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Architectural Studies Major (Art Program)

Student critiques for Architectures of Air course with Assistant Professor Sony Devabhaktuni

Student critiques for Architectures of Air course with Assistant Professor Sony Devabhaktuni.

Download a printable Art & Architectural Studies Major (Art Program) Requirements [pdf] here

Architectural Studies at Swarthmore is undergoing an administrative and pedagogical reconfiguring to better respond to student interest in the design of the built environment. Beginning with Sophomore planning in January 2025, students may elect Architectural Studies as a major, choosing between either a “studio” track within the Art Program, or a “history” track within Art History. Students considering the Architectural Studies studio track should contact Sony Devabhaktuni, Assistant Professor of Art [Architecture] in the Department of Art and Art History. Students graduating in 2026 or earlier may continue to elect the Architectural Studies Major (Art Program) at the College.
Students graduating before Spring 2027 may continue to pursue architectural studies as a major; those with a particular interest in studio practice and the design of the built environment are encouraged to make art their primary program. The architectural studies special major in art focuses on the skills and methods needed to undertake an architectural design project. Projects vary in scale and research agenda, but share a conception of architectural studies that aligns making, craft and materials with humanistic inquiry and social urgency. Students in the special major are encouraged to make interdisciplinary links with studies throughout the College and to rigorously document their work in a design portfolio that reflects their interests and capacities. 
The existing architectural studies special major in art comprises 11-credits. Students craft their program of study in consultation with their advisor. An architectural studies special major in art includes a total of seven credits in art (five credits from art courses in architectural design, architectural making, sculpture, painting, photography and drawing plus the two-credit Senior Capstone), at least two credits in relevant architectural history courses, and at least two credits in additional departments that meet the student’s particular interests in the built environment (these could include math, physics, sociology & anthropology, environmental studies, philosophy, Black studies, theater, and engineering, among many possibilities). 
In the two-credit Senior Capstone, architectural studies (art program) majors in art identify a research program and develop a design project over the course of the year-long, two-semester course. This work culminates with a group exhibition of all Senior Capstone art majors in the List Gallery. Architectural Studies special majors in art are granted individual studios in Whittier Hall, alongside other art majors, to complete work for their Capstone projects. Students may also elect to combine the Senior Capstone with others courses for evaluation in the college Honors program. Students graduating as an Honors major are granted a solo show in one of the List Gallery’s two rooms. 
An architectural studies major (art program) prepares students for graduate school in architecture, landscape architecture, industrial design, urban planning, historic preservation, and architectural history and theory. Students are also equipped with design and critical thinking skills that can be applied to non-professional roles in design, policy, curation and beyond. 

Explore the course offerings for The Architectural Studies Major (Art Program) below


The design studio will work at the scale of the neighborhood to identify strategies for strengthening the civic realm. While “public space” is most often imagined to comprise parks and green-spaces set-off from the city, neighborhoods offer multiple chances for encounter, rest and gathering that play an important role in the articulation of community. Using observation and close drawing of a selected district in Philadelphia, the studio will identify small-scale transformations that can strengthen the public realm. Close drawing is here understood as a method to attend to those aspects of what is underfoot that otherwise go unexamined. This analysis and the knowledge that it builds will help to generate ideas for transformation that could address, for example, issues of accessibility, soft infrastructure, safety or transport mobility; ideas could challenge the priority of automobiles and the upkeep and design of sidewalks and elements of the street. Students will develop skills to develop these ideas using drawing and physical models into specific, situated propositions. The objective of the studio is to attend to the city in a way that recognizes that its spaces comprise a public home. As extensions of our private world, they offer the possibility of a civic realm that makes the social possible. 


