What Is the Best School of Architecture?

This is a common question that people ask about all colleges and universities. You’re bound to find rankings of architecture schools and the universities that house them. There is no objective way to say which are the best schools. Best for what? For what you can afford? For the location you desire? For the size of institution you wish to attend? For the special interest on which you wish to focus?

Best should mean best for you. Understand that architecture schools are very diverse. You can find them in large public universities, in independent art schools, in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and in many other varied settings.

At the undergraduate level, prospective students and their family should discuss the student’s educational aims. An undergraduate degree can be the basis for more advanced study at the graduate level, or it can end with a direct path to a career in a firm or other setting. Each architecture program will present its strengths and provide a picture of what students can get from the program, its campus setting, and the various opportunities that the school and its faculty provide for students.

At the graduate level, students tend to understand clearly why they wish to enroll. Students have more ability to match their interests and strengths to various graduate degree options. Schools that are worthy of your focus can explain to you why graduate education will advance your career opportunities, whether this means advancement in your firm, a career change, or a path into teaching or research.

Whether you are looking at an undergraduate or graduate degree, do not hesitate to contact the admissions staff to get a better understanding of a potential school. Schools want students to succeed and should be willing to provide ample information about what makes them unique and a good choice.

At Study Architecture, we avoid ranking programs and do not recommend making decisions solely based on what a particular ranking says. The journey into an architecture program should involve reflection on where you’re going. This path should be exciting and empowering, because opportunities to thrive abound in architecture school.

Pt II: Questions to Ask the Admissions Office

Part II of our series: An Application Guide to Architecture School 

Today, we are highlighting a few questions that you should ask admissions offices when considering which school to choose for your undergraduate or graduate degree.

What degree programs do you offer in architecture and related fields?

Associate degrees (A.A., A.S., A.A.S): This 2-year degree can be an entry point directly into the architecture workforce or a starting point to gain some foundational skills and transfer to a 4-year institution. It is not NAAB accredited and will not satisfy the education requirement for initial licensure.

Bachelor of Art or Science in Architecture (B.A. or B.S. in Architecture, Architectural Studies, Environmental Design, Architectural Engineering…etc.): This 4-year degree is a common precursor to the NAAB accredited M.Arch. It develops a comprehensive knowledge of the discipline of architecture but is not NAAB accredited and will not satisfy the education requirement for initial licensure in most states. If you’re unsure about becoming a licensed architect, one of these degrees could still encompass everything you enjoy about design and construction.

Bachelor of Architecture (B. Arch): This 5-year degree is the most popular undergraduate degree that will satisfy the education requirement for initial licensure. Students develop a comprehensive knowledge of the discipline of architecture as well as foundational professional knowledge and a basic understanding of related fields. Most of the 55 U.S. licensing boards require that architects hold a professional degree from a NAAB-accredited program and this is the only undergraduate NAAB accredited architecture degree offered in the U.S.

Master of Architecture (M.Arch): This 2-year or 3-year degree is a graduate level degree and can be paired with a B.A or B.S. in Architecture or a bachelor degree in a non-related field. This is the most popular graduate degree that will satisfy the education requirement for initial licensure. A student will develop an understanding of architecture including knowledge of the academy and the profession as well as some level of specialization.

Master of Science (M.S. in Architecture): This 1-year or 2-year degree is a graduate level degree and is commonly a post-professional degree, meaning it comes after the completion of a B.Arch or an M.Arch. It is usually research focused and predicated on independent inquiry. It is not NAAB accredited and will not satisfy the education requirement for initial licensure.

Doctor of Architecture (D.Arch): This 3-year or 4-year degree is a graduate level degree and, much like the M.Arch, can be paired with a B.A or B.S. in Architecture or a bachelor degree in a non-related field.

Are there any additional admissions requirements?

Many schools require an additional major-specific ? essay, but some schools of architecture also require students to submit a portfolio. A portfolio is a collection of your design work to date. This traditionally includes architectural drawings, photography, models, technical solutions or other artistic mediums. A few schools also recommend students participate in on-campus interviews.

