If there is one characteristic that defines “architecture” it is innovation. And if by innovative, you think responsive, then Domus Academy certainly qualifies. It was started by Maria Grazia Mazzocchi, daughter of Domus Magazine founder, Gianni Mazzocchi after people kept writing letters asking her to start a design school. And in 1983, she did just that.
For the basics, the school is very clear. Your accreditation comes from an affiliation with the University of Wales, in Cardiff, UK, which is awarded upon completing 180 Master’s level credits. And you also receive a Diploma Supplement from them which proves that you have a degree that is equivalent to major universities across the globe. And it’s sited in Milan, which if one is interested in Italian design, is an ideal locale. It’s a one year program, so it doesn’t require the extensive 2- and 3-year commitments that many programs across the world demand. It will cost a similar amount, however, at €23,790 Euro. But the best aspect of that admittedly large tuition fee is that it is for a single year—11 months to be exact. That means one can immediately begin searching for a job to pay off what is, after all is said and done, a relatively small student loan compared to average ones that are three times that size. There are also unrestricted scholarships available that defray costs from between 20%-50%. And in case you’re wondering, classes are taught in English.
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Now that these issues have been dealt with, let’s move on to the more interesting aspects of the program, namely its special offerings. And there are several. Any school that wants to prepare its students for an increasingly competitive job market must rely not just on innovative programs, but strategic industry partnerships. That is, in fact, an emphasis for Domus Academy since it was, after all, founded by one of standard bearers of design in publication. Thus at Domus Academy’s Master in Urban Vision and Architectural Design, the need to train students in practical skills, rather than simply emphasizing outrageous design concepts that will not help one in the job sector, is of paramount importance.
Another innovation that has yet to take firm hold in Northern America at least is the offering of full-length webinars on a variety of subjects, some of which, if you’re curious, are in different areas of design. The urban and architectural design program also provides podcasts dating from December of 2011 through June of 2012 that provide a sample of their lectures. It’s an important resource that allows both prospective students as well as graduates and industry professionals access to the latest research and education occurring at Domus.
The faculty is comprised of both permanent and visiting faculty and the pedagogy balances both practical tools and theory with on-the-ground realization of these concepts in real projects in partnership with industry professionals and companies. So rather than simply visiting a site once or twice and then having students imagine and design projects completely divorced from reality, students at Domus also meet with professionals involved with these potential projects. Hence what results are projects grounded in real-life conditions, and shaped by real-life conditions. Imagination that is tempered by realistic and necessary conditions is, after all, the truest test of true creativity.
It is a rigorous and intensive program in which the last three months are spent on the Master’s thesis. This is average, but because the entire curriculum is compressed, students will have what the practical, theoretical, and production tools they learned the previous 8 months still fresh in their minds.
Domus Academy’s Master of Urban Vision and Architectural Design clearly approaches education differently from most other architecture programs. It is shorter, and its approach is a judicious combination of theory and practice. The involvement of visiting faculty from a myriad of different backgrounds, from those who specialize in public urban spaces to those who specialize in hospitality, ensures that students will receive a very diverse and well-rounded education. In addition, the scholarships are competition-based, so no matter what you’re background, if your entry meets the desired specifications, then you might win. This is definitely a school that requires some flexibility, as well as intense focus, from its students, but after all, those are qualities that are fundamental to successful architects and designers.