Introduction to Architectural Design and Theory

I - June 28–July 16, 2021
II - July 20–August 6, 2021
Days & Time:
Monday–Friday, 9:10 –11:00 a.m. and 1:10–4:00 p.m.
Virginia Black, Hasan Hachem, Brendan Moran

Students should have a willingness to engage with challenging theoretical material and to work independently on complex creative projects. Some experience with drawing is recommended. This class is intended for current 10th, 11th, and 12th graders. Younger students might be interested in Understanding the Arts: Art History and Architecture or New York Experienced.

 “I have gained a new perspective in understanding architecture's meaning and role in human society.” – From a program course evaluation

 “The projects definitely surprised me about this course. Our creativity really showed and the projects were so unique.” – Leslie M. | Brooklyn, New York

Course Description

This intensive introduction to key concepts in architecture consists of a morning seminar focusing on architectural history and theory and an afternoon “virtual studio” in which students learn through independent design.

In the seminar, participants are familiarized with the fundamental vocabulary employed to describe architectural ideas. The course covers how to analyze a building visually and formally, and introduces a spectrum of significant historical and recent designs while instilling an understanding of how the built environment is generated and transformed. Through discussions of challenging readings that encompass the political, social, technological, and economic aspects of the field, students are introduced to selected architectural themes. Class discussions are supplemented with digital architectural tours of the Columbia University campus and virtual visits to prominent works of modern architecture in New York City such as the Whitney Museum, the High Line Park, Grand Central Station, and the Seagram Building.

The afternoon studio class, conducted online as a creative workshop, introduces participants to the conceptual skills employed by architectural designers. Instructors provide students with basic training in 2D and 3D visualization software and introduce them to the process of conceptualizing and developing architectural ideas. A short project is undertaken in the final week, in which students develop their own designs for an intervention on one of the New York City sites that was visited earlier in the session.

Course participants will be required to purchase approximately $75 worth of materials and to install all required software prior to the start of class. (See the supply list linked here.) Students should also have a cell phone with a working camera.


Virginia Black

Virginia Black is an architect and visual ethnographer whose research is sited at the intersection of bodies, the environment, and memory. Her current work is situated between New York and Ecuador, where she collaborates with AMUPAKIN, an indigenous women's midwifery. She is a founding principal of feminist architecture collaborative and teaches at Barnard + Columbia School of Architecture and Pratt's and Parsons' BFA and MFA Interior Design programs. Virginia has worked for Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery and for a number of architecture design firms, including Maison Édouard François (Paris) and VolumeOne and AKOAKI (Detroit). Her work and writing has been published by Avery Review, Harvard Design Magazine, Log, Rm1000, and Thresholds and has been exhibited internationally. She holds an M.S. in critical, curatorial and conceptual practices in architecture from Columbia University, an M.Arch from the University of Michigan, and a B.A. in architecture and modern languages from Clemson University.

Hasan Hachem

Hasan Hachem is a researcher, designer and strategist focused on architecture, sustainability, and technology. He is founder and director of Origin Zero, an architecture practice that explores the eco-politics of the built environment. Hasan holds a Bachelors of Architecture from Syracuse University as well as a Master of Science in advanced architectural design from Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Currently he is developing ARQHIVE, a knowledge and resource sharing platform for architects and designers. Hasan is a NYC[x] Innovation Fellow for the New York City Mayor's Chief Technology Officer, as part of a campaign to support the city's digital COVID-19 efforts.

Brendan Moran

Brendan Moran holds a Ph.D. in architecture history and theory from Harvard University and a Masters of Environmental Design from Yale University. He has taught courses in design and architectural history/theory at Yale University, Columbia University, NJIT, and Syracuse University. Brendan is co-founder of AD-Hoc, a design think tank. He has worked for various architecture firms in New York City and elsewhere, including Leeser Architecture, Spivak Architects, The Rockwell Group, Bone/Levine Architects, and Peter L. Gluck and Partners.

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Specific course detail such as hours and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.