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Minor in Architectural Studies 

The minor in architectural studies combines course work in art history, which equips students to analyze the form and changing history of the built environment in diverse cultures, places, and times, with up to three courses on architectural or urban topics offered in any department. Thus the minor enables students to enrich art historical analysis with methods from other disciplines. A student might choose to minor in architectural studies because the student is interested in the built environment—the inescapable setting of our lives—from a liberal arts perspective or because the student is considering applying to architecture school. The minor could represent an interest distinct from the student's major or it could complement a major in the social sciences or humanities by exploring the material setting of history and social life or the context for works of literature, film, music, or drama. It could equally complement a major in the sciences, such as medical fields, ecology, geology, physics, or mathematics. 

Prospective minors need to meet with the Department of Art History’s Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) before the end of the third year to discuss their interests and course plans and to obtain advice and approval. Together the student and the DUS will fill out the Minor Program Application Form listing the intended courses, which the DUS signs. The student should download the form from the Art History website and submit the completed, signed version to his or her College advisor before the end of the third year. As students complete the minor, they and the DUS will track their progress, including any changes to their initial plan, on the minor program worksheet available for download on the Art History website.


The minor in architectural studies requires a total of six courses at the 20000-level chosen in consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, all of which must either focus on the built environment or permit the student to devote the assignments or papers to the built environment. A minimum of three courses must be in the Department of Art History. The additional three courses may be taken in Art History or in other departments or programs. Some of the programs that may offer relevant courses are Geographical Sciences, Environmental and Urban Studies, Visual Arts, History, English Language and Literature, and Anthropology.

Lists of past and current courses that have already been approved for program credit are posted on the departmental website for the architectural studies minor. To be approved for program credit, courses should meet these criteria: (1) the subject matter should include some attention to buildings and/or the arrangement of buildings and landscape elements in space; (2) the assignments must allow the student to study the built environment. If you have questions, please contact the Architectural Studies faculty advisor Katherine Taylor (, including the course description and, if possible, the syllabus.

In one of the courses, students must also write one research paper of about 10 to 15 pages on a topic chosen with and guided by the instructor, by individual arrangement at the start of the quarter. A research paper can be:

  • a paper written to fulfill a course assignment,
  • the extension of a shorter course paper (either during the course or after its completion) to meet the page requirement, or
  • a new paper on a topic chosen in consultation with the instructor. 

The paper should include an analysis of existing scholarship and other relevant source materials. The paper should also draw on that scholarship and evidence to shape and support a thesis or argument of the student's own devising. Formal analyses of works of art and analytic papers on materials assembled by the instructor do not qualify. On completion of a research paper, students must submit an approval form, signed by the course instructor, to the Director of Undergraduate Studies. It is the student's responsibility to obtain this signature and to submit the form. Approval forms are available on the Art History website

Minors are strongly encouraged to take ARTH 20700 Understanding the Built Environment when available. Minors may elect to take ARTH 29600 Junior Seminar: Doing Art History, for which they would research and write an essay on a topic of their choice instead of preparing a BA Paper proposal. This option is particularly suitable for minors interested in doing graduate work in architectural history.

Graduate seminars at the 40000-level may count toward requirements. Students are advised, however, that such courses impose special burdens of time and expertise, and admission to them is typically only by explicit approval of the instructor and may involve various prerequisites.

Courses in the minor may not be double counted with the student's major(s) or with other minors. Courses in the minor must be taken for quality grades, and more than half of the requirements for the minor must be met by registering for courses bearing University of Chicago course numbers.

Summary of Requirements for the Minor in Architectural Studies

Three (3) courses at the 20000-level in ARTH focusing on the built environment *300
Three (3) courses at the 20000-level in ARTH or other departments focusing on the built environment300
One (1) 10-to-15-page research paper written for one of the six courses in the minor
Total Units600

The following faculty members in art history specialize in architectural history: Niall Atkinson, Wei-Cheng Lin, and Katherine Fischer Taylor. Many other faculty members in art history have an interest in the built environment and will support students writing papers on architecture; students are welcome to ask their instructors.

