Finalizing MArch list -- trying to figure out "vibe" of programs


I'm a non-arch background applying to MArch programs this fall. I have a good GPA from a top undergrad, two years of related work experience, and a decent portfolio. I'm planning on applying to a range of programs, but need help finalizing my list based on some of the harder to research aspects of a program (theoretical focus, research agenda of professors, social environment, types of students, etc.), the "vibe" for lack of a better term.

Important aspects to me are location (preferably northeast/west coast big cities), strong focus on sustainability esp. decarbonization/passive design, preferably a university rather than an art school, and balance between creative and technical aspects. Cost isn't a major concern but could be relevant if its a substantial difference. I'm not super interested in prestigious jobs in the corporate architectural world, I would just like an education that could prepare me for a variety of career paths (opening my own firm, sustainability consultant, pivoting to urban design/planning).

Right now I am applying to: 

University of British Columbia
UC Berkeley
UT Austin

Inside perspective on the vibe of these schools? Any schools a bad fit for my interest? Any places I am overlooking?


Aug 1, 23 5:22 pm

Go with the one that is the least costly and has the best job placement. 

You're going to be spending at least $65k on a MArch and your starting pay, regardless of where you graduate from will be in the $45k range (dependant on where you live).  

Regardless of cost, I would recommend contacting the schools you've listed and ask some of these questions yourself.  Once you get a bit more input try to visit the programs you're interested in.  

As stated above you're going to be spending a lot of money (and time) on a MArch so do your research.  

Good luck.  

Aug 1, 23 5:29 pm  · 
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Aug 2, 23 1:04 pm  · 
Non Sequitur

take the cheapest accredited degree. 

Aug 1, 23 6:20 pm  · 
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My advice is to go with the one with the best name and least cost. Ivy league name will make entry into some firms easier at the early stage. The actual program does not matter as much since they all have to follow the NAAB accreditation guide line. If you have special field of preference, just try to make your research and elective course align with the special field of interest such as sustainability and urban planning.

Aug 2, 23 1:23 pm  · 
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I agree that where you get our degree from won't really matter. 

I would argue that actual program can matter a great deal. 

If you're only learning the bare minimum about building science, detailing, and general constructability you're probably going to have a rough start in your career.

Then again most fresh grad doesn't have a great understanding of the topics I listed.  You need to have a proficient understand though.  Then again I've met some established, successful architects who don't so what do I know?  

Aug 2, 23 3:40 pm  · 

This is a pre-professions Master 1 degree. It will cover all the base topics. Design studio, arch history, structure, construction, environmental, and then reinforce with electives. If you don't believe me, review all the program's syllabus, they are all very similar. They have requirements to meet in order to get accredited by NAAB. So all of those areas have to be taught. 

Aug 2, 23 5:24 pm  · 

Oh I believe you. It's just that some schools do the bare minimum in certain areas to gain the NAAB accreditation. I'm saying try to find a program that isn't doing the bare minimum in the areas of building science, detailing, ect.

Aug 2, 23 5:28 pm  · 
1  · 

While publicly conforming to NAAB's requirements, and putting on a really nice show during accreditation visits, US architecture programs vary widely in their quality and quantities of teaching in various subjects. None of them are going to publicly acknowledge in what curriculum areas they are half-assing (usually technology, history, professional practice, etc.). Prospective students have to do some research and digging to attempt to see the real situation inside a school.  I say all of this based on my undergrad versus my grad schools, which were both NAAB accredited, but had very different strengths and weaknesses in their teaching and faculty.

Aug 3, 23 9:23 am  · 
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Exactly reallynotmyname. I'm a bit concerned that Jay doesn't realize this.

Aug 4, 23 1:19 pm  · 

Which of the schools on that list are shit for non-professional entrants? Is it MIT? Or Columbia? Or U Mich? You gotta name names after a take down like that, especially when the list is so short.

Aug 7, 23 7:19 pm  · 

FWIW nobody is good at detailing after graduation, even if you went to a technically oriented school. Personally I am more annoyed when students come out of school not knowing how to think critically. Or when they follow dogma instead of curiosity. The best staff we have hired over the years are always the curious ones.

Aug 7, 23 7:25 pm  · 
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Curiosity and critical thinking are basic requirements. You're correct that no one is good at detailing right out of school. Hell, I know architects that are horrible at it. The point is that fresh grads need to have basic building science, detailing, and general constructability knowledge. I know several masters programs that in past years did a poor job teaching these skills. (Yale, U of M, UCB are a few examples). I don't know how the various programs are currently so current research is needed.

Aug 8, 23 10:04 am  · 
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As someone who loves detailing I agree with where you are coming from, but not sure it is as important in education as it might seem on first blush. If the school teaches critical thinking then good detailing will come, assuming graduates end up at a good office. Practice after a few years is mostly about PM in any case and a lot of the detailing stuff will become process-based and professionalized as a person progresses, especially in large offices. Architecture school needs to teach the basics and the balance is important but I dont think a school that has a fetish for details and revit is necessarily any better than one that has a thing for K Michael Hays...;-) From where I sit, after practising and teaching at the same time for about 20 years, critical thinking is not always taught, and it is becoming harder and harder to engage with at all, especially in North America. But it certainly is part of the curriculum of all the schools above (in different flavors). Isnt it?

Aug 10, 23 2:48 am  · 
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Have worked with people from a few of those places. Columbia and Harvard people suck compared to MIT people, but i don't know any MIT people with their own firms or rich connections. Take that as you may. 

Aug 2, 23 3:25 pm  · 
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FWIW, I've never seen a Harvard grad not get offered any job they applied for or ever be unemployed for more than a few days. Even the really dumb ones.

Aug 4, 23 10:35 am  · 
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what do you mean by sucked lol

Aug 5, 23 1:42 pm  · 

Stuffy, over intellectual, devoid of construction knowledge or interest, self important, poor work ethic.

Aug 6, 23 10:24 am  · 
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Agree with everyone else's comments on here. UO has the best sustainability program I thought. ASU also has a good sustainability program.

Don't buy into ivy League fake hype. Be rational and weight cost of the program and job placement prospect over theory and sinking money into something.

Aug 2, 23 7:20 pm  · 
1  · 

That was my experience also many decades ago. Private schools would give you a lot of grants and you could attend for less money out of pocket than the public colleges where the aid was basically a $700 dollars or so of grant and thousands of dollars of loans.

Aug 4, 23 3:18 pm  · 

If possible I would also think long term, post graduation and where you may want to live. If there is a possibility of staying in one of these cities it may be nice to already have a strong network there. Not that alumni networks are spread out, but some schools favor one region over another. 

Aug 4, 23 10:22 am  · 
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Le Courvoisier

All architecture school vibes are wrong.

Aug 4, 23 2:30 pm  · 
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Location is pretty important. If you go to UBC, you'll be working in Canada for quite a while. 

If you'd like to work for an Euro-acronym, then maybe going to an Ivy helps to some degree - for the networking mostly, given the staff circulation within that coven of firms. That said, there are other routes available for the hardworking and talented. For instance, the bloke running  American projects for HdeM went to state schools.

Aug 4, 23 4:09 pm  · 

Most impressive bot post above.

Aug 8, 23 12:01 pm  · 
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Why UBC as the only Canadian school? Waterloo and Dalhousie have the best arch programs in Canada in terms of preparing you for work. Both have co-op terms built in as well.

Aug 12, 23 5:00 pm  · 

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