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Ivy League school = succesful firm owner/stararchitect?

Apr 19 '13 36 Last Comment
LizFibleuil
Apr 19, 13 11:52 pm

I'm an international student who is currently attending VTech March II program. My dream has always been to create great an international reknown firm, but I've always wondered that because I didn't go to an Ivy League school or similar for my schooling I wont be able to do so. I see great architects like Rem, Frank Gehry, Toyo Itto and they seemed to have made it throught, but could the same happen right now, when where you come from seems to define who you are to become?

 

accesskb
Apr 20, 13 2:26 am

or you could have no formal education and be self-taught like Tadao Andao and go on to win the Pritzker prize too ^^

LITS4FormZ
Apr 20, 13 10:08 am

"... but could the same happen right now, when where you come from seems to define who you are to become?"

Are we still under a medieval class system?

Steven WardSteven Ward
Apr 20, 13 11:17 am

I think that's exactly what the OP is asking, LITS. And it's a legitimate question, I think.

accesskb
Apr 20, 13 6:15 pm

Its what you DO today, that'll determine what you become tomorrow, not which schools and association you're a member of.

observant
Apr 20, 13 8:49 pm

I agree and disagree.

True, cream rises to the top.

However, there is also a visibility issue - those who come from schools with tight alumni networks and come from affluence will have an easier time showcasing their work and courting clients than will those who don't.  It means that the person in the latter group has to swim upstream all that much harder.

will gallowaywill galloway
Apr 20, 13 9:12 pm

capacity is also part of the equation.  it is not easy to run any kind of office, never mind a world class one.  access to work is partly built on who you know, so yeah the network that comes from ivy schools is important.

i think the people who go to ivies are slightly more likely to have the capacity to run an office with a few hundred people, and get to see how to run those offices too, if they work for their teachers during or after studies.  thats pretty important stuff.  not necessary to go to ivy for that exposure but it doesn't hurt. 

running a large office is a lot of admin work.  it isn't necessarily about design.  the tools needed to bring good design out of a large office are not the same as the ones used to come up with great design by yourself.  if you can figure that out then any school will do.

backbay
Apr 21, 13 11:03 pm

being at the tail end of a business degree, i don't see how an ivy degree would help you manage an office any better than someone from another architecture school.  i would say that the type of person that can get into an ivy school is also the type of person that could run an office.  i feel like the ivy degree would help you connect with the right circles, meet the right people, get the right job, and make all of it much easier-- like a club membership

but then again, a lot of the GSD people i know are a little off the wall, very art oriented, and almost have a sort of (i don't know if its the right word) vendetta against "business" and money related things because it gets in the way of good design and often produces bad looking buildings.  i remember talking to my harvard educated professor about my very real-world oriented thesis, and every time i mentioned practicality or money (which affected everything i did)  it was like she didn't want to hear it anymore.  maybe i'm generalizing off of just one experience, but that's my experience.

i also know firm owners who have cut down the size of their growing office because they ended up spending all their time doing business management and not as much design as they would have liked to.

also, a lot of the big firms that run on the name of a famous architect, or some prize winning building... call me a downer but i almost feel like you have the same odds as a high school football player that dreams of making it to the NFL.  it's talent and luck, and most of us don't have both.

In the end, its all about what you do with the skills you have.  not getting into an ivy leagues school will NEVER be the reason why you weren't as successful as you would have liked.  if you go through life giving yourself that reasoning whenever something doesn't work out its only a self-fulfilling prophesy.  

observant
Apr 21, 13 11:14 pm

being at the tail end of a business degree, i don't see how an ivy degree would help you manage an office any better than someone from another architecture school.  i would say that the type of person that can get into an ivy school is also the type of person that could run an office.  i feel like the ivy degree would help you connect with the right circles, meet the right people, get the right job, and make all of it much easier-- like a club membership

That's interesting and I agree.  Most people who go to an Ivy League school impart a credibility that others do not, though they clearly do not know everything.  What they do is surround themselves with people who know the answers.  Most often, they are bred a certain way and their lives seem to move forward in lockstep, in concert with legacy expectations.  That they are very bright is indisputable.  But they are not omniscient.

