Undergraduate Required Courses



Arch 101 - Principles of Architecture I


This introductory design studio seeks to build up the rigor and fluidity necessary for the practice of design. Rigor is necessary in order to develop sets of rules that will allow us to articulate a project and also to asses the effect of those rules. Fluidity, on the other hand, is necessary to accept the unexpected, to keep the rules in check and to determine where and when to depart from them or reformulate them. Taking from this idea, this studio seeks to establish a series of testing grounds as it introduces different architectural concepts, each of them becoming the point of departure for a collective conversation.


Arch 102 - Principles of Architecture I


Students in the course will sustain a continuous investigation for the duration of the semester in the development of a complete architectural project. The typology of the house will serve as pretext and programmatic vehicle, but the studio will emphasize the relationship between architectural representation and form in its design. The process will be highly structured, introducing students to diverse but specific (procedural and conceptual) methods of architectural investigation. Drawing and modeling will be employed in equal measure, and translation from one to the other in both analog and digital media will be foregrounded.


Arch 201 - Principles of Architecture II


This studio investigates the potential of architectural coincidences in a series of additions to the Menil Campus. The hypothesis of the studio is that a superimposition of architectural versions, or copies, can allow for an ambivalent relationship between a building’s real and projected states. The focus of this investigation is the frayed edges outside the space of overlap between designs and their reproductions. Stemming from the fragility of translation, they are a means to flatten sequences of practice and to make formal singularities elusive. 


The main goal of the studio is to foster in the students the ability to produce a project as the result of the interaction between the factors that determine the internal organization of a building and its external context. Basic formal, organizational and environmental principles will be analyzed and used in the generation of comprehensive designs. By the end of the semester, students should be able to rigorously translate into a project the combination of distinct diagrammatic organization systems, internal and external. The studio will also lay emphasis on different representational techniques that strengthen the communication skills of the students and the understanding of their instrumental nature in the design process. 2D and 3D drawings, visualizations, physical models and videos will be used to approach and describe the project. In short, this studio requires students to analyze architectural information using different techniques in order to generate abstract ideas that evolve into rigorous design proposals.


Arch 202 - Principles of Architecture II



The focus of this studio has traditionally been an introduction to architectural technology as a basis of form making. In your previous studios you have been introduced to the idea of a conceptual basis for design in which a broad range of issues: function, technology, history, etc. could be sources of formal ideas. In this studio we want to experiment with the idea of a more singular conceptual basis: technology as the principal driver of form. The limitation of this approach is its inherent determinism. However an argument can be made that, for certain building types, especially civic buildings, there is a long history of defining public space with structurally determined form. The Stoa Poikile (Athens) or Loggia di Lanza (Florence) were minimal structures that provide spaces for public and private meetings and the random association of individuals, critical to the culture of the city. Beginning in the 19th Century, the Railroad Station or transit hub became increasingly important as the meeting place of the commercial city. Even in the dispersed, suburban city, the shopping mall or athletic venue have become symbols of community. These were, by and large, originally conceived of as utilitarian structures but became memorable for their purity of structural form and detail.


Arch 301 - Principles of Architecture III



This semester the Junior Studio will address the relationship between architectural theory and technical expertise in order to engage a new conversation about fabrication. Unlike other manufacturing modes, where the act of making objects (for example a consumer product) is the culmination of a carefully managed, codified and established process, architecture uses the potential of manufacturing, i.e. fabrication, to shape a building’s purpose. With architecture, the relationships between conceiving, projecting, representing, executing and ultimately inhabiting a building are fluid. The constraints of one design aspect can easily turn to realign and prioritize the others. Architects never repeat the exact design process twice, and for good reason. Each client, site, functional program and temporality is unique. The priorities we end up with are as unique as the ingredients we proportion and mix together. We should not diminish, therefore, the role of fabrication by treating it as a simple means to a predetermined end. Fabrication can be seen as a design driver, central to the way we conceive, execute and understand buildings by further articulating a sense of place within a cultural landscape.


Arch 302 - Principles of Architecture III


Architects are increasingly being asked to address the pressing demands of global urban expansion and its constituencies with deft agile designs supported by penetrating research.  This studio expands the school's commitment to engaging the demanding architectural and urban questions that increasingly affect a global public.  Students are asked to think broadly about the roll architects can play as global practitioners through research and analysis aimed at a building design project. This spring semester, the studio center around - a project in and research trip to- Santiago de Chile where students will explore the particulars of a program/site and study the pressing urban questions that underpin any practice in such a charged context.


