The five-year Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) curriculum centers on the design studio and culminates in a year-long research and design project. Theoretical, technological, and computational and historical issues are progressively integrated into studio projects beginning in the first year. Projects range in scale and form, but relate to issues in contemporary culture with a focus on globalization and urban contexts.
This degree program is described in detail below.
Students in the School of Architecture undergraduate program are required to complete courses in the sciences, humanities, arts, and social sciences as part of the Institute core requirements. The core courses are structured to provide exposure and breadth of education. A series of professional electives and free elective courses provide students the opportunity to pursue specific interests in greater depth, to minor, or to pursue other special interests.
In addition to Institute-wide academic regulations outlined earlier in this catalog, the following pertain to the bachelor’s program in architecture:
- Advancement in Design—Students not passing a required design course (including Final Project Design Studio) may not advance to the next course in the design sequence. The architecture faculty will review students earning grades of D or lower in required design courses. A student earning a D or lower in any subsequent required design course must either repeat the course or take another course specified by the faculty before advancing to the next course in the design sequence. Students who fail to earn a grade of C or better in the repeated or specified course, or who earn a third grade of D or lower in design, may not continue in the design sequence. A student earning an F in any course must repeat the course in addition to completing any remedial actions specified by the faculty after a second grade of D or lower in a required design studio.
- Grades of “IP”—In Final Project 1 or 2 ‘IP’ grades will convert to a grade of “F” three years after the issue of the original “IP” grade. Students applying for readmission to complete Final Project 1 or 2 after three years will be required to restart the new Final Project current sequence which includes a 3-credit seminar and the 5-credit Final Project Design Studio.
- Retention of Student Design Work—All student drawings and models produced as part of the instructional program are the property of the Institute. The School of Architecture reserves the right to retain any or all work produced by the students in the school for a temporary or permanent time period.
Outcomes of the Undergraduate Curriculum
Students who successfully complete this program will be able to demonstrate:
- ability to write and speak effectively and use representational media appropriate both within the profession and with the general public.
- ability to raise clear and precise questions, use abstract ideas to interpret information, consider diverse points of view, reach well-reasoned conclusions, and test alternative outcomes against relevant criteria and standards.
- ability to gather, assess, record, and comparatively evaluate relevant information and performance in order to support conclusions related to a specific project or assignment.
- ability to effectively use basic formal, organizational, and environmental principles and the capacity of each to inform two- and three-dimensional design.
- ability to apply the fundamentals of both natural and formal ordering systems and the capacity of each to inform two- and three-dimensional design.
- ability to examine and comprehend the fundamental principles present in relevant precedents and to make informed choices about the incorporation of such principles into architecture and urban design projects.
- understanding of the parallel and divergent histories of architecture and the cultural norms of a variety of indigenous, vernacular, local, and regional settings in terms of their political, economic, social, ecological, and technological factors.
- understanding of the diverse needs, values, behavioral norms, physical abilities, and social and spatial patterns that characterize different cultures and individuals and the responsibility of the architect to ensure equity of access to sites, buildings, and structures.
- ability to prepare a comprehensive program for an architectural project that includes an assessment of client and user needs; an inventory of spaces and their requirements; an analysis of site conditions (including existing buildings); a review of the relevant building codes and standards, including relevant sustainability requirements, and an assessment of their implications for the project; and a definition of site selection and design assessment criteria.
- understanding of the fundamentals of building costs, which must include project financing methods and feasibility, construction cost estimating, construction scheduling, operational costs, and life-cycle costs.
- ability to respond to site characteristics, including urban context and developmental patterning, historical fabric, soil, topography, ecology, climate, and building orientation, in the development of a project design.
- ability to design sites, facilities, and systems that are responsive to relevant codes and regulations, and include the principles of life-safety and accessibility standards.
- ability to make technically clear drawings, prepare outline specifications, and construct models illustrating and identifying the assembly of materials, systems, and components appropriate for a building design.
- ability to demonstrate the basic principles of structural systems and their ability to withstand gravitational, seismic, and lateral forces, as well as the selection and application of the appropriate structural system.
- ability to demonstrate the principles of environmental systems’ design, how design criteria can vary by geographic region, and the tools used for performance assessment This demonstration must include active and passive heating and cooling, solar geometry, daylighting, natural ventilation, indoor air quality, solar systems, lighting systems, and acoustics.
- understanding of the basic principles involved in the appropriate selection and application of building envelope systems relative to fundamental performance, aesthetics, moisture transfer, durability, and energy and material resources.
- understanding of the basic principles used in the appropriate selection of interior and exterior construction materials, finishes, products, components, and assemblies based on their inherent performance, including environmental impact and reuse.
- understanding of the basic principles and appropriate application and performance of building service systems, including lighting, mechanical, plumbing, electrical, communication, vertical transportation, security, and fire protection systems.
- understanding of the theoretical and applied research methodologies and practices used during the design process.
- ability to demonstrate the skills associated with making integrated decisions across multiple systems and variables in the completion of a design project. This demonstration includes problem identification, setting evaluative criteria, analyzing solutions.
- ability to make design decisions within a complex architectural project while demonstrating broad integration and consideration of environmental stewardship, technical documentation, accessibility, site conditions, life safety, environmental systems, structural systems, and building envelope systems and assemblies.
- understanding of the relationships among key stakeholders in the design process—client, contractor, architect, user groups, local community—and the architect’s role to reconcile stakeholder needs.
- understanding of the methods for selecting consultants and assembling teams; identifying work plans, project schedules, and time requirements; and recommending project delivery methods.
- understanding of the basic principles of a firm’s business practices, including financial management and business planning, marketing, organization, and entrepreneurship.
- understanding of the architect’s responsibility to the public and the client as determined by regulations and legal considerations involving the practice of architecture and professional service contracts.
- understanding of the ethical issues involved in the exercise of professional judgment in architectural design and practice and understanding the role of the NCARB Rules of Conduct and the AIA Code of Ethics in defining professional conduct.
A minor consists of an approved 16-credit program. Minors in other disciplines offered at Rensselaer are available to students and are hightly encouraged. The most common minors are in the Schools of Management, Architectural Acoustics, Lighting, Humanties, Arts, and Social Sciences, and Science. A minor in Civil Engineering has been especially designed for Architecture majors with some overlap in courses.
The School of Architecture offers minor options for both School of Architecture students and students majoring in other Rensselaer programs. These options are described in the Programs section of this catalog.
Special Undergraduate Opportunities
Study Abroad Programs
International study is a defining aspect of Rensselaer’s architectural education. The School of Architecture offers international semester-long programs of study in Italy, India, Latin America, and China. These programs are fully integrated with the requirements of the undergraduate degree and have been established in three world cities that will challenge and help to define the future of architecture. Each of these programs is open, by competitive application, to students in their fifth to eighth semester. Limited numbers of students (B.Arch.) are selected each year on the basis of academic accomplishment. In addition to a Rensselaer faculty member who travels with and directs the program, adjunct faculty in the host city or institution also provide instruction. There is a program fee for participation in each of these programs, which are described briefly below.
- Italy Program—(ALTERNATE FALL SEMESTERS): The Italian studies program includes a design studio based in Rome, an examination of the architectural and urban development of Rome, courses in Italian language and culture, and travel throughout Italy. The program seeks to deepen appreciation of historic cities and the layers of culture that have played a seminal role in the development of Western culture and architecture.
- India Program—(ALTERNATE SPRING SEMESTERS): The India program at Rensselaer’s School of Architecture is located in Ahmedabad, India, a vibrant metropolis of 5 million inhabitants located in the northwestern part of India. UNESCO has recently named Ahmedabad a World Heritage City. Facilities for this program are situated in the Millowners Building, an architectural masterpiece designed by Le Corbusier, who is widely considered one of the most important architects of the 20th century. Students benefit from instruction by several of the most knowledgeable and capable architects and scholars in contemporary India.
- China Program—(ALTERNATE SPRING SEMESTERS): The semester in Shanghai is based at the School of Architecture at Tongji University, considered one of the premier architecture programs throughout Asia. The program offers joint studios in design with Chinese faculty and students, and travel to world heritage sites and internationally renowned contemporary buildings throughout China.
- Latin America Program—(ALTERNATE FALL SEMESTERS): The semester in Latin America aims to actively engage students with the various architectural scenes in Latin America by establishing different itineraries for each edition. The program will include academic residencies at the architectural school of the Universidad Nacional de Chile (Santiago, Chile) and at the Universidad Nacional de Cordoba (Argentina) where joint-studios, seminars and other activities will be developed together with local students and faculty.
In addition, the School of Architecture offers many short-term summer and mid-semester study abroad programs to places of special architectural interest. In recent years, these have included visits to Shanghaii, Hong Kong, ShenZen, London, Paris, Berlin, Stuttgart, Tokyo, Osaka, Lausanne, Buenos Aires, and San Paolo, Madrid, Seville, and Barcelona.
Additional independent exchange and study abroad opportunities are available through the office of International Programs.
New York Program
A semester-long program located in New York City is based at Rensselaer’s Center for Architecture Science and Ecology [CASE] located at Industry City, Brooklyn, New York. The program allows both B.Arch. and M.Arch. students to study in a collaborative interdisciplinary research environment focused on the development of advanced next-generation building systems and sustainable technologies.
The school offers two six-week studios in the summer session that are open to accepted transfer students.
Architecture students may insert co-op work experiences into their program of study. Work opportunities are available in a wide range of situations, from architecture firms large and small to design groups in industry or institutions. Co-op experiences are an invaluable introduction to practice and strengthen the learning experience. Co-ops can sometimes earn credit toward the professional Intern Development Program (IDP) requirement.
Lectures and Exhibits
The lecture and exhibition series presents the work of internationally recognized theoreticians and practitioners, providing students and faculty with exposure to current and critical ideas influencing the profession. Lectures and exhibitions are open to all Rensselaer students, faculty, and the local professional community.
