University of Virginia: School of Architecture


Faculty Chair: Iñaki Alday

News from the Dept. of Architecture, Fall 2015


Iñaki Alday, Quesada Professor and Chair of the Department of Architecture, UVa

The purpose of this article is to reflect about the current position of the architecture program at the University of Virginia, from the position of Chair and Professor, but also as a practicing architect (a craftsman, as Richard Sennett defines it) coming from a culture in which the blend of practice and education starts as undergraduate student, and continues as practitioner and professor. In this double condition, with this trajectory, I have had the fortune of getting a good understanding the power of the profession and, also, the challenges.

Architecture operates as part of a larger aspiration, built in the DNA of the university, related to the awareness and commitment to the public realm, to the public mission of architecture. This commitment raises questions about the relation of the discipline with the larger society and forces to position ourselves in front of the recent history and currents in architectural education, to identify the critical challenges of our specific time and to state some of the structural drivers with which we are operating. Furthermore, this commitment implies the ambition of taking a transformative role in the contemporary world, overcoming the split that three main tendencies have produced: the autonomy of architecture, the neglect of design in favor of social activism, and the populism in the market with an architecture that is a-critical and alien to its cultural dimension.

I will elaborate briefly on the three tendencies.

The autonomy of architecture as a piece of art, or as a language of its own, has reduced its capacity to respond to the complexity of the environment (social, political, physical, ecological…), creating a distance between society and “legitimate” architecture.

The political re-evaluation of modern architecture hasn’t meant the abandon of political ambitions in young and senior architects. The social activism based in the bottom-up after the crisis of the ‘60s, described by Mary McLeod and Joan Ockman (1), has neglected the disciplinary expertise of the designer. Moreover, a serious risk appears: architecture becoming an act of almost individual charity.

The survival of architecture in the market through professional corporate practice, distant from the academia and the intellectual discourse, has generally needed to drop the cultural and critical mission of the tradition of modern architecture. An important part of it, the historic postmodernism, has used a false cultural surface that has degenerated to what we see everyday in the malls, suburban offices and highway hotels.

Therefore, claiming the recovery of architecture as a meaningful practice in shaping the social, cultural and physical world may seem a step back to the utopia of modern architecture before the World War II. I would argue that the different conditions of or contemporary world prevents a repetition, and offers the opportunity of a new engagement.

What is different now? Among the many possible issues, I want to point out six significant different conditions in which architecture operates nowadays:

1. The broadening of the western world, with crossing influences. We are conscious that some of the most interesting current phenomena are happening outside the US and Western Europe. It is also significant that the American schools of architecture are educating a very significant part of the world architecture population, which is going to practice in very different contexts to the American professional market (including firms, academia or alternative practices). Socially and professionally, identities are multiple and overlapped, and values are exchanged and learnt. Also, the history of architecture and architectural education in the US becomes several histories and different perceptions about the potentials of architecture.

2. The contemporary complexity that includes fundamental challenges in ecology, socio-economics and politics and that affects our daily life and the shaping of the physical environment. Architecture is part of the ecological balance, the social equity, the cultural and religious cohabitation and exchange, the economic dynamics and etcetera, at a very different level, and moreover, deeply interrelated. In this context, the public realm acquires a sense of urgency.

3. The process of urbanization of the planet. The context of contemporary architecture is a urban context of great diversity and complexity. From extremely high metropolitan densities to urban continuities of low density, passing through ex-novo cities of significant sizes or exponential growths that in a decade multiplies the footprint developed for the previous centuries. These processes, again, reveal enormous social and environmental complexities.

4. The recognition of the urban metabolism, the multi-scalar dimension of the city. Energy, water, waste, traffic, air, climate… cannot be managed inside the traditional limits of the city. These limits are diffuse and changing, the city expands far beyond the last building, in case there is that last building.

5. The transformation of the concept of the discipline. The complexity of production of contemporary architecture requires multiple expertise that the designer cannot provide alone, as solo creator. At the same time, the limits of architecture are dissolved in the very moment that the building and the public space are faced as part of a series of systems of different range.

