Despite significant administrative enthusiasm, students have mixed reviews for a series of recent changes to requirements for the architecture major.
All architecture majors are now required to take “Methods and Forms in Architecture,” an intensive design course. The major offers three tracks — design; urban studies; and history, theory and criticism. In the past, only design-track majors have had to take “Methods and Forms.” Despite the change, all three tracks in the major have retained their other course requirements.
Some architecture students praised the class as helpful, but others said it was unfair for the department to change requirements for students already in the major.
Department representatives said that the purpose of the requirement is to create cohesion among the major’s three tracks. This course is currently the only course that is both required for all majors and available only to students within the major.
“All students who elect architecture [as a major] should have, as a core shared experience, a course in design of architecture,” said Robert Stern, dean of the School of Architecture.
“Methods and Forms” focuses on the architectural design process and includes lectures, studio exercises and readings. It is limited to an enrollment of 25 students within the major, according to the Yale College Programs of Study.
Design students who have taken the course give it positive reviews.
“It’s an excellent class and my professor is one of the best I’ve had since starting the program,” design-track major Sarah Rector ’04 said in an e-mail. “However, for students [in the other two tracks], there does not seem to be a need for a class based entirely on design.”
Evan Muchmore ’04, a history, theory and criticism major, said he is pleased with the new requirement. But he said he believed it was a discouragement to other non-design majors because they were not informed of the change until this fall, after declaring their majors.
“I kind of like [the requirement] because history, theory and criticism majors used to not be allowed to take design courses,” Muchmore said. “But I think about five people dropped the major this year because they came back to school and the whole program had changed.”
Architecture students also said that the new requirement for non-design track majors could be a problem for some because of its heavy course load and because it limits options for junior year electives.
“The class is an inordinate amount of work, and for someone who is interested — in the history or urban design side [of architecture], it would be frustrating to have — their life consumed by design classes,” design-track major Zia Tyebjee ’04 said in an e-mail.
Stern said he believes “Methods and Forms” will prove useful not only for majors in the design track but also for those in the other two tracks.
“It provides a look at what it means when someone has to sit down and shape a space,” Stern said of the course’s benefits for history, theory and criticism students. For majors in the urban studies track, he said, “it provides a good look [at architecture] through the lens of physical form.”
Stern said that a small number of students majoring in the urban studies track may now decide to approach the same subject from a non-architectural angle by electing majors in American studies or political science to avoid the studio course requirement. But he said he did not think there would be a major change in the number of architecture majors.
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