Architectural Studies

Undergraduate

The Architectural Studies program blends studio and academic work to explore the intersections between built forms and the natural landscape, as well as the interactions between architecture and culture throughout history.

A closeup of an architectural feature on the Mount Holyoke campus

Program Overview

An interdisciplinary approach to issues of design and theory.

Architectural studies lay a foundation of creative practice, technical skill, problem-solving, and critical thinking that prepares you for graduate study and professions in a variety of fields including architectural, industrial, and landscape design, urban planning, construction, education, sustainability, and project management with international development organizations.

Mount Holyoke College is also a member of the Five College Architectural Studies program which offers access to the collective courses, faculty, and resources of the Five Colleges.

There are funding opportunities for Architectural studies students and alums to support research projects, internships, and graduate study.

Community Voices

Spotlight on Architectural Studies students and alums

Grace Ehlers ’11 Director of brand strategy, Metropolis magazine

Sarah Hastings ’15

Bahia Marks ’15

Courses and Requirements

We offer numerous courses with significant architectural content, among them Greek Art, Roman Art, Age of Cathedrals, Italian Renaissance Art, and Modern Architecture, and courses on the arts of China, Japan, Islam, and India. You may also include courses in anthropology, computer science, environmental studies, geography, history, math, and physics in your major.

Learning Goals

By participating in the coursework and experiences constituting a major in Architectural Studies, students will acquire the following knowledge and skills.  They will:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of works of built and landscaped environments in their historical and cultural settings.
  • Acquire the vocabulary to describe and analyze monuments and spaces.
  • Develop the ability to communicate their design ideas through physical and digital models, drawings, diagrams and visual media.
  • Be able to articulate their own design process as informed by architectural theory and historical precedent.
  • Acquire a knowledge of sustainable design practices and implications for our changing climate.
  • Acquire research skills to locate and assess primary and secondary sources, both print and digital.

Requirements for the Major

A minimum of 44 credits:

Foundations
Art Studio: one approved art studio course at the 100 level, such as:4
ARTST-120
Drawing I 1
or ARTST-131
Art Studio Foundations
or ARTST-142
Digital Art Foundations
Art History: one approved art history survey course with significant architectural content, such as:4
ARTH-101
The Built Environment
or ARTH-102
Art in the Premodern World
or ARTH-103
Western Art: 1400-2000
or ARTH-105
Arts of Asia
or ARTH-106
Arts of Africa and Its Diasporas
Design Studio: 4 credits in approved architectural design studio courses (taken at Mount Holyoke or through the Five College Interchange), such as:4
Mount Holyoke:
ARCH-205AD
Introduction to Architecture: 'Design'
Amherst:
ARCH-105
Space and Design
Smith:
ARS-280
Introduction to Architectural Design: Analog
Intermediate Concentration:
One approved studio art course at the 200 level 24
One approved 200-level course in architectural history or an art history course with significant architectural content, such as:4
ARTH-232RM
Renaissance Cities: 'Rome'
or ARTH-233
Italian Renaissance Architecture
or ARTH-236
The Global Renaissance
or ARTH-262
Arts of Japan
or ARTH-290AM
or ARTH-290RA
Issues in Art History: 'Roman Art and Archaeology'
or ARTH-290RC
Issues in Art History: 'Medieval Architecture in Motion'
or ARTH-290SP
Issues in Art History: 'Medieval Iberia: Art, Society, and Culture'
8 credits in these required design courses at the 200-level:8
ARCH-225ED
Intermediate Studies in Architecture: 'Environmental Principles'
And either Smith's ARS-281 Intro Architectural Design Studio OR Hampshire's HACU-275 Digital Architecture Studio
8 credits at the 200 level in area of concentration, as approved by the advisor. These may be courses in environmental studies, geography, politics, etc.8
Advanced Concentration: 8 credits at the 300 level in area of concentration such as architectural design, the history and/or theory of art or architecture. Advanced courses at Mount Holyoke include:8
ARCH-311
Design-Build Studio 3
or ARCH-395
Independent Study
or ARTH-300MM
Seminar: 'The Medieval Mediterranean'
or ARTH-300MY
Seminar: 'Building After Rome: Early Medieval Architecture'
or ARTH-302RM
Great Cities: 'Rome, the Eternal City'
At UMass, ARCH-403 Design V Studio taught in the fall semester is also an option.
Total Credits44
1

ARTST-120 or ARTST-131 or ARTST-142 or any of their offerings; for example  ARTST-120FR or ARTST-131MM or ARTST-142AT

2

Design studios are not substitutes for art studios

3

or any topic within ARCH-311, such as ARCH-311FD

Other Requirements

  • Program plan. Students who elect to major in architectural studies should select an advisor who will assist them in mapping a program of study.

