Rapid growth in the complexity of system-on-chips is being accompanied by increasing volume and diversity of on-chip communication traffic, which in turn, is driving the development of advanced system-level communication architectures. While these architectures have the potential to improve system performance, they pose significant new challenges to the system designer, owing to the complex design space defined by the availability of numerous network topologies, communication protocols, and mapping alternatives for system communications. In this paper, we address the problem of mapping a system's communication requirements to a given communication architecture template. We illustrate the nature of the communication architecture design space, and describe an exploration methodology that uses efficient algorithms to help automate the process of mapping the system communications to the selected template. In addition, we demonstrate the importance of simultaneously optimizing the on-chip communication protocols in order to maximize system performance. Experiments conducted on example systems, including a cell forwarding unit of an ATM switch, indicate that the proposed techniques aid in automatically constructing communication architectures that have high performance. For the systems we considered, the solutions generated using our methodology had 53% superior performance (on average), over those based on conventional architectures and mapping approaches. The algorithms used in the proposed methodology are computationally efficient, and scale well with increasing communication architecture complexity.