RISD vs Syracuse B.Arch


I got accepted to RISD's and Syracuse's B.Arch programs and have been trying to decide. I like RISD because of the Providence area, close distance to Boston, and the integration of clubs with Brown. Overall, I like Syracuse's student work and visualization more but have not seen much from RISD. On the other hand, Syracuse is one of the largest party schools and there have been many incidences of crime in the area. Some additional insight on the architecture programs, experience at both schools, etc. would be appreciated.

Jun 19, 20 12:38 am

Can't speak for RISD, except that we had a few students who transferred in their 2nd years from RISD to SU.

I did attend SU's B.Arch program, and I can say that it's very competitive. You'll be expected to produce work at a consistently rapid pace. It's a well-rounded program, putting adequate attention on building systems and structures, but it is very much a theory-history-design studio program (which is a good thing for students to have under their belt). Studio classes for your first four years meet three times a week for four hours each, and you'll be expected to fulfill general electives (in other departments at the university) as well as what are called "professional electives", which are Arch-specific classes geared towards specialized education in a sector of the broader field (e.g. Introduction to Historic Preservation, etc.). Your fifth year is almost entirely devoted to your thesis, which for most students will end up being design focused around some socio-political argument of your choosing.

Some of the huge benefits of SU:
- Study abroad program (3rd / 4th year, one or two semesters in London, Florence, or NYC)
- "Visiting Critic Studios" in which innovative architects from around the world come and teach a studio semester for fourth year students
- Comprehensive Studio, which is a semester for 4th year students that encompasses comprehensive building design, specs, code analysis, etc. into the design course
- Professional Practice Course, for 5th year students, which is very comprehensive, and taught by the (not sure if still, but was at the time I went) AIA New York President, and will prepare you very well for your PcM, PjM and CE exams later in your career.

SU was the "No. 1 Party School" during one of the semesters I was there. It didn't impact my studies at all, nor most of the kids in the Arch. program. The crime rate is not extremely high at SU, but a lot of the kids will say that because a good portion of them are sheltered upper-middle-class white kids who haven't encountered poverty in their lives, and there is a significant population of the city that lives fairly below the national average (mostly in South Syracuse; I lived there for two years, and I never was in a dangerous situation FWIW).

Jun 19, 20 10:47 am  · 

Most of instructors at Syracuse are highly engaging and supportive to students. I could’t get along with one headstrong professor with a funny beard. He is the only one who is from non-descriptive Californian state university. It is hard to communicate with him because he can’t sketch and all his opinions are self-congratulatortory. He could be a toxic bully, if you can’t handle him well. I thought he teaches in Italy for a while, but leads a core studio now unfortunately. Stay away from him and you’ll be fine.

Jul 31, 20 2:53 am  · 
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Non-Descriptive Beardy Professor also kinda ruined the core work of the Florence program by not fully understanding the formal logic of Italy's historical master-works, so there's that.

Aug 17, 20 5:00 pm  · 

I think RISD has a better reputation than Syracuse; I've seen them consistently place top 10 in rankings. RISD's program is much more design oriented (hence being in an art school) while as SU is more balanced. 

If you want to be a Designer and more transferable skills for grad school or your last job as Design Principal, I'd pick RISD. If you want to be a designer with more transferable skills for your first job, I'd pick SU.

Aug 7, 20 9:40 am  · 
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Honestly they're both in the Top 10, and have been for years and years, (Design Intelligence), so rankings shouldn't play any factor in the decision. Not to mention DI's rankings are a load of crap anyway. RISD ranked below SU in 2019, down at number 10 in 2018; meanwhile Cooper Union didn't even score in the top 20 back in 2014, and CU is without a doubt one of the best architecture design schools in the world.

Aug 17, 20 4:55 pm  · 

Aside from rankings, I'm basing my position on the core values and missions of each of the schools. At an art school, design would ALWAYS rein supreme that can solve virtually anything. At a polytechnic or any other school without a particular direction, the value on design would be slightly less so. This is clearly indicative in their student's portfolios that I've reviewed for jobs and internships.

Aug 17, 20 5:55 pm  · 
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That's more than fair. RISD produces really bright artists. I think one problem I've noticed with a lot of the students coming out of the heavy-art-based schools is that (in my experience working with them), they tend to not have a sense of urgency when it comes to office deadlines. If they stay up all night to get their work done, then what's the difference, right? Except that working outside of office hours pushes the team's productive deadlines down the field because of lack of communication and general sense of time sensitivity.

Aug 18, 20 9:51 am  · 

Here is my ranking system. Typical undergrad + Typical Master beats B.arch alone. Ivy league master beats typical university master. B.arch + Ivy league master beats all, it shows you are mad serious about architecture. So, your RISD vs SU is a rather minor comparison. Mostly i would decide based on the money, if it is close in tuition and fee, then check the program course list. But at the end, no matter the school, it is all about your own effort and work. Architecture is about exploration of your own identity and your portfolio will reflect your process and effort.

Aug 17, 20 5:17 pm  · 
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It’s good that you’ve considered the actual place. So many prospective students don’t. You will be living in the area for 5+ years so it’s always a better experience if you don’t hate the town/city. Upstate New York is wildly depressing and isolated.
All things considered RISD has better name recognition outside of the northeast, is tangentially ivy connected, and Providence is much more accessible to other metropolitan areas than Syracuse.

If money is the same I would skew toward RISD. You can learn the technical stuff later, in practice you’ll have no choice and be doing it your whole career. School is when you’ll have the most fun and most space to explore and learn how to creatively solve problems. RISD is top notch in that arena, has always been. You don’t go to an art school to learn to put a CD set together or draw a flashing detail, you go to learn how to learn, to come up with inventive solutions, and to develop your thinking, planning and spatial skills into dynamic problem solving tools.

From a hiring perspective I’d prefer a RISD student with solid creative skills for a long term growth/design oriented position and a Syracuse student for a demanding technical/CAD/Revit production role. When I see resumes and portfolios, I think less about a students’ school ranking or GPA and more about the ethos, style, and thought processes. That helps determine if I think they’d be a good fit for a design track vs managerial track etc.

You don’t have to have it all figured out today just consider the work of each school and what really draws you most. Same with faculty, location, and the whole university not just the architecture school. There is no need to go to grad school with a B. Arch. Don’t spend money/time unless you want to go into academia or the school is paying your full tuition. Either of these two schools will provide a solid foundation for a full career. And if you start of design slanted you can always shift toward technical or vice versa down the road. For today follow your gut.
Aug 17, 20 7:02 pm  · 
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