Architecture with a Physics Minor?

Oct 6 '12 21 Last Comment
Oct 6, 12 5:27 pm

So I'm just starting my junior year of high school. My tentative plan is Architecture with a minor in physics (I like math, and I'm pretty good at it, but I don't think I want to be an architectural engineer.)  I have a lot of questions....I keep trying to do research on Architecture, but I feel like I just get more and more questions instead of answers.

1. B. Science, M.Arch or B.Arch? Why? I'm leaning towards a B.Arch. I know I want to be an architect. I'm 100% sure on that. What type/specialization is what I'm trying to decide.

2. Should I do a more arts path, computer path, environmental/sustainable design, what? Can you list some pros and cons to different types? Where are the careers? 

3. What schools do you recommend? I've looked into Cornell, Cooper, Berkley, Oxford, Yale and many more. Should I do undergrad at one school and switch to another for grad? 

I'm currently in a program called PSEO. I'm taking classes full time at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities. Their architecture program kind of sucks. It doesn't feel like a good fit for me. I am planning on taking their pre-architecture courses though, to sort of dip  my feet into the architecture pool. I'm also going to Cornell's Summer Architecture Program. 

4. Do you recommend any classes to prepare me for architecture school? What can I do to improve my chances of getting into a great school? (My test scores are high. 2100 SAT and 34 ACT, and so is my GPA, plus I'll have over two years of credit from a real college, not just AP classes. That's good, right?)

5. Any more advice? I'd love to study abroad, and am open to living abroad. I'm fairly proficient in Spanish (although I wouldn't say fluent, I can hold my own against a native speaker...)

This is really overwhelming. I feel like I'm going to screw up and like make the wrong choice in schools and degrees....Thanks in advance for your help. 


Oct 6, 12 5:52 pm

1. It depends on if you think you'll want to eventually go to grad school. There are a lot of really great BS programs and you'll probably have a chance to explore a few non-architecture related fields, moreso than in a B. Arch program anyways. If you think you will definitely want to get an M. Arch eventually, I would go for a BS (a shorter, cheaper program than B. Arch) Otherwise, go for the B. Arch. (To clarify you get can an M. Arch regardless of whether you have BS or B.Arch, but the programs might be slightly different. Going for your M. Arch with a B.Arch degree is usually a 1 year program and going for your M. Arch with a BS is usually a 2 year program.)

2. You will eventually need to explore all of these paths, architecture is very comprehensive. In school you'll find out which path you want to put more effort into. 

3. Those are all good's hard for me to make recommendations without knowing more about you though. I would usually say however to definitely do undergrad and grad school at separate schools if you can, to get a broader education.

4. It sounds like you're in a great place grade, test score-wise. I don't think many programs expect you, especially for undergrad, to have any sort of architectural background, so I wouldn't focus on taking specific classes. Just make sure that you are able to demonstrate creativity and thinking skills in a portfolio. 

You are going to be fine, breathe! You have a lot of long, architecture filled years ahead of you. :)

i r giv up
Oct 6, 12 9:54 pm

i am a fan of the unrelated bachelor's before grad school.

the sort of learning that certain other fields give their students (hard sciences, computer sciences, engineering, even psychology) is exactly what is lacking in most people who just graduate with a B.Arch. Of course there are exceptions, but yeah, a broad base of knowledge to draw from is something that I more than grateful for.


add to that, architecture as a career, when you wake up every morning knowing that you're fully qualified to earn 100k elsewhere, is a lot more rewarding. architecture should always be a choice, not something you're stuck to because you picked the wrong path at age 18.

Oct 6, 12 9:54 pm

i don't know if the U of M Architecture program sucks, i do know however, that if you go that route, be prepared for an MArch, because they don't have a Barch.

Oct 6, 12 10:09 pm

if you can get into Cooper, go, you'll never regret it. yale, awesome, cornell awesome.

Oct 6, 12 10:10 pm

@doodle: Thanks a lot:) I'm breathing. I think I'm going to look at a 5 year B. Arch program. I think that's probably the best fit for me. It seems like I'll be best prepared for a career then, and I'll have time to make sure I know what I want. The thing I love, and hate, about architecture is the variety. It makes it fun and exciting, but very hard to make a decision. 

@i r give up: add to that, architecture as a career, when you wake up every morning knowing that you're fully qualified to earn 100k elsewhere, is a lot more rewarding. architecture should always be a choice, not something you're stuck to because you picked the wrong path at age 18. 

