The semester’s multidisciplinary curriculum is taught as an integrated whole: lectures, seminars, discussions, studio explorations, and job-site work are designed to reinforce and complement one another while informing the group design/build project. Students work together in a collaborative environment with the project as the focal point. The classroom is much like a professional studio or jobsite, except that the instructors-—as mentors—are there to facilitate the student’s creative vision.

Students are enrolled in 15 credits per semester, granted through University of Massachusetts Amherst’s department of Continuing and Professional Education. 

The course descriptions below are intended to help students, faculty, and registrars translate the program into discrete course credits at their home institutions. Download Syllabi.

ARCH 497A: Building Science for Cold Climates (3 credits):

The objective of this course is to develop the understanding of basic principles of building physics, material science, and appropriate technology for a New England climate. Through lectures, readings, class discussions, and assignments students will gain comprehension of building anatomy. They will understand how natural forces, particular to a northeast climate can affect a buildings structural and thermal performance. Through individual research, leaning heavily on sourcing and reading white papers from specialists in the field of building science, students will form opinions and present findings on best practices and relate those findings to sociopolitical and economic factors of accessibility. Guest lectures will introduce students to current sustainable technologies, and students will have the opportunity to experiment through applied material research.

ARCH 497B: Defining Metrics for Sustainability (3 credits):

This course is an inter-disciplinary seminar designed to allow students to explore the emerging definitions of “sustainability.” Students will be exposed to and required to discuss current theories, methodologies, and best practices related to the creation of our built environments. Topics for consideration may include but are not limited to human health, community engagement, building performance, ecological impact, human relationships to nature, material life cycle, material spirit, affordability, appropriate technology, beauty, ethics, and utility. Students will grapple with these topics as they develop an appreciation of multiple perspectives; including various stakeholders like developers, designers, builders, and clients. Using a case-study approach, readings, discussions, and lectures students will develop and defend various positions, ultimately defining for themselves metrics for how to define the sustainable building movement, beyond just the greening of conventional affordable buildings into the territory of regenerative design and development.

ARCH 497C & 497D: Design & Visual Communications Studio (6 credits):

This two-part course will investigate ideas of architectural design process and visual representation through a studio format. We will begin by reading Michael Pollan's book "A Place of My Own", using his autobiographical account as a launch pad to explore ideas of shelter. Students will then research and present on various leaders of innovation in the design world and important precedent works, taking note to account for the particular methodological approaches that produced noteworthy outcomes. Drawing from these precedents students will examine various methods for generating a concept, effectively communicating that concept through drawing. Subsequently students will reflect on the outcome a drawing may produce when lifted from the page, or screen, into a fully realized form. Through field trips, additional readings in design theory and phenomenology, and individual research, students will begin to apply these lessons learned to a final semester project. Development of presentation and critical thinking skills will be essential as students will themselves grapple with developing a project all the while addressing key environmental and cultural influences necessary to realize a successful work of architecture. Students will leave with a fundamental understanding of how social, political, performative, and economic factors impact design choices. Particular emphasis will be placed on the process of collaborating as a group, including a variety of perspectives and conceptual approaches, and incorporating the ongoing building process. Students will present their designs for interim and final reviews and will incorporate feedback in an ongoing iterative learning process.

ARCH 497V: History and Theory of Design/Build (3 credits):

This course will explore the different models of project development, management, and delivery through an examination of New England’s regional architecture from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries through contemporary practice with a focus on the Vermont Design/Build movement of the late 60’s and 70’s.  This course will incorporate guest lectures, field trips, and readings with a goal of applying knowledge in vernacular response, resource allocation, and project management to the program’s current and students’ future projects.  Particular attention will be paid to developing, evaluating, and maintaining an internal framework for communication, decision-making, and self- and peer-evaluation.  Additional emphasis will be placed on social, cultural, and economic factors and their changing effects on the built environment and its perception and effect.