Studio Culture Policy

NOTE: This Studio Culture Policy (SCP) serves as a working guide for studio culture at Louisiana State University School of Architecture. This document works in sequence with, but does not replace nor supersede, the Louisiana State University Student Handbook (April 2011). 

About SCP

In 2005, the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), the agency authorized to accredit US professional degree programs in architecture, introduced an additional criterion for accreditation: studio culture. NAAB requires each accredited School of Architecture to maintain a written policy on studio life.

Reports organized in 2001 and 2002 by the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) Studio Culture Task Force inspired the addition of the accreditation requirement. The reports examined architectural education and addressed both the positive and negative aspects of studio culture. In the December 2002 report, The Redesign of Studio Culture, the writers called for explicit policies that support the positive aspects of studio culture, while curbing the unhealthy practices. The positive values identified by the 2002 task force are as follows: optimism, respect, sharing, engagement, and innovation. The school identifies the importance of these positive values and continues to share and support them within the school community.

The NAAB Studio Culture condition reads:

The school is expected to demonstrate a positive and respectful learning environment through the encouragement of the fundamental values of optimism, respect, sharing, engagement, and innovation between and among the members of its faculty, student body, administration, and staff. The school should encourage students and faculty to appreciate these values as guiding principles of professional conduct throughout their careers.

The [School’s Architecture Program Report] must demonstrate that the school has adopted a written studio culture policy with a plan for its implementation and maintenance and provide evidence of abiding by that policy. The plan should specifically address issues of time management on the part of both the faculty and the students. The document on studio culture policy should be incorporated in the APR as Section 4.2.

The AIAS report, The Redesign of Studio Culture:

The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB):

The school affirms the value of the studio-based educational model. This value resides in the active learning that is indicative of studio education with its emphasis on dialogue, collaboration, risk-taking and learning by doing. Students must take responsibility for their own design education with faculty guidance within a larger framework. Studios are a type of learning community with intense learning relationships that range from one-on-one faculty instruction and peer-to-peer learning. In recognition of this community, the school has the following SCP, which supports a learning environment in which students and faculty strive to create a respectful learning environment. This policy endorses balance in life and study, understanding in time commitment, evaluation of work beyond letter grades, respect given to all community members at all times, and a challenging, diverse, and respectful learning environment. The policy pertains to all academic classes and time spent in and out of studio.


The studio environment provides students with the opportunity to research, create drawings, models, writings, and diagrams to make discoveries with faculty support. This problem-based learning teaching method allows a student to learn by producing work that allows for multiple forms of interaction in the studio and in related spaces such as the Design Shop, library, technology labs, and review spaces. An ongoing dialogue about work is a powerful learning tool that allows for the most interesting product to emerge in a design studio. Consistent communication among peers and faculty gives students opportunities to ask questions, borrow ideas, and make proposals, which are developed and discussed amongst members of the academic community. This communication and sharing allows students to develop critical thinking skills and spatial and material stances. 

The desk critique, or “crit,” is essential in a design studio. This one-on-one interaction between student and faculty is the primary source of feedback of the student’s design process, production, and overall solution. During a desk crit, the studio faculty may encourage the student to revise a design solution, pursue one of several iterations, or solve a problem through making. After the desk crit, the student should consider the discussed revisions to the project design, incorporate a chosen iteration, or create the suggested model or drawing. In future desk crits, faculty will evaluate changes made to the original design and the student’s ability to reflect on suggestions, employ changes, and produce material to advance in the design process. 

Time Management

The school encourages its students and faculty to maintain balance in their lives. From the perspective of the faculty, “all-nighters” are discouraged, and students should make an effort to complete their work efficiently. Studio requires a significant commitment of time because it is project-based learning. This type of learning is time intensive because, though group and individual instruction is given, learning occurs while students work through a project. Additionally, time management skills, rather than sheer amounts of time, are required to succeed in studio in particular and college at large. Students must not only ‘put in the time’ but also must use that time effectively. In recognition of this need for time management skills, the school has a close relationship with the LSU’s Center for Academic Success. The school encourages students to utilize the center. The school recognizes the importance of the clear communication of project guidelines by faculty and of the intent behind a project by a student to allow for a thorough investigation. Finally, the school requires the clear articulation of course learning objectives and outcomes such that students may set aside adequate time for work and study.

Design Process

Project-based learning requires intention, process, and production. This type of learning often leads to multiple solutions. Students explore open-ended questions often with no “right or “wrong” answer. Faculty encourages students to explore multiple avenues and forces to inform a project. An open attitude will allow students to adeptly develop ideas and research, the material and graphic quality of the work, and the design within its real-world context.


