Study Architecture Online - Free Courses on the Web

Free Online Architecture Classes, Many From Top Universities

Back of head of male with headphones looking at a computer screen
Providing a Free World-Class Education for Anyone Anywhere. Providing a Free World-Class Education for Anyone Anywhere

If you have a computer, tablet, or smart phone, you can learn about architecture for free. Hundreds of colleges and universities around the world offer immediate access to architecture classes and lectures in urban design, engineering, and even real estate. Here is a small sampling.

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MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Massachusets Institute of Technology (MIT) Campus Building
Massachusets Institute of Technology (MIT) Campus Building. Photo by James Leynse / Corbis Historical / Getty Images

Knowledge is your reward. Established in 1865, the Department of Architecture at MIT is the oldest and one of the most highly respected in the United States. Through a program called OpenCourseWare, MIT offers almost all its class materials online—for free. Downloads include lecture notes, assignments, reading lists, and, in some cases, galleries of student projects for hundreds of undergraduate and graduate courses in architecture. MIT also offers some architecture courses in audio and video formats.

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Khan Academy

Portrait of Salman Khan, the founder of the Khan Academy
Portrait of Salman Khan, the founder of the Khan Academy. Photo by Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images/Corbis News/Getty Images

Salman Khan's well-known online learning courses have moved people into learning about architecture, but don't stop there. The online tours of historic structures and periods are very useful in a study of architecture. Check out courses like A beginner's guide to Byzantine art and culture and Gothic architecture: an introduction, which are exceptional.

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Architecture in New York - A Field Study

Flatiron's Neighborhood in New York City
Flatiron's Neighborhood in New York City. Photo by Bart van den Dikkenberg/E+ Collection/Getty Images

Thirteen walking tours from a New York University class in New York Architecture are posted online, along with walking tours, suggested reading, and other resources. To begin your tours, follow the links in the left hand column. This is a great starting place if you're vising New York City—or if you live in one of the wonderful NY neighborhoods and you just haven't had the time or inclination to really look around..

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University of Hong Kong (HKU)

Hakka Earth Dwellings in Chuxi village, Fujian Province, China
Hakka Earth Dwellings in Chuxi village, Fujian Province, China. Photo by Christopher Pillitz In Pictures Ltd./Corbis Historical/Getty Images (cropped)

Look toward universities in different countries and cultures to understand local architecture, customs, and design. The University of Hong Kong offers several free online courses. Topics change, from issues in sustainable architecture and energy-efficient design to vernacular architecture in Asia. The course materials are all in English and offered through EdX.

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Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

A Palestinian Woman Works Online in a Coffee Shop
A Palestinian Woman Works Online in a Coffee Shop. Photo by Ilia Yefimovich / Getty Images News / Getty Images (cropped)

Located in the Netherlands, Delft is one of the most respected universities in Europe. Free OpenCourseWare classes include green energy technoloiges, water management, offshore engineering, and other science and technical courses. Remember that architecture is part art and part engineering.

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Cornell University

Architect Rem Koolhaas in Onstage Discussion
Architect Rem Koolhaas in Onstage Discussion. Photo by Kimberly White / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images (cropped)

CornellCast and CyberTower have videotaped many talks and lectures at the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, Search their database for "architecture," and you'll find an array of talks by the likes of Liz Diller, Peter Cook, Rem Koolhaas, and Daniel Libeskind. Watch Maya Lin's discussion of the intersection of art and architecture. Cornell has many alum to call on, like Peter Eisenman (class of '54) and Richard Meier (class of '56).

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The Great Stupa, Sanchi, India, 75-50 BC
The Great Stupa, Sanchi, India, 75-50 BC. Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Hulton Archive/Getty Images (cropped)

This Canadian-based group of professionals has provided us with a three-tract introduction to architecture—learn, design, and build. Their general survey of architectural history is succinct and low-tech, with a focus on iconic architecture known to most people interested in architecture. Use this site as an introduction to supplement a more in-depth study—if you can get passed all of the advertising.

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Build Academy

Empire State Building in New York City
Empire State Building in New York City. Photo by joeyful/Moment Open Collection/Getty Images

This New York City-based organization.was founded by architect Ivan Shumkov first as Open Online Academy (OOAc). Today, Shumkov uses Open edX to create online courses in architecture, civil engineering, real estate, construction, leadership, and entrepreneurship. Shumkov has assembled a team of international architect-realtor-professors who have developed interesting courses for professionals and enthusiasts alike.

Build Academy is a subscription based online learning environment geared toward building professionals. Plenty of offerings are still free, but you have to subscribe. Of course, you get more opportunities the more you pay.

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Yale School of Architecture Public Lecture Series

Michelle Addington, Professor of Sustainable Architectural Design at Yale University School of Architecture
Michelle Addington, Professor of Sustainable Architectural Design at Yale University School of Architecture. Photo by Neilson Barnard / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

Go directly to the iTunes store to find a series of public lecture that took place at Yale University in New Have, Connecticut. The Apple provider also carries several of Yale's audio podcasts. Yale may be old school, but their content is the best.

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Open Culture Architecture Courses

White male student architect working on a floor plan at a computer
Student Architect at Computer. Photo by Nick David ©Nick David / Iconica / Getty Images (cropped)

Dr. Dan Coleman at Stanford University founded Open Culture in 2006 on the same premise that many start-up Internet companies had—mining the Web for information and putting links to stuff all in one place. Open Culture "brings together high-quality cultural & educational media for the worldwide lifelong learning community....Our whole mission is to centralize this content, curate it, and give you access to this high quality content whenever and wherever you want it." So, check back often. Coleman is forever curating.

About Online Learning Courses:

Creating online courses is technically quite easy these days. Open edX, the free, open source course management system, indexes a variety of courses from a variety of partners. Contributors include many of the institutions found here, such as MIT, Delft, and Build Academy. Millions of students around the world have registered for free online courses through edX. This online group of teachers and students is sometimes called a network of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Independent-minded people also can post their thoughts online, from the US President on up. Search "architecture" on to find some very creative videos. And, of course, the TED Talks have become a cauldron for new ideas.

Yes, there are drawbacks. You usually can't chat with the professors or classmates when it's free and self-paced. You can't earn free credits or work toward a degree if it's a free online course. But you'll often get the same lecture notes and assignments as "live" students. Although there's little hands-on experience, digital tours often magnify the views, giving you a closer look than if you were an ordinary tourist. Explore new ideas, pick up a skill, and enrich your understanding of the built environment all in the comfort of your own home!