Michigan Architecture School Ranked #1

Submitted by BlueCE on November 2nd, 2010 at 10:40 PM

I am not familiar with the architecture field,  but a friend posted the following links and I thought it was very cool for Michigan:





Since 2004, when DesignIntelligence began ranking undergrad and grad programs separately, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design has held top honors for its M.Arch. program. So it is fascinating to consider how the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning nudged Harvard out of No. 1 this year. In fact, Michigan didn’t even appear on our list of top 20 grad programs last year. It hovered just below the requisite votes needed to tie for 20th place.

Suddenly emerging at the top seems like an unlikely story for Michigan. Yet the unfolding story is even more interesting. In her Dean’s Message posted on the Taubman College Web site, Monica Ponce de Leon explains how the school is reformulating a pedagogical strategy that has remained virtually unchanged in architecture education for more than a century. To forward Taubman’s goal of more realistically paralleling contemporary professional practice, studio work is being integrated into other required courses; various areas of expertise (history, structures, urban planning) are being integrated into the studio; and design studios are being paired with courses in other areas of concentration — a structures course or a structures seminar, for example.



November 2nd, 2010 at 10:48 PM ^

That is great for the program, I knew I should have not let my aunt (stanford architecture) & uncle (tOSU architecture) talk me out of applying to architecture school, just because the economy sucked and no one was hiring architects.


November 2nd, 2010 at 10:51 PM ^

Yeah, enjoy it while you can,  I heard they are making Rich Rodriguez Dean.

He is going to take the school in a new direction,  retro-trailer park.


November 3rd, 2010 at 6:27 AM ^

We'd all rather be #1 in both (academics and athletics),  call me crazy but the academics part is sort of the point of a university existing....

A lot of the faculty take the "leaders and best" bit as seriously as the athletic staff does.


November 2nd, 2010 at 11:20 PM ^

Wow, this is great news. I have no idea what direction I want to go in if I get into U of M *crosses fingers, hopes AMSHG does not affect non-football players*, but I think I'd definitely take a strong look at the architecture program.

Transatlantic Flight

November 2nd, 2010 at 11:58 PM ^

As a current arch student, I can say that this really came out of nowhere. Monica Ponce de Leon is really well-respected in the architectural community worldwide, so her appointment as the dean and her hiring of lots of Ivy League grads as professors is probably the biggest contributor to the wild swing. 

Still, good press is good press.


November 3rd, 2010 at 12:09 AM ^

All is going as planned. Today, the number 1 architecture program; Tomorrow THE WORLD. [evil laughter]

It should be noted that the banner at the top of this fine blog was designed by a Michigan Architecture alumnus. huzzah. 


(warning: the following is stuff you probably don't care about. I'm gonna write here anyway because I'm bored, our defensive secondary sucks, and I want to celebrate the one good bit of news I've had this week.) onward:

Architecture school rankings over the past decade are about as rational and predictable as BCS rankings; not very. UM was #8 in 2009, and didn't crack the top 20 last year. It is quite likely that this #1 spot will not last very long. (it should be noted that this does mark the first time since this ranking system started that Harvard got knocked out of first, which is nice to see). 

In my completely unscientific and personal analysis, we snagged this for two huge reasons. First, there was a complete shakedown of the leadership at the college starting in 2004. The new faces brought a lot of proven design-education talent to the table and a great deal of marketing moxie that was sorely needed in the front office. Second, we were on the right side of some other institutions' failure to adapt. The traditional powerhouse schools in this discipline grew stagnant because they failed to react actively to economic forces outside the arch-theory-bubble. In this recession, "starchitecture" firms (i.e. the Frank Gehrys of the world) has seen a rapid decline in business. Schools such as Yale, Columbia, and Harvard (while still fantastic schools) were teaching this 'lone genius' method of practice that wasn't doing so well. An apt comparison would be an economics school preaching mortgage-backed derivatives trading methods and not adapting to current failures in the market. Michigan started looking at different educational methods and ways of practicing architecture and it has paid off. 


Full disclosure: I have both a B.Sc in architecture ('08) and a M. Architecture ('10). 

Go Blue.  


November 3rd, 2010 at 10:54 AM ^

I think so, but it's difficult to tell how much it helps or if that is different than other schools. UM did put a huge financial commitment into it, and shifted some curricular focus. However i think the real improvement has been the cross-disciplinary work integrated to various courses. It more adequately represents a real-life workflow without simply hindering design. 


November 3rd, 2010 at 12:53 AM ^

 "Architecture students are like virgins with an itch they cannot scratch,
Never build a building 'til you're fifty, what kind of life is that?"


November 3rd, 2010 at 5:53 AM ^

but just with the undergrad degree. Switched over to graphic design a few years later and have never lacked for work, while the architecture field has been repeatedly hammered by recession-related downturns. Still, it's a great thing for the grad program to achieve this ranking; it's something that would have been laughably improbable when I was in school back then.


November 3rd, 2010 at 8:17 AM ^

People I know in architecture (including M grads) tend to badmouth our architecture program as a river of creativity but lacking any pragmatic check valve.


November 3rd, 2010 at 9:55 AM ^

This is probably true of 90% of architecture programs out there.  The main thinking is (or at least used to be) that college is for nurturing the creative juices while the early professional career is for learning the actual real world pragmattics...which is why the first 3 years of actual professional practice in architecture is typically called an "internship."


As alluded to in the story, I think we are starting to see that type of educational framework begin to change...and probably is a good thing.


As a 1989 UM grad with an undergraduate degree in architecture, this story makes me proud and certainly makes me more "marketable" in my field (albeit probably only to a degree).


As a lifelong UM football fan...well...that's really for another post, isn't it!


November 3rd, 2010 at 10:45 AM ^

Yes.  As a disillusioned architecture student, I can speak to the process at one school at least (not M) in that creativity is heavily stressed and picayune, unimportant details like "does your building stand up" aren't addressed until the third year of the program.

Architecture at UVA (and as I gather, the lion's share of schools around the country) is really art class.  "Physics for architects" is literally high-school level.