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Does It Matter What Architecture School You Go To?

Architecture school is something that every building designer has to go through before obtaining their license to become a registered architect. Architecture school is a long and difficult journey requiring students to learn everything related to a building and beyond.

With such a big time and effort investment, the question now is; is choosing an architecture school a big factor in how you will practice once you become an architect.

Yes, it matters what architecture school you go to. This is because different architecture schools teach different subjects better than others. Even if architecture schools have the same curriculum, the diversity of the field will result in students being more developed in one aspect more than the other.

This is not to say that the architecture school you go to will define how you practice because it is up to the individual aspiring architect as to what type of architect they plan to be.

Read on if you want to learn more about architecture school in general or if you’re just curious as to why architects are so diverse even though they are within the same field.

A brief background of architecture school

The first thing that you should know is what actually happens inside architecture school. Architecture school is different from other schools because of the diverse training each student has to go through before graduating.

Architecture is such a wide and diverse field requiring mastery and expertise in different subjects. Architecture students are required to constantly learn about new things, whether it be from architectural history to basic structurals.

Aside from this, architecture also has many overlapping topics that students need to have basic knowledge of. Urban design, landscaping, interior design, etc., are all essential topics that an architecture student needs to apply to their design projects.

The training that architecture students undergo to prepare them for the working world is very time-consuming and difficult. Multiple sheets of drawings, three-dimensional models, renders, and papers are to be submitted constantly.

The economic impact, construction methodology, and laws related to buildings are drilled into the students. They are to be applied to ensure that the students don’t make faulty buildings once they begin practicing.

At the end of the day, architecture school is a complex degree that encompasses many topics. Students may excel in one aspect and struggle in the other. However, one thing is clear: the students must be well-versed in these topics before they graduate.

What makes architecture school different from each other?

The key difference between different architecture schools is that they emphasize a certain topic within the field of architecture more than other topics.

An example of a famous architecture school is the Bauhaus school of architecture. Bauhaus is known widely for how it teaches design and architectural theory. Compare this to other architecture schools like the one at MIT, and you’ll find that MIT places a different priority on another side of architecture than the design aspect.

On another note, you must also consider the reputation of the university you plan on going to. The reality is that some universities are geared more towards teaching architecture than others. This is not to say that other universities are lacking but considering the time and effort that students will be investing in for this degree, it is best to choose a school with a strong inclination towards teaching architecture.

The reason why it’s important to pick a university that has a strong inclination towards architecture is that no matter what you plan on specializing in, it is the curriculum of the university that will build up the fundamentals needed to specialize in the first place.

Feel free to check out our post on “How Creative Are Architects?

Can you learn architecture outside of architecture school?

In today’s day and age, architects have to learn more skills now more than ever. Students should be able to perform tasks or have skill sets that are not usually taught in architecture school for them to be able to meet the evolving demands of the industry.

A common example of this would be the usage of image manipulation software, such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, to communicate their designs better and make their presentations more visually pleasing to a client.

Another example would be the requirement to manipulate and research data to serve as a basis for their design. This includes usage and creating spreadsheets, maps, charts, graphs, etc.

Skills like these need to be developed outside of the curriculum of architecture school to prepare the student for their practice as architects. This is not to say that there is a fault in the curriculum of architecture school. Instead, this should be treated as a greater challenge for architecture students to adjust to the needs of the present and meet the demands of tomorrow, as there will always be evolving.

Aside from regular skills, soft skills should also be developed. Students have to develop soft skills (Ex. Leadership, Management, Communication, etc.)  that will holistically help them and prepare them for the situations of the working world.

For example, it goes without saying that communication is vital in this line of work. It’s important for students to learn and prepare themselves to converse and build relationships between clients and different professionals.

Why is it important to choose the right one for you?

Choosing the right architecture school for you requires knowing what you want to do with your architecture degree and what you want to do when you begin practicing.

You should pick the architecture school that is in line with what you actually want to learn about architecture the most.

It’s unavoidable that you will learn about everything related to a building because that is what’s required from an architect during a project. However, that is not to say that you cannot specialize in certain fields. Whether you want to become an architectural historian or an architectural systems manager is completely up to you.

Architecture school is not easy. In fact, studies have shown that architecture school will require the most hours to put into compared to other degrees. This is why it is essential that you know what you’re getting into and that you can somewhat enjoy and be constantly interested in the things you will learn in architecture school.

Will the architecture school you go to define your practice?

Although schools may have specializations, whatever architecture school you go to will not define you as an architect in your career. It is up to the individual person as to what exactly they plan on excelling in. This is the nature of the creative and diverse field of architecture.

