Concentration in the History of Art and Architecture

The concentration in the History of Art and Architecture encourages you to explore a broad variety of courses about art and architecture that range across the globe and through history. You also will gain the opportunity to pursue in-depth studies of a particular area or issue through seminar courses. These limited enrollment, more advanced courses will deepen your understanding of the critical strategies available for interpretation of historical and cultural phenomena, and they will sharpen your research and writing skills.

Our Rationale for Concentration Requirements

To complete the concentration, you will be expected to take a minimum of ten courses (11 for honors). Our goal in setting out these requirements is to welcome students into a lively and diverse Department that also shares a cohesive and strong commitment to the field. We as a faculty want students to cultivate their special interests and also to venture into areas that may not be so familiar but that will open new and exciting possibilities for them. Ten courses are only the minimum requirement. Beyond that students are encouraged to take courses at RISD, participate in study abroad programs, and take courses in other Brown departments. Because we are a truly interdisciplinary Department, you will also find that our faculty collaborates with members of other departments to teach courses that bring together the strengths of different disciplines. We encourage both experimentation and concentration.

Our general survey in history of art and architecture (HIAA0010) is an excellent foundation for the concentration. It is not a prerequisite for taking other lecture courses but you can count it as one of the 4 non-core courses required for the concentration (see below for core and non-core courses).

You will be expected to demonstrate reading proficiency in a language other than English. By learning the language of another culture you will gain a deeper understanding of its art, literature and history. Aside from this, knowledge of a foreign language will equip you with a skill essential skill for pursuing art historical studies in a professional environment or graduate school. The requirement can be fulfilled by either passing a 500 level language course at Brown or by demonstrating a 500 level reading ability in a placement test administered by Brown University language department (students who declared their concentration before August 2013 are expected to demonstrate proficiency at a 400 level). 

Since the history of art and architecture addresses issues of practice within specific historical contexts, concentrators are encouraged to take at least 1 studio art course. Courses in history also train students in methods and approaches that are highly relevant to the history of art and architecture. Study abroad can be a valuable enrichment of the academic work available on campus, in that it offers opportunities for first-hand knowledge of works of art and monuments as well as providing exposure to foreign languages and cultures. Study abroad should be planned in consultation with the concentration advisor in order to make sure that foreign course work will relate meaningfully to the concentrator's program of study.

Brown students usually choose and declare their concentrations towards the end of the fourth semester of the Sophomore year.  After you decide to concentrate in History of Art or Architectural Studies the first step is to declare your concentration.  To do that you need to go to:  During this process you should talk with the Concentration Advisor to set up your plans.


Please note:  courses that fulfill concentration requirements must be taken for a letter grade.

10 courses (11 for honors)

6 core courses which must be taken in the Department

  • 4 of these core courses are general lecture courses (HIAA0020-HIAA0940) distributed among 3 of the 8 available areas in the discipline (Ancient / Medieval / Islamic / East Asian / Latin American / African / Early Modern (ca.1400-1800) / Modern, Contemporary)

  • 2 of the core courses are seminar core courses (numbered between HIAA1040-1890)
  • The 6 core lecture courses and seminars have to be taken in the Department and can NOT be replaced with an independent study/honors thesis/classes taken in other departments, universities, or high schools.

4 elective courses, including

  • Courses taught in the Department
  • Courses cross-listed with other departments
  • Courses in other departments such as history, that the concentration advisor approves
  • A course in studio art
  • HIAA0010, which will count as 1 of these 4 elective courses, (but not count as 1 of the 4 core lecture classes)
  • Courses taken in approved study abroad programs
  • Courses taken at other universities and approved by the concentration advisor

A maximum of 2 outside credits will be awarded for courses taken outside the Department or at other universities (transfer credits or from study abroad programs), or for courses that also count towards a second concentration. No concentration credit will be given for High School AP, Subsidiary AP, A level (etc.) courses. No concentration credit for language courses.

Our limit of 2 concentration credits for courses taken outside the Department is based on a positive goal. We encourage you to benefit from the cohesive program that the Department offers. Beyond the 10-course minimum you are free to engage with all the rich resources of Brown, RISD, and the world. When an important opportunity comes along for you to follow your interests you should feel free to talk with the Department concentration advisor about finding the best ways to work that opportunity into the concentration, or think about turning it into a Capstone experience (see below).

Language requirement

This may be fulfilled with a recent placement test demonstrating that you have attained a reading level equivalent to passing a 500 level course, or by passing a 500 level language class at Brown or elsewhere, with a transcript grade that will become part of your record. It is worth repeating that the language requirement opens for you a whole new culture and way of thinking about the world of architecture. The language requirement also prepares you for graduate work in the history of art and architecture.


Assessment: All concentrators are required to write an essay when they declare the concentration that discusses how they expect to develop intellectual or practical skills from the course of study they propose. All second semester seniors will by required to write a final essay that takes the measure of what they have learned from the concentration, including their Capstone and other experiences relating to their study of history of art and architecture. For students undertaking a Capstone project or experience, their Capstone director will read this essay. A Department subcommittee will read essays written by students not electing to do a Capstone. The self-assessment should be turned in with a revised list of courses actually taken and the final paperwork for concentration approval.

The Department regularly invites scholars from outside the University to talk about their research and organizes conferences on topics related to the history of art and architecture. Attendance at these lectures and conferences is strongly encouraged.