Architectural Studies

Based in the Department of Art History, the interdisciplinary minor in Architectural Studies (ARCH) equips students to analyze the form and changing history of the built environment through a combination of coursework in architectural history with up to four courses on architectural and urban design topics offered in any department. This is the only university program that focuses on designing and analyzing buildings as material, three-dimensional, culturally meaningful environments.

Minor Program in Architectural Studies

Students may choose to minor in architectural studies because they are interested in analyzing the built environment—the inescapable setting of our lives—from a liberal arts perspective or because they are considering applying to architecture school. The minor could represent an interest distinct from the student's major or it could complement a major in the social sciences or humanities by exploring the material setting of history and social life or the context for works of literature, film, music, or drama. It could equally complement a major in the sciences, such as medical fields, ecology, geology, physics, or mathematics.

Alternatively, students may major in Art History and select architecture as their focus.

Prospective minors should meet with the Architectural Studies Advisor any time before the end of the third year to discuss their interests and course plans and to obtain advice and enroll in the program. Together the student and the Architectural Studies Advisor will fill out the Minor Consent Form listing the projected courses, which the Advisor signs. To enroll, students must submit the completed, signed form to their College advisor before the end of the third year. After filing the form, students retain the option to change their choice of courses, with the approval of the Advisor.


The minor in architectural studies requires a total of six courses chosen in consultation with the Architectural Studies Advisor, all of which must either focus on the built environment or permit the student to devote the assignments or papers to the built environment. A minimum of two courses must be in the Department of Art History. The additional four courses may be taken in Art History or in other departments or programs. Some of the programs that may offer relevant courses are Environmental and Urban Studies, Geographical Studies, History, English Language and Literature, Anthropology, and Visual Arts. In one of the courses, students also write one research paper of about 10 to 15 pages on a topic chosen with and guided by the instructor, by individual arrangement at the start of the quarter (see “Research Papers” below).

All courses approved for Architectural Studies credit should meet these criteria: (1) the subject matter should include some attention to buildings and/or the arrangement of buildings and landscape elements in space; (2) the assignments must allow the student to study the built environment. Courses with an ARCH cross-listing are pre-approved for minor program credit. If those courses also have an ARTH number, they count as eligible Art History department courses. If they don’t also have an ARTH number, they count as eligible courses outside the Art History department. If students find courses they think may be suitable that are not cross-listed in ARCH, they are encouraged to propose them to the Architectural Studies Advisor, providing the course number and title, description, and, if possible, the syllabus.

Architectural Studies offers two foundational courses: ARCH 20700 Understanding the Built Environment, a thematic introduction to skills of building analysis and interpretation, and ARCH 24205 Skills and Processes for Architecture and Urban Design, which introduces students to design work while building skills important to design studios. They exemplify the two types of architectural studies courses offered by the Department of Art History. Architectural history courses teach students to interpret how buildings are designed, used, and adapted over time and to make sense of their social, political, and cultural effects. They attend to the material properties of buildings and the ways people perceive them. Architectural and urban design studios enable students to try out the role of designers rather than interpreters, which provides another invaluable perspective on why buildings take the forms they do, whether or not students envision architectural careers. Many courses of both types include field trips or a travel component to the sites under study.

Minors are strongly encouraged to take ARCH 20700 Understanding the Built Environment when available. Minors may elect to take ARTH 29600 Junior Seminar: Doing Art History for program credit. This option is suitable for minors seeking to develop their skill in writing object-centered research papers and especially minors interested in doing graduate work in architectural history.

Graduate seminars at the 40000-level may count toward requirements. Students are advised, however, that such courses impose special burdens of time and expertise, and admission to them is typically only by explicit approval of the instructor and may involve some prerequisites.

Courses in the minor may not be double counted with the student's major(s) or with other minors. A course taken to fulfill a General Education requirement may not be double counted with the Architectural Studies minor. Courses in the minor must be taken for quality grades, and more than half of the requirements for the minor must be met by registering for courses bearing University of Chicago course numbers.

Research Papers

All Architectural Studies write at least one research paper of 10–15 pages. A research paper can be:

  • a paper written to fulfill a course assignment,
  • the extension of a shorter course paper (either during the course or after its completion) to meet the page requirement, or
  • a new paper on a topic chosen in consultation with the instructor.

The paper should include an analysis of existing scholarship and other relevant source materials. The paper should also draw on that scholarship and evidence to shape and support a thesis or argument of the student's own devising. Formal analyses of works of art and analytic papers on materials assembled by the instructor do not qualify. On completing the research paper, students must record the title, course, and supervising instructor on the program worksheet.


The following faculty members in Art History specialize in architectural history: Niall Atkinson, Wei-Cheng Lin, Katherine Fischer Taylor. Dario Donetti teaches both architectural history and architectural studio courses. Luke Joyner regularly offers architectural and urban design studio courses. Many other faculty members in Art History have an interest in the built environment and will support students writing papers on architecture; students are welcome to ask their instructors.

Summary of Requirements for the Minor in Architectural Studies

Two (2) courses in ARTH focusing on the built environment * 200
Four (4) courses in ARTH or other departments focusing on the built environment 400
One (1) 10- to 15-page research paper written for one of the six courses in the minor  
Total Units 600

* One of the courses may be ARTH 29600 Junior Seminar: Doing Art History, in which students in the minor would research and write an essay on a topic of their choice. 

Co-curricular Opportunities

Architectural Studies collaborates with the University’s Career Advancement office to help students identify and fund internship opportunities related to the built environment. Advice on seeking internships is available here.

Everyone is invited to subscribe to the Architecture listserv, for announcements of events and opportunities on campus and in Chicago at large.

The architecture RSO, called ARCH, can be reached through this listserv.


To discuss the minor in architectural studies, please contact the Architectural Studies Advisor Katherine Taylor (