Architecture has been an integral part of education at Carnegie Mellon University since 1905. The School was founded as a particularly American fusion of the Parisan art school Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Ecole Polytechnique, which trained engineers.
Carnegie Tech's first Professor of Architecture, Henry Hornbostel, was himself a student at the Paris Ecole des Beaux-Arts (in 1895–97). Hornbostel graduated in 1891 from the School of Mines of Columbia University and soon after began a successful architectural practice with William Palmer. In addition to the regular daytime education, a night school was established which was "particularly adapted for training in architectural design of students already employed as draftsmen in the offices of architects". Fifty-eight students attended the first night course in Architecture in 1906.
Beaux Arts Tradition The Architecture curriculum was four years in length with the first year taken in common with students in the School of Applied Science (Math, Physics, Chemistry, Drawing, and Shop Practice). In the next three years, design courses were complemented with practical training courses such as plumbing, masonry/ bricklaying, and electrical wiring. The Architectural Program was "patterned after the Atelier system of Paris, France, with modifications adapted to American needs." In 1908, the departmental "Beaux Arts Chair" was established, which was to be filled with a graduate of the Paris Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
Several scholarships were offered for each year, the most coveted of which were the Paris and Rome prizes (the first for three years of study at the Ecole, the second for three years of study at the American Academy in Rome). Since French language ability was necessary for successful study at the Paris Ecole, two years of French language study was required at Carnegie Tech until 1928, when the requirement was changed to a "Modern Language", and later became optional.
In 1912, structural engineering was added to the curriculum; a necessary corrective in the country which had invented the steel frame skyscraper and whose major commissions involved an increasing number of high rise office buildings and industrial structures. In 1912–13, Carnegie Technical Schools (a diploma-granting institution) became Carnegie Institute of Technology with the authority to award academic degrees. Sculptural Modeling was a part of the Architectural curriculum from the beginning and remained so into the 1930's by the sculptor, August Zeller, who had studied at the Paris Ecole and with Rodin. By 1912, a typically Beaux Arts curriculum had been established, notable for the emphasis, in addition to Architectural Design, on the various aspects of drawing and modeling and on history (and notable for the relative neglect of structural theory and structural materials). Until 1916, when Hornbostel provided for a handsome Library Hall for the Arts within CFA, students had to use the Carnegie Library in Oakland.
There had been a few women in the day course almost from the beginning, never more than one or two admitted in any class. That pattern continued into the 1930's, with several years in the late 20's in which there were no women graduates. By 1922, there were two career options in the department, in addition to a small graduate program allowing students to earn an M.Arch degree for a year of advanced design work with a thesis project. Option 1, leading to a B.A. in Architecture, was for a career in Architectural Design. Option 2, ending in a B.S., emphasized construction processes as distinguished from the aesthetic and artistic. Courses in Commercial Law and the making of working drawings were added to the curriculum, as was a course in Professional Ethics and Office Organization, taught by members of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the AIA and occasionally by the peripatetic Hornbostel.
Wartime By the end of the 40's, the teaching of Architectural Design did not emphasize the Beaux Arts established principles of beauty and order, but the observation of human behavior and needs in relation to the human environment. The 1939–40 catalogue stated that education must be directed more toward "self realization and realistic practice of architecture in a changing and industrial world". "Habits of investigation and discovery" were to be encouraged. "It is not the meritorious drawings of collegiate days that count but the ability to investigate and correlate parts of the problem." During WWII, a four year course in Architectural Engineering was introduced and most of the Art courses were eliminated in an effort to train students to build temporary war time structures "not expected to be beautiful or permanent." No new students were to be admitted to this program after the end of the war. Following the war, Department Head, John Knox Shear, introduced formally listed visiting critics including alumni Mario Celli and John Schurko, and lecturers in special fields such as landscaping. Landscape planning was offered as a course in the early 1960's. In the mid 1960's, an experimental urban design program was offered, but lasted for only a few years. Kenneth Johnstone, Dean of CFA from 1945–52, introduced a two-year Liberal Arts sequence. Department Head Shear emphasized the student's ability to communicate "What he learns, thinks, and wants" both verbally and graphically.
