Established in 1980, the WAAC is run by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and comprises a changing international student body and faculty from Europe, Asia, South America and other institutions from North America. Cal Poly, along with other upper division undergraduate and graduate university students, form the Washington Alexandria Architecture Center. The WAAC is a dynamic consortium dedicated to providing an immersive academic environment which leverages the rich intellectual resources of the diverse design communities and urban fabric of the Washington D. C. Metro area as a laboratory. Cal Poly Architecture students have attended the WAAC program for more than 30 years. Learn more about this program on the WAAC website.
Focused on the history, theory, and practice of Architecture, Landscape, and Urbanism, this program offers students the opportunity to earn major credit while living, studying, and practicing in the Washington D.C. Metro area.
Students earn Cal Poly 36 quarter credits on the full year program. (Note: During years when the WAAC is offered for the option of a Fall semester only, students earn 12 to 18 quarter credits.)
- ARCH-451 (5 credits) Fourth-year Design Studio (Fall Qtr)
- ARCH-452 (5 credits) Fourth-year Design Studio (Winter Qtr)
- ARCH-453 (5 credits) Fourth-year Design Studio (Spring Qtr)
- ARCH-420 (4 credits) Seminar in History, Theory, and Criticism (Winter Qtr)
- ARCH-443 (4 credits) Architectural Practice
- ARCH-480 (Variable credits) Professional Electives (Fall/Winter/Spring)
This program is open to students majoring in Architecture.
NOTE: Only students who have been pre-approved by Architecture Department and Program Coordinator may apply to this program.
- Minimum 2.5 GPA
- Not actively on academic probation
- Good disciplinary standing
- Approval from the Program Coordinator
How to Apply
Complete the Cal Poly Abroad Application
Cal Poly typically sends 10 to 15 students annually. Students are expected to take initiative in developing their individual advancement as designers within the resource rich environment of the school, Old Town Alexandria, and the national and international design/development/planning communities in the Washington/Baltimore Metropolitan area such as the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress, and the National Building Museum.
WAAC Location: The Center is owned by Virginia Tech and is one of several campuses the university operates in the Northern Virginia/ Washington D.C. Metropolitan area. Located within several renovated historic structures in the middle of historic Old Town Alexandria, a center of early American colonial history and one of the best preserved and continuously occupied examples of 18th and 19th century American urbanism, the WAAC is uniquely situated adjacent to lively restaurants, shops, and entertainment within walking distance from the school. Ideally situated to utilize the resources of the national and international design/development/planning community in the Washington/Baltimore Metropolitan area, some of the resources available to students include the National Headquarters of the AIA and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Building Museum, and over 7 Architecture schools in the metro area and Virginia. Students have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of urban amenities, facilitated by easy access to the DC subway system (Metro). Additionally, Washington D.C. is a prime location for experiencing premiere examples of architecture throughout the northeastern seaboard with easy/affordable access to flights, trains, and busses connecting D.C. to the region. The school typically organizes field trips each semester to locations like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water, and Philip Johnson’s Glass House, in addition to major metropolitan areas such as Philadelphia and New York City.
WAAC Facilities: In addition to generous studio, seminar, and installation spaces, there is a design focused library, printmaking studio, photography studio/darkroom, computer lab, in-house printing, CNC fabrication equipment, and extensive wood and metal shops. The Center maintains a healthy mix of faculty, PhD and upper-division students engaged in a wide range of theoretical discourses. Because of the WAAC’s small size, students have unparalleled access to resources including lectures from prominent architects, internships within globally connected firms, and access to significant pieces of architecture and urban form, both historic and contemporary. Virginia Tech also maintains student housing, adjacent to the school, that most students occupy during their WAAC experience.
WAAC Culture: The Center is deeply committed to individual professional growth through one-on-one engagement in design processes heavily informed by making and theoretical engagement. “Freedom with Responsibility” is the school’s modus operandi, and student-professor relationships emphasize the development of each designers’ individual voice through the cultivation of architectural education in deep relationship to individual design ethics. Boundaries between influences of the disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, and product design are fluid, facilitating more holistic design approaches. The WAAC also strongly encourages and facilitates professional experience through office internships. Many area architectural firms provide opportunities for paid office experience facilitated by postings on the WAAC website and the afternoon and evening scheduling of WAAC classes, designed to promote up to twenty hours of professional work weekly.