Cal Poly Architecture

Explore the layers of Rome and the rich diverse cultures of the Italian peninsula with Cal Poly’s Rome Architecture Program at the AIA Rome Center. You will learn about contemporary design and sustainability in the context of 2,800 years of living history.

Program Description

The AIA Cal Poly Architecture Program offers a limited number of dedicated students the opportunity to live and study in the heart of Rome, Italy for 15 weeks. It is very active and focused, with hands-on courses and activities that investigate sustainable solutions to contemporary, real-world problems. This program provides students exclusive access to many of Italy’s extraordinary sites and experts. Personal attention from instructors and staff put students in touch with authentic local culture. Field trips and admission to many cultural sites are included in tuition.

Students enroll in four courses for 15 quarter credits. The 15 weeks including two weeks of field trips in Italy and nine days of break for independent travel. All instruction is provided by local professionals, and students will study Italian language with a native speaker. Courses go beyond academic issues to focus on the student’s professional and personal development.

Rome Program Student FAQ page

Rome: Old & New, Big & Small

Rome offers thousands of years of sustainable design solutions to human culture and environmental design. In Rome students can explore exciting design problems both in the heart of historic city, in its modern suburbs, and in other unique settings around Italy. In Rome you can experience and study over 2,000 years of design expression from the works of ancients through the contemporary designs of Richard Meier, Renzo Piano, Massimiliano Fuksas and Zaha Hadid. Rome offers the chance for peer-learning workshops with Italian students and hands-on seminars in historic conservation and urban development.


The Cal Poly Architecture Program in Rome is directed by Faculty Leader Tom Rankin who teaches together with the support of local and international academics and practitioners.

An architect, writer and educator, Rankin has been involved in the program since its inception, improving and updating the curriculum year by year to achieve the most topical and relevant learning experience possible. He received his Master’s in Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, a BA in Architecture at Princeton, and a “Laurea” in Architecture at Sapienza Università of Rome. He came to Rome on a Fulbright Grant in 1991 and has lived in Italy ever since.

In addition to his work with CalPoly, Rankin teaches at the Università di Roma “La Sapienza” (School of Engineering) and the Iowa State Rome Program. He is a founding member of ISAR ( a non-profit organization dedicated to Architecture, Art and Archaeology in Rome. He previously served as Director of the association Tevereterno Onlus and founding member and President of the American Institute for Roman Culture.

Rankin is the author of Rome Works: An Architect Explores the World’s Most Sustainable City and has written numerous articles and presented frequently at conferences on sustainable urbanism. His blog on the Still Sustainable City was chosen by Guardian Cities as the best Italian city blog and is a reference point for sustainable urbanism in Rome.

He can be contacted at or reached at his website, on Twitter (tgrankin) or Instagram (tomrankinarchitect).

program highlights…

15 Weeks in Italy

The program runs from Sept. 3 to Dec 14.
That’s half an academic year in Rome.

Field Trips

Two weeks of field trips are included in tuition. Travel on high-speed rail, stay in comfortable hotels, and sample regional cuisine as we travel.

Cultural Visits

Each week you will visit museums, archeological and other cultural sites in Rome, and many more on field trips. All entrance fees to program visits are covered by tuition.

Independent Travel

Rome is a hub for exploring Italy, Europe and the Mediterranean. Many students travel further after field trips, during mid-term break and before and after the semester.

Earn Cal Poly Credit

All Architecture courses earn direct credit toward your degree.

Creative Design Studios

Build your skills and your portfolio through creative solutions to real world problems. Serious and thorough design studios emphasize all media from hand drawing, to digital media.

Beautiful Urban Facilities

You will work in fully equipped facilities located in an elegant historic palace in the very heart of Rome.

Convenient Housing

The program provides comfortable housing within walking distance of the facilities.

Fun Italian Language Class

Our university-level, not-for-credit Italian Language course has no grades – just a lot of learning with a native language professor.

Professional Contacts

You’ll meet and learn from local experts, guest critics and other professionals.

Special Activities

Extracurricular activities include multi-course group dinners, Italian films, cooking lessons, and more. Student life includes concerts, soccer games, etc.

Professional Management and Student Support
    • The AIA staff ensure the program runs smoothly and help students get settled in their new home in Italy.




Academic travel is an important part of learning outside of the classroom. Field trips are structured around the themes of the Arch480 course, and student earn credit for the work they do while traveling with their instructors. Here is some of the travel we typically take:


The AIA Architecture program is competitive and dedicated to academically disciplined and motivated students. Acceptance is merit based and selection is made from applicants who have been pre-screened by their home university.