Free Online Architecture and Design Courses

Thanks to the increasing popularity of massive open online courses -- or MOOCs as they’re commonly referred to -- learning has never been easier (or more convenient). Sites like Coursera and edX offer free classes online from accredited and well-known universities across the globe, including Harvard, MIT and the University of Hong Kong. While some classes are more structured and include a set lesson plan, homework assignments, quizzes and the option to receive a certificate at the end, others can be set at your own pace and approached more independently.

Following our wildly popular article on Four Ways to Learn About Architecture for Free, we’ve compiled a list of upcoming online classes related to architecture, engineering, urbanism and design. So whether you’re looking to embark on a new topic or dive deeper into an already familiar subject, take a look at these free online courses after the break.

Free Online Architecture and Design Courses - Image 3 of 8

Coursera: An online platform that partners with top universities and organizations across the globe, Coursera offers architecture and design courses in several different languages, including Chinese, Spanish and French. An optional Verified Certificate is available following completion of the class. Below are descriptions of some of the upcoming architecture and design classes.

Re-Enchanting the City-Designing the Human Habitat (April 2015- June 7th 2015): This eight-week course is taught by professors from the University of New South (UNSW) Australia. The class looks at the “interdisciplinary nature of city making,” seeking to answer the question: How do we make hyper-dense cities of the future green, livable and poetic? Specifically, the class looks at the development of Central Park in Sydney as a case study. The course materials include a series of interviews by lead academics and designers, interactive activities, and case studies. 

L'art des structures 1 : Câbles et arcs (The art of structures 1: Cable and arcs) September 12, 2015- November 21, 2015: Taught in French (with English subtitles) by professors from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, this course looks at the design principles behind cables and arches. It will be followed by a course on lattice structures, beams and frames later in the year.

CAD /BIM Technology and Application Specialization program on Coursera, which includes several courses:

Free Online Architecture and Design Courses - Image 4 of 8

edX: Started as a non-profit initiative between Harvard and MIT, edX offers classes from top universities and institutions. Classes can be audited or taken to earn a Certificate of Achievement, and some courses are offered in Spanish and Chinese. Below are descriptions of two of the classes beginning this month.

The Search for Vernacular Architecture of Asia, Part 1 (starts April 14): Offered through the University of Hong Kong, the five-week class seeks to explore vernacular architecture – “the subject and study of everyday buildings, landscapes and sites which are not designed by professional architects.” The class will look at native building materials as well as the relationship between vernacular architecture and culture and traditions across Asia. Part 2 will be offered during the summer. 

Introduction to Metrics for Smart Cities (starts March, 23): Organized through IEEE, a technological innovation professional organization, the class seeks to both understand what components make up a “Smart City” and how to use “metrics to measure its performance.”  Although open to anyone, the class is recommend for students in their last year of urbanism, architecture or information technologies. 

Other upcoming classes on edX include:

Free Online Architecture and Design Courses - Image 5 of 8

Iversity: A European-based site, Iversity features classes from universities across Europe in both English and German. The site offers the option to audit the class for free or pay a fee to receive a certificate. Iversity offers a three-part Architecture 101 course series, described below.

Architecture 101 - Part II officially started March 2, it is open for enrollment until April 7, after which it will be available for auditing only.

Free Online Architecture and Design Courses - Image 7 of 8

Canvas: Developed and supported by learning technology company Instructure, the site offers classes from professors around the world. Below is an upcoming design class being offered in March.

Biomimicry: A Sustainable Design Methodology (March 23, 2015 – April 20, 2015): This online class looks at how to effectively apply biological information to design, providing an introduction to the tools and principles of biomimicry. Taught by a professor from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, the class will focus on a different biomimicry design concept each week, taking participants outside to explore the concept firsthand and to develop their own biomimetic design. 

Free Online Architecture and Design Courses - Image 8 of 8

Build Academy: Based in New York, Open Online Academy offers a range of courses related to architecture, art and design. They currently have nine classes listed on their site (one of which is in Spanish), and classes come with the option to receive a course certificate. The company founder -- and professor of several of the courses – Ivan Shumkov is an architect, professor, scholar and curator. He has taught at Harvard University GSD, Pratt Institute School of Architecture, Parsons the New School for Design, International University of Catalonia, and ETSA Barcelona. As most of the courses are self-paced, classes can be joined any time between the start and end date. Below is a description of two of the ongoing courses, but make sure you check out the full list here.

Resilient Architecture Research: This nine-week course explores “existing and new solutions for resilient and sustainable design,” looking at how architecture can respond to natural disasters, including floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, fires and typhoons. The course will look at both vernacular and contemporary building techniques and the goal “is to rediscover traditional building materials and methods and apply them to areas with similar conditions.”

Contemporary Architecture: This eight-week course looks at “major contemporary architectural ideas, ideologies and projects in the context of both globalization and specific local contexts,” tracing the development of architecture since the 90s. The work involves research and analysis of architecture as well as assignments to explore your city. 

Other architecture classes offered by Open Online Academy include:

For classes from Delft University of Technology OpenCourseWare and MIT OpenCourseWare, make sure you check out our previous article Four Ways to Learn About Architecture for Free.

Four Ways to Learn About Architecture for Free

Illustration of laptop and notebook via

About this author
Cite: Katie Watkins. "Free Online Architecture and Design Courses" 05 Mar 2015. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

You've started following your first account!

Did you know?

You'll now receive updates based on what you follow! Personalize your stream and start following your favorite authors, offices and users.