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History and Objectives of the School


Architecture as an art was taught at the Yale School of the Fine Arts in the late nineteenth century. Precedence for this pioneering in art education was set as early as 1832 when the Trumbull Art Gallery (the first college-affiliated gallery in the country) was opened. This event signaled a commitment to education in the arts that culminated in 1869 with the opening of the Yale School of the Fine Arts, the first college-affiliated art school in the country. The department of Architecture was established in the School of the Fine Arts in 1916. In 1959 the School of Art and Architecture, as it was then known, was made a fully graduate professional school. In 1972, Yale designated the School of Architecture as its own separate professional school.

The School of Architecture offers a three-year program leading to the degree of Master of Architecture; a two-year post-professional option also leading to the degree of Master of Architecture; a two-year program for advanced, independent research leading to the degree of Master of Environmental Design; and a program leading to a Ph.D. degree awarded by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The School of Architecture and the School of Management offer a joint-degree program leading to the degrees of Master of Architecture and Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.). The School of Architecture and the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies offer a joint-degree program leading to the degrees of Master of Architecture and Master of Environmental Management (M.E.M.).

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The task of architecture is the creation of human environments. It is both an expression of human values and a context for human activity. Through the design process, architecture addresses the interrelated environmental, behavioral, and cultural issues that underlie the organization of built form. The student of architecture is called upon to direct sensitivity, imagination, and intellect to the physical significance of these fundamental issues in designing a coherent environment for people. Architectural design as a comprehensive creative process is the focus of the Yale School of Architecture.

The objectives of the School of Architecture reflect the view that architecture is an intellectual discipline, both an art and a profession. The program, therefore, is based on the following intentions:

  • 1. to stimulate artistic sensitivity and creative powers,
  • 2. to strengthen intellectual growth and the capacity to develop creative and responsible solutions to unique and changing problems, and
  • 3. to help the student acquire the individual capabilities necessary for the competent practice of architecture and lifelong learning.

The School adopts as basic policy a pluralistic approach to the teaching of architecture. Students have opportunities to become well acquainted with a wide range of contemporary design approaches. The School does not seek to impose any single design philosophy, but rather encourages in each student the development of discernment and an individual approach to design.

The Yale School of Architecture offers graduate-level professional education and advanced research opportunities in architecture and allied design fields. An undergraduate major in architecture is offered exclusively to Yale College students. In order to further the pursuit of a variety of interests within the study of architecture, the curriculum offers opportunities for study in several interrelated fields.

For the programs leading to the degree of Master of Architecture, the design studio is paramount in the School’s curriculum, emphasizing the interrelationships between purpose, design, competition, collaboration, innovation, and open discussion in an environment that values risk-taking and experimentation. The design studio is a workshop in which students come together to present and discuss projects and proposals with fellow classmates, faculty, visiting critics, professionals, and the public. The design studio combines individual and group instruction, varying from desk critiques with individual faculty members, to pin-ups before several faculty members, to more formal midterm and final reviews before faculty and guest critics—all undertaken with the intention of fostering critical thinking, spatial form-making skills, and tectonic skills. Education in the design studio values leadership skills, individual creativity, and the understanding of problems and the ability to solve them as presented in the practice of architecture. The School of Architecture’s mandate is for each student to understand architecture as a creative, productive, innovative, and responsible practice.

In addition to the design studios, courses in design and visualization, technology and practice, history and theory, and urbanism and landscape serve as a basis for developing a comprehensive approach to architectural design.

The area of design and visualization encompasses required studios, option studios, electives that concentrate on design logic and skills, and courses that support design thinking and representation.

Technology courses explore, as an integral part of the architectural design process, the physical context; the properties of natural forces; and building systems. In the area of practice, courses are concerned with issues related to the professional context of architecture and its practices and, in particular, with the architect’s responsibility for the built environment.

Courses in history and theory examine attitudes concerning the design of buildings, landscapes, and cities that may contribute to a design process responsive to its broadest social and cultural context.

Courses in urbanism and landscape address the study of aesthetic, economic, political, and social issues that influence large-scale environments. This area deals with the relation of buildings to their urban contexts and natural environments.

Direct experience of contemporary and historical architecture and urbanism as well as firsthand contact with experts in various fields is an important part of the School’s educational mission. To this end, many studios and classes incorporate both domestic and international travel as part of their course work. In addition, an intensive drawing course is offered each summer in Rome, Italy.

Urban studies are also supported through the extracurricular programs of the Yale Urban Design Workshop and Center for Urban Design Research. Students in the School of Architecture may participate with faculty and students from the School and throughout the University in the symposia, seminars, and research and design projects organized through these programs. In particular, the Urban Design Workshop extends the work of the School into the areas of community design and outreach, providing design assistance to groups and municipalities throughout the region (see Yale Urban Design Workshop, in the chapter Life at the School of Architecture).

The diversity of course offerings in the School, therefore, represents a concern for design that ranges in scale from the individual building to the urban landscape. Students are also encouraged to take courses in other departments and schools in the University.

Advanced studies and research in architecture and urbanism are supported throughout the curriculum, but they are a primary focus in the M.E.D. and post-professional (M.Arch. II) programs. The M.E.D. program provides opportunities for exceptionally qualified students to pursue advanced research in architecture and urbanism through course work and independent studies guided by faculty from the School and the University. Emphasis is placed on rigorous methods of research and scholarship leading to a substantial written thesis. In the post-professional M.Arch. program, advanced studies in architecture and urbanism are supported by course work and design studios.

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