The Best US Architecture Schools for 2014 are...

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 architectural education.

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. 

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.

About this author
Cite: Karissa Rosenfield. "The Best US Architecture Schools for 2014 are..." 04 Nov 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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