Architecture and Design

Peter B. Nelson, CAD 200A

Campus contact person: Peter B. Nelson, Chair of Department of Art and Art History, 

Students interested in Architecture / Urban Design / Sustainable Building should consider a combination of studio, art history, science, and humanities courses in preparation for internships, jobs, and graduate school in architecture (Masters of Architecture or "MArch").

There are many pathways to architecture graduate school. Below are general recommendations and courses available at St. Olaf. It is also possible to design your own pre-architecture curriculum through the Center for Integrative Studies (CIS). Requirements of schools vary; it is wise to check with the schools being considered. Talk with and/or e-mail admissions staff, faculty, and students, and try to visit the schools where you’d like to apply. Meeting St. Olaf alumni who are practicing architects is also highly recommended.

A. General information about the profession and graduate programs

  1. A general liberal arts education is a fine preparation for architecture school.

  2. Architectural practice benefits from courses taken in a wide variety of disciplines, including: history, mathematics and logic, the physical and social sciences, studio art, and art history. 

  3. January term and semester-long study abroad and study away programs offered through the Smith Center for Global Engagement are highly recommended. 

  4. Most architecture schools require a strong portfolio in studio art.

B. General recommendations for graduate architecture programs 

  1. An Art major (with ART 225 Architectural Design I) and Art History courses (ART 161 History of World Architecture, ART 252 Art 1880-1945,  ART 253 Art Since 1945), or 

  2. An Art History major with ample art studio courses (100- and 200-level), or 

  3. Any major plus multiple 100- and 200-level studio art and art history courses, or

  4. A CIS (Center for Integrative Studies) major with an emphasis on architecture, design, and/or sustainability

  5. Your MArch application will include an art portfolio consisting of work from 100- and 200-level foundation courses.

C. St. Olaf recommended courses for graduate architecture programs 

  1. ART 161 History of World Architecture

  2. 200-level European, American, and Asian art history courses

  3. MATH 119 Calculus I with Review/MATH 120 Calculus Iand MATH 126 Calculus II

  4. PHYS 124 Principles of Physics I and PHYS 125 Principles of Physics II or PHYS 130 Analytical Physics I and PHYS 131 Analytical Physics II

  5. Courses in environmental studies and sustainability

  6. Computer science and digital media courses


D. Other Resources to explore 

  1. The Studio Art Alumni page:

  2. The Piper Center:

  3. The Smith Center:

  4. The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSC):

  5. The American Institute of Architects (AIA):

  6. AIA of Minnesota:

  7. An interesting website of links to top architecture sites: