SCI-Arc Campus Plans Explore the Shape of Knowledge

SCI-Arc Campus Plans Explore the Shape of Knowledge

SCI-Arc, the Southern California Institute of Architecture, is known for its mission to educate architects who will image and shape the future. This is most evident in the M.Arch 2 program. Open to students who already hold an undergraduate degree in Architecture, M.Arch 2 has been the school’s flagship program over its 15-year history because it is where innovation and cutting edge technology get applied to the field of architecture.

“The program was originated in a very specific historical moment where digital technology became a way to disrupt the status quo in architecture, and it has been constantly been building upon that idea throughout the past fifteen years. It is part of the growth of the digital project in architecture” explains Graduate Programs Chair, Elena Manferdini.

M.Arch 2 provides a new environment for architects seeking to complement what may be a classical education with a more contemporary, cutting-edge one that incorporates new technology and fabrication, new theories, and new ways of thinking. One of the few NAAB-accredited second-professional degrees in the United States, M.Arch 2 is also one of SCI-Arc’s most international programs as it attracts students from all over the world who already have a degree in architecture and allows them to pursue licensure in the US.

Being a two-year program, M.Arch 2 is also SCI-Arc’s most nimble and fast-paced program. The program begins with a studio titled Compositional Morphologies, which explores the forefront of the discipline, leading the conversation to the next in terms of aesthetic agendas, architecture’s contemporary and future societal role, and the impact of theoretical and technological innovation on architecture’s design and communicative repertoire.

The second M.Arch 2 studio focuses on computational design and places an emphasis on advancing formal strategies beyond the current state-of-the-art. Students integrate extra-disciplinary techniques and technologies into the design workflow in order to develop innovative architectures that respond to changing societal, ecological and technological contexts. Students’ design work engages issues that range from fundamental morphological transformations through rigorous 3D modeling, to the role of the image and digital sampling in the production of architectural form. These issues are explored through a highly resolved building design.

This second studio in the program combines the tools acquired during the first semester with the architectural background that students bring from their undergraduate degrees to create a contemporary architectural proposal.

Taught by Elena Manferdini (Graduate Programs Chair), Tom Wiscombe (Undergraduate Program Chair) and Kristy Balliet, this Spring semester’s computational design studio titled “The Shape of Knowledge,” was structured as a research platform focused on novel formal experimentation and critical thinking in relationship to the highly specific building typology of a new campus for SCI-Arc’s Arts District location.

Elena Manferdini’s studio focused on the ambiguous potentials of material finishes and their applications in the design of façades and interiors. Because of their ability to instigate multiple readings, cunning optical effects were at the center of the studio exploration. The politics of materials was a device to engage with the difficult task of producing something unique out of something whose appearance by definition should be universal: the image of knowledge.

Tom Wiscombe’s studio, on the other hand, focused on the idea of architecture as a container, which implies that things are contained inside, like a city in a snow globe, a cornucopia, or a Japanese diorama. The studio explored new strategies for relating architectural containers and ground in order to be able to engage the specific problem of a large open space posed by the brief.

Kristy Balliet’s studio focused on an architecture that challenges the presumption of an architectural front and engages a design discussion centered on a multitude of orientations. The focus was placed on architectural profiles and their capacity to reorient, frame spaces beyond, address diverse audiences, and maintain attention both inside and out.

While the projects and techniques explored are updated every year to reflect the M.Arch 2 program’s commitment to newness, there is always the idea of reinventing what has been done and pushing the edges and boundaries of what is possible.

With a commitment to using the latest technology and a fearless attitude toward architectural design, SCI-Arc’s M.Arch 2 program is specifically geared to propel advanced design exploration and new modes of communication as it advances contemporary architectural experimentation and expands the boundaries of conventional architectural practice. 

For additional information about the M.Arch 2 program at SCI-Arc, visit the program webpage here. To view additional SCI-Arc student work, visit

Cite: "SCI-Arc Campus Plans Explore the Shape of Knowledge" 28 Jun 2017. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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