The American University of Beirut started a first program in Civil Engineering in 1913, in response to the increasing need in the region for engineering education and training. The program led to a Bachelor of Science in C.E. and was administered by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS); it included some architectural instruction and was the only available training in English for builders-designers in Lebanon and the region. In October 1951, a Faculty of Engineering was established. Between 1951-54, the Engineering curriculum was further developed and, in 1952, its professional scope widened to include a curriculum in Architectural Engineering. An average of ten students used to graduate yearly.
In January 1963, a 5-year program leading to the degree of Bachelor of Architecture (BArch) was established, aligned on architectural education in the United States and in Europe. The first cohort was made of twenty-two students. In this new program, a serious attempt was made to broaden and enrich the educational training of students, instead of emphasizing the accumulation of information. The program also included three summers of practice in professional offices. In that same year, the School was renamed as The Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (FEA), and was reorganized into four departments: Architecture, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering.
The Department of Architecture and Design (ArD) is currently housed in the Dar Al -Handassah (Shair & Partners) Building (Image), on the lower part of the AUB campus, close to the Bechtel Engineering Building and the Scientific Research building (SRB). The building was built in the 1930s and housed the Chemistry department for several years, until it became the home for the Architecture Department in the early 1970s.
The Department of Architecture and Design expanded in the 1990s. In 1992, a four-year Graphic Design Program was launched and was housed in the Department of Architecture. It was the first of its kind in Lebanon and the region. The program addressed the the Lebanese post-war market that was striving to compete and participate in the global international market. There was a great need for designers to acquire a solid training in the theoretical, practical and technical aspects of graphic design. The Department of Architecture was renamed The Department of Architecture and Design in the mid-1990s, probably in 1996. In 2006, the name of the graphic design degree was changed from Bachelor of Graphic design (BGD) to Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design (BFA).
In 1998, six years after the end of the civil war, the graduate programs in Urban Planning and Urban Design (MUP-MUD) were re-launched in the department of Architecture and Design in an effort to support the rebuilding of Lebanon. The graduate programs were first initiated in FEA in the late 1960s and were discontinued in the early years of the civil war. In 2006, the MUP program was renamed Masters in Urban Planning and Policy (MUPP) in order to emphasize the multidisciplinary dimensions of the practice which is open to applicants who do not have a background in design and are interested in learning the planning profession.
In 2016, the ArD department drafted a proposal where it envisioned its growth into a School of Architecture, Design and Planning within MSFEA, building on its synergies with Engineering departments as well as with Landscape Architecture, Fine Arts and other disciplines on campus. The school seeks to grow its current undergraduate programs and introduce new graduate and post-graduate programs. An MS and PhD in Architecture are already underway and planned to be launched in Fall 2020-21.