Why the hate against Sci-Arc?


After visiting Sci-Arc last month, I have to say it's a very avant-garde school.

They're also working alongside with Cal Tech to compete in competitions headed by the Dept. of Energy!

Yeah, it's a bit of a spacy new age-y kind of place but it seems like it's the MIT of the West coast, no? Robots and stuff?

Aug 22, 12 5:40 pm

learn how to the search forum, there is no hate, just bickering amongst architects.

Aug 22, 12 5:47 pm

 I will do that next time when I have ample time, sir.  I just wanted to know what the bickering was all about.

What is Sci-Arc's rep anyway nationwide?

Aug 22, 12 5:51 pm

you dont have time to search but you have time to ask a question as old as time itself, and wait around for the results?

here you go

Aug 22, 12 5:56 pm

After visiting Sci-Arc last month, I have to say it's a very avant-garde school.

You answered your own question in the very first sentence you posted.

Aug 22, 12 6:17 pm

ummm I never thought there was hate against Sci-arc... Why are you trying to make it an issue when there is none?

Aug 22, 12 7:53 pm

It depends on what you're looking for in a school.  Seems like most grad programs have certain reputations and a school like Sci-arc probably won't appeal to those who are more traditional, just as Yale or Princeton might not appeal to everyone.  I've seen a lot of positive comments about the school myself.

Aug 22, 12 8:56 pm

In short, many people believe that the current director at SCI-Arc ran a lot of good people out of the school, has attempted to rewrite the history of the institution, and treats people badly.  

And there is a feeling that perhaps the school's emphases may create graduates who have tons of debt and are not readily employable.  And the parties used to be better.

Aug 22, 12 9:00 pm

 "it's a very avant-garde school"

Because of that mentality, that's the extent that I know of for "hate", or its cost.

Aug 23, 12 12:50 am

It's the whole scientology thing.  People diss the arch school for the same reason that they hate on Tom Cruise & John Travolta.

Haterz gonna hate, yo!

Aug 23, 12 10:11 am

I always assumed it was because it is so expensive. With cost of living and all. 

Aug 23, 12 10:20 am

I had always thought it was because of the costs, debt incurred and the avant-garde ultra modernism/spaceship-ish style that it's known for.

Also because of the new dean.

But at the same time I thought it was the MIT of the West as a far as arch schools. On par with the traditional schools, Yale, Princeton, Harvard as a far as reputation/recognition.

Aug 23, 12 11:51 am

I remember when I was out at Rural Studio Mr. Rotondi visited and lectured and I was very impressed with him as a person and architect. Just through him I have still possessed a respect for the school.

Aug 23, 12 12:12 pm

'And the parties used to be better'


Aug 23, 12 3:27 pm

lake denari is pretty nice though.

Aug 23, 12 8:08 pm

I am not rich nor have the desire to be loaded with a boatload of debt. So would you guys recommend Sci-Arc at all vs. the job prospects coming out of an M.Arch? 

I want a school that will just thrust me forward into the market with the right connections, experience, and education. 

Which school would that be? 

Aug 27, 12 10:30 pm
go do it

the school of hard knocks

Aug 27, 12 10:39 pm

to the OP,

you dont go to sci arc to be 'employable'

you go to sci arc to learn how to 3D model the hell of any fricken complex object that is thrust in front of you and learn how to be a badass designer....

sci arc is par excellence - for what it is.  as an institution it doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is, it's unapologetic about it's dogma. that is why there are so many 'haters' want conservative dogma, go to Cal Poly Pomona - I can't attest to their employability but I can't imagine it being much better than sci arc grads.  Cal Poly provides a quality education for a reasonable price - but who the hell wants to go to school in Pomona (not trying to be jerk, but seriously - Pomona?!)

but us sci arc grads don't care - because we're the hawt shiet, we can even model dog poop in maya

job prospects in architecture are fine out of an M.arch in L.A. if you don't mind getting paid $15/hr...the lucky ones go and work for Gehry at $40-60K/year...the smart ones take their skillset outside the traditional field of architecture and make bank ...this might sound like a joke to you but it really isn''s all true, at least from my personal experience

Aug 28, 12 12:56 am

^ cant tell if you're making fun of sci-arc students or actually are one...

Aug 28, 12 1:00 am


making fun, and I'm one of them -

it's too hard not to knock sci arc and it's grads (they all really do want to be starchitects) the same time, i'm grateful to have spent my years there getting an M.arch I. 

