50 Free Open Courseware Classes for Architects

Are you interested in architecture and want to learn more, but you can’t afford a full-fledged education at a college or university? Even if you are a student, you can find a myriad of Web-based resources that can add to your architectural education. These projects usually do not provide credits, but they are free. Additionally, most classes and resources are sponsored by colleges and universities (MIT offering the largest repository of architectural classes), architectural organizations and peer-based collectives.

The follow fifty free open courseware classes, resources and courses are divided into categories such as landscape architecture, engineering, math-based studies and more. Each link is listed alphabetically within those categories to show readers that we do not favor one resource over another. This list is not all-inclusive, as hundreds of Web sites exist that expound on various architectural aspects. Use the links listed in the “Resources” category to help refine your search for even more information.

Basics

  1. American Landscape and Architectural Design 1850-1920: This study collection was gathered from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and showcases an historical view of American buildings and landscapes built during the period 1850-1920 [Library of Congress].
  2. Berkeley Institute of Design: This research group offers information on human-computer interaction, mechanical design, education, architecture and art practice [Berkeley Institute of Design].
  3. Exploring a Romano-African city — Thugga: This course offers a detailed investigation in the archaeology and history of a Roman North African city [The Open University].
  4. Famous Architects: Learn from and about the masters at this site, which is devoted solely to architectural biographies. You might also enjoy the BBC Interviews with Architects [Various].
  5. Great Buildings Collection: This is a leading architectural reference site that focuses on architecture around the world and through time [Great Buildings].
  6. Information Competencies for Students in Design Disciplines [PDF]: Use this paper to learn more about core information literacy skills for higher learning students in disciplines such as design, architecture, architecture history, landscape architecture, planning and interior design [Art Libraries Society of North America].
  7. Introduction to Building Technology: Students are guided through the different components, constraints and systems of a work of architecture [MIT].
  8. Learning Tools: Take virtual tours of the Acropolis, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Waters and build a Ebryologic House through these interactive tools [Columbia University].
  9. Two Introductory Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering Courses [PDF]: Recognizing the importance of communication and cooperation among the three disciplines of civil, architectural and environmental engineering, two courses common to all three majors at Drexel University were developed in 2007, and you can view the results here [Drexel University].
  10. Urban Planning, 1794-1918: These documents provide primary source materials on urban planning through the end of World War I [Cornell University].

Digital Design

  1. Autodesk AutoCAD Civil 3D Education Curriculum: Civil 3D is a civil engineering application that implements a civil model to help build student projects with increased accuracy [OpenOCW].
  2. Autodesk Sustainable Design Curriculum: This course introduces students to sustainable concepts and building information modeling [OpenOCW].
  3. Digital Design: This is a graduate course designed to help students through the process of using rapid prototyping and CAD/CAM devices in a studio environment [MIT].
  4. Digital Urban: Dr. Andrew Hudson-Smith takes aim at examination of latest techniques used to visualise the cityscape via digital media work at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis [University College London].
  5. Introduction to Design Computing: Learn architectural design and computation through computer modeling, rendering and digital fabrication [MIT].
  6. Revit Architecture BIM Curriculum: Utilize professionally developed lecture notes, student workbooks and datasets that integrate seamlessly to allow you to teach building information modeling and design visualization [OpenOCW].
  7. CADD Primer: This entire site is devoted to learning CADD for architectural and engineering drawings. Be sure to delve into their library, which holds dozens of links for resources devoted to CAD education [CADD Education Center].

Architectural Math

  1. Mathematics and Architecture: A very basic course with topical links and a research library [University of St Andrews, Scotland].
  2. Mathematics in Art and Architecture: This module focuses on how mathematics is not just about formulas and logic, but about patterns, symmetry, structure, shape and beauty [National University of Singapore].
  3. Polygons, Tilings, & Sacred Geometry: Study plane figures such as polygons, triangles, hexagons and more and how these figures apply to design [Drexel].
  4. Some Mathematical Principles of Architecture: Learn about the tangible and intangible aspects of architecture, with highlights on the Golden Ratio and the use of the Fibonacci series [Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute]

Engineering and Planning

  1. Basic Structural Theory: This course introduces the static behavior of structures and strength of materials [MIT].
  2. Civil Engineering in Developing Countries: This course uses developing countries’ socio-cultural aspects such as roles of (consulting) engineers and contractors, local materials, techniques and knowledge and environmental issues to learn project planning and management [Delft University of Technology].
  3. Engineering Statics: This is a sophomore-level engineering course that focuses on methods of quantifying the forces between bodies [OpenLearningInitiative].
  4. Extreme Engineering: This long-running show may have set off your interest in engineering. Gain access to interactive tours and view all the projects used in this television show [Discovery Channel].
  5. Sustainable Development for Engineers: Independent study of the book, Sustainable Development for Engineers, is the focus for this course [Delft University of Technology].
  6. Uncertainty in Engineering Analysis: Learn applications of probability and statistics related to problems in civil and environmental engineering [Utah State University].

