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Master's curriculum


Required Courses


Course #



ARCH 650 Arch History Seminar 1 (outline) 8
ARCH 651 Arch History Seminar 2 (outline) 8
ARCH 652 Architectural Theory Seminar 1 (outline) 4
ARCH 653 Architectural Theory Sem 2 (outline) 4
ARCH 622 Critical Writing (outline) 3
ARCH 623 Project Preparation (outline) 3
ARCH 624 History & Theory Project (outline) 15
Total 45

The History and Theory option is concerned with the reconciliation of ethics and poetics in architectural practice. The Master’s curriculum, which in most cases is also a required foundation year for a Ph.D. in the field, is simple in terms of course requirements, but demanding in terms of personal commitment to reading and writing. It is particularly suited to students with a professional background in architecture who want to explore and understand the complex connections between history, theory, and design. A thorough understanding of architecture as a cultural phenomenon, leading to a more serious definition of its true essence as it appears in history, is now regarded as crucial by practitioners and teachers who wish to come to terms with the present predicaments of architecture vis-à-vis the contradictions of the contemporary world.

The course of studies consists of two sequences of seminars in architectural history and theory (4 courses), a seminar course in critical writing, and a final project. Proficiency in spoken English and written English or French are requirements for admission.

Architectural theory is viewed not as methodology but as philosophical orientation. Crucial issues of contemporary culture are explored through readings of phenomenology and continental European philosophy. Key notions in architecture, such as technology, perception, theory and practice, meaning and symbolization, and the nature of history, are discussed through the presentation of carefully selected readings. The second theory seminar is dedicated to the exploration of nineteenth century architectural theory and practice in Europe and North America.

The two history seminars examine architectural intentions, particularly through primary sources in the form of treatises, starting with pre-classical Greece and finishing in the 19th century. The questions addressed are always placed in the context of a worldview through a “hermeneutical” method, and are, therefore, related to the clarification of real problems facing architecture in the modern world. History is not seen as an independent or gratuitous discipline conveying neutral or specialized information, but understood as the only authentic ground for theory and practical reason in the making of architecture. Students are expected to make oral presentations to the seminar group and to produce a scholarly paper based on personally selected topics.

All graduate students entering the program must audit two lecture courses coordinated with the History Seminars, Architectural Intentions from Vitruvius to the Renaissance and Origins of Modern Architecture.

A project preparation course during the second semester culminates in a summer project that represents the total workload during the third and last semester of studies. Reviews are enhanced by the presence of external critics. The project is thematic and aims to engage urban issues critically, raising questions of architectural program, form and representation. Projects pursue the notion of inquiry through design, the poetics of making and imagination. Students are expected to produce a final document including their critical project and the three major papers produced for their seminars.

McGill’s History and Theory of Architecture Program has a long-standing international reputation. Students are able to draw from the wide-ranging expertise of the faculty of the School and the University. McGill’s Blackader-Lauterman Library of Architecture and Art which includes the Canadian Architecture Collection is one of the best in Canada for this specialty. The course of studies is further enriched by the presence of distinguished visitors, which have included architects, theoreticians, historians and philosophers such as Juhani Pallasmaa, Dalibor Vesely, George Hersey, Karsten Harries, David Levin, Edward Casey and Richard Kearney, among others. The program is greatly enhanced by the proximity of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, a unique institution that attracts internationally recognized scholars and with which the program works in close collaboration. The multiple resources of the Centre’s library and archival collections are available for students doing thesis research.



alberto [dot] perez-gomez [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Alberto Pérez-Gómez)
martin [dot] bressani [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Martin Bressani)
ricardo [dot] castro [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Ricardo Castro)
robert [dot] mellin [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Robert Mellin)

Contributing faculty

annmarie [dot] adams [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Annmarie Adams)

Frequent visitors

Marco Frascari
David Leatherbarrow
Stephen Parcell
Louis Brillant
Donald Kunze