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Explore Drylands Design

MSArch in Drylands Design

Using the Southwestern region as a case study, and drawing upon its vibrant design community, the Drylands Design faculty train students in the conception, research and development of design solutions that serve as a bridge between science and public policy. ALI’s courses are rich in fieldwork, geospatial modeling, history and design collaborations dedicated to adaptation in a changing climate.

Learn About ALI

ALI offers learning opportunities for graduate students and undergraduates in the design studio, in the classroom, and in the field. ALI’s academic offerings are research-driven, with a strong investment in critical geopspatial mapping and modeling as a basis for design intelligence. ALI’s learning environment is not only data-rich, however. It is also values-rich, culture-rich, and history-rich. GIS and design studios are supplemented by seminars, fieldwork, and public programs that collide disparate disciplines and generate critical vision.

Apply or Inquiry Here.

If you’re ready to apply to our MSArch in Arid Lands Design program, you can click the big APPLY button to do so electronically. If you have questions, use this contact form to get in touch with one of Woodbury School of Architecture’s dedicated admissions counselors. Someone will get back to you within 24 hours.

The admissions counselors will be able to answer all your questions about our programs, scholarships, financial aid, transfer credits, portfolios and anything else. They can also put you in touch with faculty and students who would be happy to talk to you about Woodbury.

You can initiate a live chat session right now by clicking CHAT.

Co-Director, Arid Lands Institute:

Hadley Arnold
Phone: 818-252-5121

Architecture Main Office:

Nare Gabrielyan
Phone: 818-252-5121

Graduate Admissions Counselor:

Angela Robinson-Wheaton
Phone: 818-394-3338


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The MSArch in Drylands Design Curriculum

ALI’s MSArch in Drylands Design is a one-year post-professional degree comprising research, design, and synthesis/dissemination, open to applicants who hold a first professional degee in architecture or landscape architecture.  The Institute’s MSArch program is the only one of its kind.  Qualified graduate and undergraduate students may also sample ALI’s drylands design course offerings a la carte.

Summer 0 Semester
Fundamentals of GIS: Groundwork Summer Workshop.
This two-week intensive seminar provides basic GIS concepts and techniques with emphasis on spatial information management, analysis, interpretation, map generation and display using GIS software packages.
Fall 1 Semester
Geospatial Technologies and Advanced Spatial Analysis for Designers: Thesis Research Studio. Required. 6 units.
GIS and Urban Design Theory: Thesis Prep Seminar. Required. 3 units.
Delivered parallel to the Thesis Research studio, this seminar provides a critical context for generating design vision out of geospatial analysis. Students will be introduced to urban design theories and case studies, and asked to interpret, reflect on, and test preliminary findings from their Thesis Research studio. Students in the Thesis Prep seminar will identify and articulate specific challenges and sites of interest within the ALI research agenda, and produce a thesis proposal to be developed the following semester in Thesis Design studio.
ALI Policy Lab 1: Understanding the Urban Metabolism: Science, Policy, and the Landscape of Resilience. Required. 3 units.
Led by a team of instructors from science and policy, students survey the terrain of current water, energy, and climate policies, as they bear on design of the built environment in drylands. The course uses case studies to critically evaluate planning documents and identify opportunities for amplifying and accelerating climate change mitigation goals through strategic planning and design of the built environment. While maintaining a particular focus on water use, water systems, and the interdependency of water and energy, the seminar places those issues in the context of other planning challenges, including density, transit, and food policy.
Drawing on History: Water Infrastructure and Urban Form. Required. 3 units.
This seminar is a hybrid history and representation course. Focusing on case study sites in India, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and the New World, students will examine the role of water engineering in shaping city form. Lectures, discussion, and drawing exercises will explore how public water systems have shaped (and been shaped by) ritual, hygiene, gender roles, technology, governance, the marketplace, and political power.
Spring 1 Semester
GIS Applied: Thesis Design Studio. Required. 6 units.
This studio challenges the design student to actively translate geospatial analysis into design vision at the architectural, infrastructural, and/or urban scale. Design projects will reflect well-defined individual interests within the ALI research agenda; demonstrate understanding and application of concepts in geospatial analysis; and convey clear and meaningful connections between problem definition, evidence, analysis, and design vision.
ALI Policy Lab 2: Recalibrating the Urban Metabolism: How to critique, draft, and advocate policy change. Required. 3 units.
Led by policy experts, this seminar teaches students to read, evaluate, and critique policy and to draft policy recommendations. Within the focus area of the water, energy, and climate nexus, students will identify particular policies and practices related to their individual thesis projects and craft written policy recommendations to accompany it.
Elective seminar. 3 units.
Choose from history, theory, media and technology, design, business, and service-learning course offerings from across disciplines.
Summer 1 or Fall 2 Semester
Synthesis Studio. Required. 6 units.
In the final semester, ALI students in the MSArch program will integrate their geospatial research, design proposals, policy recommendations, and case studies derived from history, theory, and field work and prepare it for public dissemination. Depending on the student’s area of interest, career aspirations, and intended audiences, the vehicle and medium for public dissemination will vary. Some students will build websites or applications; others will produce an exhibition; others may prepare a publication and lecture; others may produce and document a design-build demonstration project. ALI MSArch final thesis projects are comprehensively documented, archived, and made available to the public as an ongoing resource for dry lands design.

Student Experiences

  • Every semester, my classes cultivated my creativity in different ways and offered me collaborative design-driven opportunities. The study away programs had a powerful impact on my critical thinking as a student, reinforcing many of my attitudes and approaches I developed throughout my projects. While studying at Woodbury I traveled to Arizona and New Mexico, and internationally to Costa Rica, Italy, and Turkey.

    Cesia Lopez

    MSArch, Drylands Design 2011