Ontario College of Art and Design



Sep '06 - Jul '07

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    Life changing decisions.

    By Arnaud M.
    Oct 14, '06 7:46 PM EST

    It is time for to think about which Grad school I should apply to. I had previously made up my mind only on Canadian universities, namely UBC and UofT, but I had a lot of talks about it recently, especially with one of my teachers who is trying to convince me either to go to the US or back to Europe.

    The issue is quite complicated for me right. First it's a financial issue, since my parents are financing me, I'm trying to make their life easier by not choosing 30, 000 USD universities. I know it might sound silly and that I should think about my education first, but I already have a loan for OCAD, and my dad's finances are not limitless, unfortunaltely.

    Then I am already pretty satisfied with the quality of Canadian post-secondary education, I know that UBC and UofT are rather well ranked in North America and since it's so much better than France's socialist universities, I felt like sticking to it so far.

    What I would be looking for:

    -I'm pretty down to earth, so I think I would go for a school that offers practical knowledge and projects that are related to what architecture business is. I also like playing with conceptual thinking, as long as the outcome is very tangible. People like Glenn Murcutt, Rick Joy, Will Bruder, Patkau, Peter Busby, Foster or Lispky+Rollet are great inspirations for me.
    - I am interested in environment/sustainability or whatever you call it, although I'm not willing to design sustainable shit at the expense of beautiful, functional (read not leaving users aside) and well integrated architecture.
    - I like all kinds of architectural issues and I have a thing for urban/industrial projects. I really like industrial architecture, beautiful structures and whatnot.
    - I want to be in a school in which there actually is a studio life (open 24/7) and interaction amongst student. It has nonetheless to be an actual working environment and not a masters in partying and drinking booze. I like waking up super early (between 4 and 6) and working in the morning.
    -I'd rather be in an urban setting, although a beautiful campus like UBC (about 30 minutes from downtown) would suit me as well, I don't think I want to be in an university town.
    - I don't care if the faculty isn't famous, as long as they direct me and try to understand my view to give me proper directions.

    So far, my shortlist of potential candidates (not so short actually) is the following:


    These four were suggested by the aforementioned teacher. Who is from the old guard of classical architecture champions, very smart, highly educated and knowledgable. Kinda elitist, he is forcing me to think not in term of better but best schools I can apply to.


    UBC was suggested by another of my teachers, who graduated from there quite a while ago, but still in touch with some faculty over there.
    UofT by reputation, plus I have a couple of friends going there.
    Waterloo by another teacher graduate from there, who also suggested Dalhousie.
    Winnipeg suggested by a fellow student who was considering at some point applying there, and is still in the process of choosing a grad school.

    Then doing my own research and from word of mouth I am considering:

    Sci-arc (reading archinect!)
    EPFL in Lausanne (A friend was there in exchange, and it's close to my hometown, they're very well ranked by reputation in Europe)
    Taliesin fellowship (Frank has always been an inspiration...)
    U of Washington in Seattle (I like the pacific northwest region.)
    U of Oregon (portland or eugene)

    I think what I need now is to talk with people from these universities, I need to know what their program are exactly about, how is student life, what are the cities/campuses like, what kind of direction the schools are leaning towards, the facilities/studio functionment...

    I have to admit, that I actually know very little about these schools, since I tend to distrust anything coming from within the said schools. So any comment are welcome, with the reasons why I should or shouldn't apply.


    • Of your schools, besides SCI-Arc of course, I considered UW for graduate school. I even went for a visit this past winter and introduced myself to the admissions coordinator. The first thing she said to me was "did you know glenn murcutt is teaching here this semester?" I did know, but she got such a thrill out of telling me that I just played along. I went to visit all the graduate studios and was suprised to see how 'old school' they were. murcutt's studio was talking about elevator shafts 3 weeks into their design. i had a brief conversation with him, and he seemed like a genuine guy that was committed to his students, but the type of work they were doing was too redundant to my undergrad study, so i decided not to go there. other than that, the campus was beatiful, cost is cheap (for in state tuition), and seattle is an exciting city.