The School of Architecture graduate programs include both professional Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) and (Master of Science in Architecture (M.S. in Arch.) design programs and research-based programs in the Architectural Sciences at the master’s and doctoral levels.
The Master of Architecture professional program (M.Arch.) is a NAAB-accredited program leading to the licensed practice of Architecture or to teaching and is open to qualified students holding a minimum of a baccalaureate degree in any discipline.
The Master of Science in Architecture program (M.S. in Arch.) is intended both for students who already have a professional degree in architecture and those interested in advanced non-professional graduate study. This one-year, 30-credit degree program opens opportunities for specialized practices or to teaching.
The School of Architecture offers several research degrees at the master’s and doctoral levels. The Master of Science, Master of Science in Architectural Sciences, or Ph.D. in Architectural Sciences degrees offer the opportunity for advanced, focused, and intellectually rigorous study in Architectural Acoustics, Built Ecologies, or Lighting.
Requirements for all Graduate Programs
For specific information regarding admission to the School of Architecture’s graduate programs contact the Institute’s Office of Graduate Admissions.
Courses and Grade Requirements
Continuation in the graduate program requires satisfactory performance by the student. Satisfactory performance is not limited to the academic performance, but includes other appraisals of the student’s academic record, ability in areas such as teaching and research, and collegial interaction within a community of research and scholarship.
The minimum average of all grades used for credit toward an advanced degree must be B. If a student’s grades fall below a 3.0 average, the Office of Graduate Education may request that the Graduate Program Director conduct a formal review to determine whether continuation is warranted. The student’s adviser, with the consent of the Graduate Program Director, may recommend to the Office of Graduate Education that a student whose performance is unsatisfactory be dropped from the graduate program. A student who has accumulated two failing grades will be dropped from the graduate program. See the Master of Architecture section for additional requirements pertaining to the professional program.
Master of Science in Architectural Sciences
The 30-credit, one-year degree offers an intense program of advanced study in architectural acoustics, emphasizing the room acoustics of both large and small venues, such as automobile, household, and sound control and maximization of performance spaces. Applicants should have a B.A. or B.S. in Architecture, Architectural Engineering, Music, Acoustics, Physics, or comparable fields.
This 12-month, 30-credit-hour program is designed to provide knowledge of, and creative expertise in, the design of buildings, systems, structures, and environments as informed by the dynamic behavior of natural systems and emergent technologies. Applicants should have at least an undergraduate degree in architecture or engineering or have a graduate degree in a related field, with demonstrated interest in areas relating to built systems and/or the environment. The program is located at Industry City, Brooklyn, New York.
This one-year, 30-credit-hour program of study provides an education that cultivates both a scientific and artistic understanding of the many issues involved in the development of lighting and designing with light. Applicants are urged to complete two college-level math courses before applying to the program.
Rensselaer’s Ph.D. program in Architectural Sciences offers concentrations in Architectural Acoustics, Built Ecologies, and Lighting or other areas of specialization in which faculty have particular interest or expertise. This research degree supports the multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary investigation of a wide range of topics arising from the theory and practice of architecture and the configuration of the built environment. The School of Architecture offers the Doctor of Philosophy degree to candidates who are prepared to undertake innovative and substantive research that adds to the body of knowledge drawn on by the design disciplines. The degree provides a context for advanced study and research which combines architecture and appropriate areas of science, engineering, and the humanities. Students in the master’s program may continue into the Ph.D. in Architectural Sciences, subject to written approval by the department and Graduate Program Director. Upon successfully completing the M.S. requirements and passing the candidacy exam at the end of the summer of the first year, students may enter doctoral studies in the second year.
Each of the Ph.D. in Architectural Sciences degree concentrations have different course requirements. Significant cross-disciplinary study is encouraged not only to build on advanced work in architecture and technology emerging in the School, but also to form a program of study that draws widely on Rensselaer’s strength in other disciplines. Individual Plans of Study are defined between student and adviser and approved by the Graduate Program Director. A candidate for the doctoral degree must complete a Plan of Study with satisfactory grades containing 72 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree, including 4 credits of Doctoral Seminars, additional coursework as required, and a dissertation. Twenty-four credit hours may be transferred from the master’s degree to satisfy the basic Institute course requirements for the doctoral degree.
The dissertation must consist of a minimum of 30 and a maximum of 52 credits as approved by the doctoral committee and Graduate Program Director. At least two-thirds of the total credit hours, excluding dissertation, must contain the suffix numbers 6000–7999 with the further limitation that no more than 15 credit hours of 4000-4990 courses are to be allowed. Undergraduate courses below the 4000 level may not be used for credit toward graduate degrees, although some may be required to make up missing prerequisites.
All candidates must successfully take a qualifying exam for entry into doctoral study.
The Institute requires, without exception, degree completion for full-time students within five years for those entering with a master’s degree and within seven years for those entering with an undergraduate degree.