Architecture at MIT

Architecture Department Slide Show

By late 1865, William Robert Ware had formulated "An Outline of a Course of Architectural Instruction," which was published the following year. In this groundbreaking document, Ware clearly articulated the requirements for a system of architectural education and the methods by which he believed this system could best be attained. He writes,

"... architecture may be called the prose, as sculpture and painting are the poetry, of art. Its first principles are truthfulness, good sense, and perspicuity.... Considerations of method, order, form, clearness, precision, and sobriety are what make a good working style, both in writing and in building.... The thing to be taught is the theory and practice of architectural design; and this is to be learned by studying its history, which everywhere illustrates its principles, and its principles everywhere illustrated by its history."

One of Ware's primary concerns was for the education and training of skilled draftsmen:

"I believe that competent assistance and well-informed and trustworthy draughtsmen, furnished with properly graduated diplomas of established reputation, would find their services in great demand; and that a school which should establish a name for turning out men who knew thoroughly what they claimed to know....would do more than any other possible agency to raise the character of our architecture."

In establishing his curriculum, Ware drew from many sources. He examined curricula and professional practice in France, England, and Germany, attempting to create a synthesis of what was best from each of these models. Ultimately, however, MIT's program developed along the lines of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, but with important differences. It centered on a planned curriculum, scheduled classes, courses in construction, and the acquisition of a general background in the history of architecture, as well as in the fine and applied arts.

Instruction in the Department of Architecture began in 1868, with the enrollment of four full-time degree students and 12 students in the two year special program. The shorter program was conceived for students who were already working in architects' offices or who wished to augment earlier studies. Ware's first faculty recruit was Francis Ward Chandler, who remained at the Institute for only half of the 1869-1870 academic year, but returned to run the department in later years. He next brought in Eugène Létang, a highly esteemed Ecole graduate who had just returned from the Franco-Prussian War. Ware and Létang worked diligently during these years to create and expand the Department of Architecture.

The Department made its home in the Rogers Building, which had been designed by William G. Preston in 1864 and was located on Boylston Street near Boston's Copley Square. Floor plans for the building show a large, centrally located space devoted to an architectural library and museum. Drawings from the Study Collection were hung on the studio walls and numerous casts and other artifacts also lined the walls and picture rails. In his 1865 outline, Ware notes that, "A well-selected though not necessarily a very large library, so placed as to be easily used ... and portfolios of first rate architectural drawings, would be invaluable." Traveling abroad extensively in 1866 and 1867, Ware visited various academic institutions and architects, compiling a Study Collection of drawings, prints, photographs, and artifacts for use in the new department.

Floorplan of the Rogers Building, Fourth Floor
Rogers Building Half Story

Return to Drawings at Work Ware's Study Collection