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The AIA Case Studies Initiative

The AIA invites collaboration—by firms and schools of architecture—to develop case studies of recently completed and ongoing projects. The emphasis of this initiative, so far, has been on case studies about professional practice and the primary benefit has been to expose students to practice. However, the research, documentation, and analysis of projects are also educational for interns, associates, principals, and clients, and contribute to a body of knowledge for the profession. The purpose of this initiative is to share experience and knowledge of practice—both success stories and lessons learned—for the benefit of the profession, owners/clients, and the public.

The AIA encourages case studies in the professional knowledge areas of the AIA, including education, health care, justice, design for aging, historic resources, housing, interiors, regional and urban design, and sustainability. For a complete list, see AIA knowledge communities.

A case study should reflect the professional quality of the firm’s work with the insight and analysis provided by the student investigation of the project with faculty guidance. Emphasis should be placed on the analysis of the major points of the case. Cases may be shared with a professional and broader audience by formally submitting them to the AIA for peer review and publication. Please see the Case Study Development Guidelines for details.

Please note:  At this time, the AIA is not coordinating a peer review process for this initiative.

The rigorous preparation of case studies benefits the profession in a number of ways:

Firms and schools

  • Provide an opportunity for practitioners to reflect on their practice and approach to their next project, and to incorporate new ideas (including ideas from students) into their work
  • Expose interns and students to practice issues and promote professional development within firms
  • Provide an effective teaching tool and opportunity to publish faculty work that has gone through a peer review process to satisfy academic requirements for promotion and tenure
  • Provide a basis for collaboration between firms and schools
  • Provide a vehicle for mentoring and structure for sharing knowledge
  • Earn continuing education learning units for research on and discussion of case studies

Knowledge agenda

  • Develop the discipline of architecture through teaching, scholarship, and research
  • Capture and share the knowledge, experience, and expertise of both educators and practitioners
  • Make this information accessible through a searchable database, which the AIA is currently developing

Clients and the public

  • Make case studies available to clients and the public to better inform these constituencies

Firm and School Involvement
The initial concept for the AIA Case Studies Initiative came from a dialogue between representatives of the Large Firm Roundtable (LFRT) and deans of schools of architecture in 1998. Some large firms that have developed case studies include Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates, Cannon, HLM, Leo A. Daly, Perkins Eastman, and the Stubbins Associates. Examples which are available on the AIA Web site include: 

Baker Hall at Carnegie-Mellon
with Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates and Carnegie-Mellon
1st National Tower
by Leo A. Daly with University of Nebraska
Strategic Air and Space Museum,
Leo A. Daly with University of Iowa

The initial schools to be engaged in developing case studies include North Carolina State University, Carnegie-Mellon University, Illinois Institute of Technology, University of California-Berkeley, and University of Illinois at Chicago. Other schools involved early on with the AIA Case Studies Initiative include Auburn University, Pratt Institute, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Iowa State University, University of Cincinnati, University of Hawaii, University of Kansas, University of Nebraska, and University of Virginia.

Selected case studies are available online

Additional resources: 

The Case Study Starter Kit

The Starter Kit is a teaching aide that documents the evolution of the case study in architecture. In addition to guidelines for developing a case study, proceedings from the Large Firm Roundtable meetings and the Open Meetings of the Case Study Work Group provide multiple perspectives on the value and challenges of the case study effort. Selected case studies are included as well as course examples from established programs in schools of architecture which have the case study incorporated into the curriculum. Sponsored by the Large Firm Roundtable, the Starter Kit has been distributed to all accredited schools of architecture and is available upon request from the AIA. Please see contact information below.

2004 ACSA/AIA Cranbrook Teachers Seminar Proceedings

The Teachers Seminar at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan was an intensive four-day program provided by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA). In July 2004, educators and practitioners explored the potential of various types of case studies for teaching in schools and in firms, scholarship, and research. Cochaired by Marvin Malecha, FAIA, Laura Lee, FAIA, Richard Green, FAIA, and Harrison Fraker, FAIA, participants joined one of two workshop tracks: professional practice study or scholarship and research. The results of the workshops were discussed in a series of joint sessions. The proceedings from the seminar include the conference program, keynote address, papers and presentations, and notes from the sessions, How to Teach in the Classroom, What Can We Learn from Studio? A General Discussion of the AIA Case Studies Initiative Guidelines, and How Do You Pick Your Subject?


The AIA would like to thank the Case Study Work Group (2001–2005) for their outstanding work in launching and advancing this initiative. The AIA also acknowledges individual members of the work group for their contributions, including Richard Green, FAIA, and Hunt McKinnon, AIA, cochairs; Marvin Malecha, FAIA, past cochair; Michael Hricak, FAIA; Laura Lee, FAIA; Kenneth Schwartz, FAIA; Patrick Sullivan, FAIA; Walter Trujillo, AIA; Greg Clement, FAIA, LFRT liaison; and Joyce Noe, FAIA, EPN liaison.

The AIA appreciates continuing support from the LFRT and schools of architecture that are engaged in the development of case studies.


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