Additional Specifications

  • Students are encouraged to fulfill the Science and Mathematics distribution requirement by taking courses in mathematics and physics that are required for graduate study in architecture.
  • Students may wish to pursue an independent research or design project. Working closely with a faculty advisor, they submit a project proposal at the beginning of fall semester and enroll in ARCH-395 Independent Study. With approval from their advising committee, students continue the project through the spring semester by enrolling in a second ARCH-395 or the Capstone Design studio (ARCH-305 or its Five College equivalent).
  • Students majoring in architectural studies are not eligible to minor in art history or art studio.
  • Students should note that completion of this major will likely require them to travel to other institutions within the Five Colleges.

Requirements for the Minor

A minimum of 24 credits:

One approved art studio course at the 100 level, such as: 14
ARTST-120
Drawing I 1
or ARTST-131
Art Studio Foundations
or ARTST-142
Digital Art Foundations
One approved art history survey course with significant architectural content, such as:4
ARTH-101
The Built Environment
or ARTH-102
Art in the Premodern World
or ARTH-103
Western Art: 1400-2000
or ARTH-105
Arts of Asia
or ARTH-106
Arts of Africa and Its Diasporas
Design Studio: 4 credits in approved architectural design studio courses (taken at Mount Holyoke or through the Five College Interchange), such as:4
Mount Holyoke:
ARCH-205AD
Introduction to Architecture: 'Design'
Amherst:
ARCH-105
Smith:
ARS-280
Three approved electives in art history, art studio, or architectural design at the 200 or 300 level12
Total Credits24
1

ARTST-120 or ARTST-131 or ARTST-142 or any of their offerings; for example  ARTST-120BV, ARTST-120VE, ARTST-131SE or ARTST-142AT.

Other Requirements

  • Program plan. Those intending to minor must meet with a member of the architectural studies faculty to develop an approved program of study.

Additional Specifications

  • Students majoring in art history or studio art are not eligible to minor in architectural studies.

Course Offerings

ARCH-203 Scene Design for Theater and Film

Fall. Credits: 4

The purpose of this course is to introduce the history, art, and techniques of designing sets for theater and film. Students will learn how sets have been created in the past, how a designer approaches a script, how a designer's work supports the director's vision, how it illuminates a production for the audience, and what methods and techniques are used in the execution of the process. Students will have the opportunity to exercise their visual imaginations, through the creation of designs for a script. They will engage in script analysis, research, collaborative discussion, sketching, technical drawing, model building, and related techniques and methodologies.

Crosslisted as: FMT-240SD
Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
V. James
Notes: lab; $50 materials fee. Any additional design supplies and materials are the responsibility of the student.

ARCH-205 Introduction to Architecture

ARCH-205AD Introduction to Architecture: 'Design'

Spring. Credits: 4

This studio course introduces a series of design investigations around particular themes and approaches to architecture and the built environment. Students will develop visual communication and architectural design skills (sketches, plans, elevations, sections, projected drawings and model making) to tackle interdisciplinary and socially pertinent design problems. Creative and indexical study and analysis will be used to generate and foster a broad range of concepts and language to solve architectural and design issues involving site, inhabitation, function, form, materiality, light and space. Our goal is to apply creative techniques in art and sculpture to the creation of meaningful space.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
N. Darling
Restrictions: This course is limited to first-years and sophomores.
Advisory: One semester of design or drawing is recommended. Preference given to first-year and sophomore students; others request permission.
Notes: Students enrolled in this course will be responsible for some of the cost of materials.

ARCH-225 Intermediate Studies in Architectural Design

ARCH-225ED Intermediate Studies in Architecture: 'Environmental Principles'

Fall. Credits: 4

This hybrid studio addresses human comfort with lectures and problem work sessions integrated with design projects. We start with an in-depth study of the world's climate regions, the sun, and the earth's tilt and spin. Primary methods of heat transfer are investigated as students research two architectural solutions (vernacular and contemporary) within each climate. Using daylight, the sun's movement, and sun-path diagrams students will design, draw and build a functioning solar clock. Issues in day-lighting and thermal comfort will then drive an extended design problem. Students will be asked to solve numerical problems and present design solutions using both drawings and models.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
N. Darling
Prereq: ARCH-205 or equivalent.
Notes: Students enrolled in this course will be responsible for some of the cost of materials.

