Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies

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The College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech consists of four schools, including the School of Architecture + Design, which consistently ranks among the best in the country.[1] In 2010, the college earned national recognition for its Lumenhaus project, which won the Solar Decathlon Europe Competition in Madrid, Spain.[2] Headquartered in Blacksburg, Virginia, the college also has sites in Alexandria, Virginia and Riva San Vitale, Switzerland. Spread out among these three locations, the college consists of nearly 2,200 students, making it one of the largest schools of architecture in the nation.

Virginia Tech
College of Architecture and Urban Studies
Motto Ut Prosim (That I may serve)
Established 1964
Type Public
Dean Jack Davis, FAIA, LEED
Location Blacksburg, Virginia


The College of Architecture and Urban Studies offers 13 bachelor’s degrees and 11 graduate degrees through its four schools. Programs offered within these schools are architecture, art and art history, building construction, environmental design and planning, government and international affairs, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, public administration and policy, and urban affairs and planning. The Dean's Office is located in Cowgill Hall on the Blacksburg campus.

School of Architecture + Design[edit]

Programs in the School of Architecture + Design include architecture, interior design, industrial design, and landscape architecture. Through the school, students can earn Bachelor of Architecture and Master of Architecture degrees, which are accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board.[3] The Bachelor of Architecture degree at Virginia Tech has been accredited by the NAAB, consecutively, since the 1957-58 academic year making it one of the oldest, accredited architecture programs in the U.S. along with Syracuse University, Cornell University, Pratt Institute, Auburn University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and University of Oregon.[4] The School also offers professionally accredited degrees in Industrial Design (BS.IDS), Interior Design (BS.ITDS), and Landscape Architecture (BLA and MLA). Research-oriented degree programs include the Master of Science in Architecture and the PhD in Architecture and Design Research. According to the School of Architecture + Design's website, the School's mission is "to create a setting for the pursuit of theoretical, practical, and productive knowledge, embracing the duality of the education of an individual and the practice of a profession."[5]

On the Blacksburg campus, the Architecture programs are housed in Cowgill Hall and Burchard Hall, named after the college’s first dean Charles Henry Burchard. The Industrial Design Program is housed in Burchard Hall, and the Interior Design and Landscape Architecture programs are based in Burruss Hall. Architecture and Landscape Architecture studios are offered at the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center, and an Architecture studio is offered at the Virginia Tech Center for European Studies and Architecture in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland.

School of Visual Arts[edit]

The School of Visual Arts offers programs in art history, visual communication design, and studio arts, with concentrations in visual communication design/graphic design, creative technologies, 3-D animation, modeling, painting, ceramics, animation, and sculpture. Areas of study include the studio arts (B.F.A.), the visual communication design (B.F.A.), art history (B.A.), and the creative technologies (M.F.A.).[6] The school’s administrative offices are located in the Armory, one of Blacksburg’s historic buildings.[7]

Myers-Lawson School of Construction[edit]

Bishop-Favrao Hall. Home to the Department of Building Construction

The Myers-Lawson School of Construction is a joint venture between the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and the College of Engineering. It offers degrees in building construction and construction engineering and management.[8] The school's programs are unique in that they blend building construction and civil engineering.

The Department of Building Construction offers a B.S. in Building Construction with two different tracks, the first track being Construction & Design, and the other track being Development, Real Estate, and Construction (which comes with a Minor in Real Estate). The department also offers a Masters of Science in Building Construction Science & Management, and a Masters of Science in Building Construction Science & Management plus an MBA. The department also hosts a PhD program.[9]

School of Public and International Affairs[edit]

The School of Public and International Affairs was established in 2003 with the intent of offering an "innovative integration of scholarship and professional instruction in policy and planning in public administration, urban affairs, environment, governance, and international relations."[10] The school offers undergraduate students either a bachelor of science in environmental policy and planning or a bachelor of arts in public and urban affairs. In addition, the school offers master's degrees in public administration, public and international affairs, and urban and regional planning. Doctoral students may earn degrees in planning, governance and globalization or in public administration and public affairs.


The college has earned national recognition for its Lumenhaus project, which won the 2010 Solar Decathlon Competition in Madrid, Spain. In addition, the college is connected to research centers at the university, college, and department level. Students and faculty on the Blacksburg campus also have access to the Art and Architecture Library.


The LumenHAUS project is the third solar house designed and built by students and faculty of the School of Architecture + Design to compete in the U.S. Dept. of Energy's Solar Decathlon competition (2002, 2005, 2009). The LumenHAUS went on to win the international Solar Decathlon Europe Competition in Madrid, Spain in June 2010.[11] Built from renewable and recyclable materials, the fully automated solar house is completely self-sufficient, zero-energy, and provides an entirely new approach to environmental and sustainable design. The north and south walls of LumenHAUS are made of glass to let in more direct sunlight. The Eclipsis system consists of multiple sliding layers to insulate against heat loss or provide shade to prevent excessive solar gain. An open floor plan connects occupants to each other within the house and to nature outside. The house was inspired by the glass pavilion-style Farnsworth House designed by Bauhaus architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe. Since the house won the competition, the house has been displayed in Times Square in New York City, N.Y.; Millennium Park in Chicago, Ill.; and on the grounds of the Farnsworth House in Plano, Ill.[12] In 2012, the LumenHAUS received a national Institute Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects.[13]

