Globalization Space
Keller Easterling
Spring 2024
Port Cities: Transformations of Urban Networks
Alan Plattus
Spring 2024
Introduction to Commercial Real Estate
Kevin Gray
Spring 2024
Introduction to British Landscape and Architectural History: 1500 to 1900
Bryan Fuermann
Spring 2024
Labs and Landscapes of the Green Revolution
Anthony Acciavatti
Spring 2024
The Environmental Project: Research, Methods & Discourse
Jen Shin