The History of Cornell AAP

In 1871 Andrew Dickson White, the first president of Cornell University, exhorted the Board of Trustees to establish a new program to provide formal academic training in architecture. 

White had a fascination with architecture, combined 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, the college 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. The City and Regional Planning (CRP) program began in 1935, becoming a separate department in 1952. In 1967, the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP) officially acquired its current name.

The Master of Fine Arts program began in the 1940s, and 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. AAP NYC was established in 2006, bringing students closer to professional disciplines in practice.

From its first class of only 21 students, AAP has grown and prospered into an internationally recognized leader in creating talented architects, artists, and urbanists. See more college facts here.

Notable Alumni


Robert Fox (B.Arch. '65)
Fox & Fowle Architects, known for the environmentally friendly Condé Nast Building at 4 Times Square in Manhattan

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

Richard Meier (B.Arch. '56) 
Designed the Getty Center in Los Angeles

Nathaniel Owings (B.Arch. '27)
A founding partner of Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill

Lawrence B. Perkins (B.Arch. '31)
Perkins and Will


Charles Ginnever (M.F.A. '59) 
Sculptor and creator of large-scale, open-form works for the outdoors

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

Joel Perlman (B.F.A. '65)
A sculptor who welds relatively small metal components into intricate, abstract shapes

Susan Rothenberg (B.F.A. '67) 
A neoexpressionist painter best known for her animal images


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.

W. Paul Farmer (M.R.P. '71)
The director of city planning in Minneapolis and a president of the American Planning Association

Norman Krumholz (M.R.P. '65)
Cleveland city planner 

Robert Mier (M.R.P. '73, Ph.D. '75)
An influential Chicago planner