Grades are only a single measure of a student’s performance in studio. Advising and counseling are integral to a student’s studio evaluation.


Collaboration allows valuable insights to emerge through the influx of new and shared ideas in an open and diverse environment. The school recognizes the importance of partner, team, and group projects at all levels of design research and development.

Interdisciplinary Study

An architectural education is one in which a student builds from multiple aspects of their education in order to intelligently investigate a design problem. The school encourages community-based research, design opportunities, and student initiatives to matriculate in elective courses within diverse fields. Students will acquire a broad range of skills and experiences, which is becoming increasingly important in contemporary design professions.


The school encourages students to further their own understanding of architecture by engaging in an ongoing dialogue through the means of vigorous review. Reviews allow students to view classmates’ work, receive feedback and advice, and gain valuable graphic and oral presentation skills. The school encourages respectful discussion of the quality of the design, craft, and argument of a project. Additionally, reviews can occur at different stages during the design process, take on varying degrees of formality, and allow students to receive feedback from different school faculty. The final review is at the end of the semester and is a formal event. Faculty carefully considers course work and schedule in studio and other classes so that students have the ability to think clearly and perform well during preparation for and presentation at the final review. A final review, rather than a final exam, serves as an opportunity for faculty to not simply assess a student’s understanding of course material but also to disseminate architectural knowledge within a broader framework. The school strongly encourages students to attend all levels of final reviews to maximize exposure to work and inquiry.

Student Professionalism

The nature of studio work requires students to demonstrate a high level of academic dedication and a critical attention to class and studio work. Similarly, meaningful dialogue and productive work sessions in studio demand an environment in which all members of the academic community have mutual respect for one another. Students should work to maintain a workplace that promotes an open, productive learning environment free of harassment and excessive distraction. As an active and shared work environment, studio should be kept clean and orderly. 

Faculty Development

In the studio environment, the most effective development of students is a result of faculty expertise and enthusiasm. Faculty serves as an example to students and pursues opportunities in continuing education within the profession and fully engages in the university community. An admiration of architecture and great expertise in design and the profession of faculty inspire students. In studio, the faculty encourages healthy debate and discussion.

Faculty and student interaction in studio drives students’ design and mode of representation. Faculty members have a vital role in navigating a student’s path in a design problem, a project, personal development, and professional direction. Faculty members offer assistance to students in order to maintain their personal and academic welfare. Faculty also help a student to develop his or her own personal viewpoint, aesthetic, and approach to design and recognizes intellectual and creative diversity as assets and encourage the exploration of each student’s strengths that fall within learning expectations.

The Building

The school holds architecture studios in Atkinson Hall, which is open every day, 24 hours per day, to students enrolled in LSU architecture courses. Open building access is a privilege, which may be revoked at any time for any reason within the confines of the Student Handbook. For individuals who are not enrolled in the School, the building is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; closed Saturday and Sunday. Students may use their ID for swipe card access after-hours at the ground floor east and west side entries as well as the 2nd floor south side entries. All students must adhere to the existing Building Use Policy, SCP, and LSU Student Handbook.

Policy Circulation | Awareness

The school recognizes the importance of the SCP as an introduction to or reminder of studio life. Faculty will include a portion of the explanation of the SCP that includes a link to the school website to direct students to the full policy as a clause in the class syllabus. The policy will also be available in the Student Handbook, the school website, and in the school office. It will be given as part of orientation or at the first meeting of the school year in a printed and digital form. 

Policy Arbitration Process

The school believes in the importance of mutual respect between all members of the community. Students may approach another student, faculty, or staff member if they feel that they are not acting in accordance with the overview, core values, and policy goals of the SCP. The result will not be a punishment but rather a conversation between two people with different experiences, points of views, and expectations of one another. These parties will often discuss their own opinions, listen to the other’s understanding of the situation, and then come to a compromise.

The first step in clarifying academic or studio policy issues is party-to-party discussion (faculty to student, student to faculty, students to administration, etc.). The second step, if necessary, is for both parties to meet with a student mediator to resolve the issue through candid discussion. The mediators will be two nominated members of the SCP Review Committee and act as representatives for their degree program respectively. A graduate representative will resolve the issues of undergraduate parties. An undergraduate representative will mediate the issues of graduate parties. The third step, if necessary, is for the parties to discuss the issue in consultation with the director. If the issue is not resolved through the first three steps, the fourth and final step is to seek resolution of the issue through the Policy Arbitration System. An ad-hoc committee convened to act as a SCP Review Committee will hear any issues related to the SCP Arbitration System.

