Architectural Studies Major

The Architectural Studies Program is a cross-disciplinary liberal arts major. There are three possible outcomes for students who complete the major:

  1. Students may plan to pursue a first professional degree in architecture at the graduate level—normally a three- to three-and-a-half-year Master of Architecture curriculum. Students may also enter an academic field, working towards a Ph.D. in architectural history.
  2. The major is equally appropriate for students interested in other careers in the design and construction of the built environment, such as landscape architecture, interior design, restoration, historic preservation, real estate development, and contracting.
  3. Students who see architecture as being part of a broader cultural education may also benefit from the program.

Students who complete the Architectural Studies program recieve a B.A. with a major in Architectural Studies.

The architectural studies major consists of three components of 12 credit hours each: history of architecture, studio art, and the core curriculum. The core courses include an architectural studies seminar, the history of architectural theory, a professional internship, and preparation of a portfolio. Students are also required to take HAA 0040 early as this course constitutes the prerequisite for upper-level architectural courses. In addition, students are urged to take calculus and physics courses to fulfill the Arts and Sciences requirements in natural sciences. Students are also encouraged to take a second major in any discipline that interests them.

This curriculum has been developed in consultation with 27 departments of architecture to provide the optimal preparation for graduate professional training. It is focused on learning how to learn and on thinking about architecture rather than on the production of architecture. For that reason, there are no technical or professional courses. Students may, however, take a special related-area certificate program in structural engineering, offered by the University of Pittsburgh School of Engineering exclusively to architectural studies majors. Consisting of a minimum of 26 credit hours, it provides an important technical adjunct to the major. Otherwise, the architectural studies major is a humanities program meant to help students approach graduate study with sophisticated self-awareness.

In the 18-year history of the program, nearly every student who wanted to attend graduate school—approximately 30 percent of those who completed the degree requirements—has gained admission to at least one institution. Over the years alumni of the program have been accepted to 30 graduate schools, ranging geographically from Harvard to Arizona State, and most have successfully completed the graduate degree. Architectural studies is known to be a tough major and its Pitt graduates are welcome applicants in all the schools that alumni have attended. Comparable programs are not known to exist in other publicly supported institutions.

The University of Pittsburgh usually offers 17 courses in the history of architecture in any given biennium. In the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, two members of the faculty are full-time historians of architecture and three others teach one course each. Coverage includes ancient, medieval, and modern Europe, America, China, and world religions. Work in studio arts can be expanded beyond the four required courses in design, sculpture, drawing, and perspective drawing to comprise a second major.

For further information, contact:

Prof. Drew Armstrong
Director of the Architectural Studies Program
104 Frick Fine Arts Building
Pittsburgh, PA 15260

Degree requirements

The major outlined below is that intended for students who do expect to pursue a career in architecture. For others, some substitutions may be made in consultation with Drew Armstrong, director of architectural studies.

In practice, each student's major will be devised to serve the student's own individual needs and career goals, but the following description will be used as the model.

Note: Students are advised that prerequisites to a professional career in architecture include knowledge of calculus and physics. Students who seek recommendation to graduate professional programs in architecture will be expected to complete the following courses or their equivalents:

• MATH 0220 and 0230—Analytic Geometry and Calculus I and II, 4 credits each;
• PHYS 0110 and 0111 (or PHYS 0174 and 0175) —Basic Physics for Science and Engineering, 3 credits each (for which completion of MATH 0230 is a prerequisite).

These courses should be completed by the end of the junior year. Students who do not expect to pursue a career in architecture may substitute course sequences in mathematics, statistics, or computer science for the calculus prerequisite and in other natural sciences for the physics prerequisite.

The architectural studies major requires completion of 36 credits distributed in three areas:

Program core courses (12 credits)

HAA 1040 History of Architectural Theory; HAA 1900 Architectural Studies Internship; HAA 1913 Architectural Studies Seminar; HAA 1915 Portfolio, to be taken in the senior year.