For more information about the minor in architectural studies, please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Art History at Information about architecture-related programs, events, and resources is available on the Art History website. Students are also invited to join the architecture listserv for new events and announcements; contact a department administrator to be added.

Architectural Studies Courses

ARCH 20000. Understanding the Built Environment. 100 Units.

This course aims to equip students with the basic skills and knowledge required to analyse architecture and the urban environment. It offers an introduction to the methods and procedures of the architectural historian. These include practical tasks such as understanding architectural terminology, reading and interpreting architectural drawings, engaging with buildings 'on site', and studying buildings in context through urban design issues, such as street networks and public spaces. At a broader level, the course will involve critical discussions about the relationship between architecture and society, the building as a historical object, cultural representations of architecture, and modes of perceiving/experiencing the built environment. The course will operate through a combination of in-class seminars and site visits to buildings in Chicago. This course is specifically geared to introducing the fundamentals of architectural history to those undergraduate students seeking a minor in architectural studies. However, MA and PhD students in other fields are welcome to register.

Instructor(s): K. Taylor     Terms Offered: Autumn
Note(s): In the second weekly session, the class will often meet off-campus at sites throughout the city. Students will need to be able to get to these sites in plenty of time, and therefore should not have other classes directly before or after.
Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 30700, ARTH 20700

ARCH 24190. Imagining Chicago's Common Buildings. 100 Units.

This class is an architectural studio based in the common residential buildings of Chicago and the city's built environment. While design projects and architectural skills will be the focus of the class, it will also incorporate readings, a small amount of writing, some social and geographical history, and several explorations around Chicago. The studio will: (1) give students interested in pursuing architecture or the study of cities experience with a studio class and some skills related to architectural thinking, (2) acquaint students intimately with Chicago's common residential buildings and built fabric, and (3) situate all this within a context of social thought about residential architecture, common buildings, housing, and the city. Please note: the class has required meetings on both Tuesdays (5-6:20) and Fridays (2:30-5:50, with a break) beginning on Tuesday October 2nd. This course is part of the College Course Cluster program: Urban Design.

Instructor(s): L. Joyner     Terms Offered: Autumn
Note(s): Consent is required to enroll in this class. Interested students should email the instructor (Luke Joyner, to briefly explain their interest and any previous experience with the course topics. Please note: The course has required meetings on both Tuesdays (5-6:20 p.m.) and Fridays (2:30-5:50 p.m., with a break) beginning on Tuesday October 1. Students must attend first class to confirm enrollment.
Equivalent Course(s): ENST 24190, GEOG 24190, AMER 24190, ARTH 24190, ARTV 20210

ARCH 24191. City Imagined, City Observed. 100 Units.

This urban design studio course takes two distinct notions of the city as its starting point: grand, imaginative plans -- utopian, unbuilt, semi-realized, real... both as aesthetic objects, and as ideas -- and how the minute flows of day-to-day life, up from the smallest scale, enter into dialogue with little built and lived details, intended or not. With Chicago as context and canvas, we will dream both big and small, search both present and past, and draw precisely on both what we dream and what we experience... seeking not to dictate what the city will be, but to expand our sense of what a city can be. The studio work will proceed in two stages: individually developing ideal city plans, then breaking each others' plans, using real observations and factors (and even spontaneous impulse) to complicate and rebuild them into something lovelier.

Instructor(s): L. Joyner     Terms Offered: Winter
Note(s): Consent is required to enroll in this class. Priority will be given to students who have completed ARTH 24190.
Equivalent Course(s): ENST 24191, AMER 24191, ARTH 24191, ARTV 20205, GEOG 24191

ARCH 24195. Architecture on Display. 100 Units.

