The Master of Environmental Design program is a two-year research-based program culminating in a Masters thesis. Started in 1967, the MED 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 environment as the aggregate of objects, conditions, and inﬂuences that constitute the constructed surroundings. Today that environmental scope informs many crucial contemporary issues from climate change and global inequality to digital ubiquity and the influence of large socio-technical organizations. A return to the origins of the program also energizes an activist conception of design. Positioned beyond client consumption or the cultural production of galleries, to design, in this context, is to create conditions for change that address urgent situations in the present.
The MED program prepares students for a critical practice in writing, teaching, curatorial work, and experimental design. It may also provide a foundation for future Ph.D. studies in architecture and related fields. The very intention of the program is to assert fresh applications of spatial practices in the broader culture and even in global governance.
The program culminates in a Masters thesis. While a scholarly text accompanies each thesis, students and advisors can tailor the final project document to accommodate the specifics of the inquiry (e,g, experimental design proposal, mapping, web archive, field guide, exhibition, etc.).
Situated to cross reference all the programs at YSOA and all the disciplines within the university, MED students have a special agency within the school. They generate a rich interdisciplinary discussion of social, political, economic, technical, and aesthetic material. During their studies, students take advantage of an extensive array of resources at Yale University. Researchers may teach and take part in symposia as well as join in collaborative projects that exercise design, curatorial, editorial, and archival skills.
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 (MED) 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 and that can be supported by faculty expertise available to students in the MED program. Students are chosen to be one in a collegial cohort that pursues rigorous inquiries with inventive methodologies.
Areas of study
In the over fifty-year history of the program, a diverse inventory of MED projects has included everything from prescient speculations about architecture and computing to studies of global infrastructure networks and landscapes to the intersections of architecture, art, and media among many other things. Students are encouraged to engage in a wide variety of methodologies, tools, and topics. Below are some recurring areas of research.
Study of the ecological, economic, and cultural forces that shape the environment including among other things climate change, inequality, globalization, infrastructures and socio-technical organizations, settlement patterns and urban geography.
History and theory of architecture and urbanity; intersections between aesthetics and politics; architectural criticism; study of design methods; contemporary architectural culture.
Digital ubiquity; study of network geography and infrastructure; digital media as a tool and subject of research; use of digital tools in fabricating building components and visualizing data.
Visual communication and representation; exhibition technologies and curatorial strategies; the role of various media in shaping architectural culture; notation and mapping techniques; design research.
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.
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|
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.
- 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.
- 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 departments at the University as appropriate to the field of study. The following faculty members serve on the M.E.D. committee, which reviews all independent work each term.
Keller Easterling, Chair
Additional Faculty from around the university who frequently serve as MED advisors and readers include:
Kishwar Rizvi, History of Art
Craig Buckley, History of Art
Fatima Naqvi, History of Art
Francesco Casetti, Film and Media Studies
William Rankin, History of Science