Do you have an estimate of any additional expenses that are not included in tuition and fees?

Often times architecture students are required to purchase a specific laptop, a drafting board, and/or specific software and art supplies. Some schools require students to travel for studio projects and other schools require a semester of study in another country. It is a good idea to plan ahead for these expenses and add these expenses into your total cost of attendance. If you are hoping to save money, a good follow up question would be about the availability of computers and materials available for students to use free of charge.

What policies do you have to ensure student wellbeing?

The truth is, architecture schools are notorious for being rigorous and time intensive. Schools know this and should be able to articulate measures they take to ensure students are managing the balance between schoolwork and college life. Each school should have a studio culture policy and should be able to share how they implement that policy. Some schools close studios at certain hours to instill healthy work habits while others offer one-on-one mentoring for students to share successes and failures.

Does this program allow me to gain practical work experience while I am a student?

Depending on degree type, some programs will facilitate work experience. Some schools offer co-op programs that integrate working in an architectural practice as part of your degree and some programs offer the Integrated Path to Architecture Licensure (IPAL). IPAL schools provide a few students with the opportunity to complete the Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®) and the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) required for licensure at the same time they are completing the degree.

Does this program offer study abroad or interdisciplinary opportunities?

An architectural education is dependent on a well-maintained balance between how much time you spend studying, and how much time you spend seeking inspiration from the world around you. Traveling outside of the United States can be helpful in finding that balance. Make sure the program you choose encourages opportunities to develop soft skills outside of the classroom because architects have to work well with people outside of their discipline.

Download the Application Guide to Architecture Schools Part I and II as a PDF. 

Read Part I of the Application guide here.


Archisoup is an online learning resource and platform for architecture students, young architects, and enthusiasts. We provide the next generation of architects with opportunities to learn and evolve through shared expert knowledge, tutorials, guides, and studio resources. By bridging the gap between architecture school and the licensed profession, we aim to help students understand, and define their own paths in architecture, starting from high school to professional work. Having been through and completed what can be a very lengthy, and often overwhelming learning process ourselves, we are able to provide aspiring architects with the opportunity to learn and evolve, through our own past and current knowledge and experiences.

We provide support to prospective undergraduates, current students, postgraduates and licensed architects, helping them to navigate and develop their unique skill sets and career paths.


The platform is broken down and organized into the following sections, with new and updated content added weekly.


Our ‘Start Here’ section aims to cover the fundamentals of architecture from both an educational and professional point of view, and provides a general introduction into the subject, and life as a student and professional.

Here, we cover topics such as how to choose the best architecture school for you and the ultimate guide to starting architecture school, through to a study into the definition and meaning of architecture and the various key professional bodies that regulate it.


The studio guide is our primary resource, and the information contained within it forms the foundations of the Archisoup platform. This platform provides an architectural study aid to both students and young architects, that offer’s tutorials, tips and guides for everyday architectural and project activities.

Based on our own experiences of the architectural education process and school environment, we share industry and personal knowledge to provide a constantly evolving library of information. We cover topics such as how to choose the right architectural software, through to how to successfully create an architecture portfolio. We provide detailed answers to the most common architectural school and studio questions.

Alongside this, we offer shorter studio resources such as understanding architectural scales, brick dimensions, and bonds.


The architect’s toolbox must include both physical and mental elements, and be in constant update whether it is through technological or informational resources.

In this section, we feature and recommend the useful assets and tools that assist us in our learning and day to day lives as young and aspiring architects, aiming to make the architectural learning curve a little bit easier.

In constant update and review, we feature equipment lists such as 31 Essential Tools for Architecture Students and The Best Books on Architectural Design & Concepts through to detailed guides on how to choose the best computer.


Architecture is the very fabric that clads our society; however the men and women behind many of these creations often go unknown, and only once in a while will one of these creators stand out as a true master of their craft. 

In this section, we have created an ever-growing architectural database of famous and inspiring architects, and through the documentation of their lives and careers, we invite you to learn from the world’s best designers.


