17+ Subjects Taught in Architecture Programs (Explained)
Prospective architecture students follow different academic paths leading to their architectural studies in an institution of higher learning.
As varied as those paths may be – high school, GED, a diploma majoring in architecture, or a pre-university program – the list of pre-requisite subjects to gain entry into an architecture program is pretty much the same.
What Subjects Are Taught in Architecture?
The subjects you have studied up to high school (or any equivalent level of education), to a large extent, do not matter as you begin your 1st year in architectural studies.
The entrance requirements are stringent, but once you step into architecture as a student, you virtually start from zero. The disciplines involved to become an architect are varied, yet the sum of the parts is unique, and you cannot gain them elsewhere.
Regardless of the type of architecture program you undertake – a diploma, degree, or Masters – the subjects taught generally fall within the areas of architectural design, culture, history, building technologies, visual communications, building law, and architectural practice.
The course structure typically starts with the fundamentals of design and history in the 1st year. It progresses towards more practical subjects such as law, contracts, and practice in the later years.
History of Architecture
Studying history in architecture is vital in informing aspiring architects about how master builders of the past built cities and the lives of the people in them.
It is a great teacher in understanding the past civilizations, increasing cross-cultural awareness, and building a foundation for building for the future.
1. European Architecture
Construction of great cities and grand structures had always been the cornerstone of the glory of the past empires.
From ancient Greek to the Roman and British empires, great architecture and cities remind budding architects how architecture influences life and vice versa.
The period between the 14th and 16th centuries is called the renaissance period in European architectural history and marked the revival of thought and cultural elements from those empires.
You will learn Gothic architecture, which was succeeded by Baroque architecture – both styles typified by their emphasis on symmetry, proportion, and geometry.
2. Asian Architecture
The Asian continent covers many countries and consists of hugely diverse ethnic groups, each with its own culture and history that had inadvertently shaped the region’s architecture.
The rich diversity of ancient Asian architecture – Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, Cambodian, Indonesian, and the list goes on – makes this an exciting history subject in an architecture program.
Architectural design subjects are core to any architectural program, and you get to gain the necessary knowledge and hone your design skills on your way to becoming an architect.
3. Theories of Art and Design
Art and architecture relate to each other so intrinsically that you cannot learn one without the other.
Typically, subjects in the first year of architectural studies teach you the theories of art and the different architectural design styles. You will get to see and learn the various design styles and their application.
They form the fundamentals from which you progress to learning other subjects in the subsequent years.
4. Urban Design and Town Planning
Architects design buildings; the collection of these buildings form cities and the urban fabric in which the inhabitants live.
Therefore, architectural design and space creation also requires the knowledge and understanding of town planning fundamentals.
You may have heard of another profession called the town planner, but urban planning is still a necessary piece of the puzzle in developing an architect.
You will learn the exciting relationship between individual building design and urban planning and how one affects the other.
5. Culture & Sociology
Architects do not build empty buildings or deserted cities.
Architecture is very much about the awareness of the diverse cultures and the understanding of how societies function.
Knowledge of how people live their lives and their interaction with the spaces that architects create is core to the learning of architecture in any program that you may enroll.
As designers, the ideas behind the architectural design is essential.
However, what is even more critical is the ability to clearly and comprehensively communicate the ideas to the intended audience. It ultimately determines the success, or failure, of an architectural design project.
6. Visual Communication Fundamentals
In architecture, the spectrum of mediums you use to convey your architectural ideas is broad and varied.
Drawings (freehand or computer-generated), 3d graphics, animation, typography, colors, architectural models – these are some of the many visual communication methods you will be exposed to throughout the program’s duration.
Over time, you may find yourself becoming better skilled in some methods than others. Coupled with your development of a particular design approach and methodology, they become the voice that is uniquely yours and define you as an architect in your own right.
7. Freehand Drawing
Although computers are now widely used in building design, architectural freehand drawing is still a coveted and essential skill to have in your arsenal.
It is the connection between your design mind and the tip of the pencil you hold in your hand.
As an architecture student, you must be mindful of this skill’s importance and continue to train yourself throughout the program to become skilled in this communication method.
Even if it is not your forte now, you can hone this skill if you keep practicing.
8. Computers and Technology
Utilizing the power of the computer is part and parcel of an architect’s job.
Especially in architecture, you need high-end computing power for the generation of 3d visualizations and communication of refined and intricate architectural detailing.
From the most basic of AutoCAD software to Photoshop, SketchUp, Rhino 3D, Revit Architecture, and a host of other design and rendering software available by the time you enroll in the program, you can expect to learn and be reasonably well-versed in the use of them.
