“The purpose of its [the École des Beaux-Arts] training is to impart to each student a method of attacking and studying any problem in architectural design which may be presented. It gives a training in composition and design—and the science of design is necessary to the architect in order that he may express himself clearly.”            


                          -John Harbeson, The Study of Architectural Design

Back to the Drawing Board: Peter Spalding (BAA'12) works on his (re)design for New York City's Federal Hall in the 2011-2012 Design Studio. 

Back to the Drawing Board: Peter Spalding (BAA'12) works on his (re)design for New York City's Federal Hall in the 2011-2012 Design Studio. 

“Student work in design falls into two categories—(1) learning facts in detail, and (2) learning to integrate or compose them. Learning details is not learning to design. The active principal of design is composition. A student is not learning to design until he has started to compose.”

                         -Donald Atkinson Fletcher, Introduction to Architectural Design

The design studio comprises the core of the program. Over the course of the program, students are presented with a series of design challenges of increasing complexity and are expected to devise thoughtful solutions that evidence a mastery of both artistry and function. Beginning with a measured drawing of a distinguished New York monument, students will be guided through the process of establishing a parti (basic scheme of architectural design), composing an analytique, studying and evaluating a design in detail, refining a design, and preparing a completed design for presentation. Each of the successive design problems has been chosen to expose the student to different aspects of classical design. 

These exercises are meant to introduce and solidify the theories of architectural composition central to the execution of classical structures. The studio also offers students the opportunity to integrate what they've learned in the various courses and apply design strategies in real time.

Students are expected to complete all of the design challenges to the satisfaction of the studio instructors in order to complete the program. A jury comprised of distinguished practitioners is invited to review the design challenge responses at the end of each academic year. At the discretion of the jury, prizes are awarded to the top projects. 

Finally as Paul Philipe Cret so eloquently put it, teaching design “... is the development of what artistic sense the student may possess in a latent state ---- the education of his taste and the opening of his eyes to the beauty of form.  ...  To be really deep and effective, this (slow) passage through successive stages in which one learns how to appreciate some new things and despise others, must be a personal one, else the intellect only, and not the feelings will be touched and permanently influenced."

                        - Paul Philippe Cret: Architect and Teacher, by Theo B. White, p.28



The Analysis of Form

"The artist who draws by practice and judgement of the eye without the use of reason is like the mirror which reproduces within itself all of the objects which are set opposite to it without knowledge of the same." -- Leonardo da Vinci

This course is a thorough introduction to drawing and sculpture using the Russian academic method of the Ilya Repin State Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture (St. Petersburg, Russia).  Students will engage with subjects via both of these disciplines: drawing will sharpen their understanding of proportion, composition, and the effects of light and shadow on a clearly interpreted form, while sculpture will deepen an awareness of multiple vantage points, moving students beyond reliance on a silhouette. Beginning with assignments involving simple geometric forms, students will expand their ability to see through surface details and depict underlying structure. We will practice this approach using the cast collections of the ICAA and the Repin Academy and advance to the live model, rendering with graphite and modeling with clay and moving later in the year to softer drawing materials, the stretching and tanning of paper, and plasticine as time allows. 

Drawing the Classical Orders

"Architecture aims at eternity." -- Christopher Wren

This course provides an introduction to the vocabulary of classical architecture through freehand drawing. Students learn to draw the classical orders with an emphasis on the Roman-based orders canonized by Vignola, the Renaissance architect. Through drawing exercises, students dissect the compositional principles by which the orders and other classical elements are used to create beautiful buildings. Issues of proportion, traditional construction techniques, and ornamentation are also reviewed. Course instruction includes lecture and studio work.

Reading Architecture: Masterpieces of New York

"It is ridiculous to set a detective story in New York City. New York City is itself a detective story."  -- Agatha Christie

The story of a people is most immediately encountered through its architecture. And architecture itself is a part of a larger whole, the City. The story of a city is embodied in its public monuments, its great institutions, its squares and parks, its points of arrival and departure, its places of commerce, and its streets and buildings. This course embarks on a study of New York through an intensive on-site study of the most vivid example of each of these.

The Literature and Theory of Classical Architecture    

"Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again." -- André Gide

The classical tradition in architecture has been perpetuated and propagated in large part through the influence of written and illustrated publication. This course is a survey of the major texts; while the historical context and importance of each book is considered, the focus will be the information, both theoretical and practical, that each conveys to the student of classical architecture today. In addition, this course relates specific aspects of individual texts to particular buildings in an effort to move toward knowledge, which is indeed the "child of theory and practice."

Architectural Rendering in Wash                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

"Art works, if you do." -- Peter William Brown

This course serves as an ongoing atelier in the study of architectural rendering in wash. Students are guided along the path of H. Van Buren Magonigle's detailed lessons in toned ink and full-color wash rendering in an atelier environment. Among the topics covered are materials, India Ink wash, toned ink wash, full-color wash, casting of shades and shadows, atmospheric perspective, and sheet composition using examples of the Beaux-Arts drawing type, the analytique. Classes are conducted primarily in a studio format that includes formal lectures, hands-on teaching, and demonstrations.