In continual development and growth, our shop provides bespoke informational products and resources for general architectural use. Our aim is to cover each part of the creative process from a project’s inception through to its completion.


You can find us on all the main social media platforms, however as architects we are visual people and so we tend to focus our efforts on Instagram and Pinterest, where you’ll find daily updates and architectural inspiration.


Real World Ready by Creating Real World Design Solutions

University of Arizona’s Bachelor or Architecture students test their designs by building homes for low income Tucsonans

The University of Arizona’s College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture’s (CAPLA) architecture students are faced with many of the same educational chores that other school of architecture students are faced with: they toil solving many theoretical design problems, they work long hours in their studio spaces looking to their classmates for inspiration and they dream of just how and when they’ll get to see their projects come to life. While theory and research are necessary parts of the curriculum, students at CAPLA also have the unique opportunity to work on real world design solutions through experiential education. One such way is through the Drachman Design-Build Coalition (DDBC), a 501 c3 non-profit housing provider organization.

The DDBC is the product of Professor Mary Hardin’s desire to ensure that her architecture students were able to have an experience that allowed them to see their designs come to life and to help an underserved population of low income Tucsonans achieve home ownership. Recently, the DDBC, through the design-build studios and hard work of 33 students across three semesters, completed its ninth residence, “The Sentinel House.”

“My involvement in DDBC has allowed me to bring the excitement of designing and building real projects into the studio experience with students. I get vicarious pleasure from seeing them enthused about building their own project designs. I also have been touched by how much extra work my students put into these projects, knowing they are building a home for a family who would not otherwise benefit from the talents of architectural designers. Seeing my students put so much into each project has constantly revived my own sense of commitment and enthusiasm,” states Mary.

Mary and her students were fortunate to receive a grant from the UA Office of Student Engagement (OSE) as this project meets the requirements of the UA’s 100% Engagement Initiative. The initiative works to provide students with experiences beyond the classroom, helping to enrich their professional and personal growth. Even with the generous grant from the OSE, the residence has been designed under a very strict budget so that it can be sold to a Tucson family earning below 80% of the Area Median Income.

The home has been built with several sustainability practices to help keep utility bills and lifetime maintenance costs lower for the future homeowners. For example, they’ve used scoria, a thermal mass material, for the exterior walls of the home. This dense material holds onto temperature for a long period of time, meaning it works hard to prevent outdoor heat from traveling indoors. Additionally, they placed a layer of rigid foam in the center of these walls to help hinder the heat transfer.

The team also built two water harvesting cisterns to collect rainwater from the roof for use on the landscaping. The landscaping is xeriscape, low water use desert plants that are located to help shade the home. The A/C system is four mini-splits rather than one central unit so that each room can be programmed for thermal comfort separately from the others. This will allow homeowners to fine tune their use of air conditioning to keep bills down, and the mini-split units are much more efficient (SEER 21) than the typical central unit (SEER 14).

Educational experiences like these help CAPLA students succeed beyond the classroom and well into their professions. They’ve had the opportunity to face real world challenges and then find the most efficient solutions to those problems. “These opportunities simply aren’t found elsewhere,” states Mary.

For more information on University of Arizona’s Architecture Program, visit their profile on StudyArchitecture.





Robert A.M. Stern Wins 2017 AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion

(via Architect Magazine)

Today, the American Institute of Architects and the Association of the Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) named Robert A.M. Stern, FAIA, as the 2017 winner of the AIA Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architecture Education, the highest honor given to educators in architecture. The AIA has been granting individuals this award since 1976 for their dedication to education and influence over students of architecture.

Robert A.M. Stern, FAIA, was recognized by the AIA and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture for his dedication to educating students of architecture.

Robert A.M. Stern, FAIA, was recognized by the AIA and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture for his dedication to educating students of architecture.

“He loves the debate, the conversation,” says architect Deborah Berke, FAIA, who succeeded Stern as dean of the Yale School of Architecture this summer. “He wants to hear arguments and discussions.”

