The mandate from the architecture profession to the education community is to steadily move toward convergence. If the profession is to maintain and increase its relevance, everyone on the design continuum must come together. The preparation for the profession is where this path to relevance begins, and the schools of architecture must expand their understanding of relevance in order to maintain their own.

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DesignIntelligence (DI) is dedicated to the business success of architecture, engineering, construction, and design organizations. Over the past year, our company has directly engaged with leaders and decisionmakers of hundreds of architecture firms. In myriad discussions, the subject of design education has come to the forefront, usually coupled with the themes of relevance and convergence between the profession and the schools—or not. Increasingly, our conversations with leaders in the field reveal the growing gap between the practice of architecture and the academy. Within this growing gap, however, is the call from the architecture profession to the education community to move together toward a point of intersection to ensure the future relevance of both. Through its research and strategic advocacy, DesignIntelligence can help bridge that gap.

As new players—from organizations as varied as WeWork and Katerra to venture capitalists or the big tech companies (FAANG)—move into the A/E/C industry, they are focused on disruption in hopes of capitalizing on the industry’s myopia. These disruptors are growing in influence as traditional A/E/C firms maintain a status quo of slow, plodding, incremental improvement. In reality, what the industry and the profession need today is a disciplined transformation with expansive intellectual leaps and a “Why not?” attitude to both invention and innovation.

This disciplined transformation can happen, but only through working together and with reciprocal influence. Interaction, in both directions, is the way to integration. As professional firms and the academy move toward each other, schools will become more sensitive to the realities of professional practice, altering their programs to ensure that students are readied to support the profession. The firms will become more focused on the value and practice of research, intellectual exchange, and career-long learning as central to their relevance. For students and professionals alike, exploring new means to advance humankind’s relationship with and responsibility to the earth is perhaps the most important way time can be spent in the study and application of architecture.

As the profession and academy converge, both will raise the bar for all contributors and participants. The quality of the built environment will improve, accelerated by breakthroughs in science and art, and by design that is centered on human experience.

At DesignIntelligence, we envision the possibility of a new unity, but it will only occur when destructive patterns of entrenched thinking are challenged and old paradigms of entitlement are deemed irrelevant. Only then does a new landscape of intellectual contribution become possible. It is our hope, backed by intentional effort and investment, to bring stakeholders into proper alignment.

Each year for the past 19 years, DesignIntelligence has conducted the same survey across the design industry regarding architecture-school rankings. The number of valid responses from hiring managers of architecture and design-professional firms typically range between 2,600 and 3,200, year over year. But this year was markedly different: we had more than 4,500 valid responses, which may reflect the urgency of improving architectural education.

For 2018, we made a fundamental shift in rankings from one primary question to two. We moved away from asking for “the best” (i.e., “Which programs are best preparing students for a future in the profession?”) to asking for “the most admired” (i.e., “What schools do you most admire for a combination of faculty, programs, culture, and student preparation for the profession?”). Asking for “the best” assumed objectivity, while asking for “the most admired” is a mix of objectivity and the experiential factor. We made this move because we felt that “the most admired” was a broader question.

The second primary question we asked this year is, “From which schools have you hired the greatest number of (undergraduate or graduate) students in the last five years?” (The responses to this second question will be available on the DI Rankings website.)

The movement across the Top 10 Most Admired Architecture Schools had some nice surprises. In the undergraduate-program category, Cooper Union jumped from number 15 last year to number 5 this year. Rice University rose from number 6 last year to number 2 this year.

Among the graduate programs, four schools are new to the Top 10. Princeton jumped from number 22 last year to number 6 this year. Rice University went from number 16 to number 7; Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) moved from number 13 to number 9; and University of Michigan advanced from number 11 last year to occupy the number 10 spot this year.

The reasons for these shifts are, frankly, unknown. It could have been the difference in the question (i.e., “best” to “most admired”). It could have been the larger response rate we received. But, nonetheless, we congratulate those highlighted above.

Last year, DesignIntelligence provided a total list of 58 National Architecture Accrediting Board (NAAB) undergraduate architecture programs and 114 NAAB-accredited graduate programs for the rankings survey. Undergraduate and graduate architecture programs were ranked together across 11 categories of focus for each program. This year, we ranked undergraduate architecture programs and graduate architecture programs across four categories of focus: design theory; construction methods and materials; sustainability; and research. Of particular note are the broad appeal of Cornell, SCI-Arc, and Virginia Tech. Cornell and SCI-Arc ranked in the Top 10 of all four focus areas across both their undergraduate and graduate programs. Virginia Tech. ranked in the Top 10 of all focus areas except one, across both undergraduate and graduate programs. These schools and the others in our top rankings are preparing the best of the best to enter the profession and to help transform it for the good of all.