Master Copying 

"On whom then can [the artist] rely, or who shall show him the path that leads to excellence? The answer is obvious: the great masters, who have traveled the same roads with success, are the most likely to conduct others." -- Sir Joshua Reynolds

Students will learn from the old masters by copying their work. Each will select an 18th or 19th century figure or portrait drawing to closely examine and reproduce. Choosing a work from a list of drawings that will be provided by the instructor will be encouraged. If a student wishes to choose a drawing not included on the list provided by the instructor, the instructor must approve the selected work. All copies will be in red conté, black charcoal, or graphite and white chalk. This will give students the opportunity to work with a new material. Class discussions will cover composition, line quality, proportions, accurate block-in, edges, cross-hatching and shading.

Figure Drawing      

"He who does not master the nude cannot understand the principle of architecture." -- Michelangelo

In this course, students will draw from the live model. The first few sessions will include poses between 20 minutes and an hour from which students will master the introductory method and structure of the pose and gesture. As the week progresses, students will begin work on blocking, which they will ultimately develop into a more complete and refined figure drawing.

Linear Perspective & Observational Drawing                                                                                                                                                                       

"What a delightful thing this perspective is!" -- Uccello

As two disciplines founded on the analysis and depiction of light, linear perspective and observational drawing are an established combination for classic illusionistic rendering. Since the Quattrocento, schools of visual thought have introduced students to the principles of linear perspective, the intellectual basis for representational thought and spatial illusionism, and chiaroscuro -- the primary means by which to confirm those spatial constructions. The "delightful and noble art" of linear perspective is the flesh, heart, and soul of classic pictorial space, from the placing of objects in a still life to the disposition of figures in a composition. This course covers the fundamentals of perspective, how to set up a perspective template, and includes drawing a two-point perspective projection for a human skull. It also covers the essentials of observational drawing: chiaroscuro, proportion, scale, and placement. The course culminates in drawing of freehand sketches and developing extended renderings working from the extensive ICAA collection of architectural casts. 

Relief & Ornament

"Rhythm imposes unanimity upon the divergent, melody imposes continuity upon the disjointed, and harmony imposes compatibility upon the incongruous." -- Yehudi Menuhin                                                                                                                          

Throughout the course of history, the most adroit and subtle architects have used a mastery of ornament and relief to enrich their work and add the illusion of depth when space was limited. In this hands-on course, students study the manner in which relief techniques create the illusion of depth, culminating in the sculpting of a relief panel using architectural elements. Ornament, long banned from contemporary building, is welcomed back via a study of classical elements and three-dimensional rendering. 

Architectural Shades & Shadows

"The illusion of three dimensional form on a surface may be greatly strengthened through the use of shade and shadow.  ...I assure you that a large part of the training of artists is to make them supremely conscious of these two important elements in drawing." -- Robert Beverly Hale

The use of shades and shadows has long been an important component in effective architectural presentation. The principles governing this scientific art are nonetheless not widely known today. This course provides step-by-step methods for the construction of technically correct, geometrically precise shades and shadows of classical architectural elements. Students systematically develop the subject from lines, to planes, to solids, then to combinations of elements such as capitals, cornices, balusters, and other features. The presentation of geometrical theory and practical exercises prepare students to solve common shade and shadow problems encountered in rendering. 


"Without symmetry and proportion there can be no principles in the design of any temple; that is, if there is no precise relation between its members, as is the case of a well-shaped human body." -- Vitruvius, Book III.1.

Proportion, in the classical arts, is the use of number and geometry as design tools. This course provides an overview of the concepts and methods of application of the classical proportional idea. The subject is approached from a Pythagorean and Platonic direction to form a bridge between an ancient cosmological viewpoint and the visual arts, thus enabling design to stand on a philosophical basis.

Topics include: An introduction to Pythagorean and Platonic numerical philosophy; an explanation of the concept of symbolic or qualitative number and its traditional use as a guide to beauty; the relation of number to beauty; the derivation of the ancient musical octave; a discussion of the Golden Section, its mathematics, geometry, relation to philosophy, and particularly its role as geometrical "logos"; and the connection of these ideas to the numerical-geometrical canons of classical architecture.

Classes will consist of lectures and geometrical demonstrations. Students will practice applying proportional methods through a series of in-class sketch problems utilizing the Beaux-Arts esquisse format.

History of the Classical Orders                                                                                                                                                                   

"Not houses finely roofed or the stones of walls well builded, nay nor canals and dockyards make the city, but men able to use their opportunity." -- Alcaeus

Although the Greek orders were intimately related to tectonic realities, their approach to architectural design also reveals the deeper patterns of ancient Greek civilization. By examining the classical orders as used in ancient Greece, students gain an awareness of its architects' holistic approach to creating and building. This course explores the compositional underpinnings by which the orders and classical elements were used through drafting exercises and an examination of the orders in relation to each other and their individual settings. This course also provides a history of how the Greek orders and architecture have been recorded and repeatedly reinterpreted by architects in different eras. 

Architectural Drawing & Drafting                                                                                                                                                                        

"Can a line be so important?" -- Edward J. Fraughton  

This course engages the student in the dignity and integrity of architectural drafting. Many students have little or no knowledge of traditional drafting via manual and pencil technique due to the preponderance of drafting now done via machines (CAD) -- and, for students in earlier decades, technical pens. This course corrects that imbalance of knowledge. Students will embark on exercises to establish the basic skills that will allow them to communicate their ideas clearly and cleanly, focusing on the ability to draw a line that is straight.