The program was created to allow students with no prior art skills to compete alongside students that are more experienced in art. This system is in place to bring a wide range of creative minds and talents to architecture that are not necessarily based in art.
“Our philosophy at Auburn is that regardless of whether you have had lots of fine arts classes as a high school student, or zero, you might be a good architect,” said David Hinson, head of the School of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture.
“I took four art classes in high school…but just art classes wouldn’t help you very much,” said Zeke Laws, a first-year student in the summer option program. “As far as getting ideas down, art class may help. I have only used one thing from art class so far.”
To begin the class, students are not asked to design complex structures, but they are required to complete smaller and shorter aptitude assignments.
“At first, we started with a drawing project where we drew a cactus, and I was a little confused why we were doing it,” said Cameron Weldy, a fourth-year student in architecture. “Eventually the professors used that project to lead into another project and another project and then it all made sense.”
The aptitude assignments are fundamental design exercises that are in both 2-D and 3-D. They can be fun assignments that involve creative problem solving that help students consider how materials work and how to assemble things to create a solution to a problem.
“At key milestones during that first five-week minimester, all of the students’ exercises are evaluated by the team of faculty teaching the studio.” Hinson said. “All of the projects are collectively evaluated by the four faculty, so no student’s performance is resting simply on one evaluator.”
The feedback that the faculty provides is not based on the typical grading scale, but rather objective feedback on the design. Evaluating designs is a subjective process, but the faculty tries hard to be as objective as possible.
After the evaluations, students are informed on their progress in the course and their ranking among fellow students, which fuels even more competition.
“The students will know after the first set of exercises whether they are sitting at the top of the class, at the midpoint of the class or near the bottom of the class,” Hinson said.
As the first minimester comes to an end, projects begin to gain more weight for grading. One of the last week-long design projects carries the most weight, which students can use to help boost them ahead of the competition.
Once the five weeks are over, evaluators compile the grades and determine the students whom they wish to bring back to continue the program. Students are notified whether they made the cut by letter.
The architecture program graduates between 93 and 97 percent of students after the total five-year program is completed.
“An architecture degree from Auburn will open doors for students almost anywhere in the world; the reputation of our program is very strong,” Hinson said.