Cowgill Hall, 1980
Student to teacher interaction in interior design class, 1989. Bob Veltri

History of the School of Architecture + Design

The School of Architecture and Design was established to meet the needs of a changing educational focus. Although it has been through many phases and name changes, the principles that have guided the College and the School remain the same. These include but are not limited to a commitment to holistic and heuristic learning, constructive discussions, and student self-activation, pacing, and criticism.

The time between 1947 to 1964 found architecture studies located in the College of Engineering. However, in 1964 the founding Dean for the College of Architecture was named.  Courses included those in architecture, building construction, planning, and art. Education proceeded with experimentation but also emphasized a professional approach to all areas of design.

In 1973, the college changed its name to the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. This change reflected a growing interest in allied fields. During the 1970s, masters’ programs in Environmental Systems and Landscape Architecture were established. At the same time, the Landscape Architecture department was formed. Previously, it was a program within the College.

In 1980, as the College expanded. It opened the Washington Alexandria Architecture Center where students could study landscape architecture, urban design, and architecture—all within an urban environment. In 1993, the Research and Development facility was dedicated in Blacksburg. Its purpose was to support faculty-sponsored research programs throughout the College. Additionally, the architecture program was re-organized as a department.

In 2003, the College was restructured, and during that time, Art and Art History joined the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. Three programs were added to the College roster: Landscape Architecture, Industrial Design, and Interior Design. The Landscape Architecture program was moved from a department within the College to a program within the School. The addition of these programs led to the new school name: School of Architecture + Design.

In 2007 the programs in art and art history were organized into the School for Visual Arts. The department of Building Construction was established as the Myers Lawson School of Construction. This School collaborates with the Civil Engineering department in the School of Engineering.

2018 saw the change in Dean and a new direction for the College and School. In the summer of 2020, Aaron Betsky was named Director of the School of Architecture + Design. With his arrival, changes occurred in the School’s offices. Programs in Landscape Architecture, Industrial Design, and Interior Design now have their offices within the college’s building.

As the School and College enter a new era of administration, emphasis will be on inclusion, diversity, sustainability, resilience, and research. Faculty will be encouraged to share teaching and research interests with their colleagues from different programs within the college and university.

While recognizing tradition, the School aims to place itself at the forefront of meeting the needs and aspirations of the communities it serves.

Student to teacher interaction in interior design class, 1989. Bob Veltri