Interior Architecture


  • Programs: MA | one-year+ and MDes | two-year+

    Interior Architecture offers the following degree program options at the graduate level:

    • the Master of Arts (MA) in Adaptive Reuse, a one-year+ program

    • the Master of Design (MDes) in Interior Studies / Adaptive Reuse, a two-year+ program

    • the Master of Design (MDes) in Interior Studies / Exhibition + Narrative Environments, a two-year+ program

    Both programs take an innovative and progressive approach to addressing design issues intrinsic to the reuse and transformation of existing structures. US News & World Report and Design Intelligence have both ranked RISD’s Interior Architecture programs among the top in the country.

  • Learning Outcomes

    Graduates of the MA program are prepared to:

    • engage in the practice and implementation of adaptive reuse in the built environment through the demonstration of an appropriate aesthetic, theoretical and technological framework

    • expand upon the architect's understanding of reuse as a product of practice and in the context of architectural history and theory 

    • develop strategies for acknowledging the importance of social and environmental responsibility through design projects

    • view and evaluate adaptive reuse through a multifaceted lens

    • recognize the origins of adaptive reuse as well as the contemporary context governing current practice

    • use qualitative and quantitative methods to evaluate the economic and environmental merits of adaptive reuse

    • become ambassadors of adaptive reuse as a specialty in the professional design setting through the advancement of such practice at conferences and as built work

    Graduates of the MDes program are prepared to:

    • adopt a clear aesthetic, theoretical and technological framework for interior studies in order to engage in this subject in the design field 

    • investigate different aspects of design interventions in the built environment 

    • articulate the distinctive nature of interior studies as an effective member of a design team able to interact and collaborate with fellow professionals in related fields

    • develop design strategies that recognize the importance of social and environmental responsibility 

    • assess the spatial transformation capabilities of an existing structure

    • formulate an original design concept based on research and evaluate, develop, present and advocate coherent design propositions

    • understand and incorporate related consultant feedback as part of the collaborative process in a professional setting

  • Inspiring Community

    Approximately 72 graduate students and 41 undergraduates are pursuing degrees in the Interior Architecture department, working together in the Angelo Donghia Studio for Interior Architecture on the fifth floor of RISD’s Center for Integrative Technologies. Students come from around the world and work with more than 25 full- and part-time faculty members who practice internationally and were educated in Germany, Portugal, Canada, the US and elsewhere. This lends the department has a very global, cosmopolitan feel and allows for especially fruitful collaborations and critical exchange.

  • Learning Environment

    Design studios are at the heart of both the MA and MDes programs, with seminars and research-based practice also enabling students to hone their theoretical and design skills and understanding of relevant technologies. For those who have earned a BArch or first professional degree in Architecture, the MA program provides a specialized post-professional education centered on adaptive reuse. It equips graduates to engage in the practice of adaptive reuse and incorporate strategies that emphasize social and environmental responsibility. For students with undergraduate degrees in fields other than architecture, the MDes program provides a unique design education on the alteration of existing structures through interior interventions and adaptive reuse, outside the confines of professional architectural licensure.

  • Markus Berger | graduate program director

    “In Interior Architecture we focus on adaptive reuse in all its forms: from remodeling and reusing existing structures to performing transformative interventions, reusing materials and preserving cultural memory across time and space. The discipline is built upon notions of conservation, preservation, alteration and intervention as well as the repercussions of our design decisions over time.”

  • Curriculum

    The MDes program involves a sequence of five design studios and core support courses designed to provide the requisite knowledge and understanding of design and its implementation so that graduates may practice as socially and environmentally responsible designers with a specialized knowledge and understanding of adaptive reuse. In the MA program, an intensive summer immersion is followed by one full year of study that culminates in a self-directed final project. 

    MDes program | first year

    • Summer
    • On-campus Summer Program
    • IDS 1: Spatial Investigation/Drawing & Making
    • IDS 1: Existing Construct
    • IDS 1: Transformation and Intervention
    • Fall
    • Intro to Design Studio II
    • Structures and Materials for Adaptive Reuse
    • Advanced Drawing and Computing Tectonics
    • History of Adaptive Reuse
    • Wintersession
    • Open elective
    • Spring
    • Advanced Design Studio
    • Energy and Systems
    • Theory Seminar: Investigating Interiority
    • Spatial Perception: Light & Color 

    MDes program | second year

    • Fall
    • Advanced Design Studio
    • Human Factors, Ergonomics and Acoustics
    • Open elective
    • Design thesis preparation
    • Wintersession
    • Open elective
    • Spring
    • Design Thesis Studio
    • Theory of Adaptive Reuse
    • Codes and Details

    MA program

    • Summer
    • Summer Studio in Scandinavia
    • Scandinavian Design & Architecture
    • Fall
    • Advanced Design Studio
    • Applied Building Systems for Adaptive Reuse
    • Theory of Adaptive Reuse
    • Graduate elective
    • Wintersession
    • Open elective
    • Spring
    • Principles of Adaptive Reuse
    • Adaptive Reuse Design Studio
    • Graduate Adaptive Reuse Seminar
    • Special Topics in Adaptive Reuse

  • Degree Projects

    Each MA candidate produces a final project that begins with a research component in the fall and evolves into a studio/design project in the spring. MDes candidates demonstrate competency through self-directed Degree Projects that include a seminar on theory, a research component and a studio component. Each DP focuses on the transformation of an existing structure of their choice in the city of Providence. All MA and MDes candidates also participate in the RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition, a large-scale public show held annually.

  • Application Requirements

    1. application form + fee
    2. academic transcripts
    3. letters of recommendation (3)
    4. portfolio of work
    5. statement of purpose
    6. TOEFL scores (for non-native English speakers)
      • The faculty selection committee in Interior Architecture looks for evidence of the ability and preparedness to undertake graduate-level work. Portfolios should be professionally presented using only the highest quality representation of work that best represents the breadth and depth of your design and creative thinking abilities.
      • For more information or to begin the application process, visit the Apply page.