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Programs / Arts / History and Theory of Architecture

Program Summary

Historians of art and architecture study visual communication. At Carleton, we study the great monuments of Western culture—painting, sculpture and buildings—as well as Asian and Islamic art, North American Indigenous art, photography, printmaking and popular culture. We also examine the institutions of art itself: museums, galleries and exhibitions.

Our material ranges from the prehistoric period to the present day. Our students come away from the program with direct experience of collections of art here in the National Capital Region and a historical framework for understanding imagery, as well as an awareness of the multiple possibilities for interpreting art, architecture and other visual phenomena.

Specifically, we examine how representations work. We analyze the products of the human imagination and the visual expressions of different societies. Such analyses produce a historical awareness as well as an understanding of modes of expression in different cultures. This knowledge provides students with the intellectual tools that allow them to function as informed and thoughtful individuals in and increasingly visual and globalized society.

In the History and Theory of Architecture program at Carleton University, you will be taught both by professors with a keen understanding of art and architecture and by seasoned museum professionals with extensive working experience in the field. Students in Carleton’s History and Theory of Architecture programs have access not only to a wide variety of courses but also to the resources of the Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG). At 27,000 works, CUAG’s holdings are rich in Canadian art (especially works on paper), Inuit art and European prints. Faculty regularly use the CUAG as a teaching collection and the art gallery offers practicum placements, an annual research assistantship and summer employment to qualified students.

Practicum (internship) opportunity 

The History and Theory of Architecture program offers you unique practicum opportunities. Senior students who maintain satisfactory standing will be able to receive up to one credit for working on special projects in an Ottawa museum or cultural institution.

The university’s location in the nation’s capital, Ottawa, places you in the heart of Canada’s major cultural resources, providing unparalleled access to both personnel and research materials.

Ottawa is home to the National Gallery of Canada, renowned nationally and internationally for its outstanding collections (including the most important collection of Canadian art in the world) and exhibitions. The Gallery also boasts the most extensive collection of European art in the country. Other important Canadian organizations in Ottawa include:

  • the Canadian Museum of History;
  • the Canadian War Museum;
  • Parks Canada; and
  • both Library and Archives Canada and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, which provide excellent research opportunities not available anywhere else in the country.

History and Theory of Architecture 

BA (General) in History and Theory of Architecture 

This program requires a total of 15.0 credits with 7.0 credits in the History and Theory of Architecture. It will appeal to those interested in a liberal arts education with an emphasis on the history of architecture. As with the Honours program, the General BA program is designed to provide students with a breadth of knowledge in the field.

BA (Honours) in History and Theory of Architecture

This program requires 20.0 credits with 10.0 credits in the History and Theory of Architecture. This program is designed for those thinking of continuing studies at the graduate level in the history of architecture, architecture or heritage preservation.

Both the General and Honours programs require that students take three first-year 0.5 credit survey courses (History and Theory of Architecture 1 [prehistory to 1600], History and Theory of Architecture 2 [1600 to the present] and Art and Society: Renaissance to the Present). Second and third-year students choose from a wide range of surveys and topics courses in the History and Theory of Architecture as well as a core class in the History and Methods of Architectural History in the third year. As a senior student, you will take lectures, seminars and tutorials that provide significant contact with faculty members and encourage active research. You will also be encouraged to develop your competence in another language, especially French, German or Italian.

Minor in History and Theory of Architecture

Students concentrating in other disciplines may choose to complete a minor in the History and Theory of Architecture, which requires 4.0 credits in the History and Theory of Architecture. Please consult the Carleton University Undergraduate Calendar  for the specific required courses for all our programs.

The workplace

Historians of architecture can find opportunities in the architectural profession, heritage preservation and policy. Graduates of our program have found exciting work in restoration, conservation or in government departments concerned with cultural matters.

A BA in History and Theory of Architecture, moreover, prepares students with invaluable skills, including: oral and written articulation, the ability to identify, critically assess, and analyze research materials, the ability to creatively problem-solve, the love of learning, critical thinking, technological skills related to visual and verbal communication, the ability to work independently and in groups, as well as an acumen with visual communication and a knowledge of world cultures.

Graduate studies

Carleton also offers a Master of Arts program in Art History. The program gives students unique opportunities for primary archival research and study of museum practice in the numerous cultural institutions in the National Capital Region.

If you think that you may wish to pursue an advanced degree, you are encouraged to investigate graduate programs early to ensure that your current undergraduate program meets the relevant requirements.

Professional programs

Many professional programs, including teaching and journalism, are interested in attracting well-rounded applicants from a variety of backgrounds. A Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Theory of Architecture provides a strong foundation for such programs. Some students, after completing the History and Theory of Architecture program, pursue professional graduate degrees in architecture, which lead to careers in the profession.

What students are saying about History and Theory of Architecture

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and its members have become an educational family to me. I have spent many hours in the St. Patrick’s building, and let me tell you, it never gets boring. You will always find something or somebody interesting. Whether it’s a guest lecture from Rome or simply a friend from class, St. Patrick’s becomes like a second home. I encourage anybody who is interested in pursuing a deeper knowledge of Architecture and Art to be a part of Carleton’s experience.
Jana Nitschke, History and Theory of Architecture student

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