Agreed that some a-schools would have the introduction of business concepts into the curriculum, almost as if it pollutes the environment.  Generally, the looser design schools are such schools.  They don't see how such a background fleshes out the fold (in a graduate program).  On the other hand, some schools are very pluralistic from what I can see and it would be welcomed alongside other degrees (Michigan comes to mind).

So, you are doing a business degree after architecture?  Interesting.  The business curriculum is less intriguing, but the people, with the exception of a small group of ultra-Machiavellian money crazed types, are so much more down to earth.  No?

vado retro
Apr 22, 13 1:03 pm

check out the firm modative. they have a blog that was started as they opened their office and is updated with information on their current work. i know plenty of architects who have opened their own firms and are doing fine(granted this is subjective in our current economic climate) and growing their business without ever having attended an ivy league school.

observant
Apr 22, 13 1:10 pm

I think that the Ivy thing is a big deal when it comes to a select few coveted employment markets.  I know that UT-Austin grads can hang a shingle anywhere in Texas, assuming they're good, and do well.  Generally, sticking close to one's roots if they went to a state school, combined with talent and being connected to prominent alumni of that school, would make for a successful practice.

cr8ve
Apr 22, 13 7:06 pm

As an Ivy League school graduate, I can tell you that the name and credentials do bring you some advantage initially, but ultimately you have to back it with real talent and expertise.  The Ivy Leaguers tend to have more talent, and that's why they were accepted there to begin with, because they had better portfolios and grades etc..so in general, smarter more talented people tend to do better but of course there are exceptions ! Always!

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Apr 22, 13 8:06 pm

Ivy Leaguers tend to have more talent

Bull. The head of architecture at Harvard is an unlicensed RISD grad.

observant
Apr 22, 13 8:21 pm

The Ivy Leaguers tend to have more talent, and that's why they were accepted there to begin with, because they had better portfolios and grades etc.

This is an interesting comment.  For one thing, I'm amazed at the grades/GREs needed to get into the Ivys and, say Virginia, for architecture.  They're not THAT high.  For their other curricula, absolutely.  The portfolio is an interesting thing.  For non-architects, it could be in any medium.  Therefore, a slick portfolio in one area of the arts or design may not correlate well with the making of a good architect.  The other thing is that, in these programs, people's designs either improve markedly, improve slowly, or remain flat.  Since a substantial part of Harvard's people are in the 3+ program, it would be interesting to see the distribution of the grades, GREs, and previous majors.  I threw up a link to those statistics for Virginia's smallish 3 year class.  Let's just say there's a courtesy extended to other East Coast schools (including Ivys) and a couple of token Berkeley/Santa Cruz grads for their "interest value."  I'm sure somebody going to school in Oklahoma, Ohio, or Arizona, even if good, wouldn't get the UVa folks that riled up, based on their list of feeder schools.

Dimitri Damiel KimDimitri Damiel Kim
Apr 22, 13 8:23 pm

I didn't know Mohsen Mostafavi was a RISD grad. Where are you getting your info? Moshen was a AA grad who held the prestigious position of the director of AA before taking the leadership of GSD. And what does unlicensed got to do with anything in this conversation? Rem, Zaha, Peter Cook, and and many other great architects are not licensed in US.

Edit yourself before publishing your words or disinformation in any forum.

citizen
Apr 22, 13 8:26 pm

"Ivy Leaguers tend to have more talent, and ... in general, smarter more talented people tend to do better..."

@ cr8ve

While I appreciate you carving out wiggle room for your position, there is absolutely no basis for your general claim.

Now, the Ivies may attract more talent overall, or they may not.  We don't know.  They certainly and objectively attract more folks willing to spend for what's probably an excellent education, yes.  But the level of talent of folks attending, compared to others who don't?  How do you come by that knowledge?

(This is not Ivy-bashing, only poking holes in an unverifiable claim.  Nb: You may in fact be right!  But you and we don't know.  Better to state it as an impression or educated guess.)

