The study of architecture at UIC goes back to its initial formation as a two-year preparatory program at Chicago’s Navy Pier, in 1946. Students at that time completed work toward a Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus. In 1965, the study of architecture at UIC was expanded to a five-year undergraduate program, leading to a first professional degree (BArch), which was first accredited in 1969–70. The program expansion occurred at the same time that the school moved to its current location, the Art and Architecture Laboratory Building (now Architecture + Design Studios), designed by Walter Netsch of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and set within a campus also designed by Netsch.

The School of Architecture is currently part of the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts (CADA), a group of schools and affiliated units dedicated to the investigation, creation, and interpretation of our physical, social, and sensory environments. With degree programs in the visual arts, design, theatre and music, architecture, and art history, CADA is the only place in Chicago where one can prepare for a career in the arts and design within a major research university. It is home to an award-winning faculty of practicing architects, artists, designers, museum professionals, art historians, musicians, directors, and theatrical performers. In addition to the School of Architecture, CADA is composed of the School of Art and Art History, the School of Design, and the School of Theatre and Music, as well as the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, a national historic landmark, and Gallery 400, a contemporary art gallery.