Someone from MIT can actually design really well by applying their learnings from that university. At the same time, someone who came from Bauhaus can use their design knowledge to create innovative systems within a building.

Most people would be surprised to learn that there are many types of architects that are practicing almost entirely different things.

If you go to an architecture school that specializes in teaching a certain aspect of architecture and then, later on, you decide to change what you specialize in; there is no reason why you cannot take units or classes to learn how that specialization works.

There will always be room for learning new things in a field as diverse as architecture because of the constant evolution of building technology and the new breakthroughs in research and development.

 As you go on practicing, there is no reason why your practice cannot evolve into something more personalized and in line with what you believe in. Things like what you believe a building should prioritize or be.

This is the type of originality that separates architects from one another within the industry and allows clients to choose better which architect they want and is more in sync with their vision of what the project should become.

The nature of teaching architecture

Architecture, unlike other subjects, can be difficult to teach to students.  Architecture as a field is a mixture of both subjectiveness and objectiveness.

This goes to say that there is not just one right way of teaching architecture. Every professor will teach architecture in a slightly different manner or even in an entirely different manner. Yet, these two ways of teaching architecture can be considered correct.

To better understand this, you must first dissect how exactly an architect will be planning a building once they begin to practice.

For a quick overview of how it happens, architects design buildings in such a way that focuses not just on the physical aspect but also on the psychological and social aspects that come with creating a structure for people to use.

This requires students to develop ways in which the lines they put on the paper will have meaning and basis. The meaning and basis that the architecture students will choose can only be argued between the student and the professor. It’s difficult to say that it is absolutely correct, and it is also difficult to say that it is entirely wrong.

This is why any architecture school you go to, no matter what, will teach students how to master communicating their ideas to their professor and the panel. Architecture students need to build a convincing argument as to why their building was planned and designed in such a specific manner.

Chosing the right architecture school for you

For any course or any field, the greatest indicators that a school is capable of teaching architecture is based on the quality that students can produce outputs and designs for a project.

Looking at how their students understand architecture and how they design and present their project says a lot about how the professors instruct and guide their students.

As mentioned earlier, taking the right architecture school for you is important because this is where you will develop the fundamentals for practicing once you graduate.

If you are not sure of what type of specialization you want to take, it is better to learn everything first and choose what resonates best with you.

A good tip is to look for a university that also teaches engineering and the arts. Since architecture can be described as a mixture of those two fields, it would be a good indicator that the school can teach architecture in a balanced and satisfactory manner.

Another tip is to attend any seminars or workshops that are hosted by that university. This is a great way to get a feel if that university’s style of teaching architecture will resonate with you.

Architecture seminars and workshops usually delve into a certain aspect of a field, whether that be case studies of certain buildings, findings based on new literature, or a simple workshop on improving the hard skills needed for architecture. At the end of the day, these activities will give you a glimpse of what lies ahead if you were to enroll in that university.

Internships: The bridge between school and work

In this section, we’ll discuss how you can use internships to supplement your learning during architecture school or as a fresh graduate from architecture school.

Internships are a great way to learn more about the business and specializations.

Internships are a great way of experiencing how the learnings from school are actually applied in the working world. An internship could also be used as a testing phase to see if this is the type of work you really want to do.

In this type of environment, you’ll be able to observe up close how architects, depending on their specialization, operate on a day-to-day basis for a project.

Student internships and fresh grad internships are not that hard to get. Usually, universities would have a system set up to have their students be able to apply for internships. Another tip,  if you have any professors looking for assistance, it would be great to take the initiative and volunteer to help out.

Internships will take a lot of work; however, at the end of the day, you are not working for money but instead working for the experience. This may not sound very good for you or may even sound like a waste of time for others but having that working experience puts you at an edge compared to those who just stay at school. The field of architecture is not easy to work in! You’ll have to get accustomed to working long hours on projects.

Conclusion

 In conclusion, the architecture school you go to matters, and it will be reflected when you begin practicing. Architecture schools have certain inclinations toward specific aspects related to buildings.

At the end of the day, this inclination does not define how you will practice as an architect. Instead, it actually presents an opportunity for you to combine specializations by giving you different perspectives on how things should go within a building.

If you are an aspiring architecture student, the school you should pick should be in line with your beliefs and perceptions of what architecture should be. If you’re unsure of what you want to do as a practicing architect, then the safest bet would be to go to a school with a  good reputation for teaching architecture.

Jordan Harris

From the earliest age I can remember, I was planning and building things, and there was no question that Architecture was the right career fit for me. With more than 20 years of experience in the industry, I am absolutely thrilled and privileged to share my knowledge and experience with everyone through this blog.

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