The Best US Architecture Schools for 2014 are…

Gund Hall, Harvard University. Image Courtesy of Harvard University

It’s that time of year again: DesignIntelligence has released their 2014 rankings of the Best US Architecture Schools. Though many students and professionals are curious to know just who is number 1, we encourage you to forget the rankings and consider the  survey’s invaluable insight on the current state of architecture and .

Hundreds of design educators and professionals participated in the 2014 survey to identify the profession’s biggest challenges, as well as just how design education is evolving to reflect those challenges and which schools are really producing students best equipped for the profession today.

Out of all the data, two Universities stood out. 

Read more to find out which two Universities are best preparing students in 2014, after the break…

What Firms Want

When comparing DesignIntelligence’s 2014 survey to last year’s results, it seems that priorities amongst firms have remained fairly consistent. While practices search for design excellence amongst new hires, they’re also aiming to find someone who can provide insight and ideas into sustainability, interdisciplinary design and technology changes. 

According to the survey, 48.5% of firms (the highest percentage) identified design quality as the architecture profession’s premier concern. Following close behind (multiple responses were allowed) were issues of integrated design (47.2%), sustainability/climate change (45.8%), and technological change (45.8%).

Sustainability continues to be a running theme throughout the report, as 58.0% of firms believed to have benefitted from their new hires’ ideas about sustainability and 67.4% of Deans cited sustainability and climate change as one of the profession’s biggest concerns. 

However, interdisciplinary collaboration and integrated practice has begun to move towards the spotlight. While Deans and professionals agree that integrated design is the profession’s second leading concern, the Deans have noted that more emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration has been the primary change in architectural education over the past five years. This change was noted by 74.2% of the survey’s educator participants.  

What Students Need

Now, what do students need to be competitive in this market? According to the survey, a great attitude, stellar portfolio and a well-rounded understanding of sustainability as well as a fair amount of confidence with the latest programs are all highly important. Previous work and study abroad experiences are considered a notable bonus, but not necessary. 

Gund Hall, Harvard University. Image © Flickr user Cesar Harada

Which School’s “Best”?

According to firm’s hiring experience in the past five years, these schools are best preparing students for success in the profession:


  • 1. Calif. Polytechnic State Univ., San Luis Obispo
  • 2. Cornell University
  • 3. Rice University
  • 4. University of Texas at Austin
  • 5. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


  • 1. Harvard University
  • 2. Yale University
  • 3. Columbia University
  • 4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 5. Cornell University
  • 5. Rice University

Now let’s break down which Universities, at least in the eyes of the hiring firm, excel in these 4 fields. According to Design Intelligence’s report, these are the collegiate programs that hiring firms deem strongest in each of these skill areas:


  • 1. Harvard University
  • 2. Yale University
  • 3. Columbia University
  • 4. Southern California Institute of Architecture 
  • 5. University of Southern California


  • 1. Calif. Polytechnic State Univ., San Luis Obispo 
  • 2. University of California, Berkeley
  • 3. Auburn University
  • 3. University of Oregon
  • 5. University of Southern California


  • 1. Harvard University
  • 2. Auburn University
  • 2. Calif. Polytechnic State Univ., San Luis Obispo 
  • 2. Kansas State University
  • 5. University of Southern California


  • 1. Calif. Polytechnic State Univ., San Luis Obispo
  • 2. Auburn University
  • 3. Kansas State University
  • 4. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University 
  • 5. University of Southern California
Hanging Bench built by students in a design-build studio. . Image © CAED

It is evident that two schools stand out from the rankings: Harvard University and California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly)

Once again, Harvard was ranked by professionals as the #1 Graduate University for Architecture this year. It was also deemed the “most admired” by Deans “for its history of quality, its focus on global practice and its world class faculty and studio critics.” On top of this, 83% of Harvard architecture students ranked the program’s quality as “excellent” – the highest possible ranking.

As for Cal Poly, it was ranked by professionals as the #1 Undergraduate Program for Architecture this year. In addition to this, the program dominated the Sustainable Design Practices and Principles survey as well as Construction  Methods and Materials, and came in near the top in Cross-Disciplinary Teamwork – all categories that are key concerns of the profession today. Deans praised Cal Poly for its “integration of design and technology, as well as its committed faculty,” while 77% of its students believe the program’s quality deserves the highest possible ranking.

Want more info on Architecture Schools? Check out our AD Architecture School Guide.

More rankings and surveys at DesignIntelligence.

Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "The Best US Architecture Schools for 2014 are…" 04 Nov 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 16 Sep 2014. <>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Glad to know the updates in Arch’l Education in the USA.
    We are also in this field in the Phils. Thanks!

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +6

    I’d like to see how they weigh up again the European schools because the big names are from Europe besides like Frank Gehry and Lloyd Wright.