Distinguished Visitors In the 1960s, under the direction of Paul Schweikher, the undergraduate program was a five-year, fixed-length program. As was common elsewhere during this period, it consisted of an introductory year of basic design followed by four years of architectural design. A long list of distinguished visitors and lecturers were introduced during Paul Schweiker's tenure (1956–69) including George Collins (Columbia), Robert Engman (Yale), Jane Jacobs, Louis Kahn, Kevin Lynch, Thomas Maldonado, Sibyl Moholy Nagy, Herbert Ohl (Ulm), Nelson Wu (CMU M.Arch '51), Pierre Zoelly (Zurich), and Ludwig Meis van der Rohe.
In 1967, the Carnegie Institute of Technology merged with the privately sponsored Mellon Institute of Research on Fifth Avenue and became Carnegie Mellon University.
Four-Level Program In the 1970s and into the 1980s with Delbert Highlands, Robert Taylor, and Louis Sauer as head, the program developed into a four-level, variable-length program. Distinctive characteristics of the program during these years were: the introductory course in architecture, which was developed as an alternative to courses in basic design; the four-level design sequence which defined skills necessary for advancement through the program; the technology sequence which structured architectural technology in a manner parallel to architecture design; and the possibility (never more than 10–15% of all students) of completing the program in a period of four years.
Delbert Highlands, who was Department Head from 1969–75, began a Master of Architecture Program in the early 1970s, admitting students with Bachelors Degrees in other fields to a three year first Professional Architectural Degree Program. Highlands appointed many young graduates to the Architecture Department faculty. Among those appointed were Frank Adkins, Louis Gilberti, Gordon Ketterer, Arne Larson, Roger Mallory, Richard Pohlman, John Ritzu, and Andrew Tesoro, who all taught design. Adjunct instructors included Walter Boykowycz, Michael Hull, Ann Ketterer, and Leonard Perfido. Louis Sauer, Department Head from 1978 - 81, developed, with help from Omer Akin, a new semi autonomous structure for the first Professional Degree Masters Program. One of its more interesting components is a design/build studio in which students, guided by architect Michael Chirigos, (B.Arch '56) carry a small building project through construction.
Five-Year Program Omer Akin became Department Head in 1981 a position he held until 1988. After nearly a decade of experimentation with the level system, Omer Akin introduced a fixed five year B.Arch curriculum, which is still in place today.
After acting Department Heads Ulrich Flemming and Irving Oppenheim, John Eberhard was appointed Head of Architecture in 1989, stepping down as director of the Building Research Board of the National Academy of Science to take the position. With the support of Associate Head Douglas Cooper, the program was revised to build stronger coursework in the areas of history, technology, and design sciences, by relying upon pre-requisite coursework within other departments of Carnegie Mellon. John Eberhard reinforced the graduate programs in the Department and strengthened the commitment to research, both fundamental and applied. The M.Arch program was discontinued in 1992 to ensure the strength of commitment to the B.Arch. and MS/PhD programs.
Studio Sequence In the fall of 1994, Vivian Loftness was appointed Head of the Department and was joined by Bruce Lindsey as Associate Head in 1995. Building on the curricular efforts led by Doug Cooper and all of the full-time faculty, a revised curriculum was adopted that called for creative, technical, environmental, and historical competence. At the heart of the curriculum is a studio sequence organized around critical knowledge areas: Design, Drawing and Digital Media, History and Theory, Technology, and Practice. In 1998, the Department of Architecture was re-designated the Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture to reflect the strength of its conservatory-based professional practice degree program.
In the summer of 2004, Laura Lee was appointed Head of the School. With a background in teaching design studio, interdisciplinary arts, and professional practice, Lee’s vision was to develop a center of excellence for integrated design.
In the summer of 2008, Steve Lee was appointed Interim Head. As a member of the faculty for over 25 years, Lee brings a background in sustainable design and design/build to the position. Lee’s mandates are to chair the search for the next head, enrich the critical and intellectual framework of the school, and to build a strong sense of community.