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The American College of the Building Arts

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21 Magazine St, Charleston, SC 29401, United States
21 Magazine Street Charleston South Carolina 29401 US

About ACBA:

The American College of the Building Arts is the only college in the world to offer the four-year Bachelor in Applied Science in Building Arts (B.A.S.) degree. We also offer and Associates degree (A.A.S). Students major in the Building Arts and select one of the six areas of Craft Specialization in which to focus the work in a trade.  Students select a Craft Specialization from the following to provide a focus for their craft education: Stone Carving, Architectural Carpentry, Forged Architectural Iron, Masonry, Plaster, and Timber Framing. The B.A.S. degree is designed to synthesize a traditional liberal arts degree with the Craft Specialization and training in the Building Arts. After completing the degree, students may seek employment within the fields of architecture, design, construction, and preservation, among others.

Students pursue a hybrid curriculum that embraces tradition without ignoring the present – a foot in the past to be able to go forward into the future.  Trade classes are integrated with general education classes to the point where a debate about ironwork can happen in English class and research papers show up in the blacksmith’s shop.  Borrowing from the real-world emphasis of European programs like the Compagnon du Devoir in France, ACBA has developed a world-class internship program that has sent students abroad to work on castles and cathedrals.

Timber Framing Overview:  At ACBA, the carpentry and timber framing programs are combined for the first two years due to the commonality of material, joinery, and most of the tools used in the two trades. The first part of the curriculum covers the basics of hand tools, wood science, and shop safety. Students will learn how to properly use, maintain, and sharpen any tools, from hand tools to portable electric tools as well as all stationary equipment commonly used in carpentry and timber framing shops.

Through a series of small projects, students will be introduced to stick framing as well as mill rule layout, the most basic and modern approach to timber framing. Through these projects, they will learn how to layout and cut the joinery typically used in carpentry and timber framing. Students then learn the principles of laying out, cutting, and assembling straight and winder staircases, and progress into the introduction of sophisticated spiral staircases. Senior students are required to produce a “capstone” project prior to graduation. This project is meant to be representative of at least one aspect of their broad education. This process often requires extensive research, design, and estimating work, as well as the time and labor involved in creating an actual finished product. Projects range from elegant and complex scaled models to smaller full-scale installations for local clients.


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