This studio aims to first understand the specific properties of iconicity. The iconic architectural object’s easy global legibility and transportability across borders has enabled it to become the dominant mode of contemporary architectural expression.However, these are the very properties for which global iconic architecture is often criticized. Detractors argue that it is a dangerously reductive approach that perpetuates the spectacle, producing architecture that is too easily co-opted by the forces of global capital. These critiques of iconic architectural form have produced two diverging positions: one that disavows the agency of form altogether, turning instead to problems of organization and ecology; and another that dives back deeply into material semantics concerning itself with the logics of intricacy and affect. Rather than attempting to escape the potential problems of iconic form by reproducing the strategies above, this studio will investigate the icon, interrogating issues such as clarity, reproducibility and transportability to develop a discourse of Iconomics.


Arch 401 - Principles of Architecture IV


The studio will focus on updating our conception of the urban whole in order to sublimate contemporary urban production and accrue synergistic effects. Specifically, we will work on updating one of the traditional protocols of urban aggregation: building typology. Instead of pursuing a fixed number of essential type forms, the exercise will attempt to generate and deploy a relatively large set of complementary forms that are capable of satisfying contemporary urban problems. Despite the complexity of such problems, these forms will maintain their ability to combine into a legible urban whole. This set of complementary forms will be called a “Search Space,” a design tool that will be explained In full at the first class meeting. The outcome of studio work will be to design a massing strategy for a new urban district currently being planned for Pelican Island in Galveston Bay. Due to submerge as early as 2035— an early victim of sea level rise—Pelican Island redevelopment will function as the test case for an urbanism that is responsive to the scientific facts of the climate crisis. This crisis is seen as the catalyst for the emergence of new holistic protocols that are capable of sublimating an economic system that is presently driving us over the cliff.


This studio will develop resilient infrastructural and landscape-based urban proposals for the proposed Houston Spaceport and its environs. In particular we will examine the potential of “intensely sparse” strategies that are spatially diffused but intensely interconnected, distributed but entwined, pliant thus robust, discrete and communicative.


Arch 402 - Principles of Architecture IV


This course investigates strategies for ambient architecture, one that looks for a penumbra of overlaps between buildings, contexts, and their effects. Through the design of an urban bank, it tests the hypothesis that raster imagery can support a politics of flatness through its method of construction. This studio takes a textural approach to design as an alternative to prevailing ocularcentric models. We will explore the grittiness of image-making techniques to create formal relationships between matter, its effects, and the degrees of noise between.


This studio posits a necessary rethinking of the role of architecture in the representation production of culture today. Following creative strategies derived from the intellectual ecosystem that characterizes informational societies (postproduction, open-source design), students will work on the articulation of a RAM Museum, a mutant space thought to enhance the public interaction of “prosumers” –citizens that not only consume but also produce culture. Instead of pursuing the classification and retrieving of stable referents, this museum will be aimed at increasing the connective and processing capabilities of a place in the city, in order to activate a series of individual memories that bring about unpredictable outcomes.



Arch 207 - Technology I - Geometry and Primary Systems


Morphological design; Curves, Surfaces + Deformations; Prototyping + Fabrication; Geometry + Optimization; Forces+ Loads; Foundations; Wood; Steel; and Masonry. Offered to architecture majors only.


Arch 209 - Technology II - The Shell


This course explores continuous structural systems including slabs, shells, shear planes, and monocoque, where structural members merge into an undifferentiated whole. This concept is placed in a context of material properties, structural behavior, natural forces, industrial systems, construction techniques, economic imperatives, sustainability, programatic requirements, and architectural ideas to examine what factors drive the selection of structural systems. Lectures focus on structural concepts, illustrated with wide variety of built examples from throughout the world. Home works focus on calculation, using structural analysis software. The final project involves the design, detailing, and calculation of a structural system for a selected program. As an extension of Technology I, this course explores the consequences of continuous structures and rigid connections, then moves on to non-orthogonal and undifferentiated systems.