With discourses of infrastructure making their way from engineering into the social sciences and the humanities, the workshop equips students from across these and other disciplines with tools to think infrastructurally and is oriented around three main axes. First, is an engagement with the “shape” of infrastructural systems through an introduction to digital, GIS mapping techniques. These techniques will be used to construct drawings that spatialize infrastructural dispositions. Second, are readings from across disciplines that situate infrastructural thinking within a framework for the diversity of this thought and its potential application. Third, these two abstracted modes of considering infrastructural thinking will enter into relation with visits to the nodal points of multiple Philadelphia infrastructures and discussions with the people who ensure their upkeep. Over the course of the semester, each student will identify a mapping project that puts infrastructural systems – for example, drainage networks, urban farms, or elder care centers – in relation to social, economic or temporal forces that help situate the movements and exchanges they make possible. 


Collective living continues to be an important subject for architectural experimentation in many parts of the world. New ways of living together implicate thinking differently about program, socio-economic diversity, construction systems and a building’s relationships to the city and its environment. The course introduces students to these questions through a close of analysis of contemporary collective housing projects from different parts of the world. Students will learn to use drawing and model-making to understand how the spatial and material organizations of these selected projects relate to the issues identified above. This analysis will comprise a shared knowledge that will be gathered together in a mid-term publication with contributions from every student. This work and the identified issues will inform the design of a collective housing project on a given site in Philadelphia. Students will work with a given, common program – for example, a student dormitory – and specific constraints for accessibility and fire safety to develop ideas about unit type, spatial configuration and program (the mix of activities). Through drawing and physical models, each student will elaborate their design and make an argument for what collective living can mean in the American city today. 


The workshop introduces the relationship between drawing and full-scale fabrication, resulting in a collaborative construction on grounds not far from Swarthmore campus. Exercises in the first part of the semester address techniques for the fabrication of different material assemblages, making use of wood working equipment in the Swarthmore College Makerspace. Drafting and sketching will be introduced as methods for the study and design of these elements and lead to a preliminary set of construction drawings. Working with the idea of architectural re-enactment and the needs of the site, a design will develop collaboratively through these tests with fabrication and drawing. After the mid-semester break, the workshop will move weekly sessions to the work site where we will prepare the ground and develop foundations. Using material and construction as regulators of the preliminary design, we will build on the site collectively as an act of continued learning. Each student will take on different responsibilities including organizing equipment, ensuring safe working procedures, verifying drawings and coordinating collective decision-making.


The design studio takes the room as a contemporary module for dwelling. Rooms can organize and reflect the functioning of our interior world: the articulation of space and surface, color, light, dimension and material all modulate the way memory organizes itself around the affective life of the rooms we inhabit. We will take advantage of this intimate scale to go deeply into the development of an architectural design. In the first part of the semester, structured exercises will lead students through the analysis of: a spatial memory, an architectural artifact, and a work of literature in which a room plays an important role. These exercises will serve as guide for the translation of sources into material for architectural projection and design. Each of you will work iteratively between drawing and physical models to consider details and speculate on materials and construction. By moving between memory, measure and a close reading of the spatial and syntactic structure of the selected literary work, each student will build up an idea about inhabitation and the nature of dwelling through the design of a room. 


The workshop introduces students to drawing and observation through a series of exercises that combines analog and digital mark-making. Students will consider issues central to architectural representation – scale, measure, survey, vision and the body, drawing’s relation to fabrication, and the codes and norms that regulate architectural drawing. We will work with techniques (collage, stencil, print-making, digital drawing) that introduce new skills while challenging the status of the drawing itself within architecture. Weekly freehand figure-drawing sessions will supplement studio exercises and independent directed work dedicated to exploration. 

ARTT 006A. Studio Architecture I: Turning Corners; Drawing Arch and 3-D Design

This Beaux-Arts practice of “analytique”-a drawn or sketched, tour of a building’s unifying visual elements, proportional relationships, and structural details-will be the primary mode of inquiry in this course. Taking advantage of the great number of the fine examples of historical and contemporary architecture in this region, the class will take a series of field trips to select group of local monuments to gather visual material. We will continue and build on the student’s competency and understanding of linear perspective and free hand sketching, established in the prerequisite, while introducing new methods in site measuring and isometric drawing. Extensive use of watercolor and gouache will also be used, although previous experience in these techniques is not required, in order to articulate the decorative and light specific qualities of Humanities. 

