The Best Grad School to step up the game . . .


Dear Archinect,

If you had to reccommend one graduate program to an already practising architect, which would it be?

Having worked for big names in different countries, holding two bachelors (from USA and Europe) and currently running my own firm, I have been lucky enough to be offered a fellowship to any architectural university in America, Asia or Oceania.

Although there is a lot left to learn - I am not just pursuing higher education here. I am talking about stepping up the game, that is, find myself in an environment where to experiment new things, meet first-league mentors and connect with the best.

For now, the list includes: 

- Columbia GSAPP (prestigious school and it is New York City)

- Harvard GSD (Harvard)

- Yale YSOA (great references from friends who studied there)

- MIT (unbeatable in terms of rankings)

- University of Tokyo (experiencing a new culture)

Hoping to hear some well-articulated opinions. I believe it is a different approach to this popular question "what is the best school...". Not for a recent grad, but for someone who is willing to take an established career a bit further.



Jan 12, 18 12:33 pm
First question - is this for any program, or is it required to lead to a degree of some sort? Reason I ask is that I’ve had multiple practicing professors who were concurrently finishing phd’s at ETH Zurich. They were all well grounded in the realities of practice, and were in the process of establishing/elevating their own firms, explixitly using the academic side as a way of enriching their professional ambitions (rather than, say, hiding out in academia from the practicing world) via a means to an end.
Jan 12, 18 12:56 pm

- No need to lead to professional accreditation (i.e. a 1-year Master in Lighting Design could be more interesting in this case than a 3-year MArch).

- Your example about ETH Zurich is exactly what I am talking about. The grant is not for PHD though, it is for Graduate studies and outside Europe.

- Looking for either (1) a healthy discussion on which university is more "professional-ambition-friendly" or (2) clear reccommendations based on the experience of Archinect's community.


I guess my question was more if it needs to be a 1-year program, or if a longer-term (PhD) program is viable


Graduate - Master. Not PhD yet.


If I were anywhere other than the GSD, it'd be ETH Zurich. The GSD is peerless if you want to 'step up your game' but don't know exactly how; you'll meet people here and make connections you couldn't anywhere else, so there's a high probability of a chance encounter leading to a fruitful relationship. Plus you get to drop the h-bomb for the rest of your life. But there are big egos here, and often there isn't much space to breath or to stretch your legs.  ETH is where GSD graduates go to get their advanced degrees or to research, and for good reason: it is unparalleled in its facilities, funding, and resources for a motivated individual who knows exactly what they want to accomplish.  Although, if the above is true and you don't want to leave the country, just head down to the swamp--I mean, MIT :) 


MIT (unbeatable in terms of rankings)

Unbeatable except for the multiple schools that are ranked higher every single year

Jan 12, 18 2:35 pm

MIT is ranked no.1 in the QS ranking third year in a row or something, ahead of UCL and TU Delft.


QS accounts for the overall faculty though. Not a very accurate comparison to be had.


Yeah, any ranking that puts Berkeley and Delft ahead of Harvard, Columbia, and Cornell is definitely using a suspect methodology.


Why suspect? Maybe just not what you'd expect but suspect sounds a bit harsh.


No, suspect sounds just about exactly right, as in "not to be relied on or trusted." If we both know water is a healthier beverage than Sprite, but Sprite is "ranked" higher by some beverage-ranking organization, then it's fair to say the process that led to that nonsense conclusion is highly suspect. There is no one who follows academia in architecture that thinks Berkeley and Delft are better schools than Harvard or Columbia (to use the examples I chose before, though there are many many others). That's not meant to take anything away from Berkeley or Delft, as they are both fine programs, but they absolutely are not at the level of the GSD and GSAPP.


Well, New Haven is a very unpleasant place to spend a year. On the other hand their Brutalist architecture building sort of fits their zeitgeist. Be sure and say "inclusion, diversity, and sustainability" fifty times before breakfast every day and you will be fine.

Jan 12, 18 2:45 pm

"Well, New Haven is a very unpleasant place to spend a year." 

That's true. Nothing else you say is. 

Plus, there is no one year option at YSOA. You got to commit to the unpleasant place that is New Haven.

Jan 12, 18 3:03 pm

So YSOA does not compensate the unpleasant environment of New Haven? In that case, do you think GSD is more vibrant?


What about TU Delft? I graduated from there, that's all the recommendation you'll ever need!

Jan 13, 18 1:43 am

Outside Europe. Not necessarily USA.


Don't know anything about the Hong Kong academic situation but the city is amazing, so I would go for Hong Kong in that case (even just for the food).


Frankly it sounds like you’re much more interested in a nebulous conception of “prestige” than actually expanding your knowledge/understanding/perspective with regard to architecture. 

That kind of transparent attitude is a giant red flag to the admissions committees of these schools. What do you actually want to do, other than impress people and network?

Jan 13, 18 3:39 pm

If you are already a licensed architect running your own firm, why don't you just find a syllabus of a program you like, take all the required reading material, and just read it on your own instead of paying money for someone else to lead a class in the same exact material??

Jan 13, 18 5:29 pm

But how do you get the "prestige" and network from studying by yourself?

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