Stern has expressed his dedication to the advancement of architecture education and architectural innovation through his projects, teaching, and writing. After receiving an M.Arch. from Yale University in 1965, he co-founded Stern & Hagmann in 1969. He then returned to Columbia University as a professor of architecture and director of the Historic Preservation Program at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, where he lectured for more than 20 years while also managing major projects and holding various titles. His next firm, Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA) was founded in 1977. At RAMSA, Stern personally supervises the design of each project that the firm develops. The 300-person office functions as a teaching institution, producing both experienced alumni and eager-to-learn apprentices.

Photo courtesy of John Jacobson | Yale School of Architecture

Photo courtesy of John Jacobson | Yale School of Architecture

Since the birth of RAMSA, the terms New Urbanism and New Classical Architecture have been coined, and both describe styles in which Stern has always been fluent. RAMSA’s postmodern reputation for blending tradition with modernity has circulated around the world, and the firm’s success has made it one of the biggest in the world. In 1984, Stern received the AIA New York Chapter’s Medal of Honor and the Chapter’s President’s Award in 2001.

As an academic writer, he has published several books and papers, including New Directions in American Architecture (Braziller, 1969), Modern Classicism(Rizzoli, 1988), and his most recent, Pedagogy and Place: 100 Years of Architecture Education at Yale (Yale University Press, 2016).

Photo courtesy of Yale Alumni Magazine

Photo courtesy of Yale Alumni Magazine

The 2017 Topaz Medallion jury: Stephen Vogel, FAIA, University of Detroit; Mercy Geraldine Forbes Isais, Associate AIA, University of New Mexico; Sharon Johnston, FAIA, Johnston Marklee & Associates; Chere R. LeClair, AIA, LeClair Architects; Sarah Wahlgren, AIAS, American Institute of Architecture Students.

(via Architect Magazine)

Princeton Professor Liz Diller Receives ACADIA Lifetime Achievement Award

(via Architects Newspaper)

The Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) has announced Elizabeth Diller as the recipient of their prestigious 2016 ACADIA Lifetime Achievement Award. The award is given to “exceptional architects and researchers who over the course of their career have made significant and innovative contributions to the fields of architecture and computational design.” The highly competitive award was last given in 2014 to the late Zaha Hadid.

Diller will receive the award at this year’s conference Posthuman Frontiers: Data, Designers, and Cognitive Machines, October 27-29 at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. She will also deliver a keynote lecture during the conference on Friday, October 28 at University of Michigan’s Power Center for the Performing Arts.

Elizabeth Diller is a founding partner of Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), an interdisciplinary design studio that works at the intersection of architecture, the visual arts, and the performing arts. With Ricardo Scofidio, Diller was the first in the field of architecture to receive the “genius” award from the MacArthur Foundation, which stated “their work explores how space functions in our culture and illustrates that architecture, when understood as the physical manifestation of social relationships, is everywhere, not just in buildings.”

DS+R established its identity through independent, theoretical, and self-generated projects before coming to international prominence with two of the most important planning initiatives in New York: the High Line and the redesign of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts campus. In addition to the nearly completed Columbia University Graduate and Medical Education Building, and The Broadmuseum in downtown Los Angeles, Diller is Principal-in-Charge of The Shed, a new center for artistic invention at the Hudson Yards, and the renovation and expansion of MoMA, both in New York. Diller graduated from the Cooper Union School of Architecture in 1979, and taught at the school from 1981-1990. She is a Professor of Architecture at Princeton University.

Diller is a recipient of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Design Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Design, and the Brunner Prize from the American Academy of the Arts and Letters. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and International Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. In 2013, Diller was awarded the Barnard Medal of Distinction, and DS+R was presented a Centennial Medal of Honor from the American Academy in Rome. Diller was selected by Time magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.”

The ACADIA Board of Directors specifically cited “Liz Diller’s pioneering work at the intersections of architecture, art, technology and philosophy. Her critical explorations over many years have integrated design, computation and theory into a radically inventive and culturally relevant body of work from installations to buildings to urban landscapes.”