ARTT 006B. Studio Architecture I: Monuments and the Public Space

Over the course of the semester, we will visit sites in and around the Philadelphia area, examining who, what events, and what stories are marked and made visible throughout the city. How might we think of and define monuments? How might people, places, and events be memorialized and remembered? Ideally, the class will visit artists and architects’ studios and work with several Philadelphia-based organizations such as Monument Lab, Monument Biography, and Streets Dept. to learn about their inclusive, process-based approaches to public art and history. Through considering how public works are funded, authored, designed, and fabricated we will aim to deepen our understanding of the entities and mechanisms that shape public space. During the second half of the semester, students will engage in an extended design thinking process, working in small groups to design and prototype new monuments for a designated local site. Students will have the opportunity to bring greater visibility to narratives and histories they want to emphasize through this hands-on process.

ARTT 006D. ARCH DESIGN: Cities, Territories, Infrastructure [Crum River Futures]

This design studio takes the Crum River Watershed as a site of infrastructural movement. We will begin the semester by walking along the Crum River to the Delaware and identifying different layers of development that have transformed the watershed’s disposition. Dams, highways, streets, sewars, bridges, hard-surfacing, embankments --- these different constructions all represent historic efforts to reorient the watershed for different priorities. Their coexistence comprises a sedimentation of human history that begins with the Lenni Lenape and Delaware people that occupied the area before European colonization. With this understanding of the Crum, students will develop analog maps that help to identify a specific issue and site that are of interest. These analog maps overlay historic information with the visual outputs of GIS data, entering into a dialogue with the Crum and the diverse agents and interests that depend on, and influence the watershed. In the second part of the semester, each student will develop design methods through the articulation of a proposal for their chosen site. These projects imagine a new future for the Crum, can be oriented toward specific human or non-human communities, and work toward a more general renewal of the watershed’s ecological equilibrium. 


Models have traditionally been used in architecture as tools for the conception, development and communication of a design project. They have also played an important analytical role - working to abstract and take apart complex systems to allow for study or make an argument. The class introduces students to this analytical mode through the development of a series of models that take apart a significant example of 20th century domestic architecture. We will work with cardboard, wood, plaster, 3-D printing, and in combinations of these materials to master traditional methods and develop new ones. By the end of the semester, students will develop a repertoire of model-making skills and a capacity to use models as discursive tools for analysis and argumentation.

ARTT 060A. Studio Architecture II: Built Environment and 3D Design

This course applies careful study of the elements and principles of design to the context of the Swarthmore College campus. Through a series of walks and on-campus field trips to sites, archives, and collections, we will consider our lived experiences of the built environment as well as the history of Swarthmore’s campus. Each excursion will emphasize an aspect of 3D Design, and will present an exercise to study and deepen understanding of 3D form and space (i.e., line, plane, volume, mass, weight, texture, surface, parts-to-whole relationships). By mid-way through the semester, the scope of course projects will expand to involve design challenges on Swarthmore’s campus that involve site analysis, measuring, drawing, and modeling. We will use both analog and digital modes of drawing and modelling. Students will be introduced to human-centered and equity-centered community design practices through our approach to design challenges. At a few points throughout the semester, the scope of our thinking will expand to relate course projects to broader ideas about the role place in higher education and the notion of college campuses in American culture.


This course serves as an introduction to the foundational materials, techniques, and concepts associated with sculpture. Sculpture I emphasizes the development of skills in wood, steel, and introductory mold-making/casting techniques through a series of hands-on demos and exercises that culminate in creative studio projects. This class also foregrounds creative process, introducing students to the expression of sculptural ideas through iterative studio practice. Each major course project will involve brainstorming, drafting, mocking-up, working, and re-working sculptural objects. We will approach form-making as a language in and of itself, one which demands 3D thinking and making and the development of hands-on, embodied knowledge. Sculpture I prepares students to move onto a variety of Sculpture II courses, where individual concepts and technical skills can be further honed and applied to specific topics in contemporary sculpture. While emphasis falls on introductory techniques in wood, metal, and casting, we will engage a spectrum of finding and making. Students will often be invited to incorporate everyday materials and found objects in relationship to foundational sculptural concepts.  Studio projects will be complemented by field trips, visiting artists, readings, films, and slide presentations, all aimed at developing diverse, nuanced contexts for contemporary sculpture.


Sculpture and the Enviornment is a studio-based inquiry into conetmporary sculpture and three-dimensional art practices that engage in enviornmental issues. Through a series of hands-on creative projects, we will consider how visual art can be a tool for envisioning a more sustainable and enviornmentally just future. Each major studio project will focus on a specific strategy for engaging enviornmental content in three-dimensional artworks. We will often respond to a particular landscape, considering how an artwork reolates both formally and conceptually to the site. We will develop an ethos of working with primarily salvaged, recycled, and reclaimed materials. Within those constraints, you will have a great deal of agency to choose what materials you would like to work with for each project. You will also be invited to bring knowledge from other EVS courses/relevant disciplines to bear on your creative work. To build context for our work, we will look at a variety of individuals and groups across time, speace, and cultures who have made land and place-based artwork. Studio projects will be informed by visiting artists, slide presentations, readings and films/videos. Creative practices that foreground community, land, agriculture and ecology will be emphasized. This course will collaborate with RAIR (Recycled Artists in Residence) in Philadelphia, Swarthmore's Office and Sustainability, and the Scott Arboretum. We will use the MakerSpace in Whittier Hall as a resource for prototyping and fabrication. You will receive in-depth, frequent feedback on your work through full class critiques, small group discussions, and 1:1 meetings.


Installation Art is a studio-based inquiry into the fundamental concepts, visual elements, critical language, and fabrication processes relevant to the creation of contemporary installations. Installation Art is a porous term used to describe mixed-media artworks designed for a specific space or for a temporary amount of time. Installation has been a prevalent mode of expression within contemporary art since the 1960s, and today is more often a strategy for articulating a particular set of ideas than an all-encompassing genre. Throughout the course, students will explore how they might respond to aspects of their physical surroundings and the built environment through installation. This course will begin with a series of studies, in which students practice their capacity to think both spatially and temporally– beyond the making of discrete objects. These initial studies will each trace a specific line of thinking and making within installation practices, such as spatial drawing, light and space, and video projection, and will build towards an expanded installation made by students on campus. The culminating course project will be a mock open call in which the class works in small groups to propose a sculptural installation for a specific local context (i.e., a nearby museum, a public space, etc.).


This course will focus on a variety of methods for working with metal in contemporary sculpture. Students will first move through a series of demos specifically designed for learning to cut, bend, weld, shape, and finish steel.  The class will work on short-term technical exercises, meant to develop skills introduced in demos and build confidence on a variety of metal shop machines. Following this initial skill-building, students will embark on longer term sculpture projects in metal. Cumulatively, there will be a great deal of hands-on, experiential learning. Studio work will be complimented by group critiques, visiting artists, and a field trip.


This course will explore a variety of different casting methods, techniques, and concepts. Students will learn techniques for making one- and two-part  molds and will be encouraged to work from both found objects and sculpted forms.  Over time students' molds will become more complex and intricate. The class will also experiment with life casting; algisafe will serve as our initial material. Over the course of the semester students will have the opportunity to explore a range of materials. This course will include a field trip to a foundry and an introduction to the process of metal casting. 


This course provides an intensive exploration of the foundational elements of drawing and painting through the practice of direct observation. Subjects of study will include; still life, the figure, interiors, and the landscape. The development of perceptual skills and the capability to translate visual relationships onto a two dimensional surface is central to this course. No prior painting or drawing experience is necessary. Throughout the semester we will engage in frequent discussions addressing historical and contemporary painting problems. The purpose of these discussions is to provide art historical context and concrete examples of the painting issues we confront in class. In addition to learning about the formal principles of painting, the class will provide an overview of practical tool usage and techniques. An emphasis will be placed on good studio habits, making the environment safe, clean, and productive for everyone.


For this course, students will choose a path of study in painting with a special focus on color. The initial challenge of the course will be to identify a visually rich subject of study that each student finds compelling. As the independent projects build through dialogue with peers and new iterations, different approaches to using and thinking about color will be introduced. Students will be asked to share studio research, collected in a sketchbook/journal. This collection will evolve in meaning and direction as the projects develop. We will explore ways color can be used to create light, space, structure as well as emotional and symbolic meaning in painting. Feedback will be given in the form of individual and group critiques to address the formal, technical and conceptual properties of color usage and other elements of the work.  

ARTT 023c. Exploration of Wooden Structures

Wood is a versatile and sustainable material for many designers. This studio course provides the opportunity to explore the potential of wooden structures within an artistic framework of 3D Design. We will start by generating an understanding of the material properties of wood, and a particular emphasis will be placed on building technical skills with the MakerSpace woodshop. A project-focused approach allows us to expand our ability to conceptualize and construct increasingly complex and thoughtful wooden structures. The course will also balance a conceptual perspective of our work while considering the value of working with timber by hand, with machines, and through computer aided design. Readings, films, field trips, lectures, and group discussions will all help to challenge and inspire us throughout the semester and put our work into context.


The Senior Capstone is the culminating credit of your concentration in the Art major. The permanent faculty share the responsibility of mentoring you for this credit and will divide up the majors equally among themselves. It is not necessary and may not be possible to work with a faculty member from your chosen concentration. The Senior Capstone is designed to strengthen critical, theoretical and practical skills related to your studio practice. The success of your experience in a large part will be due to how you handle the level of independence. You will be responsible for structuring your studio time, maintaining a supply budget and coordinating meetings with your faculty mentor. The faculty mentor will guide and assess the development of work. You may reach out to other faculty to seek feedback during their scheduled office hours but your primary mentor will be appointed from the faculty. The Senior Capstone culminates in a curated group exhibition in the List Gallery. As was the case in the fall semester, you will have your own studio space in Whittier Hall.

Architectural History Course Offerings (2 credit Architectural History requirement to fulfill the Architectural Studies Special Major in Art)

ARTH 001D. First-Year Seminar: Architecture of Philadelphia

Philadelphia offers a virtual hall of fame of architectural and urban history. Even a cursory list touches on many of the major developments in the built environment over the last five centuries and beyond: William Penn’s Philadelphia Plan; Independence Hall; Eastern State Penitentiary; Levittown; Society Hill; the Vanna Venturi House; and the Barnes Foundation. This discussion-based seminar turns to this history not only to understand the architecture of one important metropolitan area, but to understand how these examples can teach about broader themes including the history of land use and planning, the industrial and urban revolutions, social struggle and social change, public memory, metropolitan growth and urban renewal, and aesthetic and formal innovation. Through field trips, archival research, critical interpretation of interdisciplinary sources, and writing assignments, students will learn the foundational methods of architectural history as well as many of the major cultural and social forces that have shaped it.

ARTH 047. Counterculture Architecture and Urbanism

During the 1960s and ‘70s in the United States, young builders and planners gave form to the ideological shifts generated by the Countercultural Movement. Their radical designs were formal condemnations of the technocratic, homogenous strategies favored by the previous generation. This course examines the multifaceted nature of countercultural architecture, planning, and technology through primary sources and critical texts that provide a broader cultural, social, and political context for the work. Each seminar focuses upon either an abstract component of “outlaw” design, such as whole systems theory, gender and race politics, cybernetics, etc., or particular building forms that came to symbolize the movement, including inflatables, geodesic domes, and vernacular constructions. The course encourages students to draw connections between built work and countercultural theory and to challenge preconceived notions of architecture during the period. 

ARTH 058. Modern Architecture

This course addresses the history of modern architecture from the nineteenth century through World War II. The course will pay particular attention to the ways in which architects have responded to, and participated in, formal and aesthetic developments in other arts, as well as the role of architecture in broader technological, economic, and social-political transformations. Covering many aspects of architecture from buildings, drawings, models, exhibitions, and schools, to historical and theoretical writings and manifestoes we will investigate a range of modernist practices, polemics, and institutions. The readings, both primary and secondary texts, have been selected both to provide an overview of the history of modern architecture and to offer a number of critical and historical approaches to evaluating its legacy.

ARTH 060. Building New Worlds: The Arts and Architectures of Liberation

This mid-level course examines the legacies of artists and architects who, since the 1960s, have relied on the power of cultural work in struggles for racial emancipation. It centers the contributions to the fields of socially engaged art and architecture of African American, Latinx, Asian American, and Native American practitioners who worked to make the United States a nation for all. Faced with a hostile environment of systemic racism that often excluded them from institutions of artistic and architectural legitimacy, these practitioners relied on imagination and the power of community to plan, realize, and historize their interventions. We will focus on six sites of the built environment that have historically been settings of struggle against racialized systemic violence: the prison, the home, public space, the school, the international border, and the neighborhood.

ARTH 063. Architecture and American Landscape

In his essay, “Preserving Wildness,” environmentalist Wendell Berry wrote: “We need to understand [nature] as our source and preserver, as an essential measure of our history, and as the ultimate definer of our possibilities.” With Berry’s multidimensional conception of nature in mind, this course examines the interrelationship of architecture, planning, and the ever-changing American landscape. It looks at the ways in which architecture may respond to the political, social, and philosophical implications of diverse ecological perspectives and uncovers the part architecture plays in environmental preservation and degradation. The class takes as its starting point colonial settlements and Native American land use patterns in the Eastern United States and concludes with national responses to 21st-century climate change discourse, paying particular attention to fluctuating conceptions of wildness and nature over time and to the wider socio-cultural implications of these attitudes.

ARTH 066. Race, Space, and Architecture

This colloquium considers how race and identity interact with architectural and urban spaces, especially in the United States in the twentieth century. By studying the historical and theoretical dimensions of topics including the meanings attached to public and private housing, the training and practice of designers, and the reconstruction and transformation of urban places, we will interpret how race has shaped buildings, landscapes, and plans. In turn, we will also examine how the built environment has shaped the formation and interpretation of racial categories.

ARTH 072. Global History of Architecture: Prehistory to 1750 CE

This survey will provide an introduction to the history of the global built environment from the earliest human settlements to the middle of the second millennium. Chronologically and geographically broad, we will examine selected works of architecture and urbanism from diverse cultures around the world, commencing ca. 10,000 B.C.E. and ending around 1750 C.E. In doing so, we will interpret the built environment as both a product of its social, political, and cultural contexts and a force that shapes those contexts. Despite a diversity of examples, common themes–such as cultural interaction and exchange, religion and belief, transmission of knowledge, architectural patronage, spatial and aesthetic innovation, and technological transformation–will emerge across the course.

ARTH 073. Global History of Architecture: 1800-Present

This survey will visit some of the major structures, events, and innovations that defined the global built environment in the last six centuries, beginning with the Renaissance and its contemporaries and extending through Modernism. Our consideration will go beyond a history of style to examine the built environment as a product of and force acting on its broader social, political, and cultural contexts. We will pay attention to architecture and urbanism from the place of work to the place of leisure; from sites belonging to the very powerful to those belonging to the disenfranchised; and from those designed by well-known figures to those without known designers. Themes will include power, belief, technology, industrialization, trade, patronage, professionalization, identity, empire, and urbanization.

ARTH 153. Modern Architecture and Urbanism: Honors Seminar

This honors seminar examines the broad array of designed and built works, makers, sites, and texts that constitute modern architecture and urbanism. Students will interpret the many facets of modernism through key historical readings-both primary and secondary, canonical and revisionist; analysis of examples; and consideration of their makers, both well-known and less so. A guiding assumption is that modernism was never only one thing and had different-even sometimes opposite-intentions, manifestations, and consequences in different contexts. Yet we will follow one persistent question as a link across the semester: how did modern architects and urbanists seek to create a better world? The motivations behind and answers to this defining question of modernism were never consistent across our period of study. While centering designed objects, then, we will interrogate how people have experienced modernism differently, depending on their identities, subject positions, geographic locations, and social roles. 
Prerequisite: Two courses in art history or permission of instructor.