Architectural Studies

The minor in architectural studies combines coursework in art history, which equips students to analyze the form and changing history of the built environment in diverse cultures, places, and times, with up to three courses on architectural or urban topics offered in any department.

Minor Program in Architectural Studies

Beginning with the Class of 2020, Architectural Studies minors will follow the requirements outlined below. Students in the Class of 2019 have the option of adhering to the new or to the old requirements. They should meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to address their options and any questions or concerns.

A student might choose to minor in architectural studies because the student is interested in the built environment—the inescapable setting of our lives—from a liberal arts perspective or because the student is considering applying to architecture school. The minor could represent an interest distinct from the student's major or it could complement a major in the social sciences or humanities by exploring the material setting of history and social life or the context for works of literature, film, music, or drama. It could equally complement a major in the sciences, such as medical fields, ecology, geology, physics, or mathematics.

Prospective minors need to meet with the Department of Art History’s Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) before the end of the third year to discuss their interests and course plans and to obtain advice and approval. Together the student and DUS will fill out the Minor Program Application Form listing the intended courses, which the DUS signs. The student should submit the completed, signed version to his or her College advisor before the end of the third year.


The minor in architectural studies requires a total of six courses at the 20000-level chosen in consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, all of which must either focus on the built environment or permit the student to devote the assignments or papers to the built environment. A minimum of three courses must be in the Department of Art History. The additional three courses may be taken in Art History or in other departments or programs. Some of the programs that may offer relevant courses are Geographical Studies, Visual Arts, History, English Language and Literature, Anthropology, and Environmental Studies. In one of the courses, students also write one research paper of about 10 to 15 pages on a topic chosen with and guided by the instructor, by individual arrangement at the start of the quarter (see “Research Papers” below).

Minors are strongly encouraged to take ARTH 20700 Understanding the Built Environment when available. Minors may elect to take ARTH 29600 Junior Seminar: Doing Art History, for which they would research and write an essay on a topic of their choice instead of preparing a BA Paper proposal. This option is particularly suitable for minors interested in doing graduate work in architectural history.

Graduate seminars at the 40000-level may count toward requirements. Students are advised, however, that such courses impose special burdens of time and expertise, and admission to them is typically only by explicit approval of the instructor and may involve various prerequisites.

To be approved for program credit, courses should meet these criteria: (1) the subject matter should include some attention to buildings and/or the arrangement of buildings and landscape elements in space; (2) the assignments must allow the student to study the built environment. See the list of 2019-2020 courses pre-approved for program credit, on this website. Courses with an ARCH cross-listing are pre-approved for minor program credit. If those courses also have an ARTH number, they count as eligible Art History department courses. If they don’t also have an ARTH number, they count as eligible courses outside the Art History department. If you have questions, please contact the Architectural Studies faculty advisor Katherine Taylor (, including the course description and, if possible, the syllabus.

Courses in the minor may not be double counted with the student's major(s) or with other minors. Courses in the minor must be taken for quality grades, and more than half of the requirements for the minor must be met by registering for courses bearing University of Chicago course numbers.

Research Papers

All Art History minors write at least one research paper of 10–15 pages. A research paper can be:

  • a paper written to fulfill a course assignment,
  • the extension of a shorter course paper (either during the course or after its completion) to meet the page requirement, or
  • a new paper on a topic chosen in consultation with the instructor.

The paper should include an analysis of existing scholarship and other relevant source materials. The paper should also draw on that scholarship and evidence to shape and support a thesis or argument of the student's own devising. Formal analyses of works of art and analytic papers on materials assembled by the instructor do not qualify. On completion of a research paper, students must submit an approval form, signed by the course instructor, to the Director of Undergraduate Studies. It is the student's responsibility to obtain this signature and to submit the form.

Summary of Requirements for the Minor in Architectural Studies

Three (3) courses at the 20000-level in ARTH focusing on the built environment * 300
Three (3) courses at the 20000-level in ARTH or other departments focusing on the built environment 300
One (1) 10- to 15-page research paper written for one of the six courses in the minor  
Total Units 600

* One of the courses may be ARTH 29600 Junior Seminar: Doing Art History. Students in the minor would research and write an essay on a topic of their choice instead of preparing an honors paper proposal. 

The following faculty members in Art History specialize in architectural history: Niall Atkinson, Wei-Cheng Lin, and Katherine Fischer Taylor. Many other faculty members in Art History have an interest in the built environment and will support students writing papers on architecture; students are welcome to ask their instructors. An updated list of courses that can count for the minor in architectural studies is available from the Director of Undergraduate Studies. For more information about the minor in architectural studies, please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Art History.