I think the key is to realize not to get caught up in the school too much, to not be one of the 'kool-aid' drinkers..and realize that 90% of the faculty are inconsequential to the actual practice of 'building' -

Aug 28, 12 1:08 am

1 Deviant C, how does one make "bank" with a design degree?

Also, how did you find firms and peers in general viewed Sci Arc? 

Aug 28, 12 2:17 am

question 1 :The graduates that have an easier time leveraging their degree into a well paying job usually have a bachelors in an unrelated field (ie chemical/mechanical/electrical engineering, business, any one of the applied sciences) - having a bachelor's degree in a field that allows for broad based thinking and a network of contacts outside the realm of design professionals means more money and better jobs - these grads don't necessarily stick to strict architectural design jobs to make their living. 

If you're asking about the B.archs - well, all I can say is that you better get ready to work for not much as they have nothing to offer offices other than a role as a cad monkey (it's harsh, but true).  Same thinking applies if you are a M.arch 1 graduate with liberal arts undergraduate degree/bachelor's of fine arts you would probably have a more difficult time unless of course your'e the hawt shite and get picked up by one of the local starchitects and get paid @ $20/hr if they're feeling generous.  From what I know, Gehry or one of the big dogs like Gensler, AECOM, Jacob Engineering are the only ones that pays a salary that gets you out of the 'welfare' pay range.  FYI - the standard compensation range from a reputable design firm start most recent grads out at any where from $1000-$1500/month.  Let's do the math - @ 60 hrs/wk you would be making  $4.16/$6.25 an hour.  Oh and by the way, you have about anwhere from $70-150K in student loans you're trying to pay down.  

question 2: Firms generally think that sci-arc grads are a pain in the ass because they usually can't do drawing sets without a lot of hand holding.  We can all render and model the shit out of a anything but unless you're actually building something like that, those skills aren't necessary.  Keep in mind that most bread and butter business for architects are pretty traditionally specced buildings.  Or one-off remodels that only necessitate the need of a sub-par cad monkey.  We are over skilled and over educated. We are generally not relevant to the actual practice of building.  That is by no means a knock on sci arc as they don't set out to train you how to do a CD set; the ownness of acquiring real world office experience resides with the student -

Sci-arc is basically an art school that only does buildings.  

You obviously have a lot of questions, please feel free to use the 'search' function in the forums, this topic has been discussed ad nauseum...

'do the math - literally calculate the financials and your rate of return and how many years it's going to take you to recoup your costs of education at any architecture school' .  

Good luck friend...

Aug 28, 12 1:29 pm

okay maybe my critique of my alma mater is a little harsh:

'Sci-arc is basically an art school that only does buildings.'

let me re-phrase: sci arc really only sets out to teach it's students how to create their own formal language and how to justify it within the greater discourse of the discipline of architecture.

Aug 28, 12 1:40 pm

Wow. What a knock in the teeth that was to read. I really thought Sci-Arc would be a no brainer. It's great that the student body are over qualified and are taught exceptional skills but if the market cannot appreciate that then I would feel like another egg head that's over qualified for everything. I am already in that boat. I majored in Government and have considerable experience working at law firms, public policy think tanks and non-profits. I have yet to find a good job that pays relative to all the schooling, internships and extracuriculars I did while in undergrad. And I went to a great school too.

I was think of doing urban planning, urban design or even landscape to maybe get in with a sustainable project or a firm that works with sustainable housing, whatever. But even this idea is being shot down by reality. It seems that firms are still pretty traditional and almost look down on the "green" movement.

I can't just go back for the M.Arch 1 and come out nearly a hundred grand in debt only to work for 20 an hour?! I wouldn't mind if I were to go to maybe UCLA or an less expensive state school.

Is UCLA good too? Do you know what the professional community thinks of them?


Aug 28, 12 5:01 pm

Thanks for the insight, Deviant.  Interesting read.


"let me re-phrase: sci arc really only sets out to teach it's students how to create their own formal language and how to justify it within the greater discourse of the discipline of architecture."

It's interesting that some people would take this as bad news... I take it as good news and it makes SCI-arc an even more attractive school for me. There's no right/wrong answer, I guess it depends on what an individual wants out of this career. 

Aug 28, 12 5:21 pm

"sci arc really only sets out to teach it's students how to create their own formal language and how to justify it within the greater discourse of the discipline of architecture."

the irony of this statement is that this really applies to most schools. 

