Architecture School Rankings for 2020 Put Cornell on Top

A group of people converse while standing surrounded by dozens of shoulder-height, white vertical columns

William Staffeld / AAP

October 8, 2019

For the fifth year in a row, Cornell's undergraduate architecture program held the number one spot in the annual rankings of America's top architecture schools conducted by Design Intelligence (DI), just published in Architectural Record. The graduate program is ranked number five this year.

The results rank the "most admired" qualities in architecture programs, derived from more than 4,000 survey responses from hiring professionals, undergraduate, and graduate students across the country.

The DI article takes a deep dive into survey responses with some surprising results and predictions for the field, as well as education.

Students continue to aim for work that is "purposeful, responsible, research-based, and having a measurable impact," according to the article. But this year, more students indicated that they aspire to private practice rather than employment after graduating. In answer to the question "If there were no barriers, what firm would you want to work for?" the top response was to be self-employed.

Additionally, the number of architecture undergraduate students wishing to go on to graduate school fell by five percent. Reasons given were debt burden and the perceived marginal economic benefit of an advanced degree to gaining employment.

Professional hiring managers from firms throughout the U.S. said today's graduates are "digital natives comfortable with all types, uses, and expressions of information and design technology." But about one-third of respondents said architecture graduates lacked essential skills, "from the fundamental knowledge of how buildings come together to the collaborative communication skills essential to design work."

DI draws some stern conclusions from the disparity in perceptions. Although hiring professionals may complain about inadequate training, architectural engineering and construction are on a "radical path toward reinvention," they say. Students and young professionals are driving significant shifts in the industry, and "the values and attitudes of this student generation will come to dominate and change the profession." In turn, as the lines between architecture and design blur and merge with programs in computer science, business, engineering, and building and social sciences, architecture education will reflect a more diverse approach to learning.

Andrea Simitch, the Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow and chair of the Department of Architecture, says architecture students across all AAP programs are eager to engage with and advance a rapidly transforming architectural landscape.

"Our students remain committed to mastering both the timeless and emerging tools and processes that serve to contribute to an informed form," Simitch says. "A belief in the richness of our discipline as a cultural, social, material, technological, visual, and intellectual practice is one shared by our faculty and students alike."

The Top 10 Most Admired Architecture Undergraduate Programs

  1. Cornell University
  2. Rhode Island School of Design
  3. Rice University
  4. Cooper Union
  5. Syracuse University
  6. Virginia Tech
  7. Pratt Institute
  8. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
  9. University of Texas at Austin
  10. Southern California Institute of Architecture

The Top 10 Most Admired Architecture Graduate Programs

  1. Harvard GSD
  2. Columbia University
  3. MIT
  4. Yale University
  5. Cornell University
  6. Princeton University
  7. Rice University
  8. Rhode Island School of Design
  9. University of Pennsylvania
  10. University of California–Berkeley

By Patti Witten

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