Okay, I've seen several of your posts. Are you a troll? Or just bitter? If you're genuine, can you explain yourself a little more? And why, if I love architecture, would I want to waste my time in an unrelated field? That seems like a huge waste of time, money, and energy.

@b3tadine[sutures] Thanks, but I already knew that...

Oct 6, 12 11:33 pm

@b3tadine[sutures] Haha that's what I've heard as well. Although I've heard Cooper leans a little heavily into the arts and art history, and isn't as well rounded as some other programs. What do you think? I'll guess you're a Cooper alum?

Oct 6, 12 11:58 pm

not a Cooper alumn, but i did apply as a transfer - harder to get in that way. as for what they're into, it doesn't matter what they're into, what matters is what you get out of the experience, what that opportunity will lead to after the barch, and the fact - i think - it's still free tuition to one of the premier architectural institutions in the states, plus, and this is a big plus, it's in nyc.

Oct 7, 12 12:01 am

might i ask what sucks about the U's program? i've been there several times, been on a few design reviews, and i didn't get that sense.

Oct 7, 12 12:34 am just doesn't feel right for one. I couldn't see myself there. Not sure why. Also, it's in Minnesota. I really want out of Minnesota. And I've noticed all the big, international names aren't in the Midwest. They're on a coast or overseas. They don't really seem to have a in they're just a school, not Cooper, or Yale, or a school with any weight behind their name. I've also heard from students who are enrolled/graduated that they lean heavy on the arts and almost feel like graphic design...Just what I've heard. I guess I haven't actually been in their program, so I wouldn't know. But it does have a lot of Art History in it. I have a PDF, but I don't know how to post it...They also don't offer a B.Arch, just a B.Science or B. Art/Design. I'm looking more for a B.Arch. Minnesota licencing requires a M. Arch. As much as I love the U, after two years, I'll be beyond ready to leave to bigger and better places, like NY or the UK. 

BTW, any reviews about AA? Any admissions advice?

Oct 7, 12 10:43 am

AA and Bartlett are excellent choices as well. i bring up the u, if only because you don't seem settled on the more esoteric and aesthetically aspects of architecture. all of the ivy's and the other schools you cite are in those categories. princeton is another interesting option, as is upenn.

i r giv up
Oct 7, 12 10:50 am

i think i explained myself fairly well.

i can't count how many other architects i've met that feel trapped by having chosen architecture as a career path at an early age (anything before a few years of college and the forced maturity that it tempers is an early age in my book.).



i'm more of a troll than bitter.
i'm actually fairly happy to be an architect.
but i am also extremely happy that i did something else prior to being an architect. when you've got something that a lot of people desire to fall back on (CS in my case), you tend to take more risks with your career. and those risks generally yield larger rewards. and rewards accrue with time.


oh and because i'm a dick like that: all my 4chanshit aside, calling someone who's trying to give you advice a troll just because you disagree with that advice is a great way to not make friends. you obviously should consider majoring in something that lets you spend some time outside of the studio developing marginal people skills.

Oct 7, 12 2:52 pm

And calling people who have an opinion "retarded" just because you disagree with their opinion is a great way to not make friends, troll. 

You do it yourself.

i r giv up
Oct 7, 12 7:55 pm


Oct 9, 12 12:41 pm

Dearest i r give up,

I did not mean to offend you by calling you a troll, although you did admit to being one. I was simply inquiring as to whether or not I should even consider your advice, or if I should just ignore it as being silly and meant for no other purpose as to be inflammatory. Thank you for explaining your opinion more in depth. I still think it would be a waste of my time and money to get a degree in something other than architecture if I want a career in architecture. I see nothing rewarding in working for a degree I will never use. My people skills are fine, thanks for your concern. While I fell in love with architecture at a very young age, I am in no way trapped with it as a career choice. I have continually investigated other career paths and degrees, as well as continued to explore   architecture, and I have yet to find something that excites me  as much as architecture. I'm glad you're happy with your choice to be an architect. Have a wonderful day!



