The College of Architecture: A True Art Sentiment

Alexander Buel Trowbridge `90.

Alexander Trowbridge became dean of the College of Architecture in 1896. Believing that design was the essence of the architectural curriculum, he strove to "develop and improve the work in design to such an extent that all other subjects except pure mathematics and, possibly, the languages will be so taught as to bear directly upon the work in design." He also decided to enter into the intercollegiate competitions held annually by the Society of Beaux-Arts Architects in New York. Courses continued in construction and mechanics. He urged the construction of new facilities, suggesting the creation of a College of Fine Arts that would include painting, sculpture, and the allied arts, along with architecture. John V. Van Pelt, the first American to receive a degree at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, succeeded Trowbridge as dean in 1902.

After the turn of the century the College of Architecture grew and prospered. Clarence Martin became Dean in 1904 and had to decide whether the architectural course should emphasize science or art. Although an expert carpenter himself, he continued the Beaux-Arts influence, insisting that artistic appreciation and understanding must be the foundation of architecture: "There must be developed at Cornell a true art sentiment such as has yet had no material manifestation in the community at large."

Although Cornell had one of the highest entrance standards in the country, enrollment increased from forty-three in 1899 to 130 by 1920. The course was divided into four parts: construction and practice; expression; architectural composition; and history of architecture. The curriculum resembled that of an art school, with nine hours weekly of freehand drawing and sketching in the first two years, plus six hours of water color. Beginning with the sophomore year, design dominated the curriculum. Junior year courses included clay modeling and rendering, while seniors took life class.

Clarence A. Martin.
Photograph. ca. 1915.

Student Work.

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