Noah Walker
Apr 23, 13 6:27 pm

Miles,  Scott Cohen holds an MARCH from the GSD.  His RISD degree was a BARCH and BFA.  I don't understand your point.  

afrdzak
Apr 23, 13 7:01 pm

Is being internationally renown your definition of being successful?  If international fame is your game then you're competing not with only single-name brand names (eg. Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, etc), but also bigger, abbreviated firms such as SOM, HOK, etc.

I say start getting to know someone or some people who have parallel aspirations should be your first task.

accesskb
Apr 23, 13 8:08 pm

You gain international renown because you are good at what you do.  No amount of education from an Ivy league will assure you that status if you plain suck at what you do :)

design
Apr 23, 13 8:40 pm

Just to add, Ando comes from a wealthy family, deep pockets with talent can go a long way.

 

to Miles:
-Ivy Leaguers tend to have more talent
Bull. The head of architecture at Harvard is an unlicensed RISD grad.
The topic was talent not licensure. Moshen is the dean, Cohen's a chair but not a dean. Dimitri's point stands.

Cohen is also somewhat well off.

 

 

I say start getting to know someone or some people who have parallel aspirations should be your first task.
^this.

will gallowaywill galloway
Apr 23, 13 10:44 pm

Having money to start with is always nice.

I went to ivy in Tokyo. Actually so did all of our partners. It has undeniably helped us to do what we want as an office and as academics so far. It doesn't make it easy by a long shot but does give us a slim bit of wiggle room.

I've noted on the other hand that my friends from USA ivies all keep in touch and that really matters in the long run. It's amazing how those connections carry on.

Still doesn't mean an ivy is necessary to success or even contributing factor. It's more about access to people and projects and to other opportunities. Getting that access is the real challenge. A bit of talent doesn't hurt either. Ok, a lot of talent is better. Plus people skills.

afrdzak
Apr 23, 13 11:13 pm

accesskb: I don't disagree with you, but the inverse could happen as well - you could be good at what you do and the word of it not reach beyond the state lines you reside in perhaps due to the lack of business acumen. There are many variables in this equation and the more stars you have aligned the better, but even with all the stars aligned you could could be the variable to fuck it all up.

observant
Apr 24, 13 12:53 am

Interesting what Will said.  His Ivy friends maintain their connections.  Then I reflected how connected graduates of a good public institution are ... and I laughed.  Maybe some are better at it than others.  Except for the creme of the publics, there's always more alumni bonding with private schools, it seems, since one had to drop more coin to go there.  I've seen all kinds of variables, but clicking with your target audience or clientele seems to be the primary one.  Even mediocre architects who play golf with the right people can do their tenant improvements, strip malls, and tilt up warehouses which do not need to be Architecture, but mere architecture, and stay busy while doing it.

Kevin W.Kevin W.
Apr 24, 13 1:38 am

I say worry about doing one good building first, then work on the fame and status of creating a world reknown firm. Where you come from does NOT define what you will become, what you can do does. There are Ivy leaguers doing crap, and unlicensed non-college educated people doing brilliant work and vice versa..

bindunarayan
Apr 24, 13 2:15 am

Some great points have been made here. Yes, it really doesn't matter from which university or college you have graduated from to turn out successful in life provided that you have strong knowledge in the subject.

toasteroven
Apr 24, 13 10:29 am

I thought you're supposed to get into and then drop out of an ivy league school in order to be successful.

curtkram
Apr 24, 13 11:00 am

i think the ivy argument about connections may have some value.  potentially, the people who get into ivy schools get in because of connections, and they are attracted to those schools because they are attracted to the idea of building those connections, and that of course leads them to develop and maintain those connections.  that's quite a valuable thing to have.  it should be noted that this is about 'who you know' and has nothing to do with talent, ability, or competence (not directly or inversely-no relation at all). 

i would point you to the recent Reinhart and Rogoff economic papers on austerity.  i suspect people respect these people's viewpoint because of their harvard roots.  they also developed a position that said we should reduce government spending so the wealthy can horde more of a country's resources.  a lot of suffering came about because of this report; but that suffering was focused on those who never had much to begin with. 

