Architectural education at the University of Memphis began in 1965 in the Industrial
Arts Program. The following year, several programs, including the new Architectural
Technology Program, were combined with Industrial Arts Education to create the Department
of Engineering Technology. The degree became the Bachelor of Science in Engineering
Technology (BSET) with a major in Architectural Technology. The original concept of
the Architectural Technology Program was to provide the architectural community with
highly skilled design drafters with engineering-oriented backgrounds and the overall
emphasis of the program was on the applied sciences. The Architectural Technology
Program was accredited by the Technology Accreditation Commission of the Accrediting
Board for Engineering and Technology (TAC of ABET).
Efforts to create a professional degree in architecture at the University of Memphis
began over twenty years ago. This has been led by faculty, local architects, and others.
The first significant mention of the need for a professional architecture program
was in the Downtown Development Plan prepared by Venturi Rauch and Scott Brown for
the Memphis Center City Commission in 1987. The Urban Design section of the plan stressed
the importance of a professional architecture program to the well-being of the city.
NOTE: Before joining the faculty, Michael Hagge and James Williamson both worked on
this plan: Professor Hagge as President of the Center City Development Corporation
and Professor Williamson as the consulting architect in charge of the historic preservation,
public and open spaces, and riverfront development segment.
In the 1990s, it became clear the program needed to evolve to better meet the needs
of the students and the professional community. With the addition of new faculty and
the implementation of dedicated studio space for each student, a significant change
in the direction of the program took place.
The goal of creating a professional program became more fully supported and in 2000,
the Architecture Program was administratively moved to the College of Communication
and Fine Arts (CCFA) from the College of Engineering and the Bachelor of Fine Arts
in Architecture degree was created to replace the BSET in Architectural Technology
The BFA in Architecture was developed as a pre-professional, four-year program of
study and is the only one of its kind in Tennessee. Although the move to CCFA resulted
in the loss of ABET accreditation, it provided an opportunity to develop with a much
stronger framework of support from within the University as well as from the professional
The desire of the professional community and the Architecture faculty to develop a
professional Master of Architecture degree program fully accredited by the National
Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) became a focal point. Accordingly, the move
was made to officially begin formal planning for the establishment of a professional
degree program in architecture.
The first step in this formal process took place in 2004, with a peer-review of the
Architecture Program by two well-known and respected architectural educators, Professor
Larry Speck from the University of Texas at Austin and Professor Peter Waldman from
the University of Virginia. Based upon their recommendations, the University of Memphis
made the commitment to pursue a professional degree in architecture.
In 2005, the University asked former NAAB executive director Sharon Matthews to visit
and offer an assessment of the BFA in Architecture degree program and to assist with
the development of a plan of action to establish a professional Master of Architecture
degree program. Ms. Matthews met with faculty, local architects, and university administrators
over a several day period. Afterwards, a formalized planning process was implemented
and support requested and received from a variety of individuals and organizations
including but not limited to the Memphis Chapter of the American Institute of Architects,
the Tennessee Board of Architectural and Engineering Examiners, the City of Memphis,
the County of Shelby, and several prominent architecture firms and real estate developers.
This action built upon the April 1992 visit of then-NAAB Executive Director John Maudlin-Jeronimo
and his recommendations to create a professional degree program and the significant
changes that needed to occur before such a program could be developed and implemented.
In November 2005 a formal letter of intent to establish the Master of Architecture
degree was prepared and submitted to the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) by President
Shirley Raines. The faculty of the Architecture Program, working with university administrators
as well as local architects, developed a curriculum for the Master of Architecture
and secured approval from the graduate school. After submission of the formal proposal
in September 2006, the TBR began a review process and, at the request of President
Shirley Raines, worked diligently to expedite the review and approval process.
The TBR contracted with University of Texas Professor Larry Speck, based on his experience
as an architectural educator and his familiarity with the Architecture Program at
the University of Memphis, to review the program. Upon receiving the report from Professor
Speck, the proposal was placed on the TBR agenda and approved by unanimous vote at
the meeting of 28/29 June 2007. After receiving the report and recommendation from
the TBR, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission voted to approve the proposal to
establish the Master of Architecture degree at their meeting on 26 July 2007. Professors
Michael Hagge and Sherry Bryan, Adjunct Professor Frank Ricks, and AIA Tennessee President
and Memphis architect Joey Hagan made the announcement at the Tennessee AIA annual
convention in Nashville to a champagne toast!
In March 2008, the first NAAB site visit took place. After reviewing the team findings,
Candidacy status was granted for the new Master of Architecture degree program effective
1 January 2008. The first Master of Architecture students were admitted in the fall
semester of 2008.
Also in 2008, the Interior Design Program was moved into the Department of Architecture
from the Department of Art. In January 2010, a new Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with
a major in Interior Design was approved by the Tennessee Board of Regents and Tennessee
Higher Education Commission. Previously, students studying interior design at the
University of Memphis received a BFA in Art with a concentration in Interior Design.
Establishing a BFA degree in Interior Design was one of the goals when the Interior
Design Program moved into the Department of Architecture in 2008.
The second NAAB visit took place in March 2010 and as a result, the Master of Architecture
degree program was formally granted continuation of its Candidacy effective 1 January
2010. The initial accreditation visit is set for November 2012.
During the May 2010 commencement, the Department of Architecture celebrated the graduation
of its first M.Arch student. Pam Hurley was the first student to earn the professional,
two-year Master of Architecture degree at the University of Memphis. Five additional
students received the M.Arch at the August commencement. The Master of Architecture
degree is a focus area of the University of Memphis.
The celerating continued in 2010 when the TERRA (Technologically + Environmentally
Responsive Residential Architecture) sustainable design demonstration house was awarded
a LEED Platinum rating, the highest rating possible, by the United States Green Building
Council (USGBC). Begun in 2005 by the Department of Architecture through its Center
for Sustainable Design in the FedEx Institute of Technology, TERRA was designed by
architecture students under faculty supervision and involved over 50 community partners.
From the 2007 groundbreaking to the 2009 opening and six months afterwards, TERRA
brought a new understanding of sustainable architecture and design to Memphis. One
of the main objectives of the project was to embody the idea of "green" design while
blending in with the other residences in the Uptown Neighborhood, just north of Downtown
In September 2010, the Art Museum of the University of Memphis celebrated the life
and work of pioneering American architect Paul R. Williams with an exhibition that
showcased his work and the significance of the Paul R. Williams Project
. The project began with the idea of a small exhibition that would honor Williams
in conjunction with the 150th anniversary celebration of the American Institute of
Architects (AIA) in 2007. It soon grew into a more comprehensive approach to expand
expertise and include additional collaborators. The Department of Architecture exhibit
in conjunction with the Williams exhibit showcased the diversity of the community
engagements activities and projects in the Department.
In April 2011, architecture professors Sherry Bryan and Michael Hagge received the
2011 Francis Gassner Award
—the most prestigious honor given each year by the Memphis chapter of the American
Institute of Architects (AIA Memphis). The award recognizes outstanding contributions
to Memphis' built environment and achievements in architecture.