Jul 19, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2019-2020 
Rensselaer Catalog 2019-2020 [Archived Catalog]


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Bachelor of Architecture (B. Arch.) Curriculum

This five-year undergraduate professional program is a first professional degree accredited by the National Architectural Accreditation Board. The program is for a limited number of qualified students committed to the study of architecture. These students are admitted directly to the professional degree program and begin studies in architecture in the first year.

The National Architectural Accreditation Board (NAAB) accredits the Rensselaer School of Architecture’s Bachelor of Architecture program and its Master of Architecture program. Pursuant to the requirement of the NAAB, the following statement is included in the catalog:

In the United States, most state registration boards require a degree from an accredited professional degree program as a prerequisite for licensure. The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), which is the sole agency authorized to accredit professional degree programs in architecture, offered by institutions with U.S. regional accreditation, recognizes three types of degrees: the Bachelor of Architecture, the Master of Architecture, and the Doctor of Architecture. A program may be granted an eight-year, three-year, or two-year term of accreditation, depending on the extent of its conformance with established educational standards.

Doctor of Architecture and Master of Architecture degree programs may require a pre-professional undergraduate degree in architecture for admission.  However, the preprofessional degree is not, by itself, recognized as an accredited degree.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, School of Architecture offers the following NAAB accredited degree programs:

  • B.Arch. (171 undergraduate credits)
  • M.Arch. (pre-professional Degree + 100 credits)
  • Next accreditation visit for all programs: 2024

Rensselaer’s B.Arch. program incorporates and interconnects the following important elements:

  • Design—Design and the design studio form the core of all architecture degree programs. The design studio brings together the many aspects of architecture and presents a wide range of design issues, beginning with the development of the tools, skills, and judgments that underline the production of architecture.

    The skills area emphasizes that the hand is as important as the computer in the development and representation of ideas. The ability to freely manipulate space, surface, structure, and texture is central to the formation of architecture. The tools component develops confidence in the technologies that form architecture and are essential support to creativity. Finally, the judgments aspect is developed through projects premised on the continual evolution of architecture as a manifestation of the social, economic, political, and technological forces within a culture. All design studios draw broadly on the exceptional range of urban and architectural contexts near the campus; from the historic towns in upstate New York to great cities of the region such as New York, Boston, Montreal, and Philadelphia.

    In the design studio there are no singular, provable, or perfect answers to any of the problems presented. Students explore and develop their design proposals based on their growing knowledge of architecture and their emerging abilities. Early semester-long studios introduce students to a full-range of issues, skills, and judgments encountered in design and initiate and reinforce design as critical inquiry. The remaining studios focus on significant concerns in architecture. They are “vertical” in that they include students in different class years, and present choices of projects and faculty. Among these are the Integrated Design Schematic Studio and the Integrated Design Development Studio, in which projects are subjected to detailed structural, mechanical, construction materials, and professional practice considerations.
  • History and Theory—A required multi-course sequence presents the diversity of architectural works and ideas relative to the contexts within which architecture emerges and exposes students to key historical and theoretical issues in the discipline. Following this sequence, students may take additional advanced architectural history/theory electives as a part of their professional or free electives.
  • Technology and Building Science—Technological issues are introduced from the beginning as essential to the conception and creation, delivery, and performance of architecture. New technologies can also be understood as generative of both form and inhabitable space. A series of six required technology courses considers both qualitative and quantitative views of building technologies. These include statics and strength of materials; basic structures and framing; design of wood, steel, and concrete structures; criteria for selecting building materials and systems; environmental and ecological systems; building systems, including heating, ventilation, air conditioning, plumbing, and electrical systems; sensory environments, including the luminous, acoustical, and tactile dimensions of space; codes and contract documents. Following this sequence, students may take additional advanced technology and building science electives as a part of their professional or free elective selections. Integration of technological considerations is central to many of the studios with a focused emphasis on integrating building technologies especially in the required upper level Integrated Design Development Studio.
  • Computational Design—Computational proficiency is central to the future of architecture. From the first year, students are able to expand their knowledge and skill through course work, which integrates computing concepts and applications—in some cases within the design studios—and through independent experimentation in the many computer labs at the School and Institute. In addition to the general computation labs, the School offers high-end multimedia environments within the many design studios. These labs are also complimented with a commitment to equipping the fabrication center with the latest and most sophisticated tools for fabrication and physical prototyping of design work. Currently available is a range of equipment varying from a 3axis CNC mill, two laser cutters, a 3D printer, and vacuum-forming as well as access to water and plasma cutters. Students have access to the latest in three-dimensional design software, critical visualization tools, and more specific evaluation-based software.

These elements are provided through both required courses as well as many professional electives and topics in such areas as architectural and urban history and theory, technology, computing, building economics, computational design, community design, practice and management, architectural lighting, and acoustics in architecture. Professional degree students must complete at least 12 credits from these offerings by either building on a specific interest or by sampling the breadth and diversity inherent in the field. In addition to regularly offered electives (described in the back of this catalog), the faculty offer a number of topics or experimental courses as professional electives. Sample courses include, but are not limited to:


Architectural Acoustics 1 and 2
Between Dissociation and Merging

Bioclimatic Design
Biological Habitat

Building Envelopes
Built Ecologies 1
Built Ecologies 2

Construction Instruction: What’s your Function

Contemporary Ceramic Assemblies

Contemporary Furniture Design

Duchamp Seminar: Anarchism Umped

Exploratory Drawing
Extreme Drawing
Eyes to the Ground - Spatial Studies in Counter Culture