Visual Skills Courses (12 credits)

SA 0110 Foundation Design; SA 0140 Foundation Sculpture; SA 0130 Foundation Drawing; SA 1430 Perspective Drawing. These courses should be taken early in the student's curriculum.  SA 0110 and SA 0130 serve as prerequisites for SA 1430. 

History of Architecture courses (12 credits, at least 6 at the 1000-level)

These are to be chosen from the list of history of art and architecture course offerings. Students must select history of art and architecture classes that are dedicated to architectural topics.  One of the classes must be HAA 0040 Introduction to Architecture, to be taken no later than the beginning of the junior year, as it is the prerequisite to many of the upper level history of architecture courses.

The Architectural Studies internship

An internship is a requirement for graduation in the architectural studies program. Junior or senior status and a GPA of at least 2.75 are prerequisites. Internships allow architectural studies majors to experience what it looks and feels like to be a professional in one of the various design professions. They help to focus the student's motivation and to make evident why certain subjects need to be learned. They also help students decide whether or not they want to apply to a graduate program in architecture.

To see a listing of architectural firms in Pittsburgh where students have had internships, please view the Architectural Studies Internship Directory.

To receive academic credit for an internship, students must enroll in HAA 1900 and complete an Internship Agreement Form with their site supervisor.  This form is returned to Drew Armstrong for approval.  A minimum of 120 hours of work must be completed to receive academic credit.  (Students work an average of 10 hours per week in an internship.)  In addition, the student is required to complete a paper that evaluates his or her internship experience (Student Intern Evaluation Form) and turn in examples of any work produced to Drew Armstrong at the end of the internship for evaluation.

Undergraduate majors with 15 hours of completed course work in architectural studies are also invited to apply to specific faculty for research internships, which involve assisting that faculty member with their research, or to apply to work with faculty on projects involving materials for a course (in the past this has often involved computer-aided instruction).

For general information on the Architectural Studies internship, please see the Internship Information Sheet.

Related area

Students are required to complete a 12-credit related area for graduation. Recommended areas are studio arts, urban studies, history of art and architecture, historic preservation certificate, structural engineering certificate, or "green architecture" area in civil engineering.

Study abroad for Architectural Studies students

A foreign study term in Denmark is available through Denmark's International Study Program in Copenhagen. The term consists of five 3-credit courses selected from a wide variety of subject offerings, including architectural history, urban history, studio arts, architectural design, and traditional liberal arts disciplines. A single fee covers tuition, room, board, in-city transportation, and use of numerous libraries.

Also recommended is the University of Pittsburgh's Semester at Sea, which provides general distribution of credits in a wide variety of disciplines.

Architectural Studies major checklist

Note: A minimum 2.0 QPA in major courses is required!

Architectural Studies major checklist

Note: A minimum 2.0 QPA in major courses is required!

  1. Core Courses (12 credits):
    • HAA 1040: History of Architectural Theory
    • HAA 1913: Architectural Studies Seminar
    • HAA 1900: Architectural Studies Internship
      (2.75 QPA in major courses required)
    • HAA 1915: Portfolio (in senior year)
  2. Visual Skills Courses (12 credits):
    • SA 0110: Foundation Design
    • SA 0130: Foundation Drawing
    • SA 1040: Foundation Sculpture
    • SA 1430: Perspective Drawing (SA 0110 and SA 0130 are prerequisites for this)
  3. HAA Courses (12 credits, at least 6 of these credits in courses numbered in the 1000s.) These courses must be chosen from those HAA courses that are focused on an architectural topic.
    • HAA 0040 (by the beginning of junior year)
    • 1000-level course
    • 1000-level course
    • Additional course HAA architectural course
  4. If pursuing graduate work:
    • MATH 0220
    • MATH 0230
    • PHYS 0110 or PHYS 0174
    • PHYS 0111 or PHYS 0175

Forms for Architectural Studies Majors

Architectural Studies Internship Directory

Archtiectural Studies Internship Information Sheet

Architectural Studies Internship Agreement Form

Architectural Studies Student Intern Evaluation Form

Architectural studies