University constructs new architectural studies minor

Program has been in the works for years; architectural major is a long-term goal.

By Lorentz Hansen

The art history department recently announced a new minor program in architectural studies, enabling students to pursue a program of study dedicated specifically to architecture for the first time ever.

The department has long been considering this program, according to Katherine Taylor, associate professor of art history at the College. Previously, undergraduates have struggled to find the relevant resources for studying architecture, so “clearly there’s a need for a central point of information,” Taylor said.

The department added two faculty specializing in architecture this year, bringing its total of architectural specialists to four. As a result, the department felt prepared to offer the architectural studies program as a minor, according to Taylor. She also cited the city’s new Chicago Architecture Biennial initiative, which includes lectures, tours, and exhibits as support for the program. “Chicago is such a splendid place to be studying architecture. We’d be squandering a wonderful educational resource if we didn’t strengthen our program,” she said.

The architectural studies program is currently being offered only as a minor. “We would like to set up a dedicated major, perhaps even an interdisciplinary one, in the future,” Taylor said, but an option to major specifically in architectural studies is not yet available. Students may instead opt to major in art history and concentrate in architectural history.

Students wishing to minor in architectural studies must complete a total of seven courses: four courses in art history and three courses either in art history or a related field. According to the program’s college catalog page, the goal of this structure is to “enable students to enrich art historical analysis with methods from other disciplines.” The department suggests such related fields of study as geographical studies, visual arts, history, English language and literature, anthropology, and environmental studies.

With the addition of its new faculty, the department has created new courses for the minor program, including: Structuring China’s Building Environment, 20th Century Western Architecture, and The Plan: Diagramming Modernity in the Twentieth Century. Taylor said the department hopes to offer additional courses in the near future, including an introductory architectural studio taught by an architect.

Though the minor program is new this year, “quite a number of students have expressed interest to me,” and “the department, the college, and the university have been very enthusiastic and supportive of the new program,” Taylor said. The department has worked with the Career Advancement office to curate a list of architecture-related events, resources, and organizations both on-campus and in Chicago, now accessible through the department’s website.

To kick off the program, the department will host a speaker from the Chicago Architecture Biennial on October 20, as well as an information series for careers in architecture beginning on November 17.