The Undergraduate Student Learning Initiative (USLI) is a campuswide initiative to support departments in establishing educational goals and evaluation procedures for all undergraduate programs. As a result of the initiative, faculty and students have a shared understanding of the purpose of the major and what graduating seniors are expected to know or to be able to do at the end of their course of study. The initiative is in keeping with the fundamental principle at Berkeley that the evaluation of student achievement should be locally defined, discipline specific, and faculty-driven.
Department of Architecture Statement of Goals
The Underlying Goals of a Liberal Arts Undergraduate Education
In its recent curriculum discussions, the faculty strongly supports a liberal arts education for undergraduates that teaches students to develop their intellectual capacities: how to research topics independently, how to ask penetrating questions, how to analyze problems, how to construct arguments based on critical thinking, how to make well-founded judgments, how to identify issues of importance for the future. The intent of the department is that all courses are framed with this perspective. In addition to this goal, the department is introducing students to the discipline specific areas of knowledge that are needed by students who apply for graduate school in architecture.
The Discipline-Specific Knowledge of Architecture
The discipline of architecture covers a wide range of discipline-specific subject areas that are integrated in the process of design.
The goal of the undergraduate major is to make students familiar with and curious about engagement in and production of the built environment in historical, critical, technical, and social dimensions. The possibilities open to graduates in the major are broad, and this challenges the department to locate the terrain that is common to various aspects of the discipline as a formulation of the core lower-division courses, and then to offer at the upper division a set of “streams” of study, each of which inspires and prepares students to pursue a future endeavor. As these future endeavors cover a wide range of possibilities, there are several ways to view the undergraduate major: as a liberal arts education through the lens of architecture, perhaps leading to another course of study; as preparation for work in the profession with only an undergraduate degree; and as preparation for follow-up study at the graduate level in the discipline of architecture. Acceptance into strong graduate architecture programs requires a high level of proficiency in the core areas of the curriculum. In recent debates on the undergraduate curriculum, the faculty decided that the undergraduate major should continue to provide courses appropriate for students on each of these paths.
The curriculum exposes students to five aspects of architecture and the broader field of environmental design:
1. The Language of Architecture
In essence, the language most particular to architecture is a graphic vocabulary that is the currency of exploration in the design studio. The mastery of this language, like the learning of any language, begins with vocabulary and grammar, and then moves on to the construction of meaning. This latter aspect is rigorously pursued in the design studio, and for those planning to go on to graduate study in architecture, a number of these upper-level studios offer an increasingly complex set of design challenges.
In the Language of Architecture, students should learn to:
- Understand the conventions of plan, section, elevation, and axonometric and their relationship to each other;
- Understand and become proficient in hand drawings and the use of digital media in the production of these conventions;
- Understand and become proficient in three or four digital programs that allow a facile exploration of design ideas;
- Become proficient in the production of design iterations; and
- Apply critical discussion to design solutions and representation.
2. The History and Theory of Architecture
Courses in history and theory are intended to familiarize students with the development of the built environment in both western and eastern traditions, and to introduce recent and current theories of local and global importance. The introductory surveys in architectural history test students to both recognize and classify architectural styles; these courses are complemented by others that focus on the intersection of history and theory, and for which the writing of papers is the primary means of evaluation.
In the History and Theory of Architecture, students should learn to:
- Articulate the theoretical concepts within the design studio projects;
- Understand the major periods and styles in architectural history;
- Understand the modern period, and its current debates; and
- Write critical papers comparing and contrasting both buildings and ideas.
3. The Humanistic Applications of Architecture
Many students enter this field of study in hopes of improving the conditions of the built environment as it relates to the daily life of individuals and communities. An emphasis in these aspects of the major can lead to graduate work in other disciplines, including environmental studies, law, global development and planning, and anthropology, or to a Ph.D. program in architecture.
In the Humanistic Applications of Architecture, students should learn to:
- Understand the roles and responsibilities of the environmental professions;
- Understand the art and science of interpreting the social context of design;
- Identify the major issues of environmental design in the national and global setting; and
- Recognize the value of addressing sustainability at all levels of design.
4. The Science and Technology of Architecture
How buildings stand up, how they operate to distribute and control light and air, and the materials and connections with which they are made bring the understanding of the discipline from its paper representations of design and theory into the physical world. A set of core courses introduces students to the fundamentals of these areas, and a set of upper-division seminars allows more in-depth explorations of aspects of each, including the testing of structural ideas through design, current attitudes and goals for a sustainable building culture, and construction practices particular to certain materials or cultures.
In the Science and Technology of Architecture, student should learn to:
- Evaluate building performance through modes of calculation;
- Familiarize themselves with the major groups of construction systems;
- Integrate these concepts into the design studio; and
- Familiarize themselves with the major debates in the literature of these areas.
5. Research Methods
Students should become proficient in the processes of academic research, learning to:
- Undertake library and on-line research and follow source threads to both books and periodicals;
- Construct bibliographies to academic standards;
- Document various methods of research; and
- Understand taxonomies of knowledge and organize information.
Communication and Evaluation of the Learning Goals
The department intends to describe the potential streams of study and the learning goals more specifically in the program descriptions on the department’s website and in other materials that introduce students to the architecture major.
All courses are currently assessed by the students at the end of the semester, and the questions asked in those evaluations will be edited, if necessary, to reflect the learning goals. The feedback from these evaluations and from other faculty/student discussions is that the level of satisfaction of undergraduate students is generally high.
The department plans to develop a better method of maintaining contact with students over the longer term to obtain a more accurate picture of which paths they took within the major and which paths they follow after graduation, to see if the department’s assumptions are accurate.
How Learning Goals are Addressed in Elective Courses in Architecture, Visual Studies, and Environmental Design
Key to Abbreviations
DRP = Architectural Design, Representation, and Practice
HCS = Architectural History, Culture, and Society
TBP = Architectural Technologies and Building Performance
VS = Visual Studies
ED = Environmental Design
|1. The Language of Architecture||DRP||HCS||TBP||VS||ED|
|To gain understanding of and proficiency in:|
|Drawing conventions (plan, section, etc.)||X||X|
|Use of hand drawing and digital media||X||X||X|
|3 or 4 digital programs to explore design ideas||X||X||X|
|Producing design iterations||X||X||X|
|Critical discussion of design solutions and representation||X||X||X|
|2. The History and Theory of Architecture||DRP||HCS||TBP||VS||ED|
|To gain knowledge of and proficiency in:|
|Articulating theoretical concepts within design studios||X||X|
|Major periods in styles in architectural history||X||X|
|Modern period and current debates||X||X|
|Critical comparisons of buildings and ideas||X||X|
|3. The Humanistic Applications of Architecture||DRP||HCS||TBP||VS||ED|
|To introduce and demonstrate:|
|Roles and responsibilities of environmental professions||X||X||X|
|Art and science of interpreting the social context of design||X||X||X|
|Issues of environmental design in national and global setting||X||X||X||X|
|Value of addressing sustainability at all levels of design||X||X||X||X|
|4. The Science and Technology of Architecture||DRP||HCS||TBP||VS||ED|
|To gain knowledge of and competence in:|
|Building performance evaluation||X||X|
|Major groups of construction systems||X|
|Integrating these concepts into design studios||X||X|
|Major debates in the literature of these areas||X||X||X||X|
|5. Research Methods||DRP||HCS||TBP||VS||ED|
|To gain understanding of and competence in:|
|Taxonomies of knowledge and organizing information||X||X||X|
|Library and online research||X||X||X||X||X|
|Constructing bibliographies to academic standards||X||X||X|
|Methods of research documentation||X||X||X||X||X|