Overhaul the curriculum, not just a course: a new paradigm for design technology curriculum

Architecture firm: Faculty of the University of Tennessee School of Architecture

Owner: University of Tennessee School of Architecture

Category: Development of Design or Design-Thinking

Faculty at the University of Tennessee felt that the students’ design work rarely reflected understanding of concepts from their many other technology courses. In a radical move, the faculty overhauled the entire B.Arch. technology curriculum, its sequence of courses and content. The faculty eliminated six stand-alone structures, technology, environmental, and materials courses, totaling 22 credit hours. These were replaced with a series of nine two-credit-hour half semester design/technology courses. Each of the half semester course generally aligned with the studio sequence and each containing a blended content related to climate, site, enclosure, materials, structures, building systems, design, and performance. The faculty had the following goals in mind:

  • Interrelate technology course content and design studio goals where possible.
  • Eliminate stand-alone silos of technological content for single courses, taught by content “experts.”
  • Utilize diverse faculty expertise in multiple points across the curriculum in collaborative ways.
  • Invent new pedagogical formats and teaching platforms.
  • Respect the diversity of experimentation in the design studios.
  • Leverage and expand the digital agenda of the school.          

The curriculum of the University of Tennessee represents a new paradigm for overlapping design and technology course approaches. Our experience may be relevant to other programs.

"This is a complete overhaul of a university curriculum that achieved buy in from the entire faculty, created partnerships between classes, and offered multiple perspectives in classes." ~ Jury statement

Additional information

Project team

Faculty of the University of Tennessee, including: Katherine Ambroziak, Marleen Kay Davis, Mark Dekay, Hansjoerg Goeritz, Maged Guerguis, Tracy Moir-McClean, William Miller, Marshall Prado, James Rose, Ted Shelton, Kevin Stevens, Tricia Stuth, Jason Young


Anthony Hauck, Chair, Hypar AEC, Waltham, Massachusetts

Phillip Bernstein, FAIA, Yale School of Architecture, New Haven, Connecticut

Desiree Mackey, GEI Consultants, Denver, CO

Sera Maloney, The Foth Companies, Lake Elmo, Minnesota

Natasha Luthra, Jacobs, Philadelphia, PA

Image credits

4 ABHK Final Assign._Arch363 2

University of Tennessee School of Architecture