ACADIA President Jason Kelly Johnson said, “From the late 1980’s to today, the work of Liz Diller and her studio Diller+Scofidio (now DS+R) has been at the forefront of exploring the spatial, material and generative possibilities of new media in architecture. Their earliest experimental multi-media installations, including projects like Para-Site (1989), Slow House (1991) and Jet Lag (1998), set the stage for a substantial body of recent international built work like the Blur Building (2002) in Switzerland, the Broad (2013) museum in Los Angeles, and upcoming projects like the Museum of Image and Sound (2015-Present) currently under construction in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.” Read more

Outside the Studio | Representation and Spatial Design at Parsons

When you think about architecture school, the “studio” course is likely the first thing to come to mind. Within architecture school, there are so many other courses that help develop the unique skills that an architect needs. Recently, we have come across quite a few courses that are redefining the role of “elective” in architectural education and over the next two months, our blog will take a deeper look in a series called OUTSIDE THE STUDIO.

Today, we chat with Angela DeGeorge, a graduate student at the Parsons School of Design, about her Spring semester course, “Representation and Spatial Design II,” fondly referred to as “helmet class,” which explored the intersection of “material attributes and modeling techniques, and the spatial aspirations for built form.” The work from the studio was widely published on IMADETHAT’s Instagram, an account that captures the work of architecture students and faculty from all over the world. Check out two other final projects from @iam_meredith and @nicktafel!

iam_meredith's Helmet

iam_meredith’s Helmet

Nick Tafel's Helmet

Nick Tafel’s Helmet

The first assignment called “Make a Helmet: Analog” prompted the students to explore techniques using sheet materials, fabrics, sticks, tape, glue, foam, wood, plastic, etc. In week four of the class, the students were asked to transform their helmet and explore 3D printing and casting techniques. Assignment 6 asked students to explore laser cutting/tessellations and unfolding. Each week, the students were asked to test out a new representation and modeling techniques.

Angela approached the challenge of designing a “helmet” by examining the correlation between “helmet” and “shelter.” A helmet protects you in the same way a structure can. Enter “The Meditation Pavilion.” She describes it as “a folding structure that can be deployed to increase mindfulness and dissolve distractions. From within the pavilion, the sharp folds of material are inherently distracting, but the materiality and graphic qualities are meant to equalize those distractions. As the light interacts with the iridescent film which wraps the pavilion, the geometry seems to disappear at certain moments. The form is inspired by a basic origami folding pattern, and the final scale model is made of 32 acrylic triangles assembled into a rigid, self-supporting structure.”

Conceptual Rendering

The Meditation Pavilion


The Meditation Pavilion _ Conceptual

Describe your process. 

The course encouraged us to use a diversity of representational techniques to both document and facilitate the evolution of our concepts. Throughout the semester, I used both digital and analog fabrication methods to test out my ideas. It was interesting to take a very analog process (folding a piece of paper) and then manipulate it with digital modeling and fabrication tools. I tend to be more of an analog-maker, so it was a great lesson in the opportunities and constraints of the tools at my disposal.


Study Model


Process Materials


Stencil for Faceted Structure



I began using Rhino as a 3D modeling tool. I got to a point where I realized that I didn’t quite know how to make the folding-geometry I wanted in Rhino, so I switched to folding paper by hand. Then, when I jumped up in scale, I chose to use the laser-cutter to achieve precise folds in larger pieces of material.Final_7_BWFinal_6_BWFinal_5_BWFinal_4_BWFinal_3_BWFinal_1_BWFinal_Folding Blur

Resources you would like to share:

“Folding for Techniques for Designers: From Sheet to Form” by Paul Jackson. And lots of Pinterest.

Describe Parsons School of Design.

Parsons is focused on addressing social and environmental challenges with architectural solutions. The school is deeply connected to New York City – all of our projects are sited within the city. And, at Parsons, there is a lot of enthusiasm for making beautiful things. We are encouraged to experiment with our representation and process of making. 

