Northwestern University—a Big Ten school located just north of Chicago in Evanston, Ill.—has announced a new concentration in architectural engineering and design beginning this fall. The degree will be offered by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. In the Chicago area, the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois at Chicago have long-established undergraduate and graduate programs. In recent years, more hybrid curricula have emerged at institutions that include the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Columbia College, and Archeworks.

The two-year undergraduate program will draw on the faculty of the university's engineering department and Northwestern-based architectural historian David Van Zanten, as well as architects, designers, contractors, and other local practitioners. The coursework will be headed by Chicago architect Laurence Booth, design principal at Booth Hansen, who has an initial three-year appointment as the Richard Halpern/RISE International Distinguished Architect in Residence.

The Stanford- and MIT-educated Booth was drawn to the fact that the new program will exist outside the boundaries of currently conceived architectural schools—and won't require accreditation. He previously has taught architectural studios at Harvard, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. “It's a bad investment,” he says of conventional architectural curricula. “Architects need to know how to think, how to solve problems, how to lead teams, how to organize people.” These are the skills that he plans to emphasize at Northwestern.

A two-day-a-week hybrid seminar/studio format will be supplemented by a research component that will initially focus on Evanston's infrastructure. It is expected that graduates of the program who wish to further study architecture will receive a year's advanced standing in most M.Arch. programs. Approximately 25 students are expected in the program's first class. Booth's approach reaches beyond multidisciplinarity: “It doesn't have an endgame,” he says. “It's a beginning.”