UBC - Pros, Cons, and Culture


Hi All,

I have done a lot of reading over the last few weeks regarding UBC's Masters Program without being able to draw too many conclusions. I was hoping perhaps the Archinect community could be of some help. Are there any current or recent grads out there that can comment on their experience, the values of the faculty, and/or the general mentality of the students? In older posts (2009) I have read comments about the school being less focused on "buildings" and more interested in social and environmental issues related to architecture; is this still largely the case? Do the students utilize the shop and fabrication tools? Is the creation of large scale models or prototypes at all part of the body of work currently being produced? Is there interest in innovative and emerging technologies? I know that within the program and administration a number of changes have taken place so I am interested in how these changes have altered the direction of the program. The faculty seems very strong and the location/price components are all very appealing. That said, I don't want to invest myself into a program that won't be aligned with my interests. 

I am planning to visit the school in the next month to see some of this for myself but I would like to be prepared with any information and questions before making the drive. Any opinions you might have (or people you might be able to connect me with) would be very appreciated. 

Thanks for all of your help! 

Mar 25, 13 6:52 pm

Hey hunterj5, 

I'm a current first year at UBC. I can help with some of your questions of what I know of the program so far, however this week is the final week before pens down for our final studio presentations. Shoot me a message/email next week and I can go through the program. Also I'm glad to hear you're making the trip to see the school/city. Our 'all schools' event is April 11, so if you're in town by then I definitely recommend checking that out, otherwise it might be hard to see any current student work. 



Apr 1, 13 9:16 pm

Hey, I created a facebook group for all sept 13 incoming M.Arch students at UBC. I think it would be a great way to connect before the semester begins.

Apr 20, 13 8:41 pm

I don't know much, but I've been on the UBC campus various times.

Pros:  beautiful campus, beautiful neighborhood, the dynamic city of Vancouver, and one of the three best Canadian universities.

I'll stop there.

Apr 20, 13 8:46 pm
Jono Lee

From what I hear, the director wants to move back to pencil + paper.


Apr 20, 13 9:28 pm

I was at UBC from 2006-2010. It's hard to really comment on the experience as I hated studying architecture in general and I was pretty miserable while there. I don't think it's a UBC thing.

There were a few courses I enjoyed though. I was involved with a design build that taught me an incredible amount about the real world. For me it was a very positive experience. As a previous poster mentioned, there is a social focus at UBC, and I believe they had more design-builds on the horizon. 

As for the campus it's in a beautiful locaiton, but has room for improvement. If you drive parking is horrendously expensive. If you bus, the bus loop is a bit of a trek from the building. It's a huge campus and a bit isolated from the city.

Apr 22, 13 12:59 pm


What's the composition of UBC's student pool in architecture?  Is it about 1/2 Anglo-Canadian and 1/2 Asian, more or less?  Vancouver has changed so much over the last 20+ years, that I'm wondering if the enrollment reflects the changing demographics of the metro area.

Apr 22, 13 1:07 pm

Neogi, great idea! I am excited to be joining you at UBC.

Jawknow, When I was visiting I came to understand that one of the directors is a bit old school - but it has created no limitations on the work of the faculty or the students as far as I could tell. 

Apr 23, 13 4:39 pm

Well when I was there it was pen and paper and I could tell even then the profs were luddite's!  Great campus and city with terrific visiting professionals ie Patkau's etc but very much grounded in the "west coast school"  ie Univ. of Oregon, Washington State, Berkerly. I personally haven't been back for a few years but considering my daughter will be heading to UBC next year I guess I might have to visit. The school from what I have seen is as cosmopolitan as Vancouver which is like any west coast city with a strong asian influence. What is nice is that the city is not in a depression so there is a significant amount of work which translates to jobs and a more buoyant architectural atmosphere, unlike other areas in North America.

Down side its rains........a lot!

Apr 23, 13 6:52 pm

but very much grounded in the "west coast school"

What does this mean?  To me, it's more something I can "feel" rather than verbalize.  In a way, it's this almost obsessive concern with having to discuss the "environment" in every aspect of one's design "forks in the road," whether it's applicable or not.  Yes, it probably applies to that quartet, as you say:  UBC, UW-Seattle, Univ. of Oregon, and Berkeley. 

As for the rain, UBC may be beautiful on a sunny or even a gray day, but when that large number of brutalist concrete buildings from a previous growth spurt are streaked in rain, it's a little morose.  However, a Canadian should definitely consider it.  Even an American, for that matter.

Apr 23, 13 7:29 pm

The west coast school was into the "feel" they got from the architecture.  Not a lot of over analyzing in any empirical way just a gut reaction to it  .... mostly because all the profs back in my day were freaking hippies who went to school at Berkerley and smoked a lot of dope!  

Peace Out! 

Apr 26, 13 12:15 am

The west coast school was into the "feel" they got from the architecture.  Not a lot of over analyzing in any empirical way just a gut reaction to it  .... mostly because all the profs back in my day were freaking hippies who went to school at Berkerley and smoked a lot of dope!  

I believe it.  And those same profs with their heads in the clouds and in recovery mode from those days, yet who never discarded the ideologies of those days, were on a-school faculties at Oregon, Washington and UBC 25 years later, places sort of cut from the same cloth.  If I recall Berkeley's history, they did an "occupy" or some such thing with the business school building during the school's radical days.  Then, would these aging theory-only douche bags admit someone with such a degree to grad arch school?  Not likely.  Funny, because if you were pre-med at Berkeley in those days, you wouldn't be smoking dope and you'd be setting your sights on UCSF's medical school across the bay.  THIS is why it's hard to mention architecture and medicine, among others, in the same sentence when discussing professions.  Hippies and architecture are simpatico.

Apr 28, 13 8:36 pm

Exactly... I had to read a lot of Christopher Alexander in the day to figure what they were talking about.... remember pattern # ?????  F-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-k!

Apr 30, 13 12:54 am

I would say (based on the work I have seen and conversations I have had) UBC has evolved past this "west coast school" stereotype - at least in the way you have discussed it here. It is important that we not rely on dated impressions and methodologies, otherwise we are as guilty as the aging theory-only douche bags that you speak of.

Apr 30, 13 11:47 am


Right, they've moved past the hippie stage, but the upper left quadrant of the US still has its own vibe and obsession with sustainability and the environment.  In normal doses, it's healthy.  In beating a dead horse doses, it's not.  That appears to be the mantra.  Sustainability could be taught via a seminar course early on or later on, taken as an elective.  Here's the deal, those schools are still stuck in the "oh, cool" mindset depending on where you went to school and what you studied.  That is, if you went to Santa Cruz and studied anthropology, they'd get a hardon, and look at your portfolio of abstract art, photography, and some rudimentary design as good because ... well ... you went to Santa Cruz.  If you went to Colorado State and majored in construction management, and your portfolio still had design and some construction work you ACTUALLY did, and you were an excellent student, they'd be in "gee, I don't know" land about the candidate.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. 

Still, you are responsible for your own education and you can tailor your learning ... and what you get out of it.  I've said UBC is a good school and that the a-school would probably be a stimulating experience, especially with Vancouver's role on the Pacific Rim.  Of those 4 schools, though, I think UW-Seattle is the better school because it has more practice oriented electives so you can beef up your degree program if you choose to.

Regardless of where you go to school, there will be inevitably some "ivory tower" types who are so disconnected from reality that, if you came from a more practical background, you'd be thinking "is this person for real?"  I've had a couple of design profs like that and it's like a term that has been wasted. So, it can happen anywhere.

Apr 30, 13 12:09 pm

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