“Not everyone is certain about a single career path when first attending college. Cornell provides an ideal environment for undergraduates to consider multiple career options while still working toward developing a strong portfolio for entrance into graduate programs in architecture (M.Arch). We are about mentoring creativity, whether that means exploration in the studio or the lab.” -Christina Morris Penn-Goetsch, Professor of Art History
The pre-architecture program at Cornell focuses on developing your abilities to craft visual styles and to articulate the reasons behind your processes and stylistic choices, which are learned primarily during studio art and art history courses. The department approaches art-making as a means of developing skills in project development, collaboration, and problem-solving skills. Learning practical skills and utility in studio practice then melds with art history, where students study the ideas and intentions behind the art and architecture from the Americas, West Africa, and Europe.
This breadth in approach is an advantage for you when applying to graduate schools and when applying for job opportunities, as employers increasingly demonstrate a preference for employees who have completed a broad undergraduate curriculum that addresses cross-cultural experiences.
You will devote most of your attention to studio art courses, so you can better prepare a portfolio for entrance into graduate programs. You will also take a few art history courses that address architecture—such as Italian Renaissance Art, Medusa’s Gaze, or Rome Reborn, several general history courses, beginning Calculus, and an introduction to General Physics—during your four years on campus.
You may major in any field, although many pre-architecture students choose to major in studio art, because the portfolio is the most important part of a graduate school application.
Right here, right now
Recent pre-architecture students have worked with the Mount Vernon Historical Preservation Commission and Brucemore, a National Trust Historic Site in Cedar Rapids. A few students choose to do construction work over the summer in order to gain direct experience. Art and art history majors have completed internships at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Mexican Museum in Los Angeles, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Puerto Rican Museum of Art, Rochester Art Center, and Russian Icon Museum in Boston.
Submission of a portfolio demonstrating the applicant’s work in studio art plays a critical role in the application process for M.Arch. programs. Therefore, energy must be devoted to developing the appropriate studio art skills early in an undergraduate career.
The Studio Art Senior Thesis project is a yearlong project where you will engage in sustained creative work opportunities. Senior studio art majors receive their own studio spaces and put on senior thesis exhibitions consisting of entirely fresh bodies of work in the mediums of their choice. Studio majors design and execute the creative work, mount the exhibitions in a public gallery space on campus, advertise and archive the shows, and defend their shows in front of the art and art history professors.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for U.S. architects was $78,470 in 2017. Entry-level salaries vary widely by type and geographic location.
Recent graduates have been successful in some of the most competitive graduate art and architecture programs in the country and have gone on to study with Robert Venturi and Louis Khan. Another works for I.M. Pei. And yet another is a faculty member in the landscape architecture program at Washington University in St. Louis. Below are two examples of how former students’ careers evolved.
Diana Krogmeier Suhanyi ’07 decided to delay graduate school upon graduating from Cornell with a degree in fine art and a minor in geology. After working, painting, and teaching art, Diana began her master of architecture degree at the University of Colorado Denver. Upon graduating in 2013 she began working for Iron Horse Architects in downtown Denver. Most of the time at Iron Horse was spent working on construction documents and administration for a group of restaurants and shops at Denver International Airport. Diana now works as project manager for Zola Windows, a company that designs and manufactures premium European windows and doors. At Zola, Diana works with architects and homeowners to select the best products for their projects. She also reviews install details and works with architects to properly design their window and door installations. Diana is also assisting in the design and construction of a custom passive house.
Mitch Bloomquist ’04 received his master of architecture from Washington University in St. Louis in 2007. He went to work as an associate architect for Novak Design Group in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and in 2010 joined the Tilt-Up Concrete Association (TCA) as project manager. He is now executive director of TCA, the international nonprofit trade association for the global tilt-up concrete construction industry. He manages the association and is responsible for publications, events, membership, association programming, communications, and brand management. His publications include a trilogy of state-of-the-art resources for the industry: “The Construction of Tilt-Up,” “The Architecture of Tilt-Up,” and “Engineering Tilt-Up.” His writing has been published widely in trade publications. He also oversees production of TCA’s flagship publication, Tilt-Up Today. He has planned tilt-up education events in the United States and abroad.
Recent alumni careers
Project manager, Zola Windows, Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Executive director, Tilt-Up Concrete Association and Sauter, Baty & Bloomquist Inc., Mount Vernon, Iowa
M.Arch., California College of the Arts, San Francisco
M.Arch., Washington University, St. Louis
M.Arch., Rensselaer Polytechnic, Troy, New York
M.Arch., University of Colorado at Denver, Colorado
M.Arch., Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri