Practitioners’ Top 10 for Architecture

We can’t discuss all 40 architecture programs that were ranked at the top of the DesignIntelligence Best Architecture Schools lists in these pages, but let’s take a look the top 10 undergraduate and graduate schools.

Cornell University again dominated the undergraduate rankings. In the past nine years, Cornell has placed first seven times. It was followed this year by the University of Texas at Austin; Virginia Tech; California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; Rice University; Rhode Island School of Design; Southern California Institute of Architecture and Syracuse University (tied for seventh); Iowa State University; and Pratt Institute.

In graduate architecture education, Harvard University edged out Yale University and the University of Michigan (the only other two schools that have been ranked first in the history of the DesignIntelligence survey). Yale placed second, followed by Columbia University, Washington University in St. Louis, and Kansas State University. Tied for sixth were Cornell and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania tied for eighth, followed by the University of Cincinnati.

The findings were particularly interesting with regard to the ranking held by the University of Michigan last year, which took first place among the graduate programs. Its relocation to eighth place is respectable, but raises the question about how it made it to No. 1 in the 2011 ranking. We can only conjecture that its communications strategy, aimed at reaching numerous firms (not just alumni) to tout its programs and accomplishments, elicited more respondents who had hired Michigan graduates or who were impressed by its strategic vision. Michigan didn’t game the system: Indeed, we encourage schools to talk to the whole profession about the quality of their programs.

A complete list of the top 20 undergraduate and top 20 graduate architecture programs is available through, along with regional rankings, student satisfaction data, and rankings of landscape architecture, interior design, and industrial design programs.

America's Top Architecture Schools

Methodology: “America’s Best Architecture & Design Schools 2012,” by DesignIntelligence and Greenway Group on behalf of the Design Futures Council, ranks accredited undergraduate and graduate architecture programs from the perspective of professional practitioners. The survey, conducted in mid-2011, polls professional practice leaders who have direct experience hiring and evaluating the performance of recent architecture graduates. Firms were queried about which programs are best at preparing students for professional practice. The top 10 of the 20 B.Arch. and M.Arch. programs ranked by DesignIntelligence are published here.

In addition, students and the deans and chairs of NAAB-accredited academic programs participate in their own surveys. Some of the data collected from these studies is included.More details about the methodology can be found at