After a long blog hiatus, I'm back.
I stumbled upon Rory Block's ARCHDAILY exposition on architectural education "Are Ivy League Schools Really Giving the Best Architectural Education" over my Sunday coffee and a few thoughts come to mind. First, disclosures: (1) I have taught professional practice at Yale for a long time; (2) I am Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council, the think tank associated with Design Intelligence. With those admissions...
While I admire Rory's general observations that the Ivies lean toward things design and theoretical, and other schools like Auburn to things technical, this should not be such a big surprise, since the article doesn't differentiate between graduate programs and first professional degrees thatt have always leaned that way. And like many evaluations of the state of the profession, the data available aren't particularly good or, in my view, insightful. Even though I'm associated with the DFC I have been a long-time critic of the school rankings, which in my view use a strange methodology (why can the rankings change from year to year so dramatically? Anyone remember University of Michican's meteoric rise and fall?) and stunt critical thinking about why you might choose a school in the first place. So I tend to largely ignore the results and I recommend you do the same with that survey and the US News and World Reports rankings, which sell magazines but provide very little real insight.
And at least in the case of Yale, the conclusions don't really hew to my understanding of what we do there. I survey my third-year practice students every year, and invariably more than 90% plan to get a license to practice. In a recent longitutinal study of the last 26 years of our graduates, more than 75% planned to practice in small firms and this matches the broader demographics of the entire profession. (And as for those tiny numbers in Rory's piece, everyone leaving architecture school has to work for someone if they want a license; striking out on your own comes later.) While there may be disinterest in LEED compared to the overall population, that's probably more of a critique of LEED itself than disinterest in sustainability more broadly, which is taught in several popular courses at Yale and available to the interested in a joint degree with our Forestry and Environmental Sciences School. Our first year students spend the second term of first year and most of the following summer designing and building a house project, the first such building project in a US arch school and a part of our curriculum that's been around for almost 50 years. And our digital fabrication laboratories, where folks actually build stuff that they design, are extensive and run 'round the clock.
In my particular area of interest, professional practice, I've been teaching a course (with my colleague from GSD, Brian Kenet) that explores the business models of architecture and how they could be improved. The course is over-subscribed each year, not because folks aren't interested in how to practice, but because they have a strong (and, in my view, accurate) sense that it needs to be completely retooled, a design problem itself. So it's important not to conflate our sense that reform is needed with broader disengagement with ideas of practice per se.
To be clear--I'm not defending Yale's program against the charges leveled because I think we need to take a stand here in New Haven, but rather to suggest that it's important not to draw broad conclusions about the state of our profession or its students from the sort of low resolution data that's easily available to us. I find today's students broadly engaged in everything that affects their future as architects--and at the prices we charge them to be there, I'm not surprised that they are demanding and interested customers.