The University of Colorado is more than a year into a bold academic transition. Starting in spring 2013, the university moved its undergraduate program in architecture from the Boulder campus to CU Denver. Administrators and faculty sought a better alignment with the existing master’s degree program in architecture in Denver and stronger connections with the city’s professional design firms.

Photo by Jesse Kuroiwa, courtesy of CU Denver
CU Denvers undergraduate architectural program had 119 students enrolled as of the spring 2014 semester.

“We expected in the first two years that most of the program’s undergrad students would be transfers from other campuses like Boulder,” says Michael Jenson, associate dean for Academic Affairs at the College of Architecture and Planning and assistant vice chancellor for Research and Creative Activities for CU Denver. “But instead, 90% of them came from outside the [CU] system and from 13 different states.”

The program had 119 students enrolled as of the spring 2014 semester.

Jenson says that on the Denver campus, “we were missing part of our culture, with the undergrads still up in Boulder.” The goal is to have 400-500 students enrolled in the undergraduate architectural program by spring 2018, with options for fourth-year students to focus on landscape design, planning, urban design and historic preservation. Department leaders would also like to offer more business classes for designers, add engineering components and implement capstone courses in construction management.

“We’re trying to re-energize our curriculum and redefine the master’s program with an emphasis on professional practice,” Jenson says. As part of that, the college will pilot its “Prax Lab” this spring, an experimental think-tank that will explore a “multi-disciplinary dialogue between architecture, construction and engineering,” Jenson says. “We’re hoping it will become a networking tool for everyone involved in the built environment and way to find out what the industry really needs for its new work force.”