Help choosing Architecture Schools for MArch? UBC vs. Dalhousie?!


Hi everyone,

I've been accepted into UBC's MArch program this fall, as well as Dalhousie's BEDS + MArch program.

I'm coming from an unrelated Bachelor's degree so I will be entering the extended MArch at UBC. However, including co-op(s) both programs are a little under 4 years.

What I like about Dalhousie's program is the strong emphasis on the technical and practical skills of architecture, focusing on the formal qualities of design through expressive mediums like model-making and hand-drawing. The extra semester of co-op during the BEDS, faculty like Brian Mackay-Lyons and focus on regionalism are definitely a plus, as well.

UBC's program appears to be more rooted in academia and architectural theory–although I understand that the school has practical studios as part of its offering, as well. I know that the school is known for exposing students to a variety of social and environmental issues, yet beyond that its identity is less clear to me. I am however drawn to the close working relationship the school has with Patkau Architects, the numerous research labs, the Pacific North-west as a region, and the school's focus on sustainability.

One of the largest questions I have from my research is what actually entails a good architectural education? Both of these schools appear very different in their approach. Ultimately, I just want to be a good architect working on interesting projects. I know the fundamentals are important, but I've noticed an increasing trend in academia from schools like Harvard GSD to Columbia (UBC included) to extend architectural research and studios to cover contemporary social topics (i.e. #MeToo, Black lives Matter, LGBTQ initiatives, Occupy Movement, etc.). When looking explicitly at the final theses subject matter in these socially-focused schools, there is a wide range and not all may be truly relevant to the architectural profession. From what I gathered learning from current practitioners, the profession changes at a snail's pace. My question is this sort of architectural education truly relevant to the profession today? Should I opt for a more practical education to best prepare me for the profession? Am I missing the mark, does UBC also offer a practical educational experience?

Thanks in advance everyone, I know you guys probably get a lot of questions like this, but I find the more research I've been doing, I'm left with some burning questions and was hoping someone could shed some light on everything.

Jun 13, 19 10:05 pm
Non Sequitur

What do you want to do and where do you want to work after?

Both schools have their own specific flavour but I believe DAL is the better mix of both practical and theoretical.  Don't get bogged down with social things if your goal is to design buildings.  You can't solve world problems with buildings.

Jun 13, 19 11:40 pm

I can't say much regarding the education side of things but I do know for a fact that there are a few handful of firms that ONLY hire Dal grads... so it could lead to more networking/ job opportunities once you graduate. UBC students seem to be a bit less experienced in the practical areas but it all really depends on how much you want to push that area of study during your time in school/ co-op.

Jun 14, 19 12:59 pm

Do you know any of these firms offhand?


Do you know any of these firms offhand?

I understand that I share the responsibility curbing my education in the direction of study I want–but I also don't want to feel like I'm swimming against the current of the study interest of my peers or faculty if the school doesn't place emphasis on practical approaches to architecture.

@Non Sequitur
"You can't solve world problems with buildings."
I feel this is a disconnect with academia and the practice, I'm an optimist at heart, but I feel that academia has a fallacy with making the field seem more dramatic and full of possibilities than it really is.

Jun 14, 19 4:05 pm

@Non Sequitur
"What do you want to do and where do you want to work after?"

Ultimately it all may not work out like this, but I'd like to gain experience working in some practices overseas (US or abroad), before returning to Canada. Eventually, after some time I'd like to open my own small practice focusing on small-to-medium sized projects, with a focus on material research and sustainable construction methods. If all goes accordingly, I'd like to teach from the lens of a practitioner first, researcher second.

Jun 14, 19 4:16 pm
Non Sequitur

So does everyone else looking to enter this field. Why only UBC and DAL? both schools are at either extremities of the country, both geographically and design wise. If you want to get a head start on the working life, pick the coop path. That way you won't be clueless about the professional world when you graduate and start looking for a real job... but please keep in mind the requirements for licensing before you set out to cure cancer with building designs. This shit takes time and it's much harder to hit the required milestones. But that's a future you problem.

p.s. I also saw your Reddit post a few days back.  Some good advice there too, at least when I read it.


Bottom line you aren't going to be fully trained or educated coming out from any school. So pick one that appeals to you, geographically or program wise, personally I don't think it's the schools job to teach you all the technical stuff you need to know ( too much to cover ) I think that comes with practical job experience ie working construction / office work / going and taking technical courses carpentry, passive house, building envelope etc. 

The education of an architect takes years, if not decades, that why we typically don't "come into own" til later in life. It's all part of the journey and there is no right answer

Jun 18, 19 12:28 pm

My impression with interacting with Dal grads is that Dalhousie seems to teach you "their way of doing things" whereas for UBC, I think your assessment is correct, it kind of lacks a clear identity - which is not to say that there is less of an emphasis on learning technical skills. 

Instead, diverse faculty interests and backgrounds allows for discovering and articulating your own process and design sensibility. Which I would think entails what you call "a good architectural education."

Jul 25, 19 2:23 pm


 Seems like Dalhousie is a better fit for you specifically from what you described as your interest above. Also seems like the education at Dalhousie (from what you described above) produces better designers- which will help you land a job. Not to knock the social/political type of architecture education that seems to be prevalent in some schools is bad, but if you gravitate to the poetic practical way of doing architecture then seems like Dalhousie is a fit for you. Go to the school that facilitates your interests- simple as that.

Jul 25, 19 4:02 pm

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