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Architectural Design Program Overview

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Architectural Design

Architecture is concerned with improving and explaining environments by revealing meaning in location, function and structure — enriching and heightening experiences, and, ultimately, improving lives.

Mission Statement

Our world faces enormous challenges. Given these challenges of environmental and climatic change, population growth, and housing and infrastructure needs across the globe, the importance and potential of architecture have never been greater. Further, architecture’s engagement with its potential is dependent, now more than ever, on a broader sense of “environment,” a collaborative approach, attention to concept and detail, and an adept and nimble use of technology.

The Stanford Architectural Design Program leverages the culture of innovation at Stanford, and in the Bay Area, in a multi-disciplinary brand of architectural education that fosters graduates who tackle the broad range of architectural and environmental challenges before us as inventive and environmentally responsible architects, creative and collaborative problem solvers, and active leaders, intellectually and aesthetically, in design and practice.

In addition to preparing students for advanced studies in architecture and construction management, the Architectural Design Program’s strong math and science requirements prepare students well for graduate work in other fields, such as civil and environmental engineering, law, and business. The major provides a background for individuals wanting to explore a diversity of careers in architecture, engineering, construction, and structures.

Stanford Architecture students discuss their decision to declare architecture as their major

This undergraduate major grants a degree of Bachelor of Science in Engineering with a specialization in Architectural Design.

This engineering major is not an ABET accredited engineering degree, nor is it designed to lead directly to professional licensure in architecture. In order to become a professional architect or engineer, additional graduate training is required.

Stanford AD graduates will:

  • Create architecture that is innovative in form and responsibly rooted in place
  • Appreciate design history and theory
  • Be life-long learners and bold, imaginative, risk-taking problem solvers
  • Be immediately effective members of the professions of their choice
  • Know and appreciate the art and the engineering of architecture
  • Be stewards of, and improve, the built environment and human lives
  • Be effective graphic, verbal and written communicators

The AD Program shall:

  • Become a top-tier, nationally known undergraduate architecture program that focuses on excellence in design and multi-disciplinary solutions to architectural and environmental challenges
  • Be cross-disciplinary and collaborative — reaching into CEE, the SoE, the broader campus and the community to provide a range of courses and opportunities and excellence in teaching and scholarship
  • Instill fascination with all parts of architecture from concept to detail
  • Develop and promote leadership and service opportunities for students

Director’s Message

The 20th century architectural historian and preservationist James Marston Fitch wrote that great movements in architecture occur when theory, material and technique are aligned under the pressure of social change. Though he argues these moments are brief and delicate, such a moment indeed may be upon us.

At no time in the past has the way we design and construct buildings changed as quickly as it is now. With states and locales creating policy around theories of “new urbanism” and transit-oriented growth, we are poised to rethink the theory and fabric of our built landscape. New materials, new construction techniques and new software are shortening the design phases, integrating design and construction teams, and compressing construction periods. Finally, people are increasingly wanting to live in urban and semi-urban cores. Last century we became a suburban nation; this century we will become an urban nation. Combining these issues, we find the makings of one of Fitch’s brief and delicate moments; a moment when migration to the core and a focus on green solutions are mixed with a new view of cities and construction.

But there is an added challenge. Studies suggest large population growth in the U.S. and of course around the world. This growth will require housing, places for work, places to shop and infrastructure to support needs. At least one study suggests that 40 percent of buildings that will exist in 2030 do not yet exist.

Given these challenges and opportunities, what we build, how we build it, and where we build it are questions of great magnitude.

Stanford’s Architectural Design program is poised to tackle this challenge. We are located at the academic center of a great university, which is, in turn, at the innovative center of our nation. Bringing together the resources of the School of Engineering and reaching out to the broader university and community, the Architectural Design Program is leveraging our location to innovate a new kind of architecture education that will tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

The Stanford Architectural Design Program is determined to prepare students though scholarship, experience and leadership opportunities to understand the relationships between city, building and human experience and, as our mission states, recognize that in the end, architecture is about improving human lives.

Requirements for the major are listed below for convenience and are provided in the Handbook for Undergraduate Engineering Programs


Three themes inherent in this curriculum are:


Students become experienced with freehand drawing, mechanical drawing, “hands-on” model building, and 3-D and 4-D computer modeling. Freehand sketching provides an efficient means of initiating schematic ideas while computer modeling and analyses allows for the rapid generation and evaluation of the impacts of design decisions. Students create compelling visual presentations utilizing the wide array of representation techniques acquired in this major.


Students learn methodologies to design and construct innovative architectural forms and systems. Students gain an understanding of the entire lifecycle of the collaborative design and construction process. The focus is on thinking clearly, reasoning critically, and documenting and managing the evolution of creative ideas. The success of a design process hinges not only on bold concepts but also on a well devised means of developing and executing these ideas.


Students learn to develop solutions that integrate all the diverse requirements that sustainability demands. Coursework includes topics such as energy systems, ecologically friendly building materials, water conservation, and indoor air quality.

Contact Us

John Barton, Director

Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment & Energy [Y2E2] Building, Room 267
Stanford, California 94305
Phone: (650) 736-8149

Program Office

Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment & Energy [Y2E2] Building, Room 265
Stanford, California 94305
Phone: (650) 725-7488

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment & Energy [Y2E2] Building, Room 316
473 Via Ortega
Stanford, California 94305
Phone: (650) 723-3074