6. Infrastructures and technology as critical drivers of the transformation of the territory, through the systems of production and communication: physical, personal and social.

To these six global topics, and due to the specific geographic location, it is worth to reflect on the American crisis of the welfare system, which has different parallels in the rest of the world. The recent book by George Packer, “The unwinding”, narrates what multiple studies and statistics show in different ways: the dramatic increase of the socio-economic gap and the lost of the safety net with the dissolution of the Roosevelt Republic. And with it, a new openness and a need of repositioning of individuals and disciplines. Of course, different but parallel situations are happening in the rest of the world: the European economic and identitarian crisis, or the different declinations of political, ecological and social equity crisis in current and future emergent countries.

What can be the response to the aspirations and the contemporary conditions in the education of the next generations of architects?

In a very synthetic statement, assuming the risk of simplicity in the benefit of clarity, I would like to point five distinctive drivers. None of them are new at UVa. On the opposite, these are enduring ideas that define the identity of this program, thanks to its continuous renovation and adaptation to the changing conditions:

1. Instead of an incremental addition of complexity and scale, the architectural education at UVa starts with the urban complexity and its multi-scalar character as foundational ground. The Urban Project is the very ideologically charged methodology in the beginning design of both undergraduate and graduate degrees. The Urban Project includes building, public space and infrastructure generated from multiple scales and seeking a role in the larger urban strategies. While it is not at all a new concept, the contemporary understanding of the urban metabolism and the rest of new conditions, finds the Urban Project as a nimble and powerful framework to engage and respond to the complexity of the urban conditions, while nurturing diversity of approaches. The ultimate goal is to develop an attitude in the students, young architects, of being comfortable with complexity and to deal effectively with it, learning to give up one out of three or establish hierarchies when it is needed.

2. The integration, in the architectural education and together with the design of space and building form, of landscape architecture, urban design and planning concepts. Firstly, due to pure need once proved the instability of the limits of architecture. Secondly, due to the need of understanding systems of larger scale than the scale of the building, of the public space and of the neighborhood. Besides the expertise traditionally associated with these areas, they introduce us to the understanding of broader networks as the environmental, economical or social, or even related with traditional engineering fields.

3. The recovery of the concept of research as disciplinarian foundation through the clarification of the process of search of data, representation and informed speculation. As designers, we understand the process of research as the speculation on new scenarios. The speculative move offers the possibility of incremental innovation, therefore providing meaning and relevance to the design.

4. The transformation of the reality as the objective of architecture. A multi-scalar reality that requires multiple expertise aligned through the design act: the informed speculation over the physical reality.

5. Design as instrument of commitment: social, cultural and innovation. It is the opportunity to claim for architecture the territory, and to assume the responsibility, of shaping the physical environment. A position in which architecture is not defined as a cultural practice but a multifaceted practice with cultural dimension. Design as the overlap of socio-economic, cultural and ecological concerns geared to the physical transformation.

These five drivers are stating scope, integration innovation, objective and instrument. The most important is that these drivers are a shared framework to promote the diversity of ideas and methods. A diversity that can be identified as a final idiosyncratic character of UVa.



This is the best institution to educate yourself in architecture; you already know it and it's why you are here. This is one of the best schools of design in the country, and the one that combines design with the education of a public leader in our society.

This place is different than any other, and not only that, it is meaningfully unique. This is the school of Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence. If we were a school for writers, that would be the foundational text. But we are the school of architecture, and we have the other lesson of Jefferson, to be correctly understood. In the beginning of the XIX century, bricks and columns were used to be innovative and move away from the English neo-gothic. The Lawn is the Project of the Enlightenment:

  • architecture: scale, program, geometry, order, repetition, rhythm, structure, form, materials, space…
  • urban design: relations, fabric, distances, public space…
  • landscape architecture: site, topography, views, vegetation, territorial relations…
  • social system: community, relations, exchange of knowledge…
  • institution: educational, social, political…

We keep the same ambition of innovation in design and in social structures, with today’s languages and technologies.