      Oct 14, 06 8:13 pm  · 

      arnaud- STOP!

      don't waste your time applying for grad school in the midst of undergrad

      take time off
      go work for a few years
      get a life
      live a little more

      grow up!

      then go to grad school,

      otherwise your wasting the experience.

      Oct 14, 06 9:43 pm  · 
      Arnaud M.


      I've already considered this option. University is only a step towards what I really want to do: Practice as an architect. Actually, I've been in university for 6 years now and I want to get out with a degree asap, and start a career. All the people with some experience (parents, teachers etc.) I talked to, told me that I'd rather get my degree, and then never have to think again about it. And I feel like that too.

      I don't go to university because I particularly like it, it's mainly because I need to attend to get my degree to do what I really want to do. Although university is rather fun, I'd better be practicing architect if I could. Taking time for things isn't really the way I think. Because when I do have too much time I end up not using it efficiently.


      Could you tell me a little about Sci-arc, regarding what I was saying in my post. How is LA? Is it an expensive city? Is it true that you can't live without a car there?

      Oct 14, 06 10:33 pm  · 

      I'd say that if Stuart (it's Stuart right?) is trying to convince you to apply to those schools, it's because he believes in you, and that is a good sign. Everyone that I know from my year went on to Canadian schools because of the financial barriers, however, there have been many times when I have debated the choice to stay in Canada for many reasons.
      Rule out Waterloo (you have to do an undergrad there), but if you are happy in Toronto, UofT is a great school. UBC also has a lot of great stuff going on.
      But I do think that the 30000 difference is like the difference between a porsche and a Toyota. Do you get in debt and go for the Porsche? Or do you buy the Toyota only to complain that it doesn't have leather seats and enough power? It's a hard choice.

      Oct 14, 06 10:50 pm  · 
      vado retro

      alana, doesnt look as though you;ve been car shopping lately. going to grad school right out of undergrad...well, you can do that and i see your reasoning. however, if you got yerself a job for a couple of years, and actually built up a portfolio of actual work, as opposed to your school work, you stand a better chance of getting into the school you want. also, you may find it easier to get assistanceships etc...with some real world experience under your belt. this is assuming you don't have it of course. the caveat is that you may get a job in an office and find it so distasteful that you apply to law school.

      Oct 15, 06 6:45 am  · 
      Arnaud M.

      I wasn't talking about Stuart. The teacher in question Is Anthony, the guy who teaches contemporary studies in architecture for liberal studies. Have you ever had him for any class?
      What do you know about UofT that would help me to make my decision? As for UBC, I will email you for more details.

      Buying a toyota is not necessarily a bad thing. It costs less, obviously, but also uses less gas, have easier-to-find and cheaper spare parts, is extremely reliable (although the Porsche might be as well) and less likely to get stolen. I think the comparison falls short here, though.

      More seriously, what I'm looking for isn't a famous school but a school that deals with the issues I'm interested in. I tend to think that whatever school you go to, it's up to you to make the best out of it, by thinking, arguing, working hard, collaborating etc. I tend to distrust any kind of scholar environment, as they are often overly biased and thry to brainwash you. I think I already made my mind on how I want to prac tise architecture, I don't need to be taught that anymore. I need to improve my purely design skills, process etc...
      Vado retro,

      If have to be a CAD monkey, I'd better be one with a professional degree, get my license and then start my business. I could also start my business straight out of OCAD, but I don't think I would go back to school after that.

      Oct 15, 06 9:17 am  · 
      Oana S.

      i am in the same situation!
      i can totally understand 'the quest'...
      good luck!
      as long as you know what you want, you will find it.

