Master in Design Studies: Energy and Environments

Harvard University - Graduate School of Design


Energy and Environments proposes an architectural agenda for energy in order to tackle 21st century ecological challenges. Upturning the conventional definition of “sustainable design.” which tends to privilege efficiency and conservation, Energy and Environments positions design as a way to harness and deliver maximum power. The GSD sets out to develop more ambitious and totalizing energy theories, techniques and technologies as a way to confront the demands of a 21st century. The approach stems from thermodynamic and ecological laws. All energy systems aim to maximize – not minimize – their energy intake and use. Energy and Environments argues that architecture and design should do the same, establishing a more thermodynamically cogent and ecologically exuberant method of practice better suited to the 21st century.

As a distinct concentration area within the Master in Design Studies program, Energy and Environments allows students to examine energy issues across disciplines and scales, taking full advantage of courses and initiatives throughout the GSD and Harvard University. It is closely associated with the Energy, Environments, and Design Research Lab as a way to couple theory with applied research. Many students work on active, funded research projects, which now include an energy evaluation of the Empire State Building and Central Park (a full account of the material and energy flows through these two sites over the past three centuries), a history of insulation, and the design, analysis, and fabrication of a maximum power building in Long Island, New York. The curriculum is diverse: from short workshops, half-semester module courses, regular seminars and lectures, and year-long thesis projects and multi-year lab projects, Energy and Environments students address the relationship of design and energy across a full spectrum of agendas and projects.


  • Institution Name: Harvard University - Graduate School of Design
  • Department: Graduate School of Design
  • Address: 48 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
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