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Architecture is concerned with human habitation in all its aspects and on any scale, from the house to the city. It fulfills the human imperative for shelter and celebration of life by creating places for gathering, work and solitude.

Centred upon studio-based teaching, the study of architecture incorporates a selection of courses in humanities, technologies, design communication and professional practice providing a focused, yet well-rounded introduction to architecture. A sequence of six core design studios premised on the notion of aggregated to integrated learning that begins in Year 2 through multiple burst mode design projects and culminates into a final capstone architectural project in Year 4.

This programme allows students to learn through discourse, design and discovery; develop design skills; appreciate aesthetic and ethical values. Students can enrich core studies through elective courses and exploring related disciplines. There are plenty of chances for students to experience other cultures via international collaborative studios, study tours abroad and student exchange programmes. Students can also utilise the facilities of the School of Architecture, including designated individual studio workspace, the 24/7 Architecture Library, digital fabrication labs and model-making workshops.

Graduates are well-equipped to explore wide-ranging design and building related careers. This programme can be followed by the professionally accredited two-year Master of Architecture that prepares students for a career as an architect in Hong Kong and beyond.

Architecturally Speaking

Architecture is about spatial organization ranging from interiors of buildings to regional planning. At the heart of architecture is human occupation: spatial design contributes to human wellbeing, healthy cities and a sustainable built and natural environment.

Founded in 1991, the Department of Architecture became the School of Architecture in 2009. The School has a firm commitment to its strong relationship to the profession, to developing students’ core competencies and skills for future practice: at its heart is the studio environment and design creativity. The School educates for leadership in the spatial practices that will make real impact in tomorrow’s societies.

The core programme consists of six design studios structured sequentially, in addition to courses in the humanities, technologies, design communication and professional practice. The curriculum is broad, but also focused on the core discipline of architectural design, providing students with requisite knowledge and skills prior to internship in architectural firms. Studio courses align with required courses, facilitating students’ progress from fundamental concepts to project-based design. The culminating final studio integrates previous knowledge and themes into a comprehensive capstone architectural design project: “Our students are very highly rated by professional practices. One of the reasons for this is the integrated structure and rich content of our programmes. They bring creative thinking to real-world problem solving: we are focused on the role of architecture in the communities and societies we serve. Our studio programmes are an exciting bridge into tomorrow’s profession,” said Professor David Dernie, Director of the School.

Helen Kwok is a graduate of the School of Architecture. She has learnt how to analyse, understand and improve the design of the built environment. ‘The first two years of my studies were like a glimpse into the discipline. In the third and fourth years, I was inspired to develop my own design idea and create my own architectural models. More importantly, I became confident enough to present my concepts to reviewers and working professionals.’

The multi-faceted pedagogical approach of the School has equipped Helen with the essentials of architecture. She learnt the history and theories of architecture from lectures and her self-paced study in the Architecture Library which is open 24/7. The wood-making workshops also gave her an idea of structure and construction. ‘The programme has benefited us tremendously with its ample learning resources—from digital fabricating in the computer laboratory, to conducting site visits to acquire urban design concepts, and to desk-critiquing our design projects in the studio.’

She was deeply impressed by the design studio experience. ‘The instructors always reminded us of the importance of active participation in the entire studio learning. After all, architecture is a dialogue. An architect is also a communicator who initiates a dialogue on urban design and listens to society’s responses.’ In addition to examining precedents, Helen also engaged in processes which evolved from her own spatial experience, toward an understanding of the relationship between the spatial use and cultural context. ‘I appreciated the valuable comments from some of the guest critics. I’ve also acquired design computation skills through the use of digital 3D modelling, rendering and animation, which are very practical for architects.’

Helen enjoyed the rapport in the multicultural learning community. Some non-locals were from Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and mainland China. She found the cross-cultural dialogues with them meaningful as their life attitudes inspired her to reflect on her own values. ‘I also appreciated the cultural sensitivity of the locals, as they were able to put their unique observations and sentiments into their designs. They sometimes addressed social issues or envisioned the future through their works.’

The School has a number of exchange programmes and joint studios with leading overseas institutions. Helen said, ‘Many classmates participated in summer travel programmes offered by the School. Travel expenses were partially offset with travel scholarship funds.’

In recent years, joint design studios have been formed with some of the top schools worldwide, including Harvard Graduate School of Design, The Cooper Union, etc.

‘We welcome students who have an enthusiasm and curiosity for the places they live and work, for the cities they inhabit, for societies and communities, people and their environments. Above all, a student should care about how the places we make can contribute to the betterment of the world we live in. And a prospective student will need to be aware that architecture is a visual and creative discipline. We explore ideas and places visually, so a student should be prepared to learn the tools, digital or analogue, that help us describe places and ideas. We can teach skills and knowledge of all kinds, but we can’t instill an innate enthusiasm of those things that lie at the heart of our discipline,’ said Prof. Dernie.

The majority of CUHK’s architectural graduates continue to work in architecture or related professions after completing their master’s degrees in architecture. According to the figures provided by the School, well over 80% stay within architecture, surveying or construction. Just below 10% continue further studies such as MPhil or PhD, mostly in architecture, landscape or urbanism.

‘Above all, I want our graduates to be independent, agile thinkers, habitually experimental and relentlessly rigorous. They are creative people who can synthesise complex problems with a high degree of technical expertise. They are practical, articulate – team players, driven by an ethical commitment and a sense of social responsibility, educated to lead the design professions,’ Prof. Dernie concluded.

Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2021