9. Architectural Photography
Photography has always been an integral part of the documentation and showcase of architectural work.
Depending on the architecture program you undertake, you will at least learn the basics of photography. Even in the absence of more advanced classes, you will naturally advance in photography skills as you test and experiment in the course of your architectural design work.
Apart from graduating with a diploma, degree, or Masters in Architecture, you can be sure that graduate architects will have turned into great photographers as well.
You will probably not find this as a standalone subject.
However, model-making plays such an important role in architecture and the communication of design ideas – concept or detailed design – that it warrants special mention here.
You will be able to work with your hands and use various tools and materials to convey your design concepts. Together with other forms of visual communication, this skill will often be put to good use to support your architectural design presentations.
Building and construction technologies allow architects to push the limits of their imagination.
This study area is technical, and your knowledge and understanding of Physics will stand you in good stead to tackle the subjects below.
11. Construction Technology
The application and integration of construction technologies enable architects and engineers to build seemingly impossible and equally magnificent structures.
A building construction’s success rests on the myriad of fine details in which different materials come together and interact with one another.
From learning the basics of architectural materials to the more intricate uses of them in construction, you get to build on this knowledge and apply them toward the later years of your architectural design study.
12. Environmental Technology
The role of architecture in society and the significance of applying environmental technologies in architects’ work are highly important. The environmental impacts from the way we live our lives have been significant.
This subject is explicitly tailored for architecture students to gain expertise in solar power, green technologies, biodegradable and recyclable materials, sustainable building practices, and zero-energy building design.
13. Lighting and Acoustics
Lighting and acoustics designs are significant areas of study for architects.
Lighting allows the intricate details of an architect’s creation – forms, colors, textures – to come to sight. The play of light not only helps architects to showcase their work, but it is also profoundly connected to the art of architectural design visualization.
The study of acoustics design is, to a relatively lesser extent, also taught in architecture schools as it concerns the control of sound in spaces.
However, this is one area of study where architecture students can choose to specialize in their architectural thesis work.
14. Energy Systems – Heating, Ventilation, and Air-conditioning
Modern buildings are made habitable by the design, incorporation, and function of the various energy systems such as electricity, ventilation, and heating.
Although they are specialized areas for electrical and mechanical engineers, architects need to know them to produce functional spaces.
Despite the push for sustainable architecture, electrical and mechanical systems are still an essential part of architecture education.
As you enter the second half of your architectural studies, the subjects you learn will revolve more around the practical aspects of being an architect.
Architecture schools design the following subjects to prepare architecture students for the life of a working architect.
15. Architectural Law
The building laws that you will study may differ depending on the state or country of study. All jurisdictions have their particular rules and building codes that architects have to abide by.
The laws and codes that architects have to be aware of and apply depend on the types of buildings or structures they are designing.
16. Building Contracts
Aside from being the building designers, architects are also the administrator of building contracts, of which the parties involved are the building owner and the general contractor.
This subject typically teaches the adherence to the time, costs, and quality components of a construction project.
The jurisdiction that you eventually work or practice would have its standard contract form in use. Still, the architecture program you study would usually use the local contract form as the basis for learning.
17. Professional Practice
Architectural practice is an essential subject for architecture students to prepare for when they eventually set up an architecture firm as a licensed architect.
How to set up an architecture firm? How to run an architectural practice? How to market and get projects for architects?
These are some of the questions that you will find answers to in the subject.
Typically, you will study this in the final two years of a bachelor’s degree in architecture, followed by some related coursework.
The final year of a bachelor’s degree or masters in architecture will revolve around an architectural dissertation or design thesis.
It is where you will choose a specific topic of specialization within architecture for you to cover, study, and present in greater detail as a project.
The precise naming of the subjects you will study differs from one program to another. However, you can expect to learn the types of subjects covered above in an architecture school.
The Misconception About Required Prowess in Particular Subjects
The knowledge gained through the subjects that you have studied in high school is, in some ways, transferable to the subjects taught in architecture but does not necessarily determine how well you are going to do as an architecture student or an architect for that matter.
Does architecture require math?
Mathematics is a prerequisite subject to study architecture, but the notion that students have to be excellent mathematicians to excel in architecture is a misconception and a misplaced concern. Study programs and real-world architectural applications only require relatively simple mathematics.
Well, what about Physics in architecture?
Physics is essential to architectural studies as biology is to medical studies; this reflects in the stringent requirement for program entry.
You don’t need to excel at intricate load calculations in building design (the structural engineers do that), but the understanding of the basic concepts of physics and load-bearing forces in architecture is necessary for an architect to design safely and adequately. You don’t need excellent grades in Physics to become a great architect.