Landscape Architecture

  1. Architecture Studio — Building in Landscapes: This is an introduction to skills required for building continuities between built and natural worlds. This is one of two 2005 courses, and a 2002 course also is featured [MIT].
  2. Environmental Design Archives: Though the archives’ primary focus is the San Francisco Bay Area during 1890-1990, designers and projects from throughout the world are found in over 100 collections that document the built and landscaped environment [University of California, Berkeley].
  3. Groundswell — Constructing the Contemporary Landscape: This Web site features all twenty-three projects in a 2005 exhibition that showcased reinvented and reclaimed urban public spaces [Museum of Modern Art].
  4. I Want to be a Landscape Architect: This is a careers Web site that combines arts and sciences, design and the environment [The Landscape Institute and CABE].
  5. Landscape Design Knowledge Base: This is a growing resource of authoritative reference materials selected from the Green Places journal [Landscape Design Trust].
  6. Nature and the Built Environment: Open to graduate students and upper division undergraduates, this course explores the evolutionary roots of form and order in the built environment [Notre Dame].
  7. Site/Lines: Learn about park and garden history, theory and design as well as city planning through these PDF journals [Foundation for Landscape Studies].
  8. Water management in Urban Areas: Master course on design and planning of the urban water management system [Delft University of Technology].

Theory

  1. Architectural Design, Level I: Perceptions and Processes: Learn about the relationship between intervention and perception, between representation and notation and between the fixed and the temporal [MIT].
  2. C5 Theory as Product: C5 is a profit-sharing ensemble of artists and academics, based chiefly in the USA. Utilize their research papers, a freeware digital elevation model browser and more to learn theoretical models, analysis and tactical implications of “theory as product” [C5].
  3. Cities and Media — Cultural Perspectives on Urban Identities in a Mediatized World: This page holds the proceedings from the 2006 ESF-LiU Research Conference by the same name. Not all papers from the conference are included, but an overview is provided in those instances [Link√∂pings universitet].
  4. Radical Urban Theory: Read donated papers and book exerpts that touch on subjects such as urban sprawl, architectural fantasy, social interaction with architecture and open space and much more [Various].
  5. Research into Practice Cluster: The projects in this cluster are staffed by postdoctoral researchers and include theoretical and foundational aspects of advancement in the creative and cultural industries [University of Hertfordshire].
  6. Theory and Method in the Study of Architecture and Art: This is a graduate-level course that pursues selected methodologies and thinkers in art history [MIT].
  7. Theory of Architecture: This is the opening to a learning process on architectural theory. Learn thematic theories and theories of synthesis through an easy-to-understand English language overview [taik.fi].

Resources

  1. Akropolis: This is an Internet community for architecture, design and construction that showcases modules and applications [Akropolis].
  2. AMSER — Architecture: At least six dozen Web sites pertaining to construction, math and architecture, sciences and architecture and more are listed in this database [National Science Foundation and National Science Digital Library].
  3. archINFORM: This database includes information about over 21,000 twentieth-century built and unrealized projects from various international architects and planners [Various].
  4. Athena Institute: This site offers software, tools, databases, projects and more to help architects, engineers and others to factor environmental considerations into the design process from the conceptual stage onward [Athena Institute].
  5. Death by Architecture: This site contains architectural news, a plethora of links to all things architecture and current international architecture competitions [Mario Cipresso].
  6. Intute — Architecture and Planning: Use this database to discover worldwide resources on over a dozen architectural topics.
  7. RUDI: Featuring more than 5,000 documents and more than 9,000 images, RUDI is one of the largest Web resource dedicated to urban design and placemaking [Various Universities].
  8. Whole Building Design Guide: This resource continues to add over two million documents per month pertaining to integrated design in various categories [Various].

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