Summer Pre-College Architecture

The Pre-College Architecture Program is an intensive summer experience offered by Carnegie Mellon University for creative individuals with a keen interest in Architecture. Over the course of 6 weeks, students will be exposed to the interdisciplinary field of Architecture through the lens of CMU’s School of Architecture (SoA) as well as contemporary practices.

Students will experience the dynamic of architectural education within the studio, supported by integrated coursework in analog drawing, digital media, seminars and workshops - allowing for broader exploration of design issues related to the environment, computation as well as the future of our cities. During the second half of the program, specialized workshops on design portfolio development will be conducted as an introduction to techniques for layout design and content composition. Portfolio reviews with faculty and members of the admissions committee will provide students with an opportunity to curate their work for college submissions.




All tools and materials are available from the art store located on campus; you may also bring supplies from hom.

  • 30°/60° or 45° triangle (medium, plastic)
  • T-square
  • Compass
  • Architect's scale (not engineering scale)
  • 24" metal straightedge, cork back
  • Olfa knife and blades (large yellow)
  • X-Acto knife and #11 blades
  • Scissors
  • Glue Gun, glue sticks
  • Tacky or Sobo Glue
  • Pencils - HB, 2B, 6b (one each)
  • Pencil sharpener, small
  • Erasers, Kneaded and Magic Rub (one each)
  • Pastel, white (1 stick)
  • Compressed Charcoal, black, soft (2 pieces, min.)
  • Kole Charcoal, black (1 piece)
  • Conte Crayon, black, soft (2 pieces)
  • Drafting tape
  • Pushpins, one box (clear pins)
  • Bamboo Brush or Watercolor Brush, size 6-8
  • Black ink (one bottle)
  • 18"x24" bond pad
  • 18"x24" newsprint pad
  • Lined notebook (for seminars and digital media notes)
  • Sketchbook (unlined, approx. 9"x12", spiral bound preferred
  • Flash drive, USB, minimum 8 Gb (for storage of work)
  • Padlock (for studio locker)

Students will have access to desktop computers within the studio space equipped with all of the necessary software. Personal laptops are not required. Software licenses will not be available for individual use.


Design success is largely the result of focused effort and rigorous investigation; students should expect to invest a significant amount of time working in the studio with fellow students outside of class (evenings and weekends) to develop and complete coursework.

Upon successful completion of the program, students can expect to have learned about the fundamental principles of Architecture as well as investigating architectural challenges in a studio setting - including but not limited to:

  • Critical architectural analysis
  • Conceptual articulation
  • Analog & digital representation
  • The process of learning through iteration
  • The ability to oscillate between two-dimensional and three-dimensional thinking

Our six week program is structured into two parts: Architecture Fundamentals (weeks 1 - 3) and Design Application (weeks 4 - 6).

The projects and assignments issued within all courses will increase in complexity as students continue to build upon their newly found technical skills and creative expressions. While the program allows for enrollment in either a three- or six-week program, it's encouraged that students attend the full six-week program to foster a comprehensive learning experience and greater development. Please note that the three-week program option is only available for the first three weeks.

Foundation: Architecture Fundamentals, weeks 1 – 3

During the first three weeks of the program, students will work through a series of projects to build a basic comprehension of the fundamental principles of Architecture. We will cover analytical thinking, conceptual development, techniques in representation, and spatial articulation. Students will be expected to both collaborate with their classmates as well as work individually.

Elaboration: Design Application, weeks 4 – 6

The final three weeks of the program will shift the focus of your studies and explorations in scale to encompass issues of site, context, and human experience. Students will work individually with the studio faculty to rigorously elaborate their design work, as well as integrate the skills and techniques through the following:

  • Advanced digital media and digital fabrication workshops
  • Seminars, special lectures and filed trips which will curate a wide variety of topics relating to issues of contemporary practice
  • Workshops for portfolio design and photography that'll teach students how to package design work graphically

The working methodologies and final production standards experienced during these three weeks of the program most closely represent the environment of a professional design practice. These final weeks will be critical for the continued advancement of conceptual and technical skills, as well as the development of students’ individual design sensibilities.

Course Descriptions

Design Studio

Studio is the core of the architecture pre-college program and serves as an introduction to the spatial concepts of architecture. Projects will explore the design and experience of spatial environments through a series of creative investigations consisting of both independent and collaborative work. Studio production will be largely supported by individual critiques as well as group discussions to critically review design work. The course is focused entirely on project design work, with the integration of concepts and skills from all other courses, workshops and lectures.

Digital Media

Digital Media introduces students to the creative use of software and digital technology in architecture through in-class workshops and lectures. Students will learn the basic skills needed to create, explore, and critique digital images, drawings and three-dimensional environments. As a complement to the design studio, assignments will encourage an active dialogue between design intentions and representational tools. The course will focus on developing skills in Photoshop and Rhino3D for image editing, color manipulation, line drawings and 3-D object generation.


This course introduces observational and creative drawing, including free hand and mechanical drawing of spatial environments: interior and exterior, architecture, still life and the human figure. A wide range of media will be explored including, but not limited to, pencil ink and charcoal. Students will learn the basic principles of constructing two and three-dimensional drawings and perspective as well as a variety of sketching and free hand drawing techniques.

Seminars and Special Lectures

Seminars and special lectures introduce students to the expansive field of architecture, from history to contemporary practice. Subject themes are explored through lecture presentations, workshops and group discussion; topics vary from year to year.

Guest Lecture Seminars

Presentations by guest lecturers explore current topics in architectural research, process and advanced technologies. Guest presentation topics vary from year to year. Past topics have included digital fabrication technologies and robotics in architecture; environmental systems and design ecologies; biotechnology and energy research; nonprofit development of industrial sites; tangible interactive and computational design; architectural study abroad; and community-based design-build projects.

Field Trips and Special Projects

Field trips and special projects expose students to dynamic learning opportunities out in the field. These vary from year to year. Past events have included visits to recently completed local architectural projects, building construction sites, museum exhibitions and workshop experiments in conjunction with the Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture Computational Design (Code Lab) and Digital Fabrication (dFAB) Labs.

Advanced Digital Media and Fabrication (weeks 4-6)

A series of workshops in 3D digital modeling and digital fabrication will be conducted in the second half of the program as a part of the Digital Media course. The techniques and skills developed will be fully integrated into the working environment of the design studio. Students will be able to explore their ideas through a variety of media as part of a fluid creative workspace that contributes to their project design work.  

Portfolio and Photography Workshops (weeks 4-6)

During the second half of the program, a weekend photography workshop will introduce students to the basic principles of documenting physical models for portfolios. The portfolio workshop will introduce techniques and strategies to package work graphically for academic submissions.


Resident (6 week program) - $8,972
Resident (3 week program) - $5,252
Commuter (6 week program) - $6,487
Commuter (3 week program) - $3,944

Limited Scholarships

Some financial/merit-based scholarships will be available to select students who've been accepted into the program, completed the scholarship application, financial aid estimate and submit a digital portfolio by March 1, 2019. Please note that preference for scholarships is given to students applying for the full, six-week program. Additionally, scholarships are not available for international students. 

Tuition Waivers

If you're looking to attend the Pre-College Architecture program at no cost, there are limited opportunities for tuition waivers. When applying to this program, you'll be able to indicate you'd like to be considered for this option.