Studio Culture Policy


In the School of Architecture and School of Design at Virginia Tech, priority is given to a unique environment that directly contributes to the student’s architectural education and to the initiation of a life-long pursuit of learning. The goal of the School is to make an environment where students learn to take responsibility for their own education with the guidance of the faculty and within a holistic framework. The faculty is primarily responsible for establishing the necessary environment for the student’s educational growth. The faculty opens the intellectual horizons that challenge the student to continually expand and deepen their critical understanding of the discipline of architecture.

The Design Laboratory

  • Both the students and the faculty have a responsibility to contribute to making the laboratory an environment that is respectful of individuals, shares in the intellectual life of the school, and is conducive to disciplined work.
  • The laboratory is an environment in which the multiple facets of the student’s formal education are brought into discourse with one another.
  • The Schools recognize that adequate time must be allowed for such an educational process to take place. The faculty carefully assess and structure the requirements of the work assigned to students so as to give the students adequate time for a committed investigation of the inherent complexities of each project.
  • At all stages of the design process architectural education requires the ability to think clearly and coherently, to form sound opinions and to make sensible judgments as part of an ongoing process. The form of this thought and the values established is made evident in writing, discussion, representation, and making.
  • The Schools expect students to develop a sense of self-reliance and independence; to discipline themselves towards diligence in their working habits; to give full attention to the quality of their work; and to adapt to different lab environments. The Schools encourage the development of healthy work habits, creativity for what it can offer to the broader dialogue taking place in the lab, and an open attitude to constructive criticism and advice.
  • Students should recognize that the most valuable insights emerge from within their ongoing dialogue with the work, not from judgment on the finished project. The Schools emphasize ongoing dialogue and discussion rather than final judgment. An important component of the laboratory will be regular group discussions of the students’ ongoing design work and more public discussions in the form of exhibitions. Each discussion is primarily intended not as a critique of the student by the faculty, but as a mutual dialogue about architecture.
  • Students are encouraged to think of all the faculty of the Schools as “their” faculty, and not only their particular lab instructor. Interaction between students in separate labs and between students in separate years of the program is encouraged.
  • The weekly routine of design lab will be infused with lectures and presentations by an array of faculty and visitors. Students are expected to attend as many of these presentations as possible, and to participate in the discussions that they initiate.
  • All students are encouraged to establish a trajectory of investigation that will sustain a continuing creative life within the profession.
  • The Schools believe that the continuing health and development of the discipline of architecture demands students who are capable of critical thought about the principles and practice of their profession.
  • The Schools believe that every student’s work has the capacity to influence future growth and innovation within the discipline.
  • While the laboratory and its supporting facilities provide immense opportunities for innovation and exploration, these spaces require the respect of all. The Schools expect students, faculty, and staff to assist in maintaining the cleanliness and functionality of spaces and equipment. These include, but are not limited to, the design laboratories, lobbies, classrooms, print labs, shops, restrooms, and exterior building perimeters at all sites.

This Studio Culture Policy is an evolving document. The Schools encourage the submission of comments and constructive suggestions to the academic advisors, program chairs, Associate Director or Director of the School of Architecture and School of Design for consideration, review, and/or implementation.

More Information

For more information on the nationwide discussion on “studio culture,” please see the following publications by the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS):

COVID-19 Update – Fall 2020

Last updated: Aug. 2022