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Architectural Design Program Overview

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 Welcome

The twentieth 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 rethinking the theory and fabric of our built landscape. New materials, new construction techniques, and new software are shortening the design phases, integrating the design and construction teams and compressing construction periods. Finally, people increasingly want to live in urban and semi-urban cores – though that trend may be blunted by the effects of the global pandemic. Covid notwithstanding, last century we became a suburban nation; this century we have 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 sustainable solutions are mixed with a new view of cities and construction.

But there are added challenges. Studies suggest large population growth in the US 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% of buildings that will exist in 2030 do not yet exist. Further, we are in the midst of the greatest pandemic in over a century. As people shelter at home, the fabric and economy of the city, and the world, has changed and will continue to change. Finally, our students have changed. They are more diverse, more focused on a broad-based education and demanding new ways of teaching.

Given these challenges and opportunities, what we build, how we build it, and where we build it are questions of great magnitude. And how we prepare students to become leaders in remaking cities is crucial.

Stanford Architecture is tackling these challenges. 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, Stanford Architecture leverages our position to innovate a new kind of architecture education that will solve the challenges of the 21st century.

As a result, our program is unlike most undergraduate architecture programs. Academically, it links engineering and design in new ways. It is also flexible; students can tailor their courses to their interests and future educational plans. We believe strongly in the idea of an educational community that honors what each student brings. We believe in student wellness and eschew traditional architectural education rituals such as all-nighters and a laser focus on studio classes. We believe in an ever-changing balance amongst Academics, Community and Wellness that supports the whole student and their many communities. 

Architecture of course teaches design, but it also teaches the skills of life-long learning, a comfort with ambiguity, the ability to give and receive constructive criticism, public speaking, and graphic representations of complex ideas and collaboration skills. These are the skills of the 21st century taught in an environment that mimics what we see as the future of the profession. 

Stanford Architecture is determined to prepare students though scholarship, experience and leadership opportunities to understand the relationships between city, building and human experience and recognize that, in the end, architecture is about improving human lives.

John Barton
John Barton, Stanford Architecture Program Director

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