Undergraduate Program in Architecture

Posted By: 

Mario Gandelsonas, Departmental Representative 

The undergraduate program at the School of Architecture is known for its rigorous and interdisciplinary approach to preprofessional education. The four-year undergraduate program leads to an A.B. with a concentration in architecture and offers an introduction to the discipline of architecture within the framework of a liberal arts curriculum. In addition to architectural design and the history and theory of architecture and urbanism, undergraduates study a range of disciplines that contribute to an architect’s knowledge and vision, including courses in architectural analysis, representation, computing, and building technologies. Such a broad academic program also prepares students for a graduate program in architecture and other related disciplines such as landscape architecture, urban planning, civil engineering, art history, and the visual arts.

The courses in architecture develop a broad understanding of the concepts and methods for the planning and design of buildings, landscapes, and cities. They include the history of architecture, the history of urban form, analysis of contemporary urban problems, analysis of modern architecture and visual studies, related social sciences, and building technologies. Drawing skills are not required before entering the program; they are developed as an essential part of the course work and design studios.

Students in the School of Architecture find the design studios the most unusual part of their campus experience. In these studios individual designs of buildings and urban areas are prepared by students and then analyzed and critiqued by the faculty. The studios meet with the faculty for three-hour sessions every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons.  The studios are the School’s equivalent of independent work.

General Prerequisites: Students who wish to enter the school are normally required to complete two courses: ARC 203 Introduction to Architectural Thinking, and ARC 204 Introduction to Architectural Design. Students are encouraged to enroll in ARC 203 and 204 in their sophomore year. All A.B. students who complete the prerequisites may enter the major; no application or portfolio needed.

In addition to the general prerequisites and the requirements for independent work, each student is required to complete 10 courses in three cognate areas: (a) history and theory; (b) technology; and (c) design seminars, from those listed below. All students are required to take ARC 403 Topics in the History and Theory of Architecture in their senior year. This course covers methodologies of historical analysis and research, the literature of the field, and the varieties of architectural writing. All students are required to enroll in ARC 404, Advanced Design Studio, in the fall semester of their senior year. The Advanced Design Studio presents a challenging independent design project in which the knowledge of previous studios is synthesized and new techniques of representation are employed.


203    Introduction to Architectural Thinking
204    Introduction to Architectural Design

Course Requirements (Departmentals)

History and Theory of Architecture
403     Topics in the History and Theory of Architecture
308      History of Architectural Theory
1 elective

History and Theory of Urbanism and Landscape
2 electives

Department of Art and Archaeology
2 Upper level courses (200-level and above)

Building Technology 
311     Building Science and Technology: Building Systems
1 elective

Design Seminars
206     Geometry and Architectural Representation
350     Junior studio I (fall)
351     Junior studio II (spring)
404     Advanced Design Studio

Independent Work (IWS)

At Princeton, students are required to complete independent work in each semester of their junior and senior years. During the junior year, independent work is fulfilled by completing research paper over the course of the year. During the senior year, independent work is fulfilled by researching and writing the senior thesis.


The senior thesis is a detailed project, presenting a well-argued piece of research on a precise architectural theme, and may include a substantial amount and variety of visual materials (including any of several forms of representation: architectural drawings, models, video, photographs, and computer-generated images). The relative proportion of written to visual material for each student must be agreed upon with the advisor and thesis committee.  The final presentation and oral defense of the senior thesis in the spring will constitute a section of the departmental examination.

Click here for a list of senior theses for the recent academic year. Additionally, a number of senior thesis abstracts can be found under the Work section of the website.

Professional Study in Architecture

Students in the undergraduate program in architecture will graduate with a liberal arts degree, not a professional degree in architecture. The School of Architecture offers a professional degree in architecture (M.Arch. degree), which students generally complete in three years. Advanced standing may be granted by professional graduate schools at other universities.

In order to qualify for licensing as architects in the United States, students are required to complete a program leading to a professional degree that is accepted by the National Architectural Accrediting Board. Please see the NAAB statement at the end of this section.


The Program in Urban Studies

Douglas S. Massey, Director

The Program in Urban Studies is an interdepartmental plan of study for undergraduates that offers an interdisciplinary framework for the study of cities, metropolitan regions, and urban and suburban landscapes. With courses in diverse departments, including Art and Archaeology, Classics, and Music along with Architecture, the Woodrow Wilson School, Politics, and Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Program encourages students to think about metropolitan centers in all their complexity – as physical spaces, social, cultural, political, and economic nexuses, and historical artifacts.

The Program in Urban Studies will be open to all undergraduate students, regardless of discipline. Every student will be encouraged to take Urban Studies 201, the Program’s core course, as soon as possible. Along with Urban Studies 201, students must complete three electives which are not departmentals and which must be approved by the program director.  Additionally, the senior thesis must incorporate a component of urban studies. Please visit the Program in Urban Studies website and/or contact Valerie Fitzpatrick at vfitzpat at princeton.edu for more information.

Program in Architecture and Engineering
Maria Garlock (CEE) and Guy Nordenson (ARC), Program Advisers
Structural engineers need to have a sensitivity to the setting and the form of structures typically designed by engineers such as bridges, towers, and long span roofs. Studies in architecture give engineering students in the Architecture and Engineering Program such a perspective. Students in the program who take the structures focus typically become practicing engineers and often go to graduate school in structures. For other students the program offers a unique opportunity to integrate engineering and architectural design. This architectural focus is designed particularly for students planning to do graduate work in architecture or to practice engineering in collaboration with architects and planners.

Students interested in this program choose between these two options. In the architectures-focus option, the requirements include a strong emphasis on architecture theory and practice. Students choosing this option select an architectural design topic as a senior thesis under the direction of advisors from both the School of Architecture and the CEE Department. In the structures-focus option, the requirements include a strong emphasis on relevant courses in civil and environmental engineering. Students choosing this option select a structural design topic as a senior thesis. Engineering Design must be a significant component of the thesis for students in the structures-focus option, which is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET. In either option program electives may be selected from courses in architecture, architectural history, civil engineering, or other engineering departments. A certificate is awarded to all students who successfully complete the program. Please visit http://www.princeton.edu/cee/ for more information.

Study Abroad
Princeton University is committed to providing high quality opportunities that allow undergraduates to encounter firsthand the people, culture, and contemporary concerns of other regions of the world.  Through the Study Abroad Programs, Princeton undergraduates receive full academic credit for a semester or a year by enrolling in an approved overseas university or study abroad program. Please visit http://www.princeton.edu/oip/sap/ for more information.