thomas hernod is a student at UMass, which i'm pretty sure is a public university (one of the land-grant universities).  he's the one who pointed out the harvard elite 'accidentally' forgot to include the the data that suggested they were full of shit.  it was a spreadsheet error.

personally, i'm a bit of a geek so i value being smart; i value intelligence and competence and personal responsibility.  because of that, i have no use for ivy schools like harvard.  if what i valued was being known by people, then i think harvard would be worth more to me than a school like UMass.  fwiw, i haven't maintained connections from school very well, and looking back that was probably more of a bad idea than a good idea.

anyway, good luck starting and internationally renown firm.

observant
Apr 24, 13 12:41 pm

thomas hernod is a student at UMass, which i'm pretty sure is a public university (one of the land-grant universities).  he's the one who pointed out the harvard elite 'accidentally' forgot to include the the data that suggested they were full of shit.  it was a spreadsheet error.

personally, i'm a bit of a geek so i value being smart; i value intelligence and competence and personal responsibility.  because of that, i have no use for ivy schools like harvard.

Yes, UMass, aka ZooMass, is the flagship campus of Massachusetts's public universities.  Only recently did they install an accredited M.Arch.  It is the only public architecture program in the 6 New England states.  On paper, it looks pretty flimsy - i.e. not a curriculum that would interest me.  FWIW, UMass is really liberal, and students there can cross-register for classes at 4 other colleges in the same or adjacent towns, including Smith, if you get the drift.

I knew I liked you, curt. LOL. I may not look like a geek, but I am somewhat of a geek and a nonconformist at heart.  The Ivys, even if I was smart ENOUGH, wouldn't be for me, because they would feel claustrophobic.  I doubt there are either male or female equivalents of Lisa Lampanelli with whom to break bread.  Ditto for UVa.  Friendships developed in public grad school wane with the "out of sight, out of mind" factor, and many of them were with students in other academic units.  But then, I never went into a-school with delusions of grandeur.  Somebody's gotta do the boring shit ... and avoid the cocktail party circuit.

vado retro
Apr 24, 13 1:05 pm

out of curiosity i compared the a.r.e. pass rates by section by graduates of columbia, cornell, princeton, harvard and ball state. with the exception of harvard, ball state pass rates bested the others in head to head comparisons for 4.0 tests taken last year. so much for that argument.

observant
Apr 24, 13 3:03 pm

There are Ivy leaguers doing crap, and unlicensed non-college educated people doing brilliant work and vice versa.

It's the exception rather than the rule.  Sure, it happens, but most of the time, the better the school, the better the student and eventual architect.  Overall, the work of a Michigan grad is typically better than that of a University of Houston grad, which is turn better than the work of someone who went to SMC (Santa Monica College) for 2 years ... from what I've seen.  Those at the better schools were seriously filtered and are usually more invested in their careers.  Since architecture has a high attrition rate, even after graduating and licensing, it would be interesting to see how that links up to someone's school.  I'd be willing to bet that the defection is mostly by those who went to their in-state public a-school, or another public school, more so than one who went to an exclusive private one.

EKE
Apr 24, 13 3:13 pm

Or do the most talented people tend to gravitate to the better schools?

curtkram
Apr 24, 13 3:53 pm

or different ideas of what 'talent' is?  when i applied to grad school i sent GRE scores, GPA, transcript of classes taken, a portfolio, and letters of recommendation.  a school that wants overall smart people might weigh GRE scores a bit heavier; a school that wants some sort of specific focus like sustainability or technology might look closer at the transcript; a design-heavy school will focus on portfolios; a school interested in prestige will be more interested in letters of recommendation. 

one might say none of those paths are wrong, but you're more likely to follow the path your more suited to.

observant
Apr 24, 13 4:57 pm

when i applied to grad school i sent GRE scores, GPA, transcript of classes taken, a portfolio, and letters of recommendation.  a school that wants overall smart people might weigh GRE scores a bit heavier; a school that wants some sort of specific focus like sustainability or technology might look closer at the transcript; a design-heavy school will focus on portfolios; a school interested in prestige will be more interested in letters of recommendation.

I'm not so sure here, curt.  First, most require all of those ingredients in the admission packet.  If they don't, they're more relaxed in admitting people.  In the M.Arch. game, there is definitely a chasm between high demand and low demand schools.  The high demand schools will use any deficit in those ingredients to cull people from the pool.  Such was the case at Virginia, which wouldn't have been a good "marriage," and, yes, I'm over it.  However, some of the low demand schools will admit you with a 3.0, a dog sniff test of your GRE and letters, and a portfolio that shows SOME talent.  They're trying to fill up a class and gamble that they will turn out a competent architect.  It's especially a gamble when we're talking about design skills more so than comprehensive skills.  And, in a low(er) demand school, there will be a "I think I'll try architecture" contingent which would have never been admitted to a high demand school, and when they don't add much to the program and/or are ambivalent ... and leave, it kind of takes the experience down a notch.

will gallowaywill galloway
Apr 24, 13 6:10 pm

pretty sure that aint the case curtkram.  universities want great students.  the challenge is to get the great ones to apply. 

we have sejima and maki teaching in my faculty, and should be able to pick and choose our students but what it comes down to is finding students who have an idea of what they want to do, not their letters of recommendation.  ironically its still a struggle.  we're small so that makes it harder, but getting the kind of student that can take on real issues at a high level is all that we care about in the end.  test scores and portfolio and interviews tell us how close they are to that ambition but there is no hard rule.

i can't say what harvard or yale do, but my intuition as a teacher is that they have the same goal in mind.  it isn't about being the right status to start with, but rather what kind of tools students can bring to the table to do the kinds of things the university thinks are worth doing - which is a different kind of status.  in my experience so far the people who come from ivies have their shit together more than most.

i really don't buy into the bias that often pops up here that seems to assume ivy schools are easy and not worth much.  the main reason from my perspective is that the teachers are hired according to the same performance-based criteria as the students.  the kind of education you can get from those professors, and the connections they offer to like-minded people, is valuable.  underestimating the chance to work with the best in the world is kind of odd from that perspective.

that doesn't mean education can't be as good in other schools, just that dismissing the entire concept of an ivy education out of hand is a bit of i dunno...wishful thinking, maybe.

observant
Apr 24, 13 8:43 pm

^

As someone who didn't come from that breeding and couldn't afford that level of debt, I would have never gone to an Ivy League school for architecture, even if I could have gotten in.  Nor for b-school.  For medicine or law, yes.  The first two have something in common:  from the a-school and the b-school at an Ivy, you court the rich and you court visibility.  From the latter at an Ivy, you could heal whomever the hell you want, in whatever part of town, or work in an area of the law that isn't corporate, such as criminal, governmental/administrative, family law, or estate planning, but you can bet that most Ivy law grads are conditioned to go to as slick of a firm as possible.

Also, it's generally easier to go for an Ivy for grad school than for undergrad.  For undergrad, the admit rates at Harvard and such are like 6%.  For grad school, people can cut their teeth at their state university or local college, present higher grades, and get in.  The roster of undergraduate schools represented at Ivys is really all over the map.  The admission percentages for grad programs at Ivys is higher.

curtkram
Apr 25, 13 7:44 am

i don't know anything about your university will.  i do like sejima and maki's work though, and if i had the opportunity to study under them there is a fair chance i would take that opportunity.  also, i don't think ivy's are easy.  you may have inferred something from my statement that i didn't say, or maybe i worded something in a way i didn't inted.  i do think, if it's an education in the sense of learning stuff rather than just getting a degree, i can work just as hard at a public university and learn just as much as someone at harvard or princeton.

i don't think there are ivy league schools in japan.  the ivy league is a college conference, just like the big 8.

following are the sort of things that formed my view of ivy admissions.  in personal experience, i went to 3 different universities (big 12 and big 8, no ivies) and i believe they had different focuses as to what sort of school they wanted to be. 

http://www.ivygateblog.com/2011/05/harvard-to-non-legacy-applicants-lol/

http://chronicle.com/article/Legacys-Advantage-May-Be/125812/

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