“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” – Winston Churchill
This simple, yet a very true statement from Winston Churchill illustrates just how important is for any architecture student to fully understand and embrace the concept of creating and feel the responsibility that comes with designing for people.
In order to achieve such creative maturity, having a good education is essential. We are giving you our (albeit subjective) list of the world’s top ten architecture schools in alphabetical order.
1. ARCHITECTURAL ASSOCIATION, UK
The number one school on our ‘Best Architecture Schools’ list, is the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, also referred to as the AA, the oldest independent architecture school in the United Kingdom, originally founded in 1847 by “a pack of troublesome students”. The school prides itself in being “the nexus of a global conglomeration of contemporary architectural culture, as well as its pasts”. The courses are divided into two main segments – undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, which include specialized courses in Landscape Urbanism (LU), Housing and Urbanism, Sustainable Environmental Design, Histories and Theories, Emergent Technologies, and Design Research Lab (DRL). The school also has a course in garden and building conservation, as well as an environmental access course. Also, there are new programmes such as Projective Cities, Interprofessional Studio and Design+Make. One of the world’s greatest architects Zaha Hadid 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).
2. ETH ZÜRICH-DARCH, SWITZERLAND
ETH Zürich (German: Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich) is a science, technology, mathematics, engineering and management university. The University has been regularly ranked among the ten or twenty best universities in the world. In 2012, ETH was ranked 12 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. The ETH undergraduates’ curriculum is very demanding as it has twice the number of lectures in comparison to other universities in Switzerland. There are also many of the Nobel Prize, Pritzker Prize, Turing Award and Fields Medal winners among the alumni of this top architecture university. Architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron of Herzog & de Meuron, the Pritzker Prize laureates in 2001, were students of the ETH.
3. HARVARD UNIVERSITY, USA
Harvard University doesn’t need any special introduction. This is the oldest university (established in 1636) in the US and one of the most prestigious and most exclusive higher learning institutions in the world. The University has ten faculties and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, while its academic library is one of the biggest in the world. Architecture studies are one of the tracks within Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The curriculum is comprised of two broad segments – History and Theory (including study of architecture, cities, landscapes, architectural photography etc.) and Design Studies (social and aesthetic dimensions of contemporary architecture, landscapes, cities, and territories, emphasizing issues of sustainable environments…). ‘The master of modern architecture’ Ieoh Ming Pei is a Harvard alumnus, while the founder of Bauhaus Walter Gropius and Zaha Hadid were the former faculty at the university.
4. MASSACHUSETS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, USA
The Massachusets Institute of Technology (MIT) was incorporated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1861. It has six schools and colleges consisting of 32 academic departments. There are a total of 78 Nobel laureates, 53 National Medal of Science winners, 41 MacArthur Fellows and 27 National Medal of Technology and Innovation winners among MIT’s alumni. The Institute’s School of Architecture and Planning, formerly known as the School of Architecture, was the first such school in America. Also, architecture was one of the four original departments at MIT. Today, MIT’s School of Architecture is considered one of the best and most renowned architecture schools in the world. Its curriculum is divided into five groups: Architectural Design, Building Technology, Computation, History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art, and Art, Culture, and Technology. ‘The father of skyscrapers’, a mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright and the founder of the famous Chicago School (of Architecture) Louis Sullivan went to MIT, as did I.M. Pei, the legendary architect and the designer of Louvre Pyramid in Paris.
5. ROYAL MELBOURNE INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (RMIT), AUSTRALIA
The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) was founded by philanthropist Francis Ormond in 1887 to support the industrialization of Melbourne. Today, RMIT is a publicly funded university and the first Australian university to adopt the international education strategy. The University “enjoys an international reputation for excellence in practical education and outcome-oriented research”. RMIT has 24 academic schools, four research institutes and a specialist research school. RMIT’s School of Architecture and Design is truly one of the top architecture schools in the world with such an exceptional reputation that, in 2012, the Australian Research Council / Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) gave the school the highest possible ranking of 5 which testifies to “the outstanding performance well above the world standard, where research outputs demonstrate the highest standards of quality and scholarly impact.”. It is worth mentioning that the national average score for the Architecture discipline in Australia the same year was around 2.5. RMIT’s architecture staff, alumni and students are regularly invited to exhibit at the most reputable global events like the International Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy, Bejing, China, and Rotterdam, The Netherlands, the Non-Standard Architectures Exhibition Pompidou, Paris and Archilab International Convention and Exhibition, Orlean, France.
6. SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTURE, USA
The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) is based in Los Angeles. SCI-Arc is considered the most avant-garde and one of the very few independent US architecture schools. SCI-Arc frequently finds itself on the best architecture school lists. Founded in 1972, the Institute is famous for pushing the limit and being innovative, while also priding itself in architectural experimentation. This unique non-profit school is radical in many ways – it provokes new thinking, nurtures experimental perspective (more than traditional architecture schools), and fosters the idea of a “college without walls” with free public access to lectures given by the architectural leaders and thinkers of today. SCI-Arc offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), including a five-year Bachelor of Architecture programme, a 3-year Master of Architecture open to applicants who hold a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in any field of study, and a 2-year Master of Architecture open to applicants with a prior undergraduate degree in architecture. Recently, the school gathered six renowned international architects – Hitoshi Abe, Eric Owen Moss, Peter Cook, Thom Mayne, Peter Noever, and Wolf Prix of Coop Himmelb(l)au to share their experience with the students and the public.
7. DELFT UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, THE NETHERLANDS
Delft University of Technology (Dutch: Technische Universiteit Delft), also referred to as TU Delft, is the biggest and the oldest technical university in The Netherlands, founded in 1842 by King William II of the Netherlands with the intention of training civil servants for the Dutch East Indies. The University has 8 faculties with 14 Bachelor and 30 Master programmes. Delft’s Faculty of Architecture is the biggest faculty of the university, one of the largest architecture faculties in the world with over 2,900 students, and certainly one of the top architecture schools in the world. The Faculty offers the following degrees – Bachelor of Science in Architecture and Master of Science in Architecture, Urbanism and Building Sciences. In 2008, the building housing the Faculty was devastated by a fire. Fortunately, the Faculty’s extensive library with several thousand books and maps and many architecture pieces (including chairs designed by Gerrit Rietveld and Le Corbusier) were rescued. The renowned Dutch architects Herman Hertzberger and Aldo van Eyck, both considered the major influences behind the Dutch Structuralist movement, studied at Delft. Jo van den Broek, another famous Dutch architect known for being instrumental in rebuilding Rotterdam after World War II, was a Delft alumnus too.
8. THE ROYAL DANISH ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS, DENMARK
The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation (Danish: Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi) was founded over 250 years ago, in 1754 as ’The Royal Danish Painting, Sculpture and Building Academy’ in honour of the 31st birthday of the King Frederik V. The Academy’s School of Architecture offers education in the fields of architectural design and restoration, urban and landscape planning and industrial, graphic and furniture design. The School has nine study departments, four research institutes and six affiliated research centres. The undergraduate course, leading to the Bachelor of Architecture diploma, lasts three years while the Master of Arts in Architecture is a two-year graduate course. Notable Danish architect Arne Jacobsen, a major influence behind the Architectural Functionalism, studied at the Academy, as did Bjarke Ingels, the rising star in the world of architecture and design. In 2011, the Wall Street Journal named Ingels the Innovator of the Year for architecture. Ingels has designed a resort and entertainment city on Zira Island off the coast of Baku in Azerbaijan which is one of the world’s biggest eco-developments, spanning across one million square metres.
9. TOKYO INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, JAPAN
The Tokyo Institute of Technology (also referred to as Tokyo Tech, Tokodai or TIT) is one of the most exclusive and most selective universities in Japan, with notoriously strict admission criteria. It was founded 132 years ago, and, today, this is the largest higher learning institution in Japan. Tokyo Tech has 6 schools, 40 study departments and several research centres. One of the study departments is the Department of Architecture and Building Engineering. As far as the notable alumni are concerned, one of the most influential Japanese architects Kazuo Shinohara graduated from Tokyo Tech in 1953. Also, the 93rd and 94th Prime Ministers of Japan Naoto Kan and Yukio Hatoyama respectively are both Tokyo Tech’s graduates. In 2012, the New York Times has ranked Tokyo Tech in 14th place in the world (second in Asia and first in Japan) among the universities with the most employable students.
10. UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE, UK
The University of Cambridge is one of only a handful of the most prestigious universities in the world, as well as the second oldest university in English-speaking area. The University was founded in 1209 by a group of scholars who had left Oxford after a dispute with the local population. Cambridge is also a part of the so-called golden triangle of British universities. The other two ‘corners’ of this triangle are the University of Oxford and a group of London-based universities (including London School of Economics). Throughout history, Cambridge University has been the hotbed of Nobel Prize laureates – a total of 89 of them have been affiliated with the University. Cambridge is made of 31 colleges, 150 different departments, faculties and schools, as well as 114 libraries, and is the wealthiest university not only in the UK, but also in the entire Europe. Its endowment amounts to unbelievable £4.3 billion. To say that the list of Cambridge alumni is impressive would be a huge understatement – Francis Bacon, Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, and Stephen Hawking, just to name a few, have all studied here. “Architecture is the only course at the University that combines the intellectual challenge of a Cambridge degree with the opportunity for creative design”, the university says. This three-year-undergraduate study is available at all colleges except Homerton, Hughes Hall, St Catherine’s and Corpus Christi. Only 45 students per academic year are accepted.
Individual websites of the listed schools
Video below from Life Martini ranks the World’s Top Architecture Schools
Subscribe to Jebiga for a dose of the best in gear, design, rides, tech and adventure.