Category Archives: General

Writing About Architecture

Welcome to ARCH 311w, Architectural and Planning Theories at The Pennsylvania State University. With the “w” designation, the course satisfies the “writing across the curriculum” requirement for undergraduate students. Though the course is required and intended for third-year undergraduate architecture students, others are welcome within the course enrollment limit.

I created this course with the intention of making architectural education more connected to the activities and writings within the profession—active, engaged, relevant writing found in current periodicals. The course transitioned from being locked behind the ANGEL LMS to a WordPress site in Spring 2015 to facilitate these links and current ways of working. As CAD was first used as a digital 2D pencil, ANGEL was merely a repository for readings via PDF scans, and student work via Dropbox submissions.

The enthusiastic participation of Spring 2015 students proved that the move allows broader and more engaged thinking on the topic of architectural and planning theories. However, this site (and its instructor) is still undergoing significant development. If you have any suggestions for improvement, and especially if you find any broken links, please let me know in the comment section. I review these on a regular basis as the site becomes more fully functional.

If you need to learn more about WordPress and how to use it (as a student you must post here), check out the WordPress Tutorials on, available to you through PSU’s IT services at the following links. You must authenticate yourself with the first link before you are able to access the content in the second link.

Thank you for your participation in my entry to the 21st century. Now onward!

photo credit: Rhughes411 via photopin cc

Course Policies


Because this is a course based on student participation, prompt attendance is mandatory at all classes and at least three (3) academic lectures. Each unexcused absence lowers your final grade by 1%. Tardiness both delays and disrupts class time. Therefore, two (2) days of tardiness are counted as one (1) unexcused absence. Please notify both me and the TA in advance via email if you will not be attending class, and your reason for doing so. Permission is required unless you are sick. If you are already aware of class days you will miss due to classes, events, or days of observation, you must inform me before the second day of class.

Assignment Deadlines:

9 pm deadline Sundays, according to assignment instructions. Unexcused late submission = 1 lower letter grade on the submission per day.

Writing assistance:

Your TA is available to provide targeted feedback for your writing. If you would like additional writing assistance, please take advantage of Penn State’s Undergraduate Writing Tutors. The earlier you visit them, the more they can help you.

Citation format:

You must follow one citation format, and be consistent with it. If you have questions about proper format, you can consult the Chicago Manual of Style online. Within the constraints of the PSU website manager, we will develop an alternative appropriate citation method within WordPress for citing within online posts. The purpose remains the same, regardless of format: you must credit ideas you gained from others, and provide readers with a way to track down those sources for more information.

Academic Integrity:

You shall provide appropriate credit in your text for direct quotes, ideas which came from elsewhere, and images. Not giving proper credit for such constitutes plagiarism. If you are unclear on appropriate usage, please consult the University’s Plagiarism Tutorial for Students.

Word counts:

The word count for paper submissions is a guideline to give the topic a proper depth for that submission. This word count does not include required reference lists or heading information. There will be a leeway of +/– 10% permitted. You may petition for an alternative word count target if your selected source has shorter norms, but this petition must be approved at least 1 week before a submission deadline.


Most of your assignments will have an associated grading rubric that indicates performance levels that generally correspond to grades:

A indicates remarkable achievement
B indicates very good and thoughtful work
C indicates acceptable work that minimally achieves the learning objectives
D indicates significant deficiencies in the work
F indicates failure to exhibit work that displays an achievement of the learning objectives
Note that Penn State does not allow the grades C-, D+, or D-

I will post grading rubrics shortly. Marie and I will distribute grades regularly through ANGEL.

Contacting me:

I generally return emails within 24 hours during weekdays. Email within 48 hours of a deadline may not be returned. You may use the link on my name in the top left corner of the website, or here.


Please contact me if you require special accommodations due to learning disabilities, religious practices, physical requirements, medical needs, or any other reason.

photo by Yu

NAAB Performance Criteria

Arch 311w will provide primary evidence of student performance in the following areas:

  • A1  Communication Skills: Ability to read, write, speak, and listen effectively.
  • A2  Design Thinking Skills: Ability to raise clear and precise questions, use abstract ideas to interpret information, consider diverse points of view, reach well-reasoned conclusions, and test alternative outcomes against relevant criteria and standards.
  • A5 Investigative Skills: Ability to gather, assess, record, apply, and comparatively evaluate relevant information within architectural coursework and design processes.
  • C2 Human Behavior: Understanding of the relationship between human behavior, the natural environment, and the design of the built environment.

Arch 311w may also exhibit supporting evidence of student performance in the following areas:

  • A9 Historical Traditions and Global Culture: Understanding of parallel and divergent canons and traditions of architecture, landscape and urban design including examples of indigenous, vernacular, local, regional, national settings from the Eastern, Western, Northern, and Southern hemispheres in terms of their climatic, ecological, technological, socioeconomic, public health, and cultural factors.
  • A10 Cultural Diversity: Understanding of the diverse needs, values, behavioral norms, physical abilities, and social and spatial patterns that characterize different cultures and individuals and the implication of this diversity on the societal roles and responsibilities of architects.
  • B3 Sustainability: Ability to design projects that optimize, conserve, or reuse natural and built resources, provide healthful environments for occupants/users, and reduce the environmental impacts of building construction and operations on future generations through means such as carbon-neutral design, bioclimatic design, and energy efficiency.
  • C3 Client Role in Architecture: Understanding of the responsibility of the architect to elicit, understand, and reconcile the needs of the client, owner, user groups, and the public and community domains.
  • C8 Ethics and Professional Judgment: Understanding of the ethical issues involved in the formation of professional judgment regarding social, political, and cultural issues in architectural design and practice.
  • C9 Community and Social Responsibility: Understanding of the architect’s responsibility to work in the public interest, to respect historic resources, and to improve the quality of life for local and global neighbors.

photo by Ard Hesselink