Jun 18, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2008-2009 
Rensselaer Catalog 2008-2009 [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. The following statement is included in the catalog, pursuant to the requirement of the NAAB:

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 Accreditation Board, which is the sole agency authorized to accredit U.S. professional degree programs in architecture, recognizes two types of degrees; the Bachelor of Architecture and the Master of Architecture. A program may be granted a six-year, three-year, or two-year term of accreditation, depending on its degree of conformance with established educational standards. Master’s degree programs may consist of preprofessional and undergraduate degree and a professional graduate degree, which, when earned sequentially, comprise an accredited professional education. However, the preprofessional degree is not, by itself, recognized as an accredited degree.

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 underlie the production of architecture.

    The skills area emphasizes that the hand is as important as the computer in the representation of ideas. The ability to freely manipulate space, surface, structure, and texture is central to the reformation 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 the 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 ability. The early semester-long studios introduce students to the 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 they present choices of project and faculty. Among these is the design development studio, in which a prior project is subjected to detailed structural, mechanical, construction materials, and professional practice considerations.
  • History and Theory—A required five-course sequence presents the diversity of architectural works and ideas relative to the contexts within which architecture emerges and to key historical and theoretical issues in the field. Following this sequence, students may take additional advanced architectural history/theory electives as a part of their professional or free elective.
  • Technology and Building Science—Technological issues are introduced from the beginning as essential to the conception and creation of architecture. New technologies can be the generative of form and inhabitable space. A series of six required technology courses consider 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 systems, including heating, ventilation, air conditioning, plumbing, and electrical systems; sensory environment, including the luminous, acoustical, and tactile environments; 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 and the act of creating in the required upper level design development studio.
  • Computing—Computer proficiency is central to the future of architecture. From the first year, students are able to expand their knowledge and skill through course work with key computing concepts and applications—in some cases integrated 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. We currently have a range of equipment varying from a 3axis CNC mill, two laser cutters, a 3D Z Corp Printer, 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, 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 offers a number of topics or experimental courses as professional electives. Sample courses include, but are not limited to:

Advanced Structures Technology
Advanced Technologies Seminar
Architectural Acoustics 1 and 2
Architectural Aesthetics
Architecture and Urban Design in the Italian Renaissance
Bedford Technology Seminar
Build inVention
Electronic Media: Critical Visualization
Electronic Media: Physical Design Processes
Emergent Design Philosophies and Techniques
Emerging Materials and Material Development
Extreme Drawing

Furniture Exploration
Human Environment
Human Factors in Lighting
Landscape Patterns: From Region to Site
Lighting Design
Lighting Technology
Public Art Seminar
Seeing Digital
Surface as Strucuture as Form
Sustainable Building Design Materials

The five-year B.Arch. program concludes with an individually initiated, planned, and developed comprehensive project. Planning begins in the fourth year through an exchange of ideas with and a critique by a faculty adviser and review committee. The resulting proposals form published faculty statements of interest combined with the students’ experiences and areas of special concern. These may emerge from a synthesis of previous work that applied gained knowledge to advanced issues or, alternatively, experiences to date may be used as a base from which to explore and to innovate. This final year begins with a short competition project in which all participate. An integrated design research phase then lasts the remainder of the first and throughout the second semester.

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 dual majors may involve some variation from this template.

First Year


  • IHSS 1970 Design, History, and Society Credit Hours: 4

Second Year


  • Hum. or Soc. Sci. Elective Credit Hours: 4


  • Math Elective Credit Hours: 4
    (See footnote 4 below) 

Third Year


  • Hum. or Soc. Sci. Elective Credit Hours: 4


  • H&SS Elective 4 credit hours

Fourth Year


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


  • Elective Credit Hours: 4

Fifth Year


  • Hum. or Soc. Sci. Elective Credit Hours: 4
  • Elective Credit Hours: 4
  • Professional Elective Credit Hours: 2


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

Additional Requirements

In regard to the above template, please note that studios are sequential with the exception of the Design Development studio, which may be taken any time after the completion of the urban studio (Architecture Design 4) and before B.Arch. Final Project 1. Students are required to complete eight credits in Math, 12 in Science, and 20 in Humanities and Social Sciences from an extensive list of course offerings (see Institute core requirements for greater detail). In addition, students have 12 credits of free electives which may be used to further focus on a concentrated area of study, pursue a minor or dual major, 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 2200 Design Studio, ARCH 2210 Architecture Design 1, ARCH 2220 Architecture Design 2, ARCH 2230 Architecture Design 3, and ARCH 4240 Architecture Design 4 (Urban), 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 4300 Design Development studio. ARCH 4740 Building Systems and Environment may be taken concurrently with the ARCH 4300 Design Development studio.

ARCH 2110 The Building and Thinking of Architecture 1, ARCH 2120 The Building and Thinking of Architecture 2 are prerequisites to ARCH 2130 Contemporary Design Approaches.


  1. IHSS 1970 will fulfill the Institute writing requirement.
  2. Four credits of the Hum. or Soc. Sci core requirements are embedded within The Building and Thinking of Architecture sequence: ARCH 2110 and ARCH 2120.
  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. In general, the recommended course is MATH 1620 offered only in the spring.
  5. Taken in the same semester as ARCH 4300.
  6. Arch 4980 B.Arch Final Project 1 (credit breakdown: 3 credtis  Final project, 1 credit Reserach/Methods, 2 credits competition).

The degree requires 168 credit hours.

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

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