The architecture industry has been witnessing radical development in the past decade. It is gaining prominence with the appearance of new disciplines related to it, and the swift development in its known ones. In the UK for example, the UK university admissions service UCAS reported more than 200 extra students applying for undergraduate studies in 2014. The worldwide fame acquired by starchitects is tempting for students who have interests in a basically artistic major like architecture. And since architecture education in universities and design schools has always been a controversy for students as well as for the education regimes, we highlight in this article the most prominent schools of architecture in the world, referring to the major criteria used in the rankings published by authorized bodies and independent researchers.
What do scholars examine when ranking top architecture schools? Like any university ranking, the principles that first come to mind, start with the fact of the school being a ‘veteran’. Then comes the high admission standards. Thirdly, a prestigious name is often linked with high costs. And most important of course are the educational programs, staff qualifications, services, and research output. Saying that, we all know how good universities like Cambridge and the MIT are (certainly present on our list today). For architecture, things are even more demanding. Networking, finding internships, and consequently job hunting prospects a school can facilitate seem the number two criteria after education. What about integrating new disciplines (sustainability, automation, computational design)? This is becoming a must. And as all architecture students admit, looking up at an ideal in architecture is probably every architect’s inspiration, so famous Alumni are an additional mark for architecture schools too. Student satisfaction, though not providing an objective principle, has popped up some universities to top universal rankings.
Since lists are numerous, variable according to resources and time-dependent, in what follows we present the names of architecture schools that are recurring in many list rankings. Obviously schools winning a world rank have acquired a reputation of having most of, if not all, the measures mentioned reached perfectly. Nonetheless, each school is more noticed for some principle over the other. This is what we will focus on today.
Looking for leading architectural education programs, we explore:
1. Southern California Institute of Architecture, SCI-Arc (Los Angeles, California, USA)
Located in the heart of Los Angeles, SCI-Arc is the leader in sustainable design and one of the best institutes for computational design. Being NAAB accredited, which is essential for architecture practice in the USA, architecture education in this school is essentially very practice-oriented. Additionally, among its staff are noted architects, including Pritzker Prize winners.
2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT (Massachusetts, USA)
MIT is undoubtedly more than world-known in the engineering field, but is increasing its innovation in architecture. It is almost impossible to find an aspect of architecture that MIT is not involved with. Through its graduate and postgraduate course, it is pushing boundaries in the built environment. Even though its costs are very high, it’s a good investment.
3. California Polytechnic (California, USA )
This school is majorly known for its architecture programs, in addition to staff and student life. This has run through several decades.
4. Bartlett, University College London (London, UK)
Located in the culturally and architecturally rich city of London, this university is among the top in the UK, and is best known for its architecture programs. They are described as ‘world-leading faculty for multidisciplinary education and research for the built environment.’ The Director of the Bartlett School of Architecture, Professor Iain Borden, says: “This is a school where people constantly design, invent, explore, write, draw, teach, speculate, theorise, map, film, critique, analyse and imagine.”
Additionally, this school is known for its vast networking with architecture, education, and governmental organizations, which is a perfect blend with its educational programs.
5. Barcelona Institute of Architecture, Barcelona
At the Barcelona Institute of Architecture, students are exposed to an academic program tackling the theory and practice aspects equally. The institute is reputed for its staff of international experts. Students here also have access to Col.legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya, one of the largest and most important libraries in Europe specializing in architecture and design.
6. The Pratt Institute (New York, USA)
This school is among the best design schools in the world and especially famous for the arts. Dealing with architecture being essentially an art is the fact stressed on in the academic programs of this university.
Looking for the best job opportunities, we explore:
1. Architectural Association, AA (London, UK)
The AA remains a world leader in architecture education with its twelve postgraduate programs as well as an undergraduate school.
In a special notice, the leading architecture firms in the world have a preference for the graduates of this school, which is a major advantage for it.
Additionally, one of the world’s greatest architects Zaha Hadid Architects studied here, as did Rem Koolhaas (the winner of the Pritzker Prize in 2000), and Richard Rogers (the winner of the Pritzker Prize in 2007 and Stirling Prize in 2006 and 2009).
Looking for innovative, updated topics and programs, we explore:
1. The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Being Denmark’s best architecture school, this school offers interesting programs both for under-graduate and masters, focusing in its approach on the most efficient career strategies. Noticeably, it has demonstrated a keen expertise in ‘new’ architecture and is becoming the forerunner of the modern world.
2. Technical University, Delft (Delft, the Netherlands)
A university of “global excellence”, studying at this best architecture school in the Netherlands will expose students to the most creative concepts applied in the contemporary world, aided by its multiple learning standards.
3. Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia
Located in the city of Barcelona, this school is reputed for the extensive learning features it is known to offer in an ultimate fashion. An example is the novel master’s program
called Master in Advanced Interaction, which will allow students explore the best academic excellence standards in a highly prolific manner.
4. Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge (Cambridge, UK)
Founded in 1912, the Department of Architecture at the world-famous University of Cambridge is considered to be one of the best architecture schools in the UK. Not to mention solely the academic approach exposed in the school’s Bachelor of Arts and Masters programs, architecture students here get to work alongside the research arm of the Department of Architecture, being part of a creative and intellectual community.
Additionally, the department has added the program Master of Philosophy in Engineering for Sustainable Development, helping architects and engineers to find best possible sustainable solutions.
Similarly, a part-time Masters in Interdisciplinary Design, built especially for architects, was introduced.
Looking for a school’s ex-grads who turned to starchitects, we explore:
1. ETH Zurich, DARCH (Zurich, Switzerland)
DARCH is considered to be one of the best universities for architecture in Europe. Many of today’s great architects have graduated from this university, including Pritzker Prize winning architects Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron, the very well-known Santiago Calatrava, the prominent Dutch architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage.
2. University of Tokyo (Tokyo, Japan)
The University of Tokyo has proven to be among the elite universities in the world. It is ranked among the top architecture universities in Asia. It has an impressive list of alumni, including Toyo Ito and Arata Isozaki.
3. The Glasgow School of Art (Glasgow, Scotland)
Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a former student and world renowned architect, the GSA is the only independent art school in Scotland and one of very few in the UK. It provides one of the finest programs for under-graduate and graduate studies.
By: Zeynab Matar