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Programs : Brochure

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  • Locations: San Francisco, United States
  • Program Terms: Spring Architecture
  • Restrictions: Cal Poly applicants only
  • Budget Sheets: Spring Architecture
  • This program is currently not accepting applications.
Fact Sheet:
Fact Sheet:
Study Abroad Program Type: Domestic Program Class Eligibilty: 4th year
Minimum GPA: 2.5 Areas of Study: Architecture
Internships: Yes
Program Description:


The San Francisco Urban Program is an urban immersion experience, providing an opportunity to live, study, and work in a stimulating and professional arena known for its social diversity, cultural vibrancy, environmental leadership, and design innovation.  The program includes an unpaid professional internship component, along with courses orchestrated to capitalize on the learning opportunities of the city and region.

SF Urban


San Francisco, CA, USA



Geared towards Architecture students, this program offers students the opportunity to earn major credit while living, studying, and working in San Francisco.  
Students earn Cal Poly credit on this program.

Courses - Winter Quarter
- ARCH-S452 (5 units) Architectural Design 4.2
- ARCH-S443 (4 units) Issues in Contemporary Professional Practice
- ARCH-S480 (3 units) Special Studies in Architecture 

Courses - Spring Quarter
- ARCH-S453 (5 units) Architectural Design 4.3
- ARCH-S472 (4 units) Housing Design Concepts 
- ARCH-S480 (3 units) Special Studies in Architecture 

Meet the Faculty

Thomas Jones
Prof. R. Thomas Jones is the San Francisco Urban Program Coordinator.  Contact him at  



This program is open to upper-division students majoring or minoring in Architecture.  

- Minimum 2.5 GPA
- Not actively on academic probation
- Good disciplinary standing 
- Approval from the Program Coordinator 

How to Apply

- Before you apply to this program, please attend a Study Abroad 101 Workshop and complete the mandatory Advising Module.  

- The application for this program will be open Dec 1, 2021 - Jan 18, 2022.  During that time, you will be able to click an 'Apply Now' button on this page.  THE DEADLINE TO APPLY FOR THIS PROGRAM IS JANUARY 18, 2022.  

- As part of the application process for this program, you will need to get two faculty recommendations and compose a brief personal statement explaining why you are a good candidate for this program.

- This program may require you to submit a separate portfolio in .pdf format to the Program Director.  

- Please review the Architecture Program Options Handout for details on Next Steps and reminders on which back-to-back program combinations should be avoided.  

- Admission is not first come, first served.  All applications will be reviewed after the deadline.  Only qualified applicants who have been approved by the program's faculty director and nominated by the architecture department will be considered for admission to this program.  


Program Details

Students must find their own housing in San Francisco.  

This program follows the Cal Poly academic calendar

Program Description
The San Francisco Program is an urban immersion experience, providing an opportunity to live, study, and work in a stimulating and professional arena known for its social diversity, cultural vibrancy, environmental leadership, and design innovation.  The program includes an unpaid professional internship component, along with courses orchestrated to capitalize on the learning opportunities of the city and region.

As our design professions are increasingly asked to foster greater urban livability, even as cities become denser, San Francisco and the Bay Area provide an abundance of historical and contemporary buildings, communities, and landscapes that serve as models for livable and sustainable new development.  Additionally, many San Francisco-based design and planning firms are engaged in large-scale projects internationally, and they provide a tableau of practices that are in the vanguard of shaping the future of our professions.

The San Francisco Program was founded by Cal Poly Professor Sandy Miller in 1988, and to date has enrolled over 650 participants.  Many past program participants are now successful practitioners in Bay Area firms, and they form a strong Cal Poly network of mentors to our current students in their respective internship firms.

The program is structured as a two-quarter sequence, with a concentrated Design Studio at the beginning of the winter quarter, and at the end of the spring quarters.  Between these five day per week studio courses, which simulate professional practice, there are eight weeks of credited Firm Internship spread over the two quarters. 

The integrating theme of the coursework is on: “Design in the public realm, and for the public benefit.”   Each quarter, sites and projects are selected for which there is a substantial component of public interest, public participation, and neighborhood or community interest involved.  For the winter quarter, the project will normally be an educational, community, cultural, or recreational building and project typology.  For spring quarter, the project will include housing, along with other related uses.  

The winter quarter segment begins with extensive walking tours of San Francisco neighborhoods, projects, and a variety of offices to introduce students to the broad range of professional opportunities and career directions to be found in major metropolitan areas.   

In addition to the Design Studio and Internship, the additional coursework in winter quarter includes Arch. 472, Housing Concepts. This course combines case study based presentations by practitioners, with knowledge and skill building around the history and contemporary practices related to multifamily, higher density housing across a wide range of income groups and cultures.   The course includes economic and public interest fundamentals related to the financing and development of housing, review of contemporary housing unit and building typologies, and exercises in common site planning and building design strategies for multifamily housing.  

Guest presenters and the instructor’s own experience provide comparative learning from a wide range of market and affordable housing projects as seen from the perspectives of users, neighbors, developers, architects, landscape architects, planners, and investors.  Housing Concepts 472 is an elective that counts for both the Sustainable Development Minor, and the Real Property Development Minor.

In spring quarter, students will take a Design Studio, a continued or new Internship, and Arch. 443 Professional Practice.  The practice class includes a series of lectures on contemporary design firm modes of practice and business models featuring some guest presenters, coupled with a student case study professional firm report.   Students work in small teams and meet weekly with principals and architects in leading firms to produce the in-depth case study report, based on research methods developed by the AIA.

Office visits, architectural tours, and lectures at local museums, colleges, the AIASF, and other public interest groups round out the San Francisco Urban Program experience.

The program is now designed to welcome Landscape Architecture and City and Regional Planning Majors, as the course contents and projects are conceived from a multidisciplinary viewpoint.  The internship and professional practice components of the program can be tailored to connect students in other majors to local firms representing those majors.   

The San Francisco Program is also available on a limited basis for majors from other Cal Poly programs and from other Universities, where immersion in the issues and built-environment projects of San Francisco and the Bay Area, coupled with professional internships, could be a suitable independent study focus.

Working alongside accomplished architects, participating students will begin building a valuable network of professional relationships and real work experience, before they graduate, which can directly impact their careers and future employment.  San Francisco firms who host our students for internships and the case study course are typically well represented in the Top Ten COTE (Committee On The Environment) national AIA awards and other regional and national design awards each year.


Dates / Deadlines:

Application currently closed.

This program is currently not accepting applications.