Where should I go for undergrad architecture , Carleton or Waterloo ?


Recent graduates of Carleton and Waterloo,

Can anyone advise me on which school has the most inspiring professors, Carleton or Waterloo. Cambridge seems so isolated from examples of larger architectural spaces while my information (from relatives) about Carleton is 30 years outdated .Are the profs at Carleton as strong and passionate as  they  were 30 years ago?    My dream is  to go to the UK or the US (Bartlett,AA,Cambridge or SCI-Arc) for my M.arch as a follow up in 4 to 5 years . Which school would prepare me for these schools the best?

Apr 29, 19 8:49 pm
Non Sequitur

Carleton undergrad today is just a shell of what it was 15+ years ago.  

Waterloo is without argument the best undergrad architecture program in canada.  This is not a difficult decision.

Apr 29, 19 11:26 pm

I agree ( I personally graduated from UBC ) best employees I have every hired came out of Waterloo. Graduated with transferable skills, decent experience and technically aware. As an employer it's basic expectation but shockingly many I have interviewed over the years don't graduate with a good skill set, maybe after a few years of work experience and good project experience graduates can develop those necessary skills but all the grads I interviewed and hired graduated with that skill set right out of school.


Currently Carleton has significant faculty connections with the Bartlett, AA, Cambridge, and SCI-Arc. Both schools will prepare you for working but between the two it appears that more of the Carleton students are choosing not to continue M.Arch in Ottawa because they're pursuing M.Arch abroad. In the last 3 years a good amount of graduates have gone to TU Delft, GSD, SCI-Arc, Bartlett, Manchester, YSOA, and Columbia. Waterloo graduates are in a 5+1 program (1 year of internship in undergrad and then 1 year of Masters) which gives them incentive to stay at Waterloo for Masters.

Currently Carleton houses the Carleton Immersive Media Studio (research house for BIM, VR, and Robotic Fabrication - recently winning the CANBIM awards), the CSALT Labs (concrete 3d printer in the basement & materials research), and the Carleton Urban Research Lab (for urban design / GIS ).

The schools you've mentioned (Bartlett, SCI-Arc, etc.) belong to the "artsy" clique within architecture along with Pratt and the Cooper Union. You'll find more than enough of those connections at Carleton considering Carleton: (a) held the AA summer studio around 5 years ago, (b) multiple Bartlett alumni teaching, (c) still known at the other schools as being the "arts/design" school in Canada.

If your goal is to pursue graduate at those schools I would recommend Carleton as you'll finish the program in 4 years, have the international faculty to write your recommendations, and have access to research groups (if you can get placement) to bolster your portfolio. 

Apr 29, 19 11:46 pm
Non Sequitur

You have to be kidding right? Most don't stay in Ottawa because most Carleton undergrad students are not local... it is NOT because they are getting poached by top schools. In fact, they have had a terrible time keeping steady quality faculty and directorship for about 10 years.

It is true that Carleton in its prime was a great art school and known as a feeder but that is certainly not the case today since they split the program into 3.

Waterloo is the most difficult and best architecture school in canada and will not only set up any applicant for a successful entry into the workplace, but will hold value come time for M.arch applications.  If you knew anything about the vast differences between the schools, you'd know.

My source, I have arch degrees from both of these schools and still keep in-touch with faculty and students in each.


Splitting the program into 3 is specifically to give undergraduates the option to specialize according to the area of work or graduate study they want to pursue afterwards. The Design stream is still specifically for the pursuit M.Arch, C&S for students looking to do Heritage/Preservation/Conservation, and Urbanism for students wanting to do MUP, or MUD.

If you have attended reviews, received degrees, or taught outside of Canada you would know that globally the schools of architecture operate in cliques and that their groupings are based on their most recent reputation along with the faculty currently teaching.

Non Sequitur

I hope you enjoyed the koolaid.



Apr 30, 19 7:36 am
Non Sequitur

I throughly enjoyed the Carleton plug above. It’s like some sort of bad sci-fi movie where the cgi is still mostly painted models on strings but with extra zoom zoom sounds.


Thank you Non Sequiter and SpeculativeCollonade! SpeculativeCollonade: your comments about school affiliations are consistent with what I have heard. Acknowledging that, I can see that Waterloo also has faculty that have previously studied at very highly ranked schools.

