Tuesday, September 6, 2016

America's best architecture schools: Not in Maryland?

If one wants to trust the list-makers of Designintelligence who rank architecture schools annually, than Marylanders who care about their architecture schools have to go into mourning, none of their schools made it into the list. A list at topuniversities.com doesn't provide consolation either. The fact that in its international list only 3 American schools made it into the top 10 (MIT, Harvard and Berkeley) could actually provide further grief and even more, that even in the world's top 100 schools, no Maryland school is listed.
From the DesignIntelligence report.
Top 10 graduate architecture schools (Source: Architectural Record)

Which architecture schools exist in Maryland? The biggest would be the University of Maryland with the architecture program in College Park, then, of course Baltimore's own Morgan State University which also has a graduate and undergraduate program for architecture and lately, unbeknownst to many, MICA also has a fledgling undergraduate program in architectural design
Students in the architectural design program at MICA gain the technical, creative, and critical thinking skills needed to meet pressing human needs with design solutions that are fresh, imaginative, and innovative. Students leave the program prepared to continue onto graduate school to earn their professional degree leading to licensure or to branch out into related fields.
Catholic University is located in the District of Columbia but certainly is considered by many Marylanders as a local school of architecture.
From the DesignIntelligence report. 
Top 10 Undergraduate schools  (Source: Architectural Record)

The University of Maryland is typically considered a very good school and so is its architecture program. Lists are only lists will many say, and they are right, depending on what criteria one uses and who gets to be polled, the outcomes vary widely.

The Architectural Record includes in their reporting about the top 10 list also
some other matters that are interesting trends:  About 50% of the architecture students enrolled are now women. Minority participation is another matter, enrollments still lags far behind the national population share of African Americans (about 6% instead of 16%). Although Morgan State University as a Historically Black University (HBCU) is making great strides at improving these conditions (its overall enrollment of African Americans is in the 70% range but is lower in Architecture), it will be critically important that more minority students become architects before the matter of "Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment" (Yale Paper) can be overcome.

Architecture is a profession with a good reputation, according to a Harris Poll, a whopping 87 percent of Americans would encourage their child to pursue the occupation. Apparently there is a conviction that architecture may be one of the professions that cannot easily be replaced by robots, algorithms and smart computers. The high esteem of the profession in the general population may surprise some practicioners who don't see as much respect from their clients when it comes to accepting fees. In fact, low salaries were for a long time a drawback of the profession. According to DesignIntelligence, which polled more than 2,000 firms and 2,785 students, rising enrollment in architecture schools does not mean lower job prospects and salaries. Starting salaries are still only $42,000 nationally,lower than many other professions but Mr. Cramer of DesignIntelligence reports that many firms want to raise those starting salaries this year.
African American architecture students 2013 (NAAB report)

Architects increasingly see themselves less as Howard Roark styled heroic designers who come up with their design in their own minds without a team or a collaborative or inclusionary process and more as team players, change agents and people that care about community. This certainly merits reporting on this Community Architect titled blog.
There has also been a notable trend toward community-focused design. Last year, for example, Pratt Institute introduced an M.S. in Urban Placemaking and Management, focused on creating successful public spaces.(Architectural Record)
 “I am excited about the future of the profession because I think its going to be one of greater impact.” Editor in chief of DesignIntelligence, James Cramer. 
This is were MICA's arrival on the scene comes in as an interesting development. MICA maybe even more than the two other traditional architecture schools centers its teaching around design thinking in which design is human centered problem solving.

Many architects pick this field for their carrier because it combines left and right brain abilities. In a time when "breaking out of silos" is a generally accepted objective, architects have an important role to play in achieving, livable, resilient and diverse buildings and communities.

Depending on their own priorities, aspiring architects may not agree with the top ten lists published last week.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Architectural Record: America's top architecture schools
NAAB Enrollment report (2013)


  1. Baltimore would benefit so much from a graduate program at MICA! How long will it be until this becomes a reality?

  2. What makes an architecture school "best", you should read what schools around the globe do to set students on the path to the world of architecture and decide what makes sense to you...