Inside USD

USD Introduces Architecture Major

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

BilselStudents at the University of San Diego can now earn a four-year bachelor of arts degree in architecture. Housed in USD’s College of Arts and Sciences, it is the only architecture program offered at a major university south of Los Angeles.

USD has offered a minor in architecture since 2004. Following the USD Board of Trustees’ approval of the major last month, 11 students already have enrolled in it. About 20 students are expected to enroll by next fall and the program could grow to as many as 40 students in the next few years.

“We are very excited to introduce our students to a major discipline and to train designers and visionaries of the 21st century,” said Can Bilsel, (pictured, at right) director of the new program and chair and associate professor of USD’s Art Department, where the program will be located. In addition to careers as designers, the program also will prepare students for  graduate programs in architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, urban design, urban planning, historic preservation and art and architectural history.

Since the introduction of the architecture minor, USD students have been accepted at some of the country’s most prestigious graduate schools including Harvard University, MIT, the Pratt Institute in New York and the University of Texas at Austin, Bilsel said. “The very best graduate schools are competing for our students.”

Demand for architects tends to follow the business cycle, Bilsel said. While the job market is currently a difficult one, as it is for many other majors, “the situation could be quite different six years from now, for students who complete USD’s four-year program and then a two-year graduate program. There will always be a need for new and more efficient structures. Our students will be intellectually equipped to design a more just and sustainable built environment in the future.”

Currently,  two design schools located in downtown San Diego, Woodbury University’s San Diego  branch, and the NewSchool of Architecture offer professional degrees in architecture. These institutions have made a crucial contribution to the profession, Bilsel said.

While UCLA and the University of Southern California both offer architecture programs, USD’s will be the only one offered at a major university south of Los Angeles. “By instituting our program we hope to serve the greater San Diego area in a much-needed way,” Bilsel said. “We believe the mission of an architecture major embedded in a liberal arts college is first and foremost educating the next generation of designers and the public alike in the values,  that for generations, have made spaces into meaningful places.”

USD’s architecture program will offer a minor in architecture for students majoring in engineering. Along with engineering, Bilsel sees many other opportunities for collaboration with USD’s other centers and programs including its Burnham Moores Center for Real Estate and Environmental Studies major. USD’s architectural program will encourage students to study art, sculpture and other disciplines and emphasize the liberal arts in a way that “enriches students and trains them to be critical thinkers and leaders in their fields.”

USD currently has the resources to offer a program for as many as 40 students. Campus officials believe the new architecture major will attract some of the nation’s top undergraduates, Bilsel added. “In developing this program we are continuing a tradition that goes back to the Renaissance, when architecture became one of the pillars of the humanist education.”

— Liz Harman

For information on the new major, go to

Photo Courtesy of  Joe Yorty

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