Research Centers[edit]

The college is affiliated with research centers through which faculty and students conduct research and further engage in their respective fields. University Centers include the Virginia Center for Housing Research and the Institute for Policy and Governance. College Centers include the Center for Innovation in Construction Safety and Health, the Community Design Assistance Center, the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, the Vibration Testing Laboratory, the Research and Demonstration Facility, the Environmental Systems Laboratory, and the Center for Advanced Visual Media. Centers based in the School of Architecture + Design include the Center for Design Research, the Center for High Performance Learning Environments, the Center for Preservation and Rehabilitation Technology, the Henry W. Wiss Center for Theory and History of Art and Architecture, and the International Archive of Women in Architecture. FourDesign is a faculty-led, student-run digital and print design center based in the School of Visual Arts. The Institute for Community Health is based in the School of Public and International Affairs.

Art and Architecture Library[edit]

The Art and Architecture Library is located in 100 Cowgill Hall on the Blacksburg campus. The library contains a collection of approximately 78,000 volumes and more than 200 journals, which encompass the visual arts, art history, architecture, decorative arts, and design. In addition, the library holds nearly 900 multimedia items, including DVDs, videotapes, and slides, and houses several hundred architectural plans and drawings for in-house use. The library supports the departments and curriculum of the college.

Distinguished Faculty[edit]

Robert Dunay currently serves as Director of the Center for Design Research. He was one of the primary faculty advisors for Virginia Tech’s 2002, 2005, and 2009 entries in the Solar Decathlon Competition sponsored by the Department of Energy.[14]

Markus Breitschmid is an internationally active Swiss architectural theoretician and author on architecture. He has authored several internationally noted books on modern and contemporary architecture and aesthetics, in particular on subjects such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Swiss Architecture, and Valerio Olgiati. Breitschmid's texts have been published in the most prestigious architecture journals such as the Milano-based Casabella, the Madrid-based El Croquis, and the Tokyo-based Architecture + Urbanism (a+u).[15][16]

Ronald Kemnitzer, Chairman Emeriti of the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), holds over 15 U.S. and international patents for his work.[17]

Paul Knox, University Distinguished Professor of urban affairs and planning, was dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning for eight years. While Knox served as dean, the college became one of the top architecture colleges in the nation.[18]

Keith and Marie Zawistowski received a Design Excellence Award from the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects for their Arritt Farm House project in 2009.[19]


The School of Architecture + Design consistently ranks as a top tier Architecture school in the United States. According to 2009 rankings by DesignIntelligence, the journal published by the Design Futures Council and the only national college ranking survey focused exclusively on design, Virginia Tech’s Architecture Program was recognized as one of America’s World-Class Schools of Architecture with highest distinction, tied with Harvard, Yale, and Columbia Universities. The multidimensional DesignIntelligence ranking, was based on five criteria: current rankings by professional practices; historic 10-year rankings by professional practices; rankings by academic department deans and chairs; overall campus environment and student evaluations; and program accreditation.[20]

According to the 2012 DesignIntelligence rankings,[21] Virginia Tech’s undergraduate Architecture program is ranked #3 in the nation. The deans ranked the program #2, citing the program’s “design quality, preparation for professional practice, and collaboration with other majors.” The undergraduate program in Interior Design is tied for #8 nationally. The deans ranked the program #3, citing its “faculty, comprehensive education, and collaborative teaching approach.” The undergraduate Landscape Architecture program is ranked #13 in the nation, and the graduate program is tied for #12. The deans ranked the undergraduate program #4, citing its “excellent resources, good design program, and diversity of students.” The deans’ survey ranked the undergraduate program in Industrial Design #2 in the nation, citing its “emphasis on human factors, comprehensive program, and quality of students.”[22]

The U.S. News & World Report also ranked some of the college’s programs as top in the nation. The graduate urban planning program was ranked seventh in the nation, and the public administration graduate program was ranked twelfth in the nation. In addition, the public affairs program was ranked as twenty-seventh in the nation.[23]

Notable Alumni[edit]

See also[edit]


Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Blacksburg, Virginia

Washington-Alexandria Center




Landscape Architecture


  1. ^ "CAUS". College of Architecture and Urban Studies. Virginia Tech. Retrieved 1 April 2011. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "School of Architecture + Design". Virginia Tech. Retrieved 1 April 2011. 
  4. ^ "NAAB Accredited School Database". NAAB. Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  5. ^ "About the School of Arch/Design". Virginia Tech. 
  6. ^ "School of Visual Arts". Virginia Tech. Retrieved 1 April 2011. 
  7. ^ 6. School of Visual Arts. Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies
  8. ^ "Myers-Lawson School of Construction". Retrieved 1 April 2011. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ "School of Public and International Affairs". Virginia Tech. Retrieved 1 April 2011. 
  11. ^ "About Lumenhaus". Retrieved 3 April 2011. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ American Institute of Architects
  14. ^
  15. ^ Markus Breitschmid
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design
  21. ^ The DesignIntelligence rankings are based on survey responses from 277 private practice organizations that were asked, “In your firm’s hiring experience in the past five years, which of the following schools are best preparing students for success in the profession?” In addition to the school rankings by professionals, deans and chairs from 111 academic programs participated in surveys, the data from which is presented separately from the practitioner rankings. (
  22. ^ Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design
  23. ^ Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies.
  24. ^
  25. ^