Inside Architecture + Design

One-week, Hands-on Summer Program for High School Students

inside ARCHITECTURE + DESIGN is a week-long experience for high school students who are curious about the world of design. High school students entering grades 10-12 can participate in this hands-on summer program to discover what it might be like to study architecture and design, and, in the process, learn more about university life. Now in its 20th year, the iA program has been moved online for 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The course is offered to rising 10th, 11th, and 12th graders.

NOTE: Registration for the 2020 online offering is closed.


inside ARCHITECTURE + DESIGN is an incisive introduction into the ways in which designers think and work. For individuals considering the world of design, this program cracks open the excitement and opportunities of architecture and related design disciplines. Primarily a hands-on experience, students work with long time educators and practitioners in exercises designed to stimulate discussion and discovery of issues affecting the professions. No prior course or subject experience is necessary, just the initiative to break the bounds of conventional modes of thinking.

Over its twenty-year history, the course has been refined and amplified to give high school students one of the best week-long experiences of architecture and design. Faculty learn with the students and adjust coursework based on discoveries from each successive class. The course is modeled around the curriculums of the nationally ranked programs in the School of Architecture + Design (architecture, industrial design, interior design and landscape architecture).

university life

The course is designed to give participants an intense look into the university setting and the workings of the design studio. Students live and dine in college facilities and cross the campus lawn each morning from the dormitory to the studios in the architecture building. Much of the work is aligned with projects offered in the first year of design studio of the undergraduate program, and inside ARCHITECTURE + DESIGN students work along side students enrolled in the summer design studio.

Though the design fields are professional disciplines, the tenants of the curriculum are anchored in the belief of design as a way of life. A brief glimpse of the philosophical underpinnings of the educational studio experience can be found at Dunay-Inform1-09.pdf

While the 2020 course will be happening online through the ZOOM platform, we will provide glimpses into aspects of campus. Students will be exposed to a number of collaborative digital tools allow the development of community and interaction between students as they work through a series of design exercises, lectures, discussions, and tutorials.

course content

The course is divided into two sessions involving studies of materials and process leading to the development of form, and model building as means to explore spatial conditions. Working with various materials and organizational principles, a basic understanding of design is linked to contemporary works of architecture and the related fields of industrial design, interior design and landscape architecture. Here students explore the intuitive, problem framing modes of design. Emphasis is placed on formulation new visions and the richness of ambiguity through conceptual thinking. Additional hands-on projects engage more rational objective of design. Operating from a different virtual studio environment, students learn first-hand the potentials and limitations of teamwork and collaboration.

the instructors

Donna Dunay, FAIA, is G. T. Ward Professor of Architecture at Virginia Tech and Chair of the International Archive of Women in Architecture. She has conducted extensive research and field work concerning patterns of development and community structure. Her work has been recognized with three statewide Excellence in Architecture Awards from the American Institute of Architects and a Distinguished Planning Award from the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association.

Robert J. Dunay, FAIA, ACSA Distinguished Professor is Director of the Center for Design Research. A generalist in pedagogy and practice, his work and interests have ranged from planning and architecture to graphics and product design. He served as a primary faculty advisor for the 2002, 05 and 10 Virginia Tech entries in the Solar Decathlon Competition sponsored by the Dept. of Energy. LumenHAUS, the most recent project, won the Solar Decathlon-Europe Competition in Madrid, Spain. Other contributions include testimony before Congress regarding national energy issues, the design of a house for the TV show Extreme Makeover/Home Edition.

Dr. Nathan King is a Co-Director of the Center for Design Research (CDR) at Virginia Tech where he teaches courses related to Design Technology and Social Impact and design studios in Architecture and Industrial Design programs. King is Senior Industry Engagement Manager for the Autodesk Technology Centers where he develops research collaborations between Industry, Design Practice, and Academia. In practice, Nathan works to apply advanced technologies in resource limited settings for the production healthcare and education infrastructure and was recently appointed as National Healthcare Infrastructure Advisor to the Ministry of Health in Zambia.

Martin Angst is an educator, researcher, and entrepreneur in the fields of digital fabrication and design robotics. He most recently has been teaching courses on computational design and digital manufacturing with applications in architecture and industrial design at Virginia Tech. His involvement in technologically-driven research in architecture began during his studies in Germany and at Virginia Tech, including collaboration on the Lo-Fab Pavilion in Boston. As co-founder of Rendyr, Inc. his work has ranged from raising startup capital through national competitions, accelerators, and investments to developing and commercializing products that increase access to digital fabrication and rapid prototyping for Higher Ed, Maker Spaces, and design professionals.

James Wood is a graduate of the Virginia Tech B.Arch program. There he was awarded the European Residency Scholarship and nominated for the thesis award. Since graduating he has straddled professional and academic interests, maintaining a foothold carrying out design research at Virginia Tech while getting experience at high profile architecture offices across the country. James believes design is at its best when integrating formal, constructive and social contradictions. He will be pursuing these interests further as an M.Arch candidate at Princeton University this fall. In addition to the design disciplines, James has experience in the fields of music and photography.