What do you intend to do upon graduation? 

I’d like to continue to build a variety of experiences and skills. I’m interested in pursuing work that prioritizes energy efficiency and healthy spaces because I think my generation of architects and designers will play a big role in preparing our cities for growing populations. If all else fails, the back-up plan is to become an oyster farmer. I have no experience, I just respect the profession and love the ocean.

Follow Angela on Instagram to see more of her work! @ba_nangela

Processed with VSCO with b1 preset

Angela DeGeorge, Graduate Student at Parsons School of Design

If you are interested in learning more about Parsons The New School of Design, visit their StudyArchitecture Profile Page! 

7 Architecture Schools With Stellar Design-Build Programs

(adapted from Curbed by Patrick Sisson @freqresponse)


Auburn University

Lions Park Scout Hut designed by Rural Studio participants.
Rural Studio
The granddaddy of design-build programs, Rural Studio, founded by Samuel Mockbee and D. K. Ruth at Auburn in 1993, recruits architecture students to help a long-standing mission to develop affordable housing and community structures for rural western Alabama. The signature project, the $20K House, has been augmented with a series of modernist community structures, including band shells and a Boys & Girls club. Third and fifth year students at Auburn participate, as well as a select number of outreach fellows.


University of Kansas

1301 New York
Studio 804

Talk about designing your own learning environment: students in this program actually designed an addition to their own architecture school, complete with a plant wall overflowing with ferns and begonias. Studio 804, a non-profit that works with masters students in their final year at the University of Kansas, focuses on realizing a single, sustainable design each year, and has built up a very green portfolio, including seven LEED Platinum projects and two Passive House certified projects.


University of Utah

Whitehorse Home

Named after the town of Bluff where it’s based, this immersive program engages students to design and build a project for a member of the Navajo nation. Hank Louis, who founded the program in 2000, drew inspiration from Rural Studio when he came up with the lesson plan. A team of up to 16 students collaborate on a design in the fall, and then in the spring, move 300 miles from Utah’s main campus and relocate to the remote town of 320 in the southeast corner of the state to work in the expansive reservation (which explains the focus on easy-to-maintain, often off-grid homes).


Virginia Tech

Sharon Fieldhouse in Clifton Forge, Virginia.

Rural Studio’s impact looms large on other design schools. But in the case of the design/buildLAB, it’s also the placed co-founders, directors and significant others Keith and Marie Zawistowski met. They pair applied the lessons of the storied program to their own, which started in 2008 and focuses on prefab construction methods.


Yale University

Last year’s Vlock project at Yale, a student-built structure in New Haven.
The Jim Vlock First Year Building Project

Considered one of the oldest such programs in the country, Yale’s design-build class for first-years requires each graduate student to collaborate to conceive of and finish a home. While the program, which started in the late ’60s, has built as far afield as Appalachia, now, most projects comprise of affordable housing prototypes near New Haven.


Parsons School of Design

Sunset Park Recreation Center and Pool in Brooklyn, New York, the 2014 design-build project completed by Parsons students.
The Design Workshop

The design-build program at this New York-based institution has evolved over time to become a partner with the New York Department of Parks and Recreation, offering students a unique chance to create public infrastructure and facilities in the nation’s biggest city. Last year’s group of graduate students redesigned an under-utilized pool facility for a Brooklyn neighborhood.


University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Beardsley Farm
Design Build + Evaluate Initiative

The Design, Build, Evaluate Initiative at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville applies the intellectual resources of the university to challenges in the built environment to achieve the highest levels of design excellence, environmental performance, and social responsibility while developing new knowledge and disseminating lessons learned to academic and professional peers.

As the construction, operation, and maintenance of the built environment accounts for a huge proportion of global energy and resource use, such investigations have the potential to generate tremendous research value while positively affecting the lives of those who inhabit our projects.

Note: This list is not comprehensive. Check out our Search Feature on!

(adapted from Curbed article)