KuLeuven vs Amsterdam Academy of Architecture


Hi everyone,

I recently got accepted to both M.Arch programs: at KuLeuven and at the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture.

For a long time I really wanted to go at KuLeuven because I really admire their approach and sensitivity to projects but I'm also really seduced by the fact that with the Academy program you end up killing 2 birds with 1 stone (at the end of the 4 years you are a licensed architect + you have 4 years of paid work experience). If I decide to go there, I would aim to work in offices like the one's of Office Winhov, Korthtielens, Marcel Lok, BETA office, etc. However, I also apprehend the fact of working 32 hours a week while trying to produce quality studio projects.

Yet, I'm also more interested in the theoretical side of architecture and that's why I think KuLeuven would be interesting since they are pretty strong in that field of architecture. I also like the fact that they have a strong reputation. Plus, Belgium being a really hot spot for architecture right now makes it even more attractive.

Btw, I don't have work experience in the field and I'm already almost 28. Regardless of which school I choose to become an architect, I would love to practice in Belgium since I have personal ties to the country.

I am asking those with experience in the field, that finished their masters, what would be the best option in your opinion? Did the people who've done a ''classic'' curriculum (2 years masters) think a part-time program where you work at the same time would have been more beneficial in the long term?

Thanks in advance for any input!

Jul 20, 21 12:20 pm

Hi archivacchi,

Well done on being accepted to the two schools. From my observations with students and my own peers, it really is important in many respects to have professional experience of the industry before advancing into your graduate programme. There is a level understanding that can only be attained by working in practice, outside of the sometimes esoteric conversations at a learning institution.

That aside, and assuming you have no intention to defer, it is worth reflecting on your undergraduate degree and how you performed. Did you do very well and how was your time management? Do you think you could manage the pressure of a university environment and the pressures of a professional environment simultaneously? From my own knowledge of myself, I accept that this is not a strength of mine. Like you I am also very interested in the theoretical aspects of architecture, which may be best suited to full-time programme. However, there may be students that find an office to work in while at AAM that allow them to be stimulated critically, which then supports their work at the university. So if you do go to AAM, can you choose the practice you work for? Or may it be the case that you end up working for a practice that is not necessarily sympathetic to those kinds of conversations: this sort of social structure will have an impact on how you engage with your studies because the culture of the office will be an extension of the culture of the university.

If you would struggle to pay for the programme, then the part-time option at AAM is a great route. There are other programmes beginning to adopt this model, like LSA in London, except that is somehow still just a two-year programme. I think, though, that there is a level of intensity to a design masters that benefits from full-time engagement. 

This is a level of study that allows you to narrow your focus and interests, so if you do choose AAM, be sure to consider how you get to choose a practice, and if that practice you end up working in would be a benefit to advancing your interests. You should am to speak with students at both schools, I'm sure if you contacted admissions they would set this up for you. In any case, both AAM and KU Leven have good reputations, so good luck with your choices. 

Jul 20, 21 1:49 pm  · 


Jul 22, 21 3:05 pm  · 

Thank you for this very thorough reply. Yes I thought about carefully choosing the offices I work for however yes my time management skills weren't' perfect during my bachelor and I don't handle stress very well too so this is also making me doubt about following the program at the Academy. And yes, I've started to contact a few students from both schools to ask some questions. Thank you again!

Jul 22, 21 3:19 pm  · 

I live in Amsterdam, taught a workshop at the Academy, worked on a research that became part of the curriculum, and have worked with many people that were studying at the time or graduated from the Academy. It is a great way to learn how to work in an office environment, and to be exposed to different offices. The Academy really keeps track of your progress at work and will tell you to change offices if things don’t progress how they should, if you’re being pigeonholed or something.

It is very intense though...working in an office with all the responsibilities that come with that, and to go to school in the evenings and on Fridays. You’ll be making long days and nights and your entire life will revolve around architecture 7 days a week, be aware!

 It is a very practical, practice oriented way to study architecture, mostly focused on the Amsterdam scene.

Jul 20, 21 3:35 pm  · 
2  · 

Hey randomised, thank you for your reply. However, besides the practical aspect of this program, is the work from the students often lack ''depth'' or quality since less time is devoted to school/or they are too busy with work thus have little time to do the projects? Do you believe that someone doing a 2 year master program is disadvantaged by someone doing a 4 year one + having more work experience? And last question, do you think this intense lifestyle is really worth it compared to doing internships after obtaining the M.Arch?

Jul 22, 21 3:37 pm  · 

They often take more than 4 years to graduate if at all...some just start their own office (ZUS for example) without ever finishing. Check out the Dutch website to see the level of graduates from different academies or universities in NL. They’re quite solid in Amsterdam as they get nominated and win quite often...perhaps students are more mature, know what they want and have more practical skills to run their graduation projects because of all the office experience...I don’t know. I think there are advantages and disadvantages to the system of 4 yr part time study. I didn’t do the academy because of the supposed intensity of the course and the working in an office next to it, as I didn’t live in Amsterdam and was in a relationship. I did my master in Delft that was supposed to be 2.5 yrs in nearly 5, could’ve gone to the academy and have my own office now ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ no ragrets. The earlier in your career you are able to do the internships or work in an office the more experience you can get out of it to further your career at a faster pace, I think. I don’t know I’m just a random stranger on the internet...

Jul 23, 21 2:58 am  · 

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