How To: M.Arch application portfolio with no arch. background



     I have my hons. B.A. in art history, and have been wanting to apply to an M.Arch program for a few years now. I have absolutely no background in CAD or any rendering software, and have never learned how to do any architectural drawings. I can draw, but I have absolutely no idea how to go about creating a portfolio for grad school admissions. I feel like the fact that I did not do my bachelor's in architecture already puts me behind and I am worried that without renderings and technical drawings I will not be able to create an adequate portfolio. 

How do I go about creating a portfolio without renderings and technical drawings that will be successful for M.Arch applications? Is it possible? Where do I begin? I really do love architecture and feel that it is the career path for me, and I would appreciate any help!

Apr 11, 18 1:50 am

Pay no attention to trolls like the one above, unfortunately there are several lurking around here because Archinect condones their garbage unless they pop up in sponsored/featured articles.

Applying for an M.Arch with no architecture background is not only possible, it is encouraged. Most programs have a version of the M.Arch catered for people with zero architecture background (typically referred to as M.Arch I and/or 3-year professional option). The most important part of the application is your portfolio. Architecture projects aren't necessary. They are primarily looking for your aptitude for creativity.

I would strongly recommend you take a summer architecture discovery program. They are offered to the general public by many of the top M.Arch schools (Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, Berkeley, UCLA, etc). All have the same basic setup: work on a beginner-level project in their architecture studios, learn some technical skills (such as model making and/or relevant computer programs), visit architecture firms/sites, and attend lectures/panels from current faculty/alum). By the end you should have a good understanding of what you're getting yourself into and should you choose to continue the process you'll be in great shape because you'll have the opportunity to gain a strong design project and recommendation for your application.

Good luck!

Apr 11, 18 3:50 am

Thank you! I'm in Canada, but I will have a look and see if I can find anything similar. As far as non-architecture projects go, what sort of thing should I be including? If I have paintings/drawing/sculpture that aren't really architecture related are they still suitable?


Sculpture/Painting/Basket Weaving would be highly suitable. Programs are looking for your creative potential, composition, and craft. IMO those would be more pertinent to be included in a non-arch (even in arch) portfolio than awkward architecture projects. Your first year will probably be geared towards those things as well.

TrogIodytarum's comment has been hidden

You already wasted money and years on your life on an art history major (LOL!). Do not waste more time and money on another useless major.

Anybody that encourages you to get a degree in architecture is an idiot. It is a dead profession.

Apr 11, 18 6:18 am

I personally don't view education as a waste, but thank you for your opinion.



As someone with a background in Music Education, I was in nearly the same position as you last spring and second everything that ArchitectureChick and @work said. Since then I've been admitted to 3 out of the 4 MArch I programs I applied to. The only additional advice I'd give is...

-Develop a portfolio around things/themes/projects that you are passionate about (I saw an admitted student portfolio at one of the open houses which centered around guitar design, another did stills of claymation set designs)

-Highlight 2D & 3D pieces that show understanding of three dimensions

-Show how you progress from an idea to a finished product

-Utilize Photoshop & InDesign 

-Redirect all that nervous energy into building a great portfolio

Apr 13, 18 3:11 pm

Crosshatch ,

im in same position as mcvee 20 but a little bit different

my question is i studied urban design and now im making a stunning portfolio as a non-bachelor degree in architecture ,would it be bad for me ?! i mean i compare my portfolio with m.arch students portfolios ! im afraid it seems not real , would it be a problem or im just overthinking !

secondly can i get my Letter of reccoms  not from my previous instructors ? i mean i want to show my portfolio to architecture instructers to get their reccom

Apr 13, 18 7:08 pm

Wait... are you saying that you're afraid your portfolio is so good that admissions won't believe it's real? Lol. Well if it's anything like your spelling/grammar you have nothing to worry about.





No, I'd say you are overthinking it. Many of the people applying to MArch I programs have their undergrad in architecture, urban design, or another related field. Reviewers will expect evidence of this in your portfolio, essay, letter of intent, etc. 

If you would like feedback on your portfolio you have options. You can post a link on Archinect. You can ask your previous professors. Several schools have portfolio workshops in the summer and fall. However, I would not ask an architecture professor you have no connection to.

As for recommendations, pay attention to what each MArch program is asking for. Most of the programs I applied to asked for letters from professors so they could evaluate my potential for graduate level study.


Oh, and you should be aware that most US schools require international applicants to take the TOEFL or have had two years at an institution where of the official language of instruction is English.


tnx dude , so youre saying that we are competing with those who also have bachelor degree in architecture ?! i thought the three year program field is apart from two year


Um, yes. Most US schools Arch Bachelor degrees do not qualify for the MArch II programs. Just look at what kinds of people you are up against in the Academic Forum post titled "MArch Applicants Fall 2018."


No problem, if they accept people without an architecture background for their M.Arch, they don't expect you to have a portfolio with polished computer renderings or cad drawings either.

Apr 14, 18 6:22 am

What's offensive about trekie&trog's comments that they are hidden? Or are there other reasons that warrant censorship ? I'm a bit confused.

Apr 14, 18 1:53 pm

You know damn well why. They gave low effort troll responses. I'm glad Archinect is finally cracking down trolls.


They just gave a different response than was expected or wanted, but still valid in my opinion. I really don't see why their comments should be hidden, it's a ridiculous snowflake approach to avoid debate or questioning of ones belief system in a desperate attempt to avert cognitive dissonance.


Where can I find some example application portfolios from non-architecture background students?

Jun 23, 19 4:36 am

Just google it. Pinterest, issu are some pretty good examples.

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