Architecture major restructured

This article has been amended following an investigation by the News. Please see the Editor’s Note below for details.

The number of sleepless nights students spend in the newly restored Paul Rudolph Hall, toiling over models and sketches for studio projects, might soon decline: The architecture major is undergoing a renovation of its own.

The Architecture department revised requirements for the undergraduate architecture major in response to feedback from students, faculty and administrators criticizing the heavy workload and stress level of the major. Before the changes, which will go into effect in fall 2010, the major required that students take two key courses in the fall semester of junior year, which interviewed students said resulted in many all-nighters in Rudolph Hall.

A reformed architecture major could mean fewer sleepless nights.
Eva Galvan
A reformed architecture major could mean fewer sleepless nights.
A reformed architecture major could mean fewer sleepless nights.
Eva Galvan
A reformed architecture major could mean fewer sleepless nights.
The architecture curriculum committee first began revising the requirements for the major in April 2008, in response to student and faculty feedback. The new changes, which include a reduced number of required as well as elective courses, will go into effect in the fall of 2010.
Eva Galvan
The architecture curriculum committee first began revising the requirements for the major in April 2008, in response to student and faculty feedback. The new changes, which include a reduced number of required as well as elective courses, will go into effect in the fall of 2010.

The new curriculum will reduce the number of required course credits and the number of electives for each concentration, as well as move “The Analytic Model” course to sophomore year. This will allow junior architecture majors to take two semesters of architectural history survey courses — to be taught by School of Architecture professors Peggy Deamer and Eeva Liisa Pelkonen ARC ’94 — in addition to the current required junior studio.

The adjustment of these requirements will allow the department to move forward with its larger goals of enhancing the program’s course dynamics, said Bimal Mendis ’98 ARC ’02, Director of Undergraduate Studies for the major.

“We see the implementation of these changes as an organic process that responds dynamically to continually evolving criteria and opportunities,” Mendis said. “The changes made will streamline course content and improve course offerings.”

The process of revamping the architecture major began in April 2008, when the architecture curriculum committee met with School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65 and identified two problematic areas: the requirement of taking both the junior studio and the design analysis course in the fall semester of junior year and the absence of any architectural history courses to fill the void left by Vincent Scully ’40 GRD ’49, who stopped teaching the class even before stepping down last September.

Architecture major Volkan Doda ’11, who is still on track with the old requirements, wrote in an email to the News that he sometimes spends as many as 20 hours on projects for architecture classes.

“The expectations in terms of presentation, work quality and conceptual background in the architecture major, like in most other arts courses at Yale, are usually very high, which forces you to spend more and more time on projects,” Doda said.

Mendis said the introduction of architectural history survey courses will provide a broader cultural context to the study of architecture and allow closer examination of buildings in urban environments.

“One of the items we were lacking was a comprehensive survey in the history of architecture,” Mendis said. “The intention of the two new courses is to provide a much needed overview of a range of historical and theoretical approaches in the study of architecture.”

The strenuous requirements restrict architecture majors from pursuing Yale’s holistic model of education, which stresses exploration before specialization, architecture professor Kent Bloomer said.

“I think a very heavy workload is detrimental to the prospect of the student taking full advantage of Yale College,” he said. “Hard work is fine, but it should not be overloaded in a particular major. Architecture majors will not get credit for their work outside the major in graduate architecture schools, so they are forfeiting access to other types of study that will be extremely difficult to experience later on in life.”

The school is also planning to initiate a joint venture with Tsinghua University that will allow 10 Yale students and 10 Tsinghua students the opportunity to participate in a studio course in Beijing, China as a part of Yale Summer Session Study Abroad. Though the program will not replace any required courses in the major, Mendis said it will be one of a series of steps toward internationalizing the major’s course offerings.

Correction: October 9, 2009

The article “Architecture major restructured” failed to identify two people as Yale alumni: Professor Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen ARC ’94 amd Bimal Mendis ’98 ARC ’02.

Editor’s Note: Sept. 5, 2012

After the Wall Street Journal fired Liane Membis ’12, the writer of this article, in July 2012 for fabricating sources, the News opened an investigation into her work as a staff reporter for the paper. This investigation found evidence that Membis had embellished a quote that appeared in the eighth paragraph of this article. That quote has been removed. Before this removal, that paragraph read as follows:

“The expectations in terms of presentation, work quality and conceptual background in the architecture major, like in most other arts courses at Yale, are usually very high, which forces you to spend more and more time on projects,” Doda said. “And the other thing that gets junior architecture majors into a hefty shake is the lack of a solid historical background, both in theory and in practice.”

In addition, an earlier version of this article paraphrased Doda incorrectly. He wrote about working for up to 20 hours on projects for architecture classes in general, not to spending those hours on projects for a specific class, as the article originally stated. The article also did not make clear that Doda’s quotes came from an email to the News. Before these errors was corrected, the eighth paragraph of this article read as follows:

Architecture major Volkan Doda ’11, who is still on track with the old requirements, said he often spends 20 hours a week on projects for his architecture studio class.

The full report on the News’ investigation can be found here.

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