Aug 28, 12 5:31 pm

@ manoverde84: not trying to be downer on your hopes and goals; I'm just being realistic and laying it all out there for you in terms of a real world reality. school administrators never give prospective students that rundown OR financial breakdown; I feel that it's necessary and the responsible thing to do.  all that being said, I loved my time at sci arc - it forever changed me.  There's no doubt that outside the design and software skills acquired  at sci arc, I also learned that there really is no problem or complexity that I cannot tackle - some of the shit they had us do there was f'ken crazy difficult and challenging.

@ paintitblack: exactly! and thank you for reading into my statement for what it is.  that statement isn't meant to be a knocko on the school. in fact that is the exact reason why I went to sciarc...for some it's not their bag, for me it was exactly what I needed coming from the background I had.

@ Rand H.: you're also correct in your assessment in that the statement can be applied to generally all schools.  However, I think that sciarc's distinction is that their methodology leans towards a production value that isn't readily accessible to the general public (developers, city planners, investors, etc).  As an institution, they're more interested in staying relevant within the realm of architectural academia.  

Aug 28, 12 6:18 pm

Gonna go ahead and leave this gem here, didn't see it posted before....

Aug 31, 12 1:41 pm

Many of Glen's points resonate with me. However, I will say as an alumnus and as somebody who is a visiting critic to all and faculty to some, Sci Arc is still the most energetic and focused architecture school in Los Angeles ( I will leave out its international standing and only reflect on what I witness). It is closely followed by UCLA and sad to say, the others don't amount to much of a critical praise in terms of what they offer in their platforms for architecture and what vision they have (or not have). Interestingly enough UCLA is also run by a Sci Arc graduate.

It has its ups and downs but there is something about Sci Arc that has a built-in renegade, hands on and free thinking self critical soul which doesn't change with different directors or faculty.

A lot of people who are doing some kind of spirited work in Southern California and in the forefronts of the discourse anywhere are somewhat related to Sci Arc's relatively short history and network. And that might include the school's harshest critics as well. That's where the strength of the institute can be found and gauged. Sci Arc has never been about compliance.

I hope the school's management don't fall into petty legacy issues and be dismissive of many people who played very constructive and crucial roles building the institute. 

Aug 31, 12 5:23 pm

Glen's blog post is quite astounding. Anyone who is seriously considering applying to Sci Arc should read it.

A couple highlights:




Aug 31, 12 6:44 pm

sci arc really only sets out to teach it's students how to create their own formal language and how to justify it within the greater discourse of the discipline of architecture.


This statement bothers me - architecture is more than just "formal language."  

Sep 1, 12 9:26 am

The vagueness of broad scope of such a statement that really applies to the basic teaching of architecture at every school, or the fact that their "own formal language" is coincidentally the same as each others and the professors teaching them.

Sep 1, 12 11:56 am

You can enjoy a range of freedom at sci-arc that you won't at other schools, and be able to talk about them. I think that's what 1deviantC was trying to say.

As for student work being inspired by a professors work, that's just life. Although you can fight it and be autodidactic with the right professor.

Sep 1, 12 1:04 pm

There is a criticism about the school that graduates are not ready for a normal office environment, I don't think that is really different then most other schools, and I have been to a few. As far as the undergrad program goes, in the 3rd year, the vast majority of students are employed in firms for the summer, some paid some not, but that is where they will gather the skills that will make them desirable upon graduation. Furthermore in the last few years SCI-ARC has rapidly developed their design documentation program, they are focusing and working on preparing students for the field, I don't think they are blind or ignorant to that front.

Sep 1, 12 3:47 pm

I was wondering if Sci Arc was going to connect the dots and correct this dilemma. 

But considering the rep of not preparing student for the field, do you think it will take some time break this stigma in the professional community? 

You would think Sci Arc's avant garde approach would attract more firms. Or do they see Sci Arc grads as pie in the sky idealists? For a school that's been chosen to work alongside with Cal Tech on competing for sustainable projects for the Dept of Energy, it should be seen as more than just an art school. 

Sep 1, 12 4:15 pm

I really believe that there is a wide misconception on what classifies as avant garde among younger people. But this discourse is running in a loop. Schools change as faculties change. 
PostMoe reminds me of their reputation:

Sep 1, 12 4:30 pm

I was wondering if Sci Arc was going to connect the dots and correct this dilemma. 
You would think Sci Arc's avant garde approach would attract more firms. 

Architects are a slow bunch, that's pretty much it.

Sep 1, 12 5:46 pm

OK, so before this topic starts to go in circles. 

