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#138 The Only Accredited Architecture Program in Northern New England Follows in Alden Partridge’s Footsteps

Jeff Dobbin 200 Things about Norwich, This Week in History

In the mid-1880s, Lewis College had just transitioned back to being called Norwich University. The school had been teetering on the brink of financial collapse just a few years prior, and had been rescued by alumnus Charles Lewis. It was during this period of recovery that Norwich offered, for the first time, a Bachelor of Architecture degree.

Architectural drawing had appeared here and there in descriptions of the engineering curriculum earlier in the 19th century. But from approximately 1885 to 1890, Norwich offered a full course of study in architecture, leading to a bachelor’s degree. It was a natural extension of Partridge’s American System of practical education to produce useful citizens.

After just five years, however, the program ceased to be offered. Little is known about why it was introduced and then dissolved after such a short time. One hundred years later, a new generation of Norwich faculty and students took up the cause. A new architecture program was first proposed around 1988, and it launched in the fall of 1990.

The new program was housed in Vermont College’s College Hall. The curriculum consisted of a five-year Bachelor of Architecture professional degree under the umbrella of the Division of Engineering, Architecture.

At the time, there were only three accredited baccalaureate architecture programs in New England, and none in the northern New England states. Norwich’s program became a candidate in 1992 and received full accreditation in 1996. Ever seeking new horizons, in 1999 the program grew to its current structure: a five-year Master of Architecture, with the first four years leading to a Bachelor of Science in Architectural studies.

A 2012 reorganization saw the formation of the College of Professional Schools. This brought architecture under the same roof as engineering, nursing, and business in an echo of Alden Partridge’s emphasis on the importance of practical, professional education.

In recent years, the architecture program has garnered a host of accolades as a hotbed of innovation in Vermont. Student design projects such as an outdoor classroom and an eco-friendly tiny house have won accolades from the American Institute of Architects. A student-faculty team won accolades at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon in 2013 for their Delta T-90 solar house design. In 2017, we hosted the inaugural Vermont Governor’s Institute in architecture, design, and building.