Oct 9, 12 2:28 pm

Britta, I actually agree that an "unrelated" undergrad degree is a good idea.  I hate to agree with ir, but this time he is right.  (I say he because a women could never possibly be so mean.)  Nothing is unrelated.  I did my undergrad in anthropology.  I was able to study abroad and gained some real insight into social and cultural issues that gave me a huge leg up when going to grad school.  While doing my antropology degree, I studied art and architecture on my own time because I knew that was what I wanted to do as a career.  You can start designing stuff right now.  I entered grad school with a unique perspective, and graduated top of my class.  Getting into a formal architecture program too young may in fact stiffle your individuality.  At an older age you will have more balls and intellectual backing to challenge the conventional thinking of academia.  It is vital that you develop a unique process and architectural expression, one that works for you, and this is often (from my experiance) better done if you start out with a little self learning and avoid some of the academic conditioning.  Anything to differentiate yourself from others is a good thing in this very competitive field.  Good luck to you!

i r giv up
Oct 9, 12 3:51 pm


value engineer
Oct 9, 12 8:06 pm

Britta,  I obtained a Barch for my undergraduate degree.  Worked for two years, okay pay and very long hours.  Now that I am completing my Master's of Science in Civil Engineering, I finally am getting the red carpet rolled out by companies.  Lots of opportunities, higher pay, mutual respect in a client-contractor relationship.  The aesthetics are laking from most CE's, but design is alive in all fields.  I would encourage you to do a STEM undergraduate and then an March, you will have two disciplines to rely on, and lots of scholarships to choose from.  Good Luck Comrade. 

Oct 12, 12 6:18 pm

I once interviewed at a firm that was just starting. Two guys, one Architect and on Physicist. In my interview I asked about how the collaboration of an Architect and Physicist worked. They described to me the role the architects (duh!) and then said 'and a physicist for obvious reasons' . . .  still to this day I'm not sure what they ment by this because at a practioning architect Its still not obvious to me!

Can anyone explain this?

Oct 13, 12 11:15 am

Ahh you sound just like me as a highschooler haha. Though I don't have any hard and fast suggestions, Ill lay down some comments I got when I was in your position. I was going to do Architecture + Engineering. I ended up totally abandoning any math and went full on B.Arch. You will not use math in your architecture career (I have used trig twice, and filled out a few formulas, and this surprised my coworkers). I have negative and  mixed feelings on my choices now but I am sure if the economy was amazing I wouldn't be looking back at all.

- The assistant dean and friend of a family of an architecture school told me that if I am talented in math "why the hell would I stoop to being an architect". Pretty harsh. For the record, I talked to a few engineers who told me horror stories of their boring careers and pushed me the other way as well...

- I asked an architect how useful he thought double majors or minors would be from another field and he said "not useful even one bit, dont waste your time, just study what you want" (This I can say now, is 110% true outside of maybe a few academic-minded design firms if you can get lucky enough to work with them)

I'll tell you that its incredibly easy to go from any bachelors into an M.Arch ($40,000 and you are done) and its much much harder to go the other way around (you might have to like, learn stuff). I know as a young person you don't like to believe that circumstances beyond your control may be more important to your future than your dreams or passions, but I can tell you that at this very moment architecture is not in a good place and its not entirely clear that it will be better in 5 years (despite the AIA PR propaganda).

I think its both good and bad that you come on the internet to do research on this before going to school. On the one hand you only see the embittered advice of us assholes and maybe not an unbiased picture, but also its best to know that these feelings exist before you go live in the advanced kindergarten happy-land of architecture school for 5 years and forget that its a harsh world out there and a large percentage of architects drop out of the profession before they are 30.

In summation, its all about who you know, good luck!

there is no there
Oct 13, 12 1:17 pm

I think thermodynamics would be the best application from a physics background to apply to architecture. But it would be complete overkill unless you want to specialize in energy performance of a building, then you wouldn't be an architect, you'd be a consulting engineer who wasted time on a degree in architecture. On the other hand, it might set you apart to employers who would be impressed with your math skills, but they usually don't care about that. Have you talked to architects or visited an office to see what they actually do? Architecture isn't very math oriented. You can downright suck at math and be an architect.  

i r giv up
Oct 14, 12 12:43 am

Architecture isn't very math oriented if you lack the initiative to make it so.

I've used craploads of relatively advanced math when building grasshopper (well, also CATIA scripts) models during the schematic/conceptual phase and later on in the furniture design phases at the three offices I've worked for, and I'm not even going to go into other more complex systems I've worked with and modeled (LEED facade materials calculations of a modular but irregular semi-parametric envelope, anyone?).

And I am only noting the math part. If I went into how I've exploited my CS background in ways completely unrelated to what I was taught in architecture school, the list would easily quadruple itself.






architecture is only shitty toilet drafting if you're either an idiot or unwilling to push harder/learn harder/go your own way...

you can suck at math and be an architect, but if you're good at it, there will be opportunities to leverage your knowledge, as long as you aren't just a passive observer.

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