The LSU School of Architecture is the oldest public school of architecture in Louisiana.
In 1947, O.J. Baker formed a four-year curriculum in architectural engineering, housed in Atkinson Hall, and offered through the Department of Architecture in the College of Engineering. By 1951, the program had evolved into a five-year professional curriculum, and the first degrees were awarded in the spring of 1960. In 1962, the professional program was accredited.
In 1965, the Department of Architecture became part of the newly formed School of Environmental Design. Also included in the school at that time was the Department of Landscape Architecture, and the Department of Fine Arts joined in 1966.
In 1971, William McMinn became the new department head for the school. He served until 1974, when Fount Smothers replaced him. In 1979, the School of Environmental Design was renamed the College of Design and included the newly reorganized Schools of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Art. At this time, the interior design program at LSU was part of the School of Architecture. Interior design would emerge as its own department in 1990. During this period, the architecture program was housed in Hill Memorial Hall. In 1979, the School of Architecture reoccupied Atkinson Hall, prominently situated on the main quadrangle of the university.
In 1981, A. Peters Opperman became the new director of the school, replacing Fount Smothers. Professor Opperman launched the graduate program, the Master of Science in Architecture. This post- professional program was dedicated to advancing the state of architectural research. Under Opperman’s leadership, Professor Jason Shih developed a nationally recognized research program in solar design and established the Office of Building Research. Opperman served until 1986, when Professor Robert Heck was appointed interim director, and Chris Theis was selected by the faculty in 1987 to lead the school.
Professor Theis was challenged with rebuilding the architecture faculty after several retirements. He hired Wayne Attoe as graduate program coordinator, and under Professor Attoe’s leadership, the graduate program flourished. Director Theis established the Office of Community Preservation under the leadership of Professor Barrett Kennedy. The OCP supported Professor William Brockway in preservation coursework, leading to a decade of Peterson Prize–winning entries.
Theis led the school to its fourth consecutive five-year term of accreditation from the National Architectural Accreditation Board. In 1989, during his tenure, the school redesigned its undergraduate curriculum to integrate the general education core that was adopted by the University Faculty Senate. Professor Micheal Pitts was integrally involved with the development of the Reading and Writing across the Curriculum program that later became the Communication across the Curriculum program, in which the school still prominently participates.
In August 1994, Robert Zwirn became the sixth director of the school. He served in that capacity until August 1999, when Interim Director Chris Theis replaced him. During Director Zwirn’s term, the school made significant advances in community outreach, establishing relationships with communities in downtown and Mid City Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The school also worked with Honorable Hunt Downer of the Office of the Speaker of the House on the restoration of the Pentagon Barracks in downtown Baton Rouge (Bill Brockway was the faculty member in charge). It was also in this period that Professor Emeritus Bob Heck was named an American Collegiate Society of Architects Distinguished Professor.
In 1996, under Director Zwirn’s leadership, the school once again began the process of redesigning the curriculum for the undergraduate program. Changes in the undergraduate program were followed by a major shift in the graduate program. In 1998, the Board of Regents approved changing the degree of the graduate program from a Master in Science in Architecture to the professional Master of Architecture. The Director’s Advisory Council was instituted, now known as the Professional Advisory Board, as well as a student advisory council now known as the Design Council.
In 2000, David Cronrath became the seventh director of the school. In his initial year in office, the school achieved a full-term accreditation for the bachelor’s program, and the team reviewed the master’s program in candidacy status. Also in that year, the school began a strategic-planning process, which has been updated each year. As part of the planning process, the school initiated a series of student outcome assessments to guide policies and aid in planning for change. Finally, in 2000, the first Master of Architecture class was admitted. The MArch program was granted its three-year candidacy term by NAAB in June 2004.
In 2001, the College of Design changed its name to the College of Art & Design to better recognize the fine arts program and its distinction from the other professional programs in the college.
In the spring of 2004, David Cronrath was appointed interim dean (in fall 2005, he was regularized as dean) and Tom Sofranko took over as interim director of the school. Frank Bosworth, PhD, served as the eighth director of the school for the academic year 2005–06. He stepped down in August 2006, and Sofranko agreed to serve as interim director until the most recent director, Jori Erdman, was hired in January 2009. Under her tenure, the school has been in a significant period of transition with many faculty retirements and five new faculty members appointed in 2013. The school has worked to build stronger ties to the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture through shared courses and research projects and has become a founding department of the LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio in collaboration with the College of Engineering and the School of the Coast & Environment.
In 2010, Dean Cronrath left LSU and Professor of Architecture Ken Carpenter served as interim dean until Alkis Tsolakis was hired and begin his term as dean in January 2013.