This traveling seminar explores the challenges of exhibiting architecture and the built environment, a medium whose scale resists traditional museum and gallery display and whose representation in drawings is notoriously difficult for the public to grasp - but nonetheless is increasingly embraced by museums and biennales. Our central example is "Countryside: Future of the World," an exhibit on the future of the global hinterland at Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York, which we will visit. The latest of several provocative exhibitions by contemporary architect Rem Koolhaas, it instantiates a recent phenomenon of interpretive and thematic shows by architects that exceed the museum's traditional aim to represent architect-designed buildings and projects. In addition to examining Koolhaas's work, we will investigate architectural display in two broader contexts: other types of contemporary architectural exhibition, particularly examples we can visit in Chicago and New York, and the history of architectural display through drawings, models, mock-ups, fragments, virtual reality, and buildings converted into museums in their own right, from tenements to the Robie House. Students will write research papers. The course includes a class trip to New York over a long weekend during the quarter, Thursday evening to Sunday.

Instructor(s): K. Taylor     Terms Offered: Spring
Note(s): This is a traveling seminar and instructor consent is required.
Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 34195, ARTH 24195

ARCH 24196. Second Nature: New Models for the Chicago Park District. 100 Units.

The Chicago Park District seems to preserve "first nature" within the metropolitan field. But the motive for establishing this sovereign territory was hardly natural. Today, cultural change raises questions about the significance and operation of this immense network of civic spaces. What opportunities emerge as we rethink them? While this design studio focuses on the development of new model parks for Chicago, it can support students coming from a broad range of disciplines. Texts, seminar discussions, and field trips will complement and nourish the development of architectural proposals.

Instructor(s): A. Schachman     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): GEOG 24196, ARTV 20206, ENST 24196, ARTH 24196

ARCH 25105. Chichen Itza. 100 Units.

This course investigates the visual culture of Chichen Itza, one of ancient Mesoamerica's most cosmopolitan cities. Thriving in the centuries after the collapse of the lowland Maya kingdoms, the city of Chichen Itza articulated a new political and cosmological vision of authority, drawing on traditions from all over Mesoamerica, past and present, to create an innovative visual synthesis. This course will investigate Chichen Itza's most famous architectural and sculptural monuments in the light of new epigraphic and chronological discoveries, paying close attention to questions of innovation, repetition, and serial production.

Instructor(s): C. Brittenham     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): This is a traveling seminar; we will go to Chichen Itza and related sites in Mexico between Dcember 14-21, 2019. Please email the course instructor, explaining your interest in and preparation for the course. Students who are interested in the course but unable to travel should also contact the instructor.
Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 25105, ARTH 35105, LACS 25105, LACS 35105

ARCH 26711. Florentine Topographies: Art, Architecture, and Urban Life in the Italian Renaissance City. 100 Units.

The site of some of the most widely recognizable monuments of western art history and the home to some of the most famous artists, writers, designers, thinkers, and cultural patrons of early modern culture, Florence has long occupied a central place in a larger pan-European discourse of Modernity, Beauty, and the Individual Subject. As a result, the city itself has come to occupy a mythic position as a central hub of Western intellectual culture: uprooted from its geographical specificity by the circulation of such proper names as Machiavelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and unmoored from its historical heritage by the disorienting complexities of modern mass tourism. Therefore, this course seeks to re-integrate the "Renaissance" into the urban context from which it emerged, to defamiliarize it so that it can be looked at from other perspectives. It focuses on the city itself as the protagonist of some of the most important experiments in art, architecture, and urban development and shows how they were intimately connected to a lively and engaged social body. By approaching images and monuments through the spatial practices by which they were encountered by Renaissance society (rituals of conflict, contests, economic exchange, religious devotion, urban politics, identity formation, among others), students will gain a more nuanced understanding of the links between a localized urban culture and a larger intercultural and cross-temporal exchange of ideas.

Instructor(s): N. Atkinson     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): ARTH 36711, ARTH 26711


Undergraduate Primary Contact

Director of Undergraduate Studies
Megan Sullivan
CWAC 272

Administrative Contacts

Department Assistant
E. Evan Hayes
CWAC 166

Department Administrator
Alyssa Padilla-Drexler
CWAC 160