In 1871, three years into his tenure as the first president of Cornell University, Andrew Dickson White challenged the Board of Trustees to establish a new program to provide formal academic training in architecture. White combined a fascination with architecture with a sense of its importance to cultural history.
While still a young man, he had begun collecting architectural books and journals. He offered his collection, his “pet extravagance” and possibly the best collection in the United States at the time, to the university. In return, the trustees agreed to found a school of architecture and appointed Charles Babcock as the first professor of architecture in the United States.
Providing the first four-year course in architecture in an American university, it presented an alternative to apprenticeship programs or to study in Europe. The new architecture program was immediately popular, registering 32 students by 1876 and enrolling its first international student in 1879. A year later Margaret Hicks (A.B. 1878, B.Arch. 1880) became the first woman to graduate from an architecture course at an American university. In the 1920s, Cornell became the first architecture school to extend its curriculum to five years.
By 1896, the College of Architecture also offered classes in drawing, painting, and sculpture, and a Department of Art was formally added in 1921. A City and Regional Planning program began in 1935, though it did not become a separate department until 1952. In 1967 the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP) officially acquired its current name.
Cornell’s landscape architecture program became part of the College of Architecture in 1922, and by 1933 Cornellians had won seven out of eleven Prix de Rome awards in the field. Since 1973, the undergraduate program in landscape architecture has resided in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, while the graduate program is part of AAP.
The M.F.A. program began in the 1940s. A program in city and regional planning was launched in 1935. In the 1960s a graduate program in urban design was added. In 1986 the college launched Cornell in Rome, a program which has become a vital component of many AAP students’ education.
From the 21 students in the first class to a current enrollment of approximately 500 undergraduates and 200 graduate students, from a faculty of one to a faculty of more than 60, the college has grown and prospered.
Prominent Architecture Alumni
Richard Meier (B.Arch. ’56)
Designed the Getty Center in Los Angeles
Nathaniel Owings (B.Arch. ’27)
A founding partner of Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill
Peter Eisenman (B.Arch. ’55)
A theorist as well as an architect
Arthur Gensler (B.Arch. ’58)
The founder of Gensler Architecture, Design and Planning Worldwide
Lawrence B. Perkins (B.Arch. ’31)
of the firm Perkins and Will
Robert Fox (B.Arch. ’65)
Fox & Fowle Architects, known for the environmentally friendly Condé Nast Building at 4 Times Square in Manhattan.
Prominent Art Alumni
Susan Rothenberg (B.F.A. ’67)
A neoexpressionist painter best known for her animal images
Charles Ginnever (M.F.A. ’59)
Sculptor and creator of large-scale, open-form works for the outdoors,
Joel Perlman (B.F.A. ’65)
A sculptor who welds relatively small metal components into intricate abstract shapes
Louise Lawler (B.F.A. ’69)
A conceptual artist who has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and elsewhere.
Prominent Planning Alumni
Norman Krumholz (M.R.P. ’65)
Cleveland city planner
Paul Farmer (M.R.P. ’71)
The director of city planning in Minneapolis and a president of the American Planning Association
Robert Mier (M.R.P. ’73, Ph.D. ’75)
An influential Chicago planner.
Edmund Bacon (B.Arch. ’32)
An architecture graduate whose time at Cornell preceded the planning program, Bacon made his mark in Philadelphia as one of the most prominent city planners in American history.