If any party in the academic and studio culture relationship structure (individual student, group of students, faculty, or administration) feels that another party is not acting in the spirit of the SCP, they are entitled to file an arbitration request with the director. The intent of this process is to provide a mechanism for the timely resolution of a SCP related issue within the course of a semester or outside the semester boundaries. The School intends for the policy arbitration process to be a measure taken only if the first three steps of the process do not properly resolves an issue.

After a request for arbitration has been made, the SCP Review Committee must be gathered and assembled to hear the issue from both parties. They then have two days to complete a committee report and assemble another arbitration session of involved parties. The SCP Review Committee will hear both parties explain their point of view of the issue(s) raised in the arbitration request individually and bring the parties together once the SCP Review Committee has completed their committee recommendation. The committee recommendation is presented verbally at the arbitration session and serves as a guide for both parties to resolve the issues at hand.

Policy Implementation Outline

  • Step 1: Party to Party Conversation
  • Step 2: Both Parties meet with Student Mediator
  • Step 3: Both Parties meet with the Director
  • File Policy Arbitration Request: Complete arbitration request form and file with the director
  • Assemble Committee: The director receives request and schedules an arbitration session within five days of request (or at the discretion of the director)
  • Convene First Arbitration Session: SCP Review Committee convene a SCP Review Arbitration Session to hear verbal positions presented from both parties
  • Meet to compile Report/Recommendations: SCP Review Committee meets to complete report and define recommendations
  • Convene Second Arbitration Session: SCP Review Committee reconvenes arbitration session within two days (or at the discretion of the director) of first arbitration session to make verbal presentation of recommendation
  • Process complete 

Review of SCP

The SCP is an evolving document. Students, faculty, and administration will revisit it annually and discuss new developments, which might foster a more responsible learning environment. Changes in school and the architectural discipline will remain equal with the values of professionalism and credibility inherent in the school.

The SCP Committee, at the discretion of the director, will be comprised of graduate, upper-division undergraduate students, faculty, AIAS student board member(s), and the director of the school. An open application process will form a committee that will submit recommendations of appropriate changes to the policy. SCP Committee members must be cognizant of the ongoing trends in studio and the profession and be passionate about upholding the standards of the school community.

The SCP Committee will establish and uphold an effective schedule to review and update the current SCP. The SCP Committee will engage in an open dialogue about the policy with, and present the document to, the school and the community. The SCP Committee will then submit the recommended changes to the faculty. Revisions will go into effect pending approval by the faculty and the director.

2010–11 Committee Members:

Sean Chaney (B. Arch ’11), Jonathan LeJune (B. Arch ’11), Megan Harris (B. Arch ’12), Stacy Palczynski (B. Arch ’12), Elliot Manuel (B. Arch ‘14), Meghan Bilski (B. Arch ’15), Kyle Hymel (B. Arch ’15)

201112 Committee Members:

Steven Bergeron (B. Arch ’12), Emma Greenberg (B. Arch ‘13), Kirk Oldenburg (B. Arch ‘13), Nancy Pounds (B. Arch ’13), Elizabeth Galan (B. Arch ‘14), Elliot Manuel (B. Arch ‘14), Andrew Pharis (B. Arch ‘14), Meghan Bilski (B. Arch ‘15), Tyler Detiveaux (B. Arch ‘15), Kyle Hymel (B. Arch ‘15), Kristen Kelsch (faculty)

201213 Committee Members:

Emma Greenberg (B. Arch ‘13), Kirk Oldenburg (B. Arch ‘13), Elliot Manuel (B. Arch ‘14), Andrew Pharis (B. Arch ‘14), Meghan Bilski (B. Arch ‘15), Tyler Detiveaux (B. Arch ‘15), Kyle Hymel (B. Arch ‘15), Kristen Kelsch (faculty) 

On-Campus and Online Resources

The AIAS report, The Redesign of Studio Culture:

The National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB):

The LSU Policies and Procedures:

LSU Living on Campus Handbook:$Content/Living+on+Campus+Handbook?

The LSU School of Architecture Mission Statement:

The LSU University Student Handbook:$Content/Student%2BHandbook?OpenDocument

Center for Academic Success (CAS):
B-31 Coates Hall
Baton Rouge, LA 70803

Communication Across the Curriculum Art & Design Studio (CxC):

104 Design Building
Baton Rouge, LA 70803