The School of Architecture is devoted to professional education with a sensibility honed in the edge conditions of an extreme climate on a major international border. Located in the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the United States, the School combines a culturally rich past with cutting-edge environmental research in its place-based design approach to the arid environment.
Critical Practice: Relative to other schools in the United States, we claim the terrain of “critical practice,” meaning that we take more seriously the job of professional education and, beyond that, the training of young architects who will significantly contribute to the advancement of our discipline.
Extreme Climate Design: Using our own Sonoran Desert setting, we teach students to design to its extreme conditions; then, we teach them to extrapolate these skills to other climates. Although the architectural academy is aware of the threat that global climate change poses to civilization as we know it, relatively few schools teach both the leading sustainable principles while also stressing simple fundamental strategies, such as passive climate design, downsizing programs, and getting more architecture with fewer materials. Our setting offers the perfect opportunity to focus on radical climate; moreover, climatologists predict that arid climates will cover more of the globe, making our work increasingly relevant. Thus, our School values design that is highly climate responsive.
Sustainability: Because the construction and operation of the built environment is responsible for 48% of global greenhouse gas emissions, we are vigilant about first instilling an ethical orientation, i.e., the architect’s responsibility for transforming the built environment, and then teaching the technical and aesthetic lessons that support those ethics. Technology and strategies for sustainable will change; ethics should not. Thus, our School values professional ethics and sees it as an increasingly important trait in next-generation architects. We are the first B.Arch degree in the country to adopt a sustainability protocol integrated through all studios.
Hands-on Education: Because professionals make, rather than merely think about, the built environment, we have developed a hands-on pedagogy: learning by doing. From our innovate structures curriculum (in which students build-and-break components in order to develop an intuitive sense of building physics) to our design/build studios (in which students build furniture, shelters, and small buildings), our educational environment is analogous to the world of practice and construction. With one of the best Materials Labs is in the country, we are well equipped for this approach. Thus, our School values experiential, as well as intellectual, learning.
Settlement: Because density has a huge impact on carbon footprint, the design of settlement as well as individual building is a primary concern. Arizona’s population will double by 2040; our Sun Corridor, the developing metropolis between Tucson and Phoenix, is the second fastest growing of 11 mega-regions in the nation. Growth-related development of this magnitude, in a fragile desert ecology, will require a new, compact, and more conservation-oriented approach—not traditional sprawl. Our School casts its mission within the needs of our region and values public service.