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Modern Architecture

What is "studio"?

by Matthew Tepper, B.S. Arch '24

Acclimating to UVA School of Architecture often presents the question: what is studio? When will I begin designing a building? This guide will provide an overview of what to expect from each foundational studio and possibilities for research studios. 

ARCH 1030:
1st Year Spring

This first foundation studio enhances skills learned from Lessons in Making but through a varied approach to physical and digital making. Students will be exposed to Rhino and AutoCAD, the main programs used within the School of Architecture for two and three-dimensional concepts and drawings. While this course does not articulate the need to design a building, fundamental aspects of the words associated with architecture and design are introduced as a composition. Students will be trained in the Fabrication Lab (often referred to as the FabLab) to recreate physical models based on two unique words selected. This exercise is beneficial for developing future woodworking and modelmaking skills through future iterations and studios.

ARCH 2010:
2nd Year Fall

Credit: Content taken directly from Studio Syllabus:


“Responsive Space is the second foundation studio in the undergraduate program in architecture. The second-year curriculum focuses on the design of the built environment through observation, analysis, and the development of design proposals in contemporary cultural settings. This exploration uses design as a mode of critical inquiry from the scale of the city to the scale of the hand to prepare a foundation for focused study in the two design concentrations in the third and fourth years.  Students will be introduced to thoughtful application of fundamental design principles, foundational techniques of representation and fabrication and comprehensive critical design strategies. This course is meant to foster the development of the beginning design student’s design methodology founded on thoughtful, creative, ethical and rigorous work practices to explore meaningful formal and spatial propositions.”

“The studio methodology progresses from rural retreat to urban addition, introducing students to foundational concepts in architecture through case study analysis and design exercises of different scales exploring the assembly of space within varying contexts.  Logistically, the studio is divided into four exercises, each one building upon the next and increasing in complexity.  The first warm-up exercise asks students to measure and document a familiar and safely accessible social space through plan and section.  This space is then used as a scalar reference in the next exercise, which asks students to research, redraw, and analyze a pair of precedents: one rural, one urban.  The formal, spatial and sequential logics of these precedents inform the design proposals of the last two exercises: a retreat for a forager along the edge of the Rivanna River and a community kitchen at the center of Downtown Mall in the city of Charlottesville.”

ARCH 2020:
2nd Year Spring

Currently titled Housing Matters, this foundation studio introduces fundamental concepts, strategies, and disciplines associated with the design of domestic space, from the dwelling unit to the aggregation of domestic spaces into coherent urban blocks. Applied case studies, lectures, and workshops will build a foundation for a series of interrelated design exercises that construct hypotheses about new spatial, formal, and experiential typologies of domesticity that reshape and respond to changing conventions of life in the midsized city. In past experiences, students have developed a multi-unit apartment building in Richmond for their final project, lasting approximately eight weeks. This building emphasizes the effort to integrate within the community and how to adapt to its developing urban context. 


You can find work from the Spring 2021 and 2022 semesters here:

“I’m in the A-school”
“I’m in the E-school”

These are our nicknames for the School of Architecture and the School of Engineering and Applied Science, respectively. This is just to avoid saying those long names to save time (you know how busy UVA students are, we love efficiency).


In your fourth year Fall semester, you'll have the option to choose your professor and topic of research! Through a lottery system, there are numerous travel or local opportunities to explore digitally and physically, and become introduced in understanding architecture as a complexity through planning, landscape architecture, and urban design.

ARCH 3010:
3rd Year Fall

Often referred to as the New York Studio, this foundation studio explore one of the most urban typologies within the United States. Each studio will tackle and analyze one neighborhood in New York, each with its unique personality, architectural excellence, and cultural significance. Previous studios have examined Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side, South Street Seaport, Union Square, and the Upper East Side as areas of interest. In previous years, the entire cohort travels to Manhattan to observe their sites and determine the physical, political, environmental, and social factors that must be considered in a building for such a dense and community-driven population. While each studio professor selects the building type, topics generally revolve around developing a community center, ranging from libraries to wellness centers. This is the first studio where the development of the projects lasts the duration of a semester, with briefly related assignments interspersed throughout. 

ARCH 3020:
3rd Year Spring

Students tackled schools for the Spring 2023 adaptation of this final foundation studio. Schools ranging from Kindergarten to community colleges are decided by professors. The sites generally return to Charlottesville to provide familiarity and enable further development of technical drawing skills and analysis. A series of Wednesday lectures guide students through an understanding of the design community’s necessity to react to climate change and how building designs can serve as a catalyst for change.


Derived from the course syllabus: “The studio frames fundamental questions about architecture’s role in the cimate crisis, by constructing and mediating a building program in a landscape and by questioning material tectonics. How might the building’s construction promote social and ecological sustainability through material choice, programmatic adaptation over time, circular construction economies, labor opportunities, occupant health, or other methods? How might a project consider and rethink historical and contemporary models of the architectural program? How can buildings and landscapes serve and mediate the experiences of the diverse communities that they serve? 

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