There are many great B.Arch (bachelors in Architecture) programs, and you want to choose one that is focused both on the discipline of architecture, regarding its history, theory, and techniques, as well as on the profession of architecture itself, in terms of building technology, innovations in design and construction, and professional practice. If you’ve decided to apply to a competitive B.Arch Programs you will need a competitive Art Portfolio to apply.

At Ashcan we’ve helped thousands of students enter top B.Arch programs and we strongly recommend that you include some examples that involve drawing from direct observation. It’s valuable for admissions counselors to see examples of your experience with and approach to drawing. We also suggest including some research based and imaginative work, both 2 dimensional and sculptural that show you’re an inventive and creative problem solver. 

These are our top five favorite B.Arch programs:

Cornell University

The B.Arch program at Cornell balances the intensity of a professional education with opportunities to use the resources of a world-class university. There’s a highly structured and intensive curriculum, one that emphasizes design, as well as theory, history, technology, representation, and structures. 

Portfolio requirements 

A portfolio is a required and critically important component of the application. The portfolio should contain several examples of freehand drawings including sketches as well as fully developed work. In addition to drawing, a range of artistic media needs to be demonstrated, but each applicant should emphasize the work where their skills and passion are expressed most strongly. Painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography, video, woodworking, and other crafts can convey artistic experience and aptitude.

Submit 15-20 slides with no more than two dedicated to the same project. A carefully crafted caption for each slide should state the intent, elaborate on the process and method, and reflect on the outcome. 

Rhode Island School of Design

Architecture at RISD emphasizes process, artistic sensibilities and social and ethical responsibility. Students hone the ability to think and communicate through drawing, making, writing and discussing ideas with others as they define and articulate a personal approach to the discipline.

Portfolio Requirements 

Submit 12–20 examples of your most recent work that showcases your thinking and making. 

Your selected work should reflect a full range of your ideas, curiosity, experimentation and experience in creating and making. This can include work in any medium, in finished or sketch form, and can be the result of an assigned project or a self-directed exploration.

RISD requires that you submit a home test with your application called “The Assignment” 

Tips: The Assignment is an opportunity for you to show them how you think and make. Your reviewers want to see how you grapple with abstract ideas and express them in your art and design work. Have fun with this Assignment. Make work that is authentically interesting to you.

“The Assignment” 

Choose one pair and make work where the ideas are in conversation* with each other. 

  • Ephemeral / tangible 
  • Complexity / contradiction
  • Chaos / order

Submission 1: one preparatory study

We recommend that you make a series of experiments and studies as you work towards a final piece. This could be a sketch, storyboard, 3d model study, short video or animation, exercise, etc. The study does not need to be complicated. Show the development in your thinking. 

While you may make text-based preparatory works, only include one visual study in your SlideRoom entry.  Please do not include inspiration images. 

Submission 2: one final work 

You can then choose to translate these ideas through your choice of material, concept, or process of making. 

Your work can be made out of any visual materials: two-dimensional, three-dimensional, four-dimensional.

*When they say ‘in conversation,’ they are referencing the exchange of ideas that grows from the words in the pair. Like any good conversations, there is a push and pull. There are potential challenges, tension, and harmony. Consider asking yourself questions like:

  • Where do you observe these concepts in your life and in the world?
  • How are these words different? Where do they overlap? 
  • How can you express these ideas visually?

Think deeply about the words you choose. There are many directions this ‘conversation’ can go. 

Cooper Union

The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union offers a five-year program leading to the Bachelor of Architecture. The philosophical foundation of the school is committed to the complex symbiotic relationships of education, research, theory, practice and a broad spectrum of creative endeavors relevant to significant architectural development. 

Application Requirements 

Applicants are required to submit a portfolio of creative work and to complete the home test. Portfolios may present creative work in any field, including architecture, design, photography, sculpture and original prose or poetry. There are no restrictions on the amount or types of work you can submit, generally ten to twenty pieces. It should be a collection of a cross-section of your best recent work.  Students are encouraged to include sketchbooks.

The required Hometest is called the “Architecture Studio Test”-  the test consists of a number of visual projects to be completed in approximately 3-4 weeks and returned to The Cooper Union for review. The Studio Test contains its own instructions to be followed explicitly. The Studio Test is sent to all School of Architecture applicants via email.

The School’s admission process is highly selective. Each year, 30 to 40 freshman applicants and 10 to 20 transfer applicants are offered admission. It’s highly competitive, but we encourage you to apply. Successful applicants find their time at Cooper to be unique, challenging and rewarding.

Syracuse University

Syracuse’s B Arch program prepares students to be successful in the contemporary and ever changing practices of Architecture across the world. They emphasize innovative approaches and interdisciplinary connections focused on real-world problem solving.

PORTFOLIO requirements 

A portfolio of creative work is required for admission to the School of Architecture. Your portfolio is a personal statement about you, your visual training, interest, and aspirations. Submit 12-24 high-quality reproductions of your best and most recent art work

Work will be evaluated based on demonstrated skill, discipline and creativity. 

They especially encourage you to submit works from real-life observation such as still life, figure drawing, portraits/self-portraits, and landscapes.

And in addition to observational drawing, works in other media such as painting, 2-D and 3-D designs, photography, woodworking, sculpture, or any other visual media that demonstrate your interest and aptitude in creative and graphic work are encouraged.


The School of Architecture educates future leaders. Their mission is to encourage Critical Thinking that challenges the limits of Architecture through analysis and research,with an emphasis on Ethical Judgement that stresses the importance of community and sustainability. 

PORTFOLIO requirements 

Your visual portfolio should consist of 12-20 pieces of your best and most recent work, including observational drawings. It should consist of a variety of media and approaches. It can include assignment-based projects, self-directed work and sketchbook work, which gives them information on your creative process.  (do not include AutoCAD drawings or Floorplans) 

*Examples of observational work include landscape, still-life, self-portrait, figure drawings, and interior spaces. 


The Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) program at SCI-Arc is a five-year professional degree, focusing on both design excellence and intellectual breadth through a liberal arts-based education.

SCI-Arc’s B.Arch program produces individuals who are savvy, broad-thinking, and primed to become leaders of their profession.

Admission to the undergraduate program is selective. SCI-Arc admits approximately fifty students per year from all over the globe. 

PORTFOLIO requirements 

Submit a distinct portfolio of creative work, 5-25 individual uploads are allowed. Drawing, sketching, painting, graphic design, photography, video, web design, sculpture, ceramics, and furniture design are examples of the types of work that may be included in the admissions portfolio. Work may be produced digitally and/or by hand. Architectural design work is not required but may be submitted.

• A description should accompany each upload. Details can include dimensions, media, intent, etc.

Other outstanding Architecture bachelor’s programs we love: 


Please feel free to contact us to schedule a free consultation or to ask us any questions.

You can sign up for Ashcan Art Portfolio Prep Classes!- Manhattan, Queens, Long Island or Online- ⁠
Intensive, Fine Art, Art Competition & Portfolio, Design, Digital Art & Private Lessons⁠!

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