This is what is expected from you, architects and designers. You will become designers able to exceed, designing the best spaces, urban environments; architecture interacting with the place, transforming it and improving it; architecture aware of and impacting social problems, able to design structures, organizations, institutions to accomplish the highest ideals. But I‘ll say it again, designers! Designers charged with the unique and long lasting responsibility of transforming the physical environment.

You have come here in order to be leaders in thinking, in asking relevant questions and in searching tirelessly for the best forward-looking answers. Finding these answers will be difficult. But believe me, the real challenge is framing the right meaningful question. This is the critical issue; the good questions will take you by the hand, to the answers. It is very hard and very exciting at the same time- be ready to be always wrong! Or at least, not right enough. We live in the uncertainty; design is a process of continuous search, endless search. So don’t ever be satisfied.

You are, and we are, here to transform our world, our physical environment. This is what UVa has always done.   This is the place to develop yourselves as “good designers”: “relevant good designers”. You could have chosen other qualifications instead of “relevant”: “rich”, “famous”, “well established”, “well connected”…

But you have made your choice of coming here, believing that this is the best school to become “relevant good designers”. I came here 3 years ago, from my office in Barcelona and with my partner Margarita Jover, never considering anywhere else. This is the school I believe in. You can be proud of having an extraordinary group of faculty, some that you may know, most you will soon discover. Being the Chair, I can assure you it has no parallel in any other institution that I know. Not visible enough, I know, and we are working to remdy that. Several generations have arrived, revitalizing the soul of this unique school:

. Years ago: Robin Dripps, Peter Waldman, WG Clark, Ed Ford… all of them beloved professors, desired in many places and investing their lives and passion in this place.

. Afterwards: Karen Van Lengen, Bill Sherman, Lucia Phinney, Charlie Menefee, Kirk Martini, Earl Mark, Phoebe Crisman, Sanda Iliescu, Pam Black…

. A next cohort: Anselmo Canfora, Nana Last, Betsy Roettger, Alexander Kitchin, Lester Yuen…

. In the last 3 years: Shiqiao Li, Manuel Bailo, Jeana Ripple, Matthew Jull, Seth McDowell, Ghazal Abbassy, Esther Lorenz, Schaeffer Somers, Gwen Murray, Megan Suau…

. And new faculty of this year: Alex Wall, Carmen Trudell, Asa Eslocker…

You will get to know, and will also be relevant for you because this is the richness of the school, faculty from other departments such as Beth Meyer (also now our new Dean), Teresa Galí-Izard, Julie Bargmann, Tim Beatley, Suzanne Moomaw, Cammy Brothers, Sheila Crane, Louis Nelson, Lisa Reilly, Ellen Bassett, Guoping Huang…

This is also a unique place because we do not compete against each other. This is not a place to go with a knife in your mouth. But do not relax by any means! Of course we compete! The world exists because of competition; ask any biologist, or ask Teresa. I love competing; I was a tennis player. I have made my career winning competitions with the best design. I even compete to be the first coming out from the subway out to the street, climbing stairs by feet to best the escalator’s people.

Here, each of us competes against oneself to be better and better. It is never enough. And we compete not against but together with our peers (students, faculty, professionals) against the many difficulties to overcome. We do not have time or energies to lose, competing only looking 3 feet ahead and 3 feet behind, watching our colleagues-competitors. That is the best recipe to go in the wrong direction. It may be effective in the short run, but not in the long one, and you may be just chasing in circles. We are not one of those schools of big ambitions but small ideals.

We compete looking miles ahead and miles around, pursuing not short run, personal, small successes but meaningful changes. In those moments, people around are not your competitors anymore, you are moving together. Once you realize that people rowing around you are, in fact, part of the same big boat, the other rowers are not against you. You all, WE all, are rowing together, but trying to be the hardest rower, not the escapist one. Row Harder! Get in Front! Take the Lead! Select the Path!

