Yesterday, September 13, Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) announced the launch of its new Master of Science in Computational Design Practices (M.S.CDP) program with professor Laura Kurgan as its director.
The new postgraduate M.S.CDP program will synthesize architecture, urban planning, computational design, data visualization, programming, and modeling to give students a multidisciplinary and, according to GSAPP, flexible education. Columbia is touting the program’s “pick-and-choose” approach as a major selling point, giving research roles, data-driven design work, environmental storytelling and mapmaking, and sustainability-focused architecture jobs as just a few of the potential careers that students could choose to pursue afterward.
To that end, the M.S.CDP requires each student to work on a single independent research problem across the program’s three semesters that culminates in a capstone project (a three-year part-time option is also available). Three mandatory colloquium courses, Methods as Practices, Practices as Methods, Explore, Explain, Propose, and Design in Action, will all help students further develop approaches to their overarching research problem.
As for core courses, the M.S. CDP program will require seven, all of which will form a foundation for creating digital work: Computational Drawing, Mapping and Data, and Programming for Design Practices (which will be available for students to take before the program formally launches), and Computational Modeling, Computational Design Workflows, Responsive Architecture, and Design Intelligence. Students are then free to fill out the rest of their degree from a selection of “nearly” 36 advanced electives across GSAPP, where they can either cast their educational net wide or hone in and focus their studies on a particular topic. No matter the depth of students’ studies, the program is intended to equip them with the tools to approach problems all the way up to the global scale; in its announcement, GSAPP presented past student projects ranging from daylighting studies and social coding efforts up to identifying COVID hotspots across the United States to optimize healthcare worker deployment.
Kurgan, currently a professor of architecture at GSAPP, also leads the Center for Spatial Research, which, like the M.S.CDP program, “links design, architecture, urbanism, the humanities and data science,” according to the center. Kurgan is the author of the 2013 Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics and co-edited 2019’s Ways of Knowing Cities. Her personal design work has shown at the Oslo Architecture Triennale 2016 and in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art and the Fondation Cartier in Paris, among others.