There is something mysterious about Waterloo and it is this: why is the new school not having any effect on its surroundings? I visited the Waterloo school last week and was surprised how the town does not appear to have anything to engage students outside of the school. In place of bars, restaurants and an art supplies store, I saw denturists and chiropractors signs. And a Giant Tiger. It's as if the focus of the school's leaders was totally internal: the school itself is amazing and the library is probably the very best one in Canada. The studios and exhibition spaces are excellent. That's all good but when I step outside, it's crickets and tumbleweeds. How did that happen? Did the town's economy collapse and not recover? 

Apr 30, 19 9:36 am
Non Sequitur

Cambridge is a hole, always has been... Galt specifically. There are some very affluent areas and tonnes of shitty subdivisions just outside of Galt but they mostly serve as sleeping communities for the GTA. 

Cambridge was at one time a textile place, then had some big auto plant, I think... but besides that, there is very little commercial activity. The reason why the school is there is because the building was empty and Mr. Blackberry made a big donation to the university. But you don't pick undergrad schools because of location. You pick them because of the education, which, despite it's location, is un-matched in Waterloo. Also note that you won't have much time to shop and drink at bars in architecture school so it's all rather moot anyways. 


Non Sequitur,

Why do you have nothing positive to say about Carleton ? What specifically was so bad about your experiences there? You appear to be more of a tech guy than a design focused. 

Apr 30, 19 1:39 pm
Non Sequitur

You assumptions are incorrect. I loved my time at Carleton and developed a great artistic approach to design. This was well over 15y ago when the school was smaller and prior to them splitting the undergrad into 3 paths. The issue is, the school went through a very long period of time without a director and failed to retain/attract faculty and focus was removed from the BAS and placed into the CIMS and PhD programs. The love for traditional graphic arts and crafting discipline is gone... and is now replaced with a much weaker studio population. 

So, if you have the smarts and an artistic flair, you're best to shoot for the best program available (and 2nd, let's not forget McGill). But unless you're getting into either of these schools, making the move out to eastern Ontario from Alberta is not worth the cost for an average BAS. Carleton, like most canadian schools are truly representation of the "you get what you put in". This means that although you may graduate with top dog honours with extra unicorn'll also be standing next to a bunch of "65% is all I need to pass" wankers. It is not a difficult school to get in and it is not difficult to pass (more evident in the non design-paths). Your degree is only as good as the lowest grade the pass.

This lax attitude was not present back when I attended. So yes, you can build a good enough folio of work to move on to top schools (this is possible at any of the schools) but the opportunities and challenges are not the same where the bar for entry is greater.  Back to the "get what you put in" comment, you need to really know what you're getting into.

Not sure how you got "tech guy" tho... My Carleton folio was 80% paintings.  


Non Sequiter:

Let us look at what you have sown; I will paint you a picture from the Waterloo School of Architecture last week. As one of the parents accompanying an applicant last week, I had a couple of hours to chat up other parents and their kids between interviews and précis assignments. Distilling my conversations, I will state -and it still surprises me to say this- there was some uncertainty about which school to choose for an undergraduate design education. Several parents and applicants referenced internet forums like this one. Most were able to identify and dismiss ad hominem attacks and anecdotes masquerading as factual information. Despite this group's ability to parse received information, we lacked more refined tools to determine whether this school or any other contender was the best fit for our applicants. At one point in the conversation, a few of us nervously joked that a selection would come down to a coin toss. How did it come to this? That day, our hosts were gracious and the building presented itself fabulously; I couldn't have asked for a better introduction to Waterloo's offerings.

Perhaps you see yourself as an ambassador of Waterloo's School of Architecture? If so, you are it's Lord Voldemort. Waterloo may want to wave you in and have a few words with you. Honey versus vinegar.

May 1, 19 3:26 pm
Non Sequitur

funny, I actually gave many of those entrance interviews (and even toured the school with the parents) and I can tell you for a bonafide fact that there are no coin toss. Every applicant (all 80ish or so) are very well chosen with faculty and graduate students often arguing in favor (or not) for certain students. Not sure why you would imply I use ad hominem attacks, I've seen the academic side and the results in the workplace and can very much defend my opinion on these matters. Care to enlighten me on where I've been wrong?

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