Arch 314 - Technology III - The Envelope


The “Building Envelope” refers to the exterior “fabric” or “membrane” that separates the building’s interior from the exterior environment. The purpose of this course is to examine this surface from both a technical and a formal perspective. The study of this critical aspect of building technology has traditionally been treated as a by-product of material and construction technology. As a result of new technologies, materials, and fabrication processes, as well as concerns about sustainability and the environment, projects like Herzog and de Meuron’s Central Signal Box Structure of 1989 began an active investigation of new formal and technical potentials of the building envelope that has come to characterize contemporary practice. It could be argued that structure, so long a dominant element of form-making in modern architecture has become secondary to surface. The locus of technical innovation in the envelope has even led to the new specialty of “Façade Engineer” within the practice of engineering and architecture. Offered to architecture majors only.


Arch 316 - Technology IV - The Environment


This course is an introduction to Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems in residential and commercial buildings. Electrical and plumbing systems will also be addressed, but to a lesser degree. The course will address principles of human comfort, heat flow in buildings, types and characteristics of various HVAC equipment and air distribution types. Students will become familiar with basic HVAC concepts and will learn to select and estimate the size of an appropriate HVAC system. HVAC issues for specific building types will be discussed, along with how HVAC systems affect life safety, energy consumption and sustainability. Field trips will feature examples of relevant HVAC systems and how they integrate with architectural design. Each student’s class project will involve HVAC selection, sizing, layout and design for a specific building he/she selects. The goal is that you have sufficient ‘big picture’ understanding of MEP (mechanical / electrical / plumbing ) systems----so that you can effectively lead the design team, advise your client on options and design a building that is safe, comfortable, sustainable and affordable.


History & Theory


Arch 225 - History & Theory I (Introduction to Architectural Thinking)


This introductory course exposes students to challenges that have driven architects and theorists from the early twentieth century to the present. The course is structured around a sequence of fourteen themes that have recurred as major debates throughout architectural history. Focusing on topics, ranging from representation, to media, to politics, urbanity, or fabrication, each theme is presented as a debate between diverging viewpoints in order to expose seminal positions that have motivated both theory and practice. In weekly discussion sections, we will analyze buildings and discuss canonical texts. These sections provide opportunities for students to develop their own positions on the issues debated, and to refine their ability to make arguments. Open to non-architecture majors.


Arch 346 - History & Theory III (Pre 1968)


This course considers the history and theory of architecture and urbanism between 1890 and 1968, tracing the critical shifts in architectural thought and practice that inaugurated, constituted, and questioned architectural modernism. In particular, the course considers the development of architectural knowledge as the field engaged and contributed to the great social, political, cultural, and technological changes of the period. Organized around a series of significant case studies considered particular, designed responses to their material, intellectual, and sociopolitical context, the course elucidates the influence of contingent conditions on architectural design, but emphasizes the designer’s efforts to reinforce, reform, or transform those conditions. The course charts the ongoing attempt to account for this activity historically and theoretically and the operative role of these accounts both during the period and subsequently. Open to non-architecture majors; required for select majors: juniors and Option 1 year 2s.


Arch 352 - History & Theory IV (1968-present)


This course examines a series of recent architectural projects in the late 20th through the early 21st century, a timeframe characterized (in part) by problems of, one the one hand, the autonomy of architecture as a discipline, and on the other hand, the field's relevance to emerging social, cultural, and environmental transformations or crises. The course examines this simultaneous need for greater disciplinary expertise and broadening of interdisciplinary engagement through the rubric of “ecology.” Rather than simply instrumentalize ecology to assert a normative imperative, the course approaches it critically, as a means of retrospective and projective problematization of its objects of study. This use of ecology as an organizational and conceptual framework focuses on the relationship of relatively autonomous, finite and coherent systems within larger complexes of systems, or the environment. Both inform and transform each other; thus they are are distinct but also interdependent. Thus it may provide useful in advancing the understanding of architecture as a specific field of knowledge and distinctive way of operating within the world -- and transforming it.



Arch 423 - Professionalism & Management in Architectural Practice


Students will explore the challenges, standards, expectations and demands that apply to a design professional. They will learn how to start, organize and manage a professional firm and protect it from preventable risks. They will study how a project becomes a reality, starting with marketing and sales efforts, writing and negotiating the contracts involved, turning a design idea into reality, getting it built and handling claims. Architects, engineers and constructors who are directly involved in the construction industry provide real world profiles of their practices. Students will also do case studies of completed projects. Open to non-architecture majors.


Arch 500 - Preceptorship Program


Credit for this course is gained through a full time internship for nine to twelve months under guidance of appointed preceptor. It is required for all recipients of Rice School of Architecture B.A. degrees in the pre-professional program of area majors who seek admission to graduate studies in Architecture.