The Top 10 Architecture Undergraduate Programs

1 Cornell University
2 Rice University
3 Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo (SLO)
4 Syracuse University
5 Cooper Union
6 Rhode Island School of Design
7 Pratt Institute
8 Virginia Tech
9 Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc)
10 University of Texas (U.T.), Austin

Comparison of Previous Architecture Rankings: Undergraduate


  2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
Cornell 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1
Rice 2 6 4 5 3 3 3 5 3
Cal Poly, SLO  3 2 2 2 2 1 5 4 4
Syracuse University  4 3 3 4 5 6 3 7 2
Cooper Union 5 15 12 14 13 - 16 14 13
RISD  6 10 7 6 7 10 7 6 11
Pratt Institute 7 9 8 11 9 11 11 10 9
Virginia Tech  8 4 5 3 4 5 7 3 4
SCI-Arc 9 8 10 12 8 9 2 7 6
U.T., Austin 10 7 6 7 6 4 6 2 7

**Programs with only a dash either did not score in the top 20 or did not have an accredited program at that time. 

The Top 10 Architecture Graduate Programs

1 Harvard University
2 Columbia University
3 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.)
4 Cornell University
5 Yale University
6 Princeton University
7 Rice University
8 University of California (U.C.), Berkeley
9 SCI-Arc
10 University of Michigan

Comparison of Previous Architecture Rankings: Graduate

2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
Harvard University  1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2
Columbia University 2 2 4 4 2 3 2 3 4
M.I.T. 3 5 3 5 4 4 4 6 5
Cornell University 4 3 2 2 5 5 5 6 6
Yale University  5 4 5 3 3 2 3 2 3
Princeton University  6 22 16 12 13 13 15 19 15
Rice University 7 16 9 8 7 5 15 14 16
U.C., Berkeley 8 8 6 6  10 9 7 14 10
SCI-Arc 9 13 17 23  17  - 6 13 13
U. of Michigan 10 11 7 7 6 7 11 8 1


The Top 25 Most Admired Educators in Architecture, Interiors, and Landscape Architecture


Name School Position
Sarah Whiting Dean, School of Architecture Rice University
Michael Speaks Dean, School of Architecture Syracuse University
Tim de Noble Dean, College of Architecture, Planning & Design Kansas State University
Hernan Diaz Alanzo Director/CEO SCI-Arc
Evan Douglas Dean, School of Architecture Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Lisa Tucker Professor and Program Chair, Interior Design Virginia Tech
David Bell Associate Professor, Architecture Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Doug Noble Associate Professor, School of Architecture University of Southern California
Stephanie Rolley Professor and Department Head, Landscape Architecture Kansas State University
Melanie Duffey Assistant Professor, Interior Design Auburn University
Kent Kleinman Professor, College of Architecture Cornell University
Richard Weller Department Chair and Professor, Landscape Architecture University of Pennsylvania
Mohammed Bilbeisi Professor of Architecture Oklahoma State University
Andrew Wilcox Department Chair and Professor, Landscape Architecture Cal Poly Pomona
Stephen Lee Professor, Head of the School of Architecture Carnegia Mellon University
Ellen Fisher VP of Academic Affairs & Dean New York School of Interior Design
Anna Gatlin Lecturer Auburn University
Robert Weddle Professor and Dean Drury University
Liliane Wong Head of Interior Architecture Rhode Island School of Design
Kelly Martin Lecturer, Interior Design Auburn University
Mark Mistur Dean, College of Architecture Kent State University
Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter Dean, School of Architecture Woodbury University
Max Conrad Professor; School of Landscape Architecture Louisiana State University
Ned Crankshaw Professor and Department Chair, Landscape Architecture University of Kentucky
Darlene Davison Director and Associate Professor, Interior Design Maryville University
David Heymann Professor, School of Architecture University of Texas, Austin
Maureen Mitton Program Director/Professor, Design Department University of Wisconsin, Stout
Peter Trowbridge Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture Cornell University