I want you, each of you, to be the best. Each of you has come to contribute to the best school in this country and beyond. Not the richest, not the most powerful, just the best with the best people. Each of you will be responsible and accountable for your contribution, without any excuses. If one draws not as well as the neighbor, draw 3 times more. Show your pride. We are not here to lose time. You are not here, paying and expending your next two or three years, to be just OK and get a job. I have not come here to lose time. I did not leave my office, my buildings and my public spaces, after 16 years, all that I love, to lose.

I will be watching every one of you. I will be aware of every one of your projects, and I want to know why it is meaningful for the ongoing history of architecture, for the transformation of the world, for the collective discourse of the University of Virginia and for your personal development. You can expect these questions; I will be in many of your reviews. And if I, the Chair, am willing to learn from every one of you and every project, I expect every one of you doing the same!

I want you learning from every project of your classmates and from the rest of your colleagues, more senior or in the other programs. I want to see more people from other studios in the reviews than the reviewed one, with more people talking than the one presenting their project, nobody hanging behind waiting for their turn, but active participants. I want EVERYbody hungry and looking for “food for thought” everywhere.

I want every one of you as a sponge, not as a stone. I want sponges eager to absorb, to experiment, to try; I do not want daft stones.  You can pass through this place with your ears closed. With the zippers of your backpack closed, happy with the little things you already have inside. Don’t do that! Go with big, open, “Dumbo” ears. Go with a big, open, flexible, never ending backpack. You are just beginning the discovery of a new world and yourself in it. Do your part and we will do ours. My door is always as open as your ears and backpack should be.

Remember, you are a team. Look around now and look at the faces around each of you. These are the members of your team. You are going to spend days and nights together, better to get the best of each.

And now look at my eyes… I will be watching you, each of you. With love. But with the most demanding love. Hide if you are not at your best! But hide for only one day, I will find you!

And I feel sure I will be proud of every one of you!

Charlottesville, Fall 2014

Iñaki Alday

Quesada Professor and Chair of the Department of Architecture

University of Virginia

Department Overview

The Architecture Department is committed to advance knowledge in our discipline and practice through design pedagogies which critically engages three areas of research: 

  • The interdependence of cultural forces, ecological processes, and ethical concerns
  • The relationship between architectural aesthetics and construction methodologies
  • The implications of emerging technologies for the design of structures and sites  

These issues are developed across the program’s curriculum, as well as through student and faculty work in design studios and seminars. As these threads of design investigation interact, new poetic possibilities emerge that are visible in the products of our unique perspective.

In the design of buildings, landscapes and urban infrastructure, working simultaneously at the scale of the hand and that of the city, we share the responsibility for creating a stimulating and sustainable setting for the development of diverse cultural expression. We work close at hand and travel great distances, from Charlottesville, Washington and New York to Barcelona, Venice and Beijing. We apply our hands to the making of things, open our minds to the voices of multiple communities and extend our reach in a network of collaborations across the university and beyond. We study the dynamic fullness of the sites we enter, taking seriously our power to reveal and transform them.

This is our territory, from which we advance the critical significance and catalytic potential of our academic discourse and professional engagement. The Department of Architecture is situated in a multi–disciplinary school that also includes Departments of Architectural History, Landscape Architecture, and Urban & Environmental Planning. Cross–disciplinary engagement is a pervasive phenomenon, with each program benefiting from this rich context. The Certificate program in Historic Preservation brings together students and faculty from each of the four disciplines in a course of study overlaid on the curriculum of each field.



The discipline of Architecture is evolving in a broad field of buildings and constructions, city and urban space, site and landscape with deep cultural and social meaning.  Architecture addressed to collaborate in solving needs and problems in our contemporary world.  Architecture is:

  • culture and progress
  • service and commitment
  • necessary and meaningful
  • transformative and innovative

The Department of Architecture is actively engaged in research and education with the following understanding:

  • the condition of the social need and sustainable future
  • the interdisciplinary of Architecture/Landscape/Urban/Theory
  • deep architectural knowledge
  • technologies, applied to build thoughtfully and innovative for solving contemporary problems

The mission of the Department of Architecture to provide the students with:

