Architectural Studies

Naomi Darling, Program Director

Melissa Burke, Academic Department Coordinator

201 Art Building

Overview and Contact Information

The Architectural Studies Program at Mount Holyoke offers an interdisciplinary approach to issues of design, history, and theory. The program blends studio and academic work, as well as the interactions between architecture and culture throughout history.

Architectural Studies lays a foundation of creative practice, technical skills, problem-solving, and critical thinking that prepares students for graduate study and professions in a variety of fields including architecture, landscape architecture, industrial design, graphic design, urban planning, construction, sustainability, and project management with international development organizations. Mount Holyoke College is also a member of the Five College Architectural Studies program which offers access to the collective courses, faculty, and resources of the Five Colleges.

With interests ranging from architectural history to urban design, majors have enrolled in study abroad programs across the globe, including Copenhagen, Dublin, Florence, and Paris.

Learning Goals

By participating in the coursework and experiences constituting a major in Architectural Studies, students will acquire the following knowledge and skills.  They will:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of works of built and landscaped environments in their historical and cultural settings.
  • Acquire the vocabulary to describe and analyze monuments and spaces.
  • Develop the ability to communicate their design ideas through physical and digital models, drawings, diagrams and visual media.
  • Be able to articulate their own design process as informed by architectural theory and historical precedent.
  • Acquire a knowledge of sustainable design practices and implications for our changing climate.
  • Acquire research skills to locate and assess primary and secondary sources, both print and digital.


This area of study is administered by Architectural Studies faculty within the Department of Art and Art History:

Ajay Sinha, Julie '73 and Helene '49 Herzig Professor of Art History, Teaching Spring Only

Jessica Maier, Associate Professor of Art History

Naomi Darling, Five College Associate Professor of Architectural Studies

Samuel Barber, Visiting Lecturer in Art and Architectural History

Caroline Dubinsky, Visiting Lecturer in Art History and Architectural Studies

Five College Affiliated Faculty

Gabriel Arboleda, Associate Professor of Art and the History of Art, and Architectural Studies; Chair of Architectural Studies, Amherst College

Thom Long, Five College Associate Professor of Architecture and Design, Hampshire College

Requirements for the Major

A minimum of 44 credits:

Foundation Concentration
One art studio course at the 100 level; for example:4
Drawing I 1
Studio Art Foundations
One of the following art history survey courses with significant architectural content:4
Image and Environment
The Built Environment
Arts of Asia
Design Studio: 8 credits (taken at Mount Holyoke, Smith College, Hampshire College, or the University of Massachusetts, Amherst); for example: 18
Mount Holyoke:
Introduction to Architecture: 'Design'
Introduction to Architectural Design: Analog
Introduction to Architectural Design Studio
Digital Architecture Studio
Design I
Design II
Intermediate Concentration: 20 credits at the 200 level20
At least one course must be a studio art course 2
At least one course must be an architectural history course or an art history course with significant architectural content. In the Department of Art and Art History, these courses include:
Renaissance and Baroque Architecture in Italy
Arts of Japan
Arts of India
Issues in Art History 3
If concentrating in architectural design:
Intermediate Studies in Architecture: 'Environmental Principles'
Advanced Concentration: 8 credits at the 300 level (in area of concentration). Students may elect to fulfill 300-level requirements with coursework in architectural design or the history and/or theory of art or architecture8
Advanced level architectural design courses include:
Design-Build Studio
ARCH-403 Design V Studio taught at UMass in the fall semester
Total Credits44

ARTST-120 or ARTST-131 or any of their offerings; for example  ARTST-120FR or ARTST-131SE.


Design studios are not substitutes for art studios


Drawing, multimedia, painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography; consult the studio art course offerings


 Where the specific topic of the ARTH-290 course is appropriate

Other Requirements

  • Program plan. Students who elect to major in architectural studies in the Department of Art and Art History should select an advisor who will assist them in mapping a program of study.

Additional Specifications

  • Students are encouraged to fulfill the Science and Mathematics distribution requirement by taking courses in mathematics and physics that are required for graduate study in architecture.
  • Students may wish to pursue an independent research or design project. Working closely with a faculty advisor, they submit a project proposal at the beginning of fall semester and enroll in ARCH-395 Independent Study. With approval from their advising committee, students continue the project through the spring semester by enrolling in a second ARCH-395 or the Capstone Design studio (ARCH-305 or its Five College equivalent).
  • Students majoring in architectural studies are not eligible to minor in art history or art studio.

Requirements for the Minor

A minimum of 20 credits:

ARTH-100Image and Environment4
or ARTH-101 The Built Environment
or ARTH-105 Arts of Asia
One approved art studio course at the 100 level, for example: 14
Drawing I
Studio Art Foundations
A minimum of one approved architectural design course at the 200 level4
Two approved electives in art history, art studio, or architectural design at the 200 or 300 level8
Total Credits20

ARTST-120 or ARTST-131 or any of their offerings; for example  ARTST-120BV, ARTST-120VE, or ARTST-131SE.

Other Requirements

  • Program plan. Those intending to minor must meet with a member of the architectural studies faculty to develop an approved program of study.

Additional Specifications

  • At least 16 credits must be above the 100 level to satisfy the requirements for the minor.
  • Students majoring in art history or studio art are not eligible to minor in architectural studies.

Course Offerings

ARCH-203 Scene Design for Theater and Film

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

The purpose of this course is to introduce the history, art, and techniques of designing sets for theater and film. Students will learn how sets have been created in the past, how a designer approaches a script, how a designer's work supports the director's vision, how it illuminates a production for the audience, and what methods and techniques are used in the execution of the process. Students will have the opportunity to exercise their visual imaginations, through the creation of designs for a script. They will engage in script analysis, research, collaborative discussion, sketching, technical drawing, model building, and related techniques and methodologies.

