The mission of the undergraduate program in architecture is to develop analytical thinking and creative making within the discipline of architecture in the context of a general liberal arts and sciences curriculum.

Architecture & the Liberal Arts

The University of Pennsylvania is comprised of 12 schools, each with its own faculty, students and degree programs. Four of these schools offer undergraduate education: Arts & Sciences, Engineering & Applied Science, Nursing, and Wharton (business). Undergraduate education in architecture is offered in the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) with courses taught by faculty in the School of Arts & Sciences and the Weitzman School of Design.

The undergraduate program in architecture offers opportunities for undergraduate students in the College of Arts & Sciences to study architecture on various levels of engagement ranging from a Freshman Seminar and a Minor in Architecture to a Major in Architecture with two concentrations, Design and Intensive Design. The degree earned is a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) from the School of Arts & Sciences with a Major in Architecture. While a B.A. does not in itself fulfill the educational requirement for architectural licensure by individual states within the United States of America, the courses required for the Major in Architecture meet or exceed the prerequisites for admission to most Master of Architecture professional degree programs accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).

A select number of students in the Major in Architecture are admitted into the Intensive Design Concentration that includes enrollment into first-year graduate technology courses in the Master of Architecture professional degree program in the the University of Pennsylvania's Weitzman School of Design. Students who successfully complete the Intensive Design Concentration are eligible to apply for advanced placement into the second year of the Master of of Architecture professional degree program, thereby reducing the duration of the graduate program from three years to two years.

A Critical Lens on Pressing Global Challenges

As an architecture major in a liberal arts college, we are uniquely positioned to provide students with a critical lens through which they can evaluate and address pressing challenges confronting our world, such as social justice and the climate crisis. By incorporating these themes into our curriculum, we equip our students with the necessary tools and knowledge to become effective agents of change.

Architecture and the climate crisis

Buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of global energy consumption and one-third of greenhouse gas emissions. The construction of buildings has a significant impact on the environment, including deforestation, habitat disruption, the release of greenhouse gases, and the exacerbation of the urban heat island effect. The architecture major helps students develop environmental literacy and an understanding of climate change, including the structure of the Earth’s environmental systems, the relationships between humans and the natural world, and the impact of climate change on the world.

Social justice in architecture

Current discourse on social justice in architecture aims to reconcile histories of inequity that are embedded in the physical world to advance a more just and equitable society. From the use of enslaved labor to construct some of our nation’s most treasured monuments, to the racial segregation of cities and suburbs after World War II, to the discriminatory practices of urban “renewal,” architecture often reflects cultural norms and social hierarchies. As such, architects must negotiate the needs of clients while also contending with the social impact of their designs on society at large. 

The architecture major provides students with knowledge of the historical origins of present-day social and cultural issues. In design studios, students apply this knowledge within specific social and cultural contexts presented through design problems. In theory courses, students critically analyze both historical and contemporary works of architecture and the ideas they convey.

Our students, as future leaders, innovators, and problem solvers of society will be informed, responsible, and proactive global citizens who can contribute to positive change in their communities and the world at large.