As far as Sci Arc goes. I am willing to put the investment in and take the debt load. 

I will go into the program at full speed. Take advantage of everything it has to offer and more. 

But what would be the best advice as far as choosing this school over UCLA? 

After everything is said and done, at the end of the day; which one would be the better investment? UCLA or SCI ARC?

Sep 3, 12 12:07 am

What do you consider a good investment?

Sep 3, 12 3:05 am

Well I would mostly take out only federal loans, hope to get scholarships as soon as I am done with a graduate prep program I am currently in, consolidate my loans in a lump sum and then apply for income based repayment program. 

Along with all that I would make sure I hit the ground running making contacts, connections, internships, I mean anything and everything to make sure that I have at least a $40,000 job after school. My wife works at a great job already and after three years she should be well into the 60k range at her job. So with a combined income of 80-100k, we shouldn't have that big of a deal paying off a debt. 

But if I could avoid all that by just going to UCLA, then I would go there instead. 

A good investment? If I at least come out with a job paying around 40-50k. If not I would pursue something else within design, What other jobs out there that one can do with a design degree?

Sep 3, 12 3:47 am

Yeah, it's a bit of a spacy new age-y kind of place but it seems like it's the MIT of the West coast, no? Robots and stuff?


MIT has a very strong social justice angle to their school.  I haven't seen anything coming out of sci-arc that makes me think this program is at the forefront of using technology to help solve humanitarian/urban problems.


anyway - it seems to me that you're dead-set on staying in LA  - so i'd look around and see what firms in the area are paying interns with MArch's - and ask some people at both programs what their graduates ended up doing.

Sep 3, 12 8:19 am


Sep 3, 12 12:13 pm

@ manoverde:

congratulations if you got into BOTH sci arc and UCLA. Especially UCLA, it is not easy to get into that school.  Personally, I would have gone to UCLA if I had gotten into it.  It's more affordable, you get to be part of a larger campus (beautiful if you haven't already seen it) and student life // the weather is the best in the world...oh and did I mention that it's cheaper

Sep 3, 12 1:18 pm

...don't underestimate the freedom that more $$ affords a person.  Especially once you have to start thinking about mortgages, kids??, health insurance, vacations, and how about just the concept of one's standard of living...

Sep 3, 12 1:22 pm

sci arc annual tuition: $34k

UCLA annual tuition: $35k (non-resident)

                                  $22k (resident)

I believe one can attain resident status after a 1yr residency in an L.A. address...not sure though.

Sep 3, 12 1:29 pm

Is MIT really about social justice? That's great.

Sci Arc was recently ranked as the best grad school in the world. They have the rankings list on their website but I had never heard of this ranking before. Does it have any merit?

Either way, you guys would recommend UCLA over Sci Arc? The tuition is only 10k more. I guess that adds up but it's not all that more significant. I am surprised UCLA costs that much for a state school. 

Sep 3, 12 2:51 pm

"The tuition is only 10k more."

Just wait until your first job offer is "only 10K" less than you were expecting.  

Oh, and yeah, rankings are completely meritless.  Probably do more harm than good.


Sep 3, 12 3:57 pm

Sci-Arc is actually an art school.

It's name should really be Sci-Art

Sep 3, 12 9:20 pm

oh - this isn't just any ranking -  I highly doubt the rankings put out by adheres to a very strict methodology:


*Note: We have left out some schools such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton as you don't need us to tell you that it has some of the best programs as this is expected of it. From many schools on the list this might be less obvious or expected, all offering an excellent education (at a far lower cost). 


  I'm amazed sci-arc has the balls to post that shit on their website.

Sep 3, 12 9:29 pm

MIT is about social justice if you're a neocon. It is basically a branch of the defense department.

You only need to step outside USA for a bit to see's half-baked merit, given that no international ranking system exists, and most ivy league schools are overpriced European copies anyway. Plus they don't experiment like sci-arc or MIT, making them even less appealing.

But make your decision based on money manoverde84, it's not wise to gamble these days.

Sep 3, 12 11:17 pm

It is a wise gamble if Sci Arc, like MIT, is on the cutting edge and gaining traction. 

What attracted me about Sci Arc was the next best thing outlook it had. The robotics section they had intrigued me and the level of design studies they incorporated seemed state of the art and on the tip of the latest thing. Like Sci Arc also produced stellar designers to go into other fields besides Architecture.

Sep 3, 12 11:32 pm

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