  • a consciousness of the world and its diversity
  • the responsibility to choose their own path
  • a broad range of questions and scales
  • collaboration skills with interdisciplinary experience introducing external knowledge to design
  • historical and theoretical knowledge and the ability to find them
  • technical and foundational knowledge
  • analogical and digital representation and thinking
  • research skills to acquire knowledge and develop new methods and tools

Degrees Offered

The department offers two degree programs: Master of Architecture, and Bachelor of Science in Architecture. These programs are anchored by a rigorous design curriculum that provides a forum for synthesizing parallel studies in history, theory, technology, and representation. In keeping with the public mission of the University of Virginia that dates to its founding, these programs are committed to developing the next generation of civic and professional leaders.


Master of Architecture 

Master of Architecture; Design Studies

The Master of Architecture (MArch) is a professional degree accredited by the National Architectural Accreditation Board (NAAB). A non-professional Master of Architecture in Design Studies degree is offered to applicants who hold a degree in architecture or a related field. 

Graduate students can also pursue degrees in more than one discipline.  In order to facilitate this offering, we collaborate with colleagues in the other departments to developed typical curricula for the pursuit of dual degree options, which require independent admission to both programs.


Bachelor of Science in Architecture 

The Bachelor of Science degree is offered in a pre–professional program providing the balance of a broad liberal arts foundation with a rigorous studio preparation for graduate study in architecture. Undergraduate Minors in all disciplines, global sustainability as well as other fields throughout the University provide vehicles for focused complementary study. An Architectural Studies Concentration in the Bachelor of Science program offers an opportunity for design–oriented research outside of the studio curriculum in the final year.


Inaki Alday

Chair: Iñaki Alday

Director of Graduate Program: Anselmo Canfora

Director of Undergraduate Program: Esther Lorenz



In the United States, most state registration boards require a degree from an accredited professional degree program as a prerequisite for licensure. The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), which is the sole agency authorized to accredit U.S. professional degree programs in architecture, recognizes three types of degrees: the Bachelor of Architecture, the Master of Architecture, and the Doctor of Architecture. A program may be granted a 6-year, 3-year, or 2-year term of accreditation, depending on the extent of its conformance with established educational standards. Doctor of Architecture and Master of Architecture degree programs may consist of a pre-professional undergraduate degree and a professional graduate degree that, when earned sequentially, constitute an accredited professional education. However, a preprofessional degree is not, by itself, recognized as an accredited degree.

The University of Virginia School of Architecture offers a Master of Architecture (MArch) degree that is NAAB accredited.  The Bachelor of Science in Architecture / Pre-Professional concentration at UVa is not an accredited degree, but offers the opportunity to receive substantial advanced standing in the top MArch programs around the country, including at UVa.   The paths to achieve the MArch degree and the total number of credit hours are described below.

The University of Virginia’s Master of Architecture program received a professional six-year term of accreditation in 2009. This program will be reviewed again in 2015.

For more information, visit the NAAB Website. For information on NAAB Procedures, visit the NAAB Procedure Page. For information on NAAB Conditions for Accreditation, visit the 2009 NAAB Conditions for Accreditation Page.

The University of Virginia School of Architecture offers a Master of Architecture (MArch) degree that is NAAB accredited.  The Bachelor of Science in Architecture / Pre-Professional concentration at UVa is not an accredited degree, but offers the opportunity to receive substantial advanced standing in the top MArch programs around the country, including at UVa.   The paths to achieve the MArch degree and the total number of credit hours are described below.

Visit our Master of Architecture, Professional Degree page

The University of Virginia’s Master of Architecture program received a professional six-year term of accreditation in 2009. This program will be reviewed again in 2015.

Annual Report (2009)

Annual Report (2010)

Annual Report (2011)

Annual Report (2012)

Annual Report (2013)

Current Visiting Team Report

Final Decison Letter from the NAAB

ARE Pass Rates can be found by visiting the NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Boards) Pass Rates Page


Other Links:



see Fellowships page

Associated Faculty