Crosslisted as: FMT-240SD
Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
The department
Notes: lab; $50 materials fee. Any additional design supplies and materials are the responsibility of the student.

ARCH-205 Introduction to Architecture

ARCH-205AD Introduction to Architecture: 'Design'

Spring. Credits: 4

This studio course introduces a series of design investigations around particular themes and approaches to architecture and the built environment. Students will develop visual communication and architectural design skills (sketches, plans, elevations, sections, projected drawings and model making) to tackle interdisciplinary and socially pertinent design problems. Creative and indexical study and analysis will be used to generate and foster a broad range of concepts and language to solve architectural and design issues involving site, inhabitation, function, form, materiality, light and space. Our goal is to apply creative techniques in art and sculpture to the creation of meaningful space.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
N. Darling
Restrictions: This course is limited to first-years and sophomores.
Advisory: One semester of design or drawing is recommended. Preference given to first-year and sophomore students; others request permission.
Notes: Students enrolled in this course will be responsible for some of the cost of materials.

ARCH-225 Intermediate Studies in Architectural Design

ARCH-225ED Intermediate Studies in Architecture: 'Environmental Principles'

Fall. Credits: 4

This hybrid studio addresses human comfort with lectures and problem work sessions integrated with design projects. We start with an in-depth study of the world's climate regions, the sun, and the earth's tilt and spin. Primary methods of heat transfer are investigated as students research two architectural solutions (vernacular and contemporary) within each climate. Using daylight, the sun's movement, and sun-path diagrams students will design, draw and build a functioning solar clock. Issues in day-lighting and thermal comfort will then drive an extended design problem. Students will be asked to solve numerical problems and present design solutions using both drawings and models.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
N. Darling
Prereq: ARCH-205 or equivalent.
Notes: Students enrolled in this course will be responsible for some of the cost of materials.

ARCH-295 Independent Study

Fall and Spring. Credits: 1 - 4

The department
Instructor permission required.

ARCH-305 Advanced Topics in Architecture

ARCH-305CS Advanced Topics in Architecture: 'Capstone Studio'

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

This studio provides a structured creative environment for students to explore and design in both an individual and collaborative setting. Students develop their own individual design projects, identifying their approach, then executing their creative acts throughout the semester. This course is highly interdisciplinary in nature, yet designed for students developing projects in various areas of architecture and design, environmental studies, and urban planning. Discussion and writing are integral to this studio. The semester culminates in a collective exhibition. Students must have an individual project in mind or in progress at the start of the term.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
N. Darling
Notes: A considerable amount of self-directed work outside of class hours is expected from students.

ARCH-305UE Advanced Topics in Architecture: 'Public Space and Everyday Life in Globalizing Spanish Cities'

Spring. Credits: 4

This course will examine everyday urban life and public space in Spain from the post-Civil War period (1939) to 2021. We'll approach cities as dynamic global networks shaped by cultures, politics, economies, ideologies, memories, and imaginations. Through literary, visual, and theoretical texts, we'll explore the in/exclusivity of large-scale urban phenomena such as street design, gentrification, city ordinances, globalization, and mass tourism. From a lesser-known ethnographic angle, we'll also bring into dialogue the power within everyday practices (walking, sitting, remembering, shopping, placemaking) as well as subjects and objects (street vendors, immigrants, urban furniture, historic buildings).

Crosslisted as: SPAN-350UE
Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
M. Saltzman
Prereq: Two 200-level Spanish courses above SPAN-212.
Notes: Taught in Spanish.

ARCH-311 Design-Build Studio

ARCH-311MK Makerspace Design-Build Studio

Not Scheduled for This Year. Credits: 4

The rise of digital fabrication processes has blurred the traditional division of labor enabling architects and designers not only to draw but to also fabricate projects, often using the very same programs. Following the rise in CAD/CAM has been a burgeoning Maker movement as more and more individuals have rediscovered the joys (and sometimes frustrations) of realizing projects within a collaborative environment. This class will introduce students to both traditional and digital making through a series of exercises that will enable students to realize projects using the facilities of the Fimbel Lab.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
N. Darling
Instructor permission required.
Prereq: ARCH-205.

ARCH-311TH Design-Build Studio: 'Tea House'

Spring. Credits: 4

The traditional Japanese Tea House, renowned for its simplicity of program and space, has often been used by (Japanese) architects as a typology with which to test ideas and experiment with materials, technology and construction techniques. This studio will first introduce the basics of Japanese tea culture and the traditional tea house with a visit to Wa-shin-an and analysis of traditional and contemporary tea houses producing both analytical drawings and models. Finally, each student, working individually or in pairs, will design and build a full-scale tea house using the full facilities of the Fimbel Maker and Innovation Lab.

Applies to requirement(s): Humanities
N. Darling
Prereq: ARCH-205 and ARCH-225 (or a digital design studio at Hampshire College or Smith College).

ARCH-395 Independent Study

Fall and Spring. Credits: 1 - 8

The department
Instructor permission required.

ARCH-395P Independent Study with Practicum

Fall and Spring. Credits: 1 - 8

The department
Instructor permission required.

Related Courses

Students who plan to enroll in courses outside of the Five Colleges, especially in courses to be taken at another institution or abroad, should first consult with their advisor and the program coordinator to determine if the courses meet the departmental criteria for the major.

Five College Course Offerings in Architectural Studies

Current courses in architectural studies are offered throughout the Five Colleges. Check listings in the Five College course schedule and

  • Amherst College: Department of Art and the History of Art
  • Hampshire College:  Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies (HACU), Lemelson Center (HCLC)
  • Smith College: Department of Art; Landscape Studies Program
  • University of Massachusetts: Architecture and Design; Building Construction Technology; Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning.