Architectural Curriculum

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Academic programs are looking for students who demonstrate a good balance of analytical and creative skills. Early inspiration to be an architect tends to emphasize aesthetics. As a student matures into an architect, the aesthetic ability is assured and learning the rudiments of building and engineering science play a greater role. Ultimately, all of the professional basics must be mastered in order to obtain registration. Without a reasonably solid foundation in math and science, you will be crippled from the outset in architectural school. Schools understand that fact.

Computer graphics and drafting have recently become a fact of life in architectural offices and, therefore, are also a primary component of architectural curricula. Schools note and appreciate existing computer literacy and skills.

Architectural schools are also looking for students with talent. Someone once said that talent is the ability to do easily what others find difficult. The corollary is also true: Genius is the ability to do easily what the talented find difficult. Talent cannot be acquired, but it can be developed.

When you enter a school of architecture, you will find that all of your colleagues are also talented, but perhaps in different ways. It is the competitive academic environment that will cause you to develop your talent. Good schools admit those candidates whom they perceive are the most talented, and they hope the talented are also willing to work hard.

As discussed earlier, as an architect you must remain an eternal student. If you are successful, larger and larger commissions will come your way. You must be able to learn from your failures as well as your successes. Ultimately, you will be competing with the people of genius throughout history. Only a handful of architects in each generation pass the ultimate test.


Earlier in this chapter we gave certain guidelines on college ad-mission requirements. Here we present general guidelines on the curriculum offered. Again, we emphasize that these are general guidelines only and that you must always check the course content of the particular school of your choice.

The NAAB only accredits Bachelor of Architecture and the Master of Architecture degrees programs. There are no four-year accredited programs in architecture. The curricular requirements for awarding these degrees must include three components:
  1. general studies
  2. professional studies
  3. electives
These components are defined by NAAB as follows:

General Studies: A professional degree must include general studies in the arts and sciences, either as an admission requirement or as part of the curriculum. While this work is traditionally governed by guidelines established by the institution, the program must ensure that students have the prerequisite general studies to undertake professional studies.

Professional Studies: The core of a professional degree consists of the required courses that satisfy the NAAB Student Performance Criteria. The program may require additional core courses to address its mission or institutional context, but no more than 60 percent of the student's required post-secondary education can be devoted to professional studies. For master's students, this calculation includes course work taken for an undergraduate degree within or outside architecture.

Electives: A professional degree must allow students to pursue their special interests. The curriculum must have sufficient flexibility so that students can complete minors or develop areas of concentration, either within or outside the program.

The electives respond to the institutional needs, the needs of the profession, and the needs of the individual students. All of these components together define a liberal education in architecture.

For the purposes of NAAB accreditation, graduating students must demonstrate awareness, understanding, or ability in the following areas:
  1. Verbal and Writing Skills. Ability to speak and write effectively on subject matter contained in the professional curriculum.

  2. Graphic Skills. Ability to employ appropriate representational media, including computer technology, to convey essential formal elements at each stage of the programming and design process.

  3. Research Skills. Ability to employ basic methods of data collection and analysis to inform all aspects of the programming and design process.

  4. Critical Thinking Skills. Ability to make a comprehensive analysis and evaluation of a building, building complex, or urban space.

  5. Fundamental Design Skills. Ability to apply basic organizational, spatial, structural, and constructional principles to the conception and development of interior and exterior spaces, building elements, and components.

  6. Collaborative Skills. Ability to identify and assume divergent roles that maximize individual talents, and to cooperate with other students when working as members of a design team and in other settings.

  7. Human Behavior. Awareness of the theories and methods of inquiry that seek to clarify the relationships between human behavior and the physical environment.

  8. Human Diversity. Awareness of the diversity of needs, values, behavioral norms, and social and spatial patterns that characterize different cultures, and the implications of this diversity for the societal roles and responsibilities of architects.

  9. Use of Precedents. Ability to provide a coherent rationale for the programmatic and formal precedents employed in the conceptualization and development of architecture and urban design projects.

  10. Western Traditions. Understanding of the Western architectural canons and traditions in architecture, landscape, and urban design, as well as the climatic, technological, socio-economic, and other cultural factors that have shaped and sustained them.

  11. Non-Western Traditions. Awareness of the parallel and divergent canons and traditions of architecture and urban de-sign in the non-Western world.

  12. National and Regional Traditions. Understanding of the national traditions and the local regional heritage in architecture, landscape, and urban design, including vernacular traditions.

  13. Environmental Conservation. Understanding of the basic principles of ecology and architects' responsibilities with respect to environmental and resource conservation in architecture and urban design.

  14. Accessibility. Ability to design both site and building to accommodate individuals with varying physical abilities.

  15. Site Conditions. Ability to respond to natural and built site characteristics in the development of a program and design of a project.

  16. Formal Ordering Systems. Understanding of the fundamentals of visual perception and the principles and systems of order that inform two- and three-dimensional design, architectural composition, and urban design.

  17. Structural Systems. Understanding of the principles of structural behavior in withstanding gravity and lateral forces, and the evolution, range, and appropriate applications of contemporary structural systems.

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