Dec 5, 201309:00 AMPoint of View

The METROPOLIS Blog

Do Ivy Leagues Do Architecture School Better Than State Universities?

Do Ivy Leagues Do Architecture School Better Than State Universities?

Harvard placed first among architectural graduate programs, but is it really better than Cal Poly, the first place undergraduate program?

Courtesy Harvard University

(page 1 of 2)

This article, by Rory Stott, originally appeared on ArchDaily as “Are Ivy League Schools Really Offering the Best Architectural Education?


Though Design Intelligence‘s annual rankings of U.S. Architecture Schools was released in early November, there is still a lot to talk about. Of course, plenty will be said about what is shown immediately by the statistics (neatly compiled here), and rightly sobut just as interesting is what is revealed between the lines of this report, about the schools themselves and the design cultures they foster and promote. By taking the opinions of professional architects, teachers and students, the Design Intelligence report exposes a complex network which, when examined closely enough, reveals what some might see as a worrying trend within architectural education.

One of the more revealing sections of the report is where schools are ranked in different aspects of architectural education. These rankings are based on the opinions of hiring professionals and are split into top fives across eight sectors: Analysis & Planning, Cross-Disciplinary Teamwork, Communication, Design, Computer Applications, Research & Theory, Construction Methods & Materials, and Sustainable Design Practices and Principles.

There are five lists that are particularly interesting. For the sake of clarity, here they are in full:

  • Communication: Harvard University; Yale University; University of Southern California;Columbia University; University of Michigan
  • Design: Harvard University; Yale University; Columbia University; Southern California Institute of Architecture; University of Southern California
  • Research & Theory: Harvard University; Columbia University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Yale University; Princeton University
  • Construction Methods & Materials: California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; Auburn University; Kansas State University; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; University of Southern California
  • Sustainable Design Practices & Principles: California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; University of California, Berkeley; Auburn University; University of Oregon; University of Southern California

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that these five lists are split into two sets which are very different: while the first set is dominated by Harvard, and features Yale and Columbia prominently, the second set is dominated by Cal Poly, and features Auburn prominently.

The two sets are very nearly mutually exclusive, with only the University of Southern California bridging the gap.

What this shows is that there are two fundamentally different ways of teaching taking place in US architecture schools. On the one hand are the Ivy League schools, with a focus on design and theory; on the other are schools focusing on the practical aspects of construction and sustainability. Both types of architectural teaching are finding success, as is evident by the top schools (Harvard for its graduate program, and Cal Poly for its undergraduate program.

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