ARCH-295 Independent Study

Fall and Spring. Credits: 1 - 4

The department
Instructor permission required.

ARCH-305 Advanced Topics in Architecture

ARCH-305UE Advanced Topics in Architecture: 'Public Space and Everyday Life in Globalizing Spanish Cities'

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

This course will examine everyday urban life and public space in Spain from the post-Civil War period (1939) to 2021. We'll approach cities as dynamic global networks shaped by cultures, politics, economies, ideologies, memories, and imaginations. Through literary, visual, and theoretical texts, we'll explore the in/exclusivity of large-scale urban phenomena such as street design, gentrification, city ordinances, globalization, and mass tourism. From a lesser-known ethnographic angle, we'll also bring into dialogue the power within everyday practices (walking, sitting, remembering, shopping, placemaking) as well as subjects and objects (street vendors, immigrants, urban furniture, historic buildings).

Crosslisted as: SPAN-350UE
Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
M. Saltzman
Prereq: Two 200-level Spanish courses above SPAN-212.
Notes: Taught in Spanish.

ARCH-311 Design-Build Studio

ARCH-311FD Design-Build Studio: 'Foldable Structures'

Fall. Credits: 4

Foldable structures such as umbrellas and tents have broad applicability in design. NASA invented a folding solar panel inspired by origami and Calatrava is well known for his kinetic structures such as the Milwaukee Art Museum. This studio will examine various types of kinetic systems and use the facilities of the Mount Holyoke's Fimbel Maker and Innovation Lab to prototype, invent and fabricate foldable portable structures. Students will work independently and in teams to design and fabricate joint, rod and skin systems at a scale large enough to provide shelter for a small group of people.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
N. Darling
Prereq: ARCH-205 and ARCH-225 (or a digital design studio at Hampshire College or Smith College).
Advisory: Math and Computer Science majors welcome with instructor permission.

ARCH-311MK Makerspace Design-Build Studio

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

The rise of digital fabrication processes has blurred the traditional division of labor enabling architects and designers not only to draw but to also fabricate projects, often using the very same programs. Following the rise in CAD/CAM has been a burgeoning Maker movement as more and more individuals have rediscovered the joys (and sometimes frustrations) of realizing projects within a collaborative environment. This class will introduce students to both traditional and digital making through a series of exercises that will enable students to realize projects using the facilities of the Fimbel Lab.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
N. Darling
Instructor permission required.
Prereq: ARCH-205.

ARCH-311TH Design-Build Studio: 'Tea House'

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

The traditional Japanese Tea House, renowned for its simplicity of program and space, has often been used by (Japanese) architects as a typology with which to test ideas and experiment with materials, technology and construction techniques. This studio will first introduce the basics of Japanese tea culture and the traditional tea house with a visit to Wa-shin-an and analysis of traditional and contemporary tea houses producing both analytical drawings and models. Finally, each student, working individually or in pairs, will design and build a full-scale tea house using the full facilities of the Fimbel Maker and Innovation Lab.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
N. Darling
Prereq: ARCH-205 and ARCH-225 (or a digital design studio at Hampshire College or Smith College).

ARCH-395 Independent Study

Fall and Spring. Credits: 1 - 8

The department
Instructor permission required.

ARCH-395P Independent Study with Practicum

Fall and Spring. Credits: 1 - 8

The department
Instructor permission required.

Related Courses

Students who plan to enroll in courses outside of the Five Colleges, especially in courses to be taken at another institution or abroad, should first consult with their advisor and the program coordinator to determine if the courses meet the departmental criteria for the major.

Five College Course Offerings in Architectural Studies

Current courses in architectural studies are offered throughout the Five Colleges. Check listings in the Five College course schedule.

  • Amherst College: Department of Art and the History of Art
  • Hampshire College:  Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies (HACU), Lemelson Center (HCLC)
  • Smith College: Department of Art; Landscape Studies Program
  • University of Massachusetts: Architecture and Design; Building Construction Technology; Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning.

Contact us

The Department of Art History and Architectural Studies oversees programs for the study of paintings, sculptures, architecture, photography, film, furniture, ceramics, installations and many other visual forms.

Melissa Burke
  • Academic Department Coordinator

Next Steps

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