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Spaces, Design Labs, and Workshops

Burchard Plaza in the evening with students sitting and standing out front

The School of Architecture prioritizes a respectful and intellectually stimulating environment that contributes to students' design education and fosters a lifelong pursuit of learning. 

With a dedicated desk in the design labs, students work in open studios alongside other majors and/or student cohorts on design issues through iterative making and design critique. 

Studio Spaces and Design Labs

The goal of the School is to make an environment where students learn to take responsibility for their own education with the guidance of the faculty and within a holistic framework. The faculty is primarily responsible for establishing the necessary environment for the student’s educational growth.

This Studio Culture Policy is an evolving document. The School encourages the submission of comments and constructive suggestions to the academic advisors, program chairs, Associate Director or Director of the School of Architecture for consideration, review, and/or implementation.

Both the students and the faculty have a responsibility to contribute to making the laboratory an environment that is respectful of individuals, shares in the intellectual life of the school, and is conducive to disciplined work.

The laboratory is an environment in which the multiple facets of the student’s formal education are brought into discourse with one another.

The School recognizes that adequate time must be allowed for such an educational process to take place. The faculty carefully assess and structure the requirements of the work assigned to students so as to give the students adequate time for a committed investigation of the inherent complexities of each project.

At all stages of the design process architectural education requires the ability to think clearly and coherently, to form sound opinions and to make sensible judgments as part of an ongoing process. The form of this thought and the values established is made evident in writing, discussion, representation, and making.

The School expects students to develop a sense of self-reliance and independence; to discipline themselves towards diligence in their working habits; to give full attention to the quality of their work; and to adapt to different lab environments. The School encourages the development of healthy work habits, creativity for what it can offer to the broader dialogue taking place in the lab, and an open attitude to constructive criticism and advice.

Students should recognize that the most valuable insights emerge from within their ongoing dialogue with the work, not from judgment on the finished project. The School emphasizes ongoing dialogue and discussion rather than final judgment. An important component of the laboratory will be regular group discussions of the students’ ongoing design work and more public discussions in the form of exhibitions. Each discussion is primarily intended not as a critique of the student by the faculty, but as a mutual dialogue about architecture.

Students are encouraged to think of all the faculty of the School as “their” faculty, and not only their particular lab instructor. Interaction between students in separate labs and between students in separate years of the program is encouraged.

The weekly routine of design lab will be infused with lectures and presentations by an array of faculty and visitors. Students are expected to attend as many of these presentations as possible, and to participate in the discussions that they initiate.

All students are encouraged to establish a trajectory of investigation that will sustain a continuing creative life within the profession.

The School believes that the continuing health and development of the discipline of architecture demands students who are capable of critical thought about the principles and practice of their profession.

The School believes that every student’s work has the capacity to influence future growth and innovation within the discipline.

While the laboratory and its supporting facilities provide immense opportunities for innovation and exploration, these spaces require the respect of all. The Schools expect students, faculty, and staff to assist in maintaining the cleanliness and functionality of spaces and equipment. These include, but are not limited to, the design laboratories, lobbies, classrooms, print labs, shops, restrooms, and exterior building perimeters at all sites.

For more information on the nationwide discussion on “studio culture,” please see the following publications by the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS):

Fabrication Labs and Workshops

Address: 1325 Perry St., Blacksburg, VA 24061 

The School of Architecture’s administrative offices, as well as the College of Architecture, Arts, and Design Dean’s offices, are located in Cowgill Hall. In addition, Cowgill Hall provides space for faculty offices, classrooms, and undergraduate and graduate architecture design labs, accessible to all students on a twenty-four hour per day basis. Cowgill Hall lobby serves as a principal exhibition space. 

Cowgill Hall offers a variety of workshops, including the 'bot shop' and 3D printing studio, ceramic workshop, and 24-hour printing/plotting labs. These spaces support student research and design exploration in a hands-on setting, allowing you to experiment with various materials and techniques while developing your design skills.

The Art & Architecture Library is located on the first floor of Cowgill Hall. Its collection of approximately 78,000 volumes and more than 200 journals encompasses the visual arts, art history, architecture, decorative arts, and design. It holds nearly 900 multimedia items and houses several hundred sets of architectural drawings for in-house use. This branch of the University's Newman Library offers state-of-the-art technology and serves as a vital resource for the School of Design students, providing you with access to a wealth of knowledge and inspiration. More info…

The Lucy and Olivio Ferrari Archive on the first floor of Cowgill Hall was established in October 2017 by Lucy Ferrari and Professor Frank Weiner. The construction of the physical archive room was made possible by generous gifts from Lucy Ferrari and the USM Modular furniture company an award-winning Swiss-based manufacturer.  The archive consists of approximately 1,000 items representing a wide range of didactic materials including diagrams, texts, notes, professional projects, travel sketches, painting studies, prints, photographs, objects, furniture, prototypes, toys, jewelry, and textiles. These artifacts were mainly produced during the period from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. The archive contains an extensive library of 2,200 volumes on architecture, design and rare children’s books donated by Prof. Frank Weiner and his wife Lynn Eichhorn.

Address: 1327 Perry St, Blacksburg, VA 24060

Burchard Hall offers studio workspaces for 200+ students in architecture, industrial design, and landscape architecture. Its extensive shop facilities for student use are staffed by experienced technicians to enable students to engage in hands-on learning, refine technical skills, and bring designs to life. 

Workshops include woodworking and metalworking equipment; a fabric/textile laboratory; a plastics shop (basic equipment including lathes, a vacuum former and an Objet Printer); LaserCamm laser cutting rooms; a 3D printer room; a ceramics lab; a silkscreen printing studio; photographic darkrooms; and a computer input/output room with multiple large format printers, scanners, and plotters. The shops are supervised by four full-time technicians, skilled in the operation of equipment and available to provide instruction and assistance. The ceramics workshop provides opportunities for form study and analysis, using clay, porcelain, and other plastic media. More info…

Address: 185 Inventive Ln., Blacksburg, VA 24061

Located approximately 1.5 miles west of the Virginia Tech main campus, the Research + Demonstration Facility (RDF) houses high bay working spaces, shop facilities with wood- and metal-working equipment, CAD/CAM machines, facilities for large scale welding projects, and/or studio and workshop spaces for students and faculty working on special projects.

Address: 490 Old Turner Street, Blacksburg, VA 24061

The Auditorium (Room 100) in Hancock Hall is used to accommodate lectures and large classes. The Auditorium seats approx. 330. More info…

Virtual Campus Tour

Overhead shot of the back of Burruss Hall and front of Cowgill Hall with Burchard in between

Explore the Virginia Tech campus through our 360 virtual tour, providing an immersive experience of the larger university setting. 

Nestled between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains, Blacksburg, Virginia is a vibrant community with a low cost of living, award-winning services, and abundant leisure activities. Its natural beauty and diverse cultural offerings make it an ideal location for students to live and learn. The region's growing economy, scenic vistas, and historical attractions create a dynamic environment for students at Virginia Tech. 

For more information or assistance, please reach out to our front desk at (540) 231-5383 or visit us at Cowgill Hall RM 201, Virginia Tech. Our team is eager to help you explore the School of Architecture and guide you through your academic journey. We look forward to welcoming you to our creative and inspiring community.