      Oct 15, 06 11:22 am  · 

      hey arnaud, hopefully my blog descibes what it is like to be at sci-arc.

      as for the financial part, tuition is about $20k a year, i pay $640 for rent living in a loft 1 block from school. i eat out all the time and try to spend less than $15 a day on food. i really don't have any other expenses than that besides supplies, computers, etc. there are several students in my class (2gax) who do not own a car. this is okay for our core year since we rarely leave the building (strong studio culture). there will be certain weekends when you need to get out, but hopefully it will be with your studiomates and you can bum a ride. just don't plan on seeing much of LA without a car. feel free to ask me any more questions.

      ...and a small anecdote: don't let anyone else tell you when, where, or whether you should go back to grad school. it's all you.

      Oct 15, 06 11:42 am  · 


      That you are rushing into starting your 'career' seems to be for all of the reasons why you need to take some time off from school. If your goal is to become a great architect, then take time to grow up and really figure out your interest in architecture BEFORE going to graduate school. You will learn more, produce better projects, and actually earn enough money once you graduate to pay of those loans -IF you take some time off. How can you perform your best if you are burnt out, bored with school, and chomping on the bit to start being an 'architect'? How can you know what you want, until you've actually looked around, lived around, and understand the full implications of your chosen profession?

      Your time on the job before graduate school is not wasted towards getting your licence. If you go IDP, then the moment you graduate with your BS Arch, every hour can qualify toward taking the exam.

      dot is right, don't listen to anybody about when to go, my TK self included. but you have an entire life to live and many more years of possible practice to need to rush into becoming middle-aged.

      Oct 15, 06 1:30 pm  · 

      on the specific schools- scrap Taliesin West. It's like a cult of immitators out there sometimes. I had considered this for undergrad (two years somewhere else and then transfer), but once I saw this and the reputation it has (for immitation, not innovation), I scrapped that idea.

      If you like FLlW, Bruder, and Joy, I'd say to take a look at Arizona State University. Pretty good reputation, and you are still immersed in the desert aesthetic that these guys advance. The campus is BEAUTIFUL,, too.

      Oct 15, 06 1:32 pm  · 
      brian buchalski


      Oct 15, 06 6:11 pm  · 

      I can respond to the U of Oregon program, I did my undergrad there.
      from my interaction with graduates (there was a ton, considering they are completely integrated with the undergrad studios and classes) they were generally there because they could not find a better balance of education for the money. I tend to agree.
      Eugene is a college town, but has a lot of diversity (if diversity to you means hippies) and excellent food, outdoor potential, etc. The portland program is very popular, and seems to be best suited to those on a mission for self-administered thesis type work. you'll most likely fall in lvoe with Oregon, and never want to leave . . .it's hard to be in studio when you could be snowboarding.

      the studio culture is fantastic there, and is my primary plug for the school. the professors are somewhat old guard, with cult-followings for louis kahn and christopher alexander, with a few token young 'digital' architects to keep the debate fresh. there is hardly any funding, so the facilities are not cutting water jet here, and you won't be seeing big names on the lecture circuit anytime. you will however get very good, firsthand experience with sustainable thinking, from technology, to housing solutions to regionalism, etc. people like teddy cruz and shigeru ban are the primary lecture pulls.
      I was always a little depressed with the quality of work by some students in undergrad, but the grad performance was always pretty good. not that i've moved on to grad school, i'm a much bigger fan of the program at UofO in retrospect. there's not much of an employment network, though, so unless you're looking to work locally, or somewhere expressly about sustainable architecture, the school's reputation will not preceed you.

      Oct 15, 06 10:42 pm  · 

      forgive the typos

      Oct 15, 06 10:44 pm  · 

      I don't have a ton to say, except that I would do the exact OPPOSITE of whatever Stuart tells you to do.

      That is all. Good luck.

      Oct 16, 06 4:14 am  · 
      Arnaud M.

      I wouldn't mind doing the opposite of what stuart says, although I barely know stuart and he certainly didn't talk to me about grad school.
      If you read the all comments, you'll see that the teacher in question is Anthony, from the liberal studies dpt.

      Oct 16, 06 5:45 am  · 

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