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May 23 , 2003

Mount Holyoke to Offer New Major in Architectural Studies

Photo by Fred LeBlanc

Michael T. Davis, professor of art and coordinator for the College's new major in architectural studies.

Starting this fall, Mount Holyoke will offer a major in architectural studies. Administered by the art department, the curriculum will provide students with creative, visual, and historic foundations in architectural issues and practice. The new program resulted largely from student demand, says Michael T. Davis, professor of art and coordinator for the new major.

"Throughout my twenty years here, there always have been a few students who created independent study majors concentrating on architecture, or took either the art history or the studio program in preparation for architecture school. But interest in the field has dramatically increased over the last four or five years to the point where there are about a dozen students studying architecture," explains Davis. "Our goal was to put together a curriculum offering maximum flexibility while providing these students with the basic foundation needed to pursue architecture in all its guises—for example, as an architectural historian, a practicing designer, or an urban redevelopment specialist."

Planning the architectural studies major involved close cooperation with the Five College consortium. "Initially, students will need to go to Smith College, Hampshire College, or the University of Massachusetts to fulfill the design requirement. The other area colleges are very supportive of the program," says Davis. "And some of the questions I raised in the planning process have led to a larger initiative. We're getting very close to defining an architecture certificate program that would be cooperative among the Five Colleges."

According to Davis, the field of architecture is undergoing a fundamental conceptual change. Gone, he says, are the days when being an architect meant having a narrowly focused set of technical skills and concentrating on buildings as isolated objects. Contemporary architects deal with a wide range of issues, including a building's social and environmental impact. Given that, Davis feels that Mount Holyoke is an ideal setting for the architectural studies major. "Sciences are so strong here and there's such a culture of environmental awareness. Furthermore, Mount Holyoke is an interdisciplinary environment. And that really sets the table for any career in architecture."

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