ASAU Program History

The School of Architecture held its first classes in the fall of 1968, with twelve students and four faculty members. The School offered a five-year undergraduate professional degree, accredited, from the outset, by the Ontario Association of Architects. The first degree was awarded in 1973. During the first few years, faculty ranks increased annually as the student body grew. By 1976 the School comprised five Full Professors, 11 Associate Professors, five Assistant Professors, and 15 Sessional Lecturers. The School expanded further in the 1970s, reaching 300 students and 24 faculty members by 1983. The academic staff was supplemented by a technical staff comprised of a Photographic Supervisor and a Library Technician.


From 1968 to 1978, the curriculum for the 5-year B.Arch. was comprised of thirty credits. This curriculum was organized around five “Divisions”: Division A focused on history and theory, human sciences, and environmental sciences; Division B concerned structures, environmental controls, materials and methods of construction, and design economics; Division C addressed general planning, policy planning and community development, management and development, and professional practice; Division D was dedicated to computations, design methodology, design education, and communications; and, lastly, the Studio Division. At the time, nearly 50% of coursework was free electives (14.5 of 30 credits). In the Studio, the first two years were foundation years focusing on basic design, problem solving, construction, planning, environmental factors, and context. Studios in years three and four were defined by building types, which students could take in any order. Colloquia, which were required every semester, carried the humanities portion of the program and were defined thematically. Workshops were considered to be intermediary between course subject areas and the design theatre of the Studios—an opportunity for the Studio mode of teaching and learning to be applied to selected subsets of problems.

While this initial program was under continuous revision, it remained essentially in place until the retirement of the School’s first Director, Professor Shadbolt. The first major program overhaul came in 1978, under Director Michael Coote. Colloquia were replaced by seven mandatory Theories of Environmental Design courses, dealing with the history and theory of architecture and linking architecture to culture. The Design Studios became sequential from years one through four, each a prerequisite for the next, so that a more finely tuned progression through the years could be developed. The next significant program revision took place in 1980, when the first year of the Studio program was radically transformed to encourage students to develop a design skillset and sensibility conceptually grounded in thoughtful making. This has proven to be one of the most far-reaching developments the program has seen and continues to be at the core of the current curriculum. At the same time, the free elective portion of the program was reduced with the introduction of Theories Electives, which required that the majority of electives be taken from a list of courses emphasizing the theory and history of architecture. 


The next major change in the program came with the appointment of Professor Alberto Perez-Gomez as Director in 1984. The commitment to ‘thoughtful making’ was given a more rigorous philosophical grounding and extended to all levels of studio instruction. The studio work resulting from this thrust has given the School an international presence. The major structural reorganization at this time focused on creating options for a culminating fifth-year project (Design Studio 5A, Research Thesis, or Design Thesis), allowing students tremendous flexibility in choosing the final work best suited to their strengths and personal interests. Great emphasis was placed on the intellectual basis of design, the poetic power of form, and academic scholarship in Research and Design Theses. The impressive work produced in the fifth-year program has had an impact on nearly every aspect of the program.  The Senate of the University approved another set of program revisions in 1992, during Professor Benjamin Gianni’s term as Director. These assured that students would cover courses more directly concerned with the profession in the lower years. While the previous sequential structure of the Studio program remained intact, the content of design projects evolved toward a greater emphasis on building design, site development, context, and planning as the media through which the conceptual emphasis of first year found its expression in the upper years.


In 1993, a proposal for a post-professional MArch degree program was approved by the University Senate and the Ontario Council of Graduate Studies. The program began accepting students in the Fall of 1995. The degree was designed to accommodate a variety of emphases under the heading of Design Studies, to promote research in the School, emphasize design as a form of research, and accommodate a range of thesis work. The program was bifurcated into two research foci: Design and Culture and Design and Technology. The first considered questions of history and theory and the second issues of information technology. 


In 1997, the School developed a proposal to restructure its 5-year Bachelor of Architecture to a 4-year, preprofessional Bachelor of Architectural Studies (BAS) followed by a 2-year professional Masters of Architecture (M.Arch). The undergraduate component was approved by the University Senate in 1997 and began accepting students in the Fall of 1998. The graduate component was approved by the Ontario Council of Graduate Studies in 1998 as a variation on the previously approved post-professional M.Arch. The School instituted a formal co-op program in 1999 as an option within the BAS. This option is now well established in all majors of the BAS. The most significant changes since the conception of the program were the development of the Directed Research Studio (DRS), a short duration (1-3 weeks) undergraduate Directed Studies Abroad (DSA option in the third year of the BAS, and a full-term DSA in the first year of the M.Arch.


The most recent and significant shifts began in 2009, as the school instituted three new majors at the undergraduate level and a 3-year M.Arch (Professional) degree. Beginning in 2009, students were able to access undergraduate BAS programs with majors in Design, Conservation & Sustainability, and Urbanism. At the graduate level, students with 4-year honours degrees (but without previous architectural studies), were admitted to a new M.Arch curriculum. With these measures, the student population continues to grow and diversify.