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The Architectural Engineering Student Experience Of Comprehensive Design Studio

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Technical Issues in Architectural Engineering I

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1252.1 - 11.1252.15



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Paper Authors


Jeanne Homer Oklahoma State University

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Assistant Professor
Registered Architect

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

The Architectural Engineering Student Experience of Comprehensive Design Studio

Abstract Our School of Architecture’s Comprehensive Design Studio course won the 2004 NCARB Prize for integration of practice with the academy, and it was the culmination of twenty-seven years of development and refinements. The Comprehensive Design Studio was introduced by Professor Alan Brunken into the curriculum around 1978. Today it is taught by a team of three architects, one of whom specializes in environmental controls, and one structural engineer, and the size of the class varies from 30 to 45 students. Both architecture and architectural engineering students are required to take this course. The course requirements are somewhat different for the two majors, and often less than a quarter of the class is AE students. We have come to call this the Comprehensive Semester because it not only requires the use of information learned throughout the curriculum, but also incorporates a studio, a technology seminar, and a management course into a tightly knit whole. Throughout the semester, all students integrate architectural design with mechanical and structural systems design, while understanding correlating management practices. One project occupies the entire semester, which is divided into three phases: schematic design, design development, and design documentation. Although the AE students must continue to design the project’s architecture, the requirements for them begin to differ during design development, placing a focus on structural systems design and calculations. Formal juries of professional architects and engineers mark the transitions from one phase to another, and the calendar allows the rare opportunity for students to respond to jury comments through design revisions. Handouts are distributed and seminars occur weekly to provide additional information and requirements as the designs progress.

Even after many years of a successful comprehensive design studio, culminating in the course’s recognition through the NCARB Prize, we decided to examine the studio in terms of the students’ experience, particularly the experience of the architectural engineering (AE) students. Despite its fearsome reputation, most students do pass the course, and many alumni return to say that it was a valuable course for them during their transition into the profession, but the students’ experiences during the course are the focus of the paper. I interviewed a selection of students who had recently taken the course from 2003 to 2005. This paper discusses information from these interviews and describes some changes made to the course based on the students’ input. Many of the AE students’ successes and difficulties in the course may be a result of a slightly different approach to problem solving from that of architects, and a possible underestimation of an AE’s design abilities and potential for contribution to a project.


Our school is one of very few schools in the U.S. in which the architecture and architectural engineering programs are not only in the same college, but also are within the same administrative structure of the School of Architecture. We encourage full integration of architecture and architectural engineering, as each discipline has tremendous potential to learn from the other’s approaches and methods to contribute to a resulting architecture that is a better expression of its culture, building methods, and technology. As stated by Viollet-le-Duc, “The

Homer, J. (2006, June), The Architectural Engineering Student Experience Of Comprehensive Design Studio Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--814

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