Form and Emptiness Matter

Hooks and Loops: Hyper Stitch
Human Factors in Lighting

I am an Architect, I am a Breeder

Infidenite Form
Informal Urbanism

Interfaces and Virtual Worlds
Latin American Architecture
Lighting Design
Lighting Technologies and Applications


Local Technologies & Systems

Living Versus Artificial Living
Materials Systems and Productions
Modular Thinking

Nature and Architecture in the times of Digital Reality
New Evolutions
Next Nature Next Architecture

Oxymoronic Figures

PIP Planning Seminar

Portfolio Development
Procedural Materialism: Emerging

Projecting Light

Projective Glitch

Projective Veils

Reinventing Archives and the Rise of Immersive Scholarship

Robotic Material Assemblies
Satorial Teconics

Self Organizing Spaces
Seminar in Sensory Culture

Sculpting the Intangible
Social Ecology in Architecture

Structural Anatomy of Buildings
Sustainable Building Design Metrics

Sustainable Building Design Strategies
Techniques of Digital Fabrication
The Arch of the Screen: Relationships between Film and Architecture
Tool Theory
Twisted Siblings - Examinations of Contemporary Relationships Between Painting and Architecture 

The Man Next Door: Alfred Hitchcock and the Architecture of Fear
Towards a Social Ecology in Architecture

Veil and Beam: Architectures of Espionage in Cinema

Vieled Assemblages

What an Amazing Time

The five-year B.Arch. program concludes with a year-long individually developed and comprehensive final project in the context of optional research studio and thematic contexts provided by faculty. The first semester of the final project integrates a research seminar. An integrated design research phase continues throughout the first and the second semesters.

The final project is an opportunity to develop a point of view about architecture and its place in the world; to question conventions, habitual responses, and routine approaches to architectural design; and to investigate issues that the student sees as significant to architecture.

A sample template of the B.Arch. curriculum structure is provided below. Please note that special circumstances such as participating in a semester abroad or a semester at CASE in New York City may involve some variation from this template.

First Year


  • HASS Approved Inquiry and Communication Intensive Course Credit Hours: 4
    (See footnote 1 below)

Second Year

Third Year


  • HASS Elective Credit Hours: 4
  • MATH Elective Credit Hours: 4


  • Science Elective Credit Hours: 4

Fourth Year

The Arch Summer Semester*

*For students who have applied for and been granted an exception, the Summer Arch courses would be taken during the fall semester. For listing of the exception process go to: http://http://info.rpi.edu/arch/students/#ExceptionProcess.

  • HASS Elective Credit Hours: 4
  • HASS Elective Credit Hours: 4
  • Science Elective Credit Hours: 4

Fall OR Spring

  • Professional Elective Credit Hours: 2
  • Professional Elective Credit Hours: 2
  • Elective Credit Hours: 4
  • HASS Elective Credit Hours: 4

Fifth Year


  • Professional Elective Credit Hours: 2
  • Elective Credit Hours: 4
  • HASS Elective Credit Hours: 4


  • Professional Elective Credit Hours: 2
  • Elective Credit Hours: 4
  • Professional Elective Credit Hours: 2

Additional Requirements

In regard to the above template, please note that studios are sequential with the exception of the Integrated Design Development, which may be taken any time after Integrated Design Schematic and before Final Project Design Studio. Students are required to complete 8 credits in Math, 12 in Science, and 20 in Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences from an extensive list of course offerings (see Institute core requirements for greater detail). In addition, students have 12 credits of professional electives, and 12 credits of free electives which may be used to further focus on a concentrated area of study, pursue a minor, or as a means of further broadening exposure to a range of disciplines.

Discipline specific sequences embedded in the curriculum are detailed below.

Technology courses: ARCH 2330 Structures 1 is sequential and prerequisite to ARCH 4330 Structures 2; and ARCH 2360 Environmental and Ecological Systems is sequential and prerequisite to ARCH 4740 Building Systems and Environment.

ARCH 2800 Architectural Design Studio 1, ARCH 2810 Architectural Design Studio 2, ARCH 2820 Architectural Design Studio 3, ARCH 2830 Architectural Design Studio 4, and ARCH 4820 Integrated Design Schematic Studio, and ARCH 2330 Structures 1, ARCH 2360 Environmental and Ecological Systems, ARCH 4330 Structures 2, ARCH 4740 Building Systems and Environment are prerequisites to the ARCH 4830 Integrated Design Development. ARCH 4740 Building Systems and Environment may be taken concurrently with the ARCH 4830 Integrated Design Development.


ARCH 4910 Final Project Design Research Seminar is prerequisite to ARCH 4920 Final Project Design Studio.


For Summer Arch and study abroad options visit the Architecture Web site.



  1. HASS Institute inquiry and communications intensive requirement (see Class Hour Schedule for approved courses); Final Project Design Studio will fulfill the Architecture major communications intensive requirement.
  2. Four credits of the HASS core requirements are embedded within the Architectural Geneology and Cloud Atlas: 20th Century Architecture, Culture and Civilization sequence: ARCH 4100 and ARCH 4120.
  3. Four credits of the Institute core Science requirements are embedded within the technology sequence: ARCH 2330, ARCH 2360, ARCH 4330, and ARCH 4740.
  4. Taken in the same semester as ARCH 4830.


The degree requires 171 credit hours.

All undergraduate students should develop a Plan of Study with their faculty adviser.

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