With reluctance, inside Architecture + Design, scheduled for June and July, 2020 has been canceled. Given the national emergency, we must defer on the side of health and safety. Click here to read a letter from the program faculty regarding the decision to cancel this year.

inside Architecture + Design instructors have decided to offer the course as an online opportunity this summer. The course will be offered during the week of July 13 – 17. We will start on Monday at 12:00 noon ET (9:00 am PT) and proceed until 2:00 pm ET. The next two hours will be dedicated to working on exercises and taking a break. We will then re-convene at 4:00 pm ET until 5:30 pm ET (2:30 PT) for the closing session each day. This will be the pattern for the week and hopefully will work with the widest audience.

Students who had previously enrolled in the on-campus courses that were to be offered earlier in the summer will be given priority enrollment. However, everyone in grades 9 -12 are welcome. The course will be offered through zoom, thus a computer with internet access is necessary.

The fee for the week-long course is $280. If you are interested, please go here to register.

A link to pay for registration will be available on the page after registration is submitted as well as emailed to you to confirm registration. Email Robert Dunay ( if you have any questions.

NOTE: Registration is closed for the 2020 instantiation of iA+D


  • Transportation to and from Virginia Tech: All transportation is up to the student/families to get to Virginia Tech. The program does not provide any transport on or off campus. The closest airport is the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport. You can contact the airport to set up transportation to Virginia Tech from there — or services like Uber and Lyft are available. On days other than Sunday, the Smart Way Bus runs to/from Roanoke/Blacksburg.
  • Scholarship/Financial Aid: We’re unable to provide financial support from the program. We try and keep the cost as low as possible. In the past, participants have found local companies to sponsor their fee to the program, and if that is the case, we’re more than happy to work with them to get the payment through.
  • A general schedule: This is a basic day – breakfast in the dining hall, studio starts at 10:00am, lunch break, studio 1-5, dinner break, studio 7-9, then back to the dorms. Friday there is an exhibition and should be finished by 3pm when you can check out of the dorms.
  • Dorm/Meal Questions: Can be directed to Conference and Guest Services, bed linens and towels will be provided – you’re welcome to bring extra/your own, 24/7 check in can be found at New Hall West, Suite 134 if you arrive early/late or are leaving early.
  • What to wear: Check the forecast, wear what is comfortable for you
  • Laptop/Cellphones: You’re welcome to bring laptops/cellphones though they’re not required for the course. Wifi information will be given out by Conference and Guest Services at check-in
  • Supply List: A supply list will be provided closer to the program date. Mentioned on the supply list is a matt knife with snap off blade this is an example, only one knife is needed and any brand is fine. If you have trouble finding items on your list or are unable to fly with the items feel free to ship it to our office ahead of time (Attn: Taylor Cupp, 1325 Perry Street, 201 Cowgill Hall (0205), Blacksburg, VA 24061) and make sure it is clearly labeled who the supplies are for or there is a local supply store that will have most of what is on the list that you’ll be able to pick up items on Sunday (1pm-5pm) called Mish Mish.
  • Local Hotels: The closest hotel to Cowgill Hall is the Inn at Virginia Tech. There are a number around that same area, a simple search of Blacksburg Hotel should help you find something in the price range you’re looking for. Any Blacksburg hotel will have an easy commute to campus.
  • Parking on Campus: During the week a parking pass will be required. We will provide parking passes for Friday’s exhibition at dorm check in on Sunday. If you’re unable to pick up a parking pass on Sunday, you will be able to pick one up on your way in at the Virginia Tech visitor’s center. If you are a student commuting to campus or driving to campus to leave your car, you will need to use the parking pass the whole week.
  • Unable to attend the entire week: Please know you will get the most out of the week if you are there start to finish. However, this is your camp and your time, so if you need to leave early or come in late for any reason, just let us know ahead of time so we can know when to expect you or know that you’re planning on leaving early.
  • Wait list: Students are let in off the wait list as they were registered on it. You will be contacted if a spot becomes available, typically spots do not open up until after the final payment deadline has past and students decommit. If it is after the payment deadline (May 1st) you will be required to pay the full amount within 24 hours of the spot offered. Please do not email/call and ask what spot you are on the wait list, you will be contacted when you’re next in line and a spot is available.
  • Behavior: One of the goals of inside Architecture + Design is to give participants real time experience of a college design student at Virginia Tech – in the studios, in the dorm and dining facilities as well. This offers freedom that requires personal responsibility at all times while on campus. It is expected that participating students will behave in a mature and professional manner.
  • Supervision: Studio time generally runs from 10am to 9pm. Students should return to the dorm at night when the evening session is finished. inside Architecture + Design staff members will be staying in the dorms to respond to emergencies or other issues that may arise. They do not serve as monitors checking rooms or the coming and goings of students. Behavior infringing on others well being or compromising the intent of the program is not tolerated.
  • Refund policy: The deposit will be refunded if withdrawal occurs three weeks before start of course. Remaining tuition will be refunded if requested one week before the start of the course.

2020 VTNews article about inside Architecture + Design

2017 VTNews article about inside Architecture + Design