    • Thumb up Thumb down -5

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

      • Thumb up Thumb down +3

        I absolutely do not agree with this statement. The school I went to for my undergrad and am currently in for my masters of architecture, that being Lawrence Technological University, allows for significant creativity and experimentation. So before you completely denounce an entire country of architecture, actually do some research.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +6

      Aside from the Frank’s remark, Devin brings up an interesting idea. However, I wonder how this comparison would be objectively accomplished, while taking into account the different accreditation and licencing requirements sanctioning each institution.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +1

      What do you mean? Lloyd Wright? Do you mean Frank Lloyd Wright or his son the architect “Lloyd Wright”? You think those are the only big names in the history of American architecture? You think the lack of big names in American architecture directly determines the quality of American school of architecture?
      You must be the product of a European school of architecture.

  3. Thumb up Thumb down +28

    These schools are some of the best in the world, yet the US is seriously lagging in quality architecture. The commercialism of architecture here is killing the profession. Everyone is looking elsewhere for innovation, Japan, Europe, South America, but the US just provides the schools and then the graduates go back to their home countries with a harvard degree.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +8

      I completely agree with you Lazlo. There is huge detachment between was is being produced at universities and what is being produced in american cities.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +3

      Perhaps if the U.S. didn’t force international graduates of its top universities to go through an expensive and agonizing visa process in order to work here, many more would stay.

      • Thumb up Thumb down +4

        Unfortunately, they aren’t needed. Jobs opportunities in architecture are not easy to come by.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down +7

    After working closely with a couple of fresh from school kids from Cal Poly – I was blown away with how aware they were about the education they got and what they were missing (Architecture History, etc). They knew how a building went together, how to visualize it, and most importantly – what they didn’t know. The questions were to the point and on the money. In short – they were sure bets.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down +60

    As an owner of an architectural firm in San Francisco for 12 years, I interview a lot of interns coming from the schools ranked as well as many others. Like any other profession, Its really more about the individual, not necessarily the school they went to.

    • Thumb up Thumb down -9

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +4

      …I mean, duh, right? But that doesn’t mean one school can’t be better than another. These rankings help young people when they are choosing schools, not architectural firms when they are choosing employees.

    • Thumb up Thumb down -2

      …I mean, duh, right? But that doesn’t mean one school can’t be better than another. These rankings are to help young people choose a college, not to help firms choose employees

  6. Thumb up Thumb down -19

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

  7. Thumb up Thumb down +6

    I don’t kjnow a thing about US schools, so no comments on that. However, I do have something to complain about. How many times have you seen the word sustainability in this article? I’m sorry but to me sustainability and the US can’t be together on the same sentence… it’s all about empty propaganda these days. Green this, green that, but their whole country is arranged in a way where you go by car to work cause the ultimate aspiration of the average American family is to have their own house on the praire in the Broadacre City by F.L.Wright

    • Thumb up Thumb down +5

      Ana…I’m so sick of the sustainability propaganda, partly because I’m burned out on it. I was promoting it in the beginning. Clients paid lip service or had no interest, but the people I worked for dismissive, had zero interest on any level. I suspect the prevailing attitude decision makers is that they are all for it as long as it doesn’t cost anything or conflict with any more important goal. And the leadership in firms is all for it if it’s an added service.

      The right way to understand Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City concept is to realize how brilliantly prescient Wright was about change that would shape the built world, or at least in America.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Cal Poly grad here…you can have a very shallow or very in depth education there, a lot of which has to do with which studio professors you end up with. There truly are quite a few awful professors there that have a very narrow focus and are really out of touch. This can range from professors that will only talk about technical issues like sustainability or parametric design to professors that have fetishes over certain design styles. A lot of students have to be somewhat ruthless about getting into a good studio or getting a crit from someone that will tell you more than to orient your building east-west. Most people do okay though, and it’s much more affordable than the average school on that list!

  9. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    Again, note that USC shows up among the top 5 in ALL FOUR of the listed categories. No other school does that. True, it is difficult to be branded number 1 if you don’t focus on just one thing. But Architecture is integrative. Being in the top 5 in the country in multiple areas might be exactly the educational goal. That gives the student the broadest experience… and they’ll have to settle for 5th in their first choice. Not bad.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      there is no such thing as “best” university for architecture. don’t break your head about it.

  10. Thumb up Thumb down -5

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

  11. Thumb up Thumb down +4

    how are arizona state university and iowa state university for sustainable architecture

  12. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Weird to see Auburn in the top three on 3 of the 4 field-based lists but left out of the overall top 5.

  13. Thumb up Thumb down -2

    I need a list of 10 top architecture institutes in world alongwith fees structure and same details for top 10 institutes on USA

  14. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    I am a student pursuing Bachelors of Architecture in Bangalore, India. I plan to seek graduate education in Sustainable Architecture. Due to lack of similar programs in India, I plan on undertaking my graduate education in USA.
    I was looking at universities and their programs and I seem to be drawn towards Master of Science in Architecture programs instead of Master of Architecture programs. I use the word instead because most of the Master of Architecture programs are NAAB accredited whilst the MS in Architecture programs are regarded as post-professional degrees and are not accredited.
    If I do pursue MS in Architecture, what are the job prospects for an Indian candidate holding a non-accredited degree in USA if I were to work under an architect or for an architecture firm? Would I be allowed to work at all or is it essential I take up an accredited Masters degree even though I have an accredited Bachelors degree from India?

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      I would really want to know how the top undergraduate architecture schools in us compares to top u.k architecture schools like Bath, UCL etc please help.

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