History of the Department of Architecture

The academic programs within the Department of Architecture are the professional Master of Architecture degree, the pre-professional Bachelor of Fine Arts in Architecture degree, and the professional Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Architecture degree.

Architectural education at the University of Memphis began in 1965 in the Industrial Arts Program.  In 1966, several programs, including the Architectural Technology Program, were combined with Industrial Arts Education to create the Department of Engineering Technology within the College of Engineering.  The degree became the Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology (BSET) with a major in Architectural Technology.  The BSET degree was accredited by the Technology Accreditation Commission of the Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology.

Efforts to create a professional degree in architecture at the University of Memphis were ongoing for well over twenty years before the Master of Architecture degree was implemented and accredited.  This effort was led by faculty, local architects, and others and ultimately led to the Architecture Program administratively moving in 2000 to the College of Communication and Fine Arts from the College of Engineering.  The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Architecture degree was created to replace the BSET in Architectural Technology degree.  At this time, the decision to develop a professional Master of Architecture degree program accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) became a focal point of the University and local professional community.

In 2005, the University submitted a Letter of Intent to establish the Master of Architecture degree to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) and in 2007, the M.Arch degree was approved by the THEC.  In 2008, the first NAAB site visit took place.  Candidacy status was granted for the M.Arch degree effective 1 January 2008.  The first M.Arch students were admitted in the fall semester of 2008.  The second NAAB visit took place in March 2010 and the M.Arch degree was formally granted continuation of its Candidacy effective 1 January 2010.  The first M.Arch students graduated shortly thereafter in May and August 2010.  Initial Accreditation notification was received in March 2013, with accreditation retroactive to January 2012.  The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) recognizes the degree received by the students graduating between May 2010 and January 2012 as meeting their educational standards for registration as an architect.  Continuing Accreditation was approved by NAAB effective 1 January 2015.  In 2020, the M.Arch was designated as a STEM degree.

As an urban research institution, the University of Memphis encourages faculty and students to become involved in the “urban laboratory” of the Memphis region through engaged scholarship and research, service, and creative activities.  In recent years, faculty and students in the Department of Architecture have completed many externally and internally funded research projects as well as many non-funded projects throughout the Memphis urban area.  With a focus of “City Building” each faculty member teaching a design studio is encouraged, to the greatest extent possible, to have at least one project in the studio with a community partner.  While most of these partnerships occur in the undergraduate studios, some have been incorporated into graduate studios.  These and other projects help fulfill the mission of the Department and the University as an urban research institution and provide valuable hands-on experience for the students.

In 2007, the University of Memphis (Department of Architecture and Department of City and Regional Planning) was a founding partner of the Memphis Regional Design Center (MRDC) along with the Memphis chapters of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), and the Urban Land Institute (ULI).  Local firms, organizations, and foundations were also involved in establishing the MRDC.  In 2014, the MRDC had fully evolved to become the University of Memphis Design Collaborative (UMDC), a center at the University, with the director serving as an Adjunct Professor in both departments.

The Department, in partnership with the Memphis Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, has conducted the Discovering Architecture Summer Program or a variation of it since 2005.  This day camp attracts young people from around the region and offers scholarships to economically disadvantaged youth.  Post COVID, the program was reimagined as the Summer Scholars Institute and is now based in CiV, the downtown office of AIA Memphis.  Faculty from the Department of Architecture serve as primary instructors.  Local architects and designers as well as architecture students also participate in the program instruction.