Stierli, a professor at the Institute of Art History of the University of Zurich, will take charge of a department whose catalogue includes both the Mies van der Rohe archive and the Frank Lloyd Wright archive – two of America's most significant collections of work by 20th century architects.
He will work with MoMA's senior curator of design Paola Antonelli, whose current exhibitions include the museum's Design and Violence online-only show, and Portuguese architect Pedro Gadanho, curator of contemporary architecture.
"The breadth and depth of Martino's scholarship, knowledge, and interests in architecture, design, and modern art are impressive," said the museum's director Glenn D. Lowry.
"He brings an international perspective and possesses an extraordinary ability to brilliantly relate architecture and its image to its cultural context. With his solid grounding in the history of modern architecture and art, coupled with a keen interest in contemporary practice, Martino will be an effective and energetic leader."
Stierli's research in Zurich focused on representation of architecture in photography and film, postwar and postmodern architecture and the role of travel in architectural education.
He replaces architecture historian Barry Bergdoll who stepped down in 2013 to take a professorship at Columbia University and a part time curation role.
Bergdoll had been credited with reestablishing MoMA as a leading name in America's architecture exhibitions circuit, creating shows that directly reflected some of the major issues being faced by urbanists in New York and making them accessible to a wide audience.
But he received criticism for his public support for MoMA's controversial plan to expand by demolishing its neighbouring building – the American Folk Art Museum designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien.
MoMA has made a number of senior curatorial appointments and promotions over the past six months as it works on its expansion project. A number of other New York museums have also announced new curatorships across the arts.
Galille was named Daniel Brodsky Associate Curator of Architecture and Design in the department of modern and contemporary art, as part of an expansion that will see the institute move into the Marcel Breuer-designed museum building on Madison Avenue currently occupied by The Whitney.
Photograph by NCCR Iconic Criticism, University of Basel/Alessandro Frigerio.