Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Chicago Architecture + Design College Day

The Chicago Architecture + Design College Day 2014 will be held this Saturday, October 18 from 11:00 - 2:00pm at Harold Washington College.  As can be seen on the poster and the website, over 50 institutions offering degree programs in architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, and construction management will be on hand to meet with students.

For more details and to register, visit

Theatre or Architecture

I am a senior in high school and have just started applying for colleges and looking at the huge span of opportunities laid in front of me. I am currently debating between majoring in theatre or architecture. A few months ago, I was dead-set on pursuing theatre, teaching theatre, or basically anything to do with theatre (I'm not one of those teenagers with their heart set on Hollywood and "making it big" though. 

Many people misunderstand my motive for majoring in theatre for that stereotypical reason). Many serious talks from my parents and family members have convinced me to engage in other things I may be good at, since I have created a Bubble of Theatre around me and my entire middle school and high school education. 

After much thought, I discovered this summer that I might want to pursue architecture. However, I know hardly anything about it! To be considered for the School of Architecture at University of Texas at Austin, I am required to submit an essay that would be used to get an in-depth explanation of my experience in any type of design/art/architecture. I have gained experience in theatre all throughout highschool--I hardly know anything about design, but I have always been an artsy person at heart. I have a small glimmer of interest for architecture right now. 

Do you think it might be too soon for me to apply to the School of Architecture considering my minimal experience in the field? Or should I simply start out with college courses that would introduce me to architecture? What could I do to expand my knowledge or architecture? It'd be great if you could help me out. I have done much research on architecture but I always end up really confused about it all. I'm really curious as to what an aspiring architect might go through when they barely get to college, not knowing what the heck architecture is all about. Are there even people that do that? I don't know. 


Amazingly, when you truly think about it theatre and architecture are very parallel.  In its simplest form, architecture is all about making spaces for people.  While theatre is about telling a story through space -- certainly scenic design is connected.  You know more about architecture than you give yourself credit.  What is design? - creativity, problem-solving, art, science.

To address your questions -- 1) it is NOT too early for you to apply to the School of Architecture.  Most architecture programs assume you know very little about architecture.  If you have not already done so, contact the school and talk with an admissions representative and ask questions about the essay.

In some ways, you may wish to explore other architecture programs via these two websites --

To learn more about architecture, contact a local architect and ask to shadow; walk around and truly "see" architecture; draw or sketch architecture.

Also, obtain a copy of Becoming an Architect, 3rd Ed. -

Do not be afraid to ask more questions.  Keep in touch and Best!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Graduate Studies - Right after UG or not.

I'm having trouble deciding whether to do the M.arch program (for non architectural background) straight after undergrad or taking a gap year (or two).  Is it beneficial to work before and gain some real world experience? I don't want to get burnt out but also am thinking that it may be good to go ahead and start my career. Any advice? 
This is always the million dollar question - go straight through or take a year or two between.  
First, I would apply to programs and plan to pursue the degree directly after your program because you can always decide later to not go if admitted.  Next spring, you cannot apply to programs after the deadline if you do not have a position.
Normally, I would suggest you work between degrees to broaden your exposure to the profession, discipline, but can you find employment?  What is your UG degree?
Remember, that most graduate programs for those with a degree in another discipline may be 3-4 years -- taking a year or two in between may be a nice diversion if you can afford it.

Funding for Graduate Studies

Funding for grad school is really important for me and I can't find any good source to find the list of architecture grad programs that offer good amount of funding/assistantship. Can anybody help me with this or direct me to a source??
For simply a list of architecture programs, access the following:
Your best source of potential funding sources will be that actual architecture program; most will offer fellowships, scholarships and teaching assistantships, but they are competitive.  Determine the programs to which you plan to apply and contact each directly to learn their application process and criteria.
Beyond the program, contact the office of student financial aid on each campus.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Decline in Licensure Rates

So, this week, the AIA released the third quarter ABI (Architecture Billings Index); for me, that was not so much interesting, but later the article had a pie chart (see below) highlighting the reasons for the ongoing decline in rates of licensure according to firm leaders.

In viewing the chart more closely, it is clear that the primary reason for the decline is "few benefits/incentives - 32%.  Thus, why would one become an architect if there is no benefit or incentive.  If one wishes to be in the profession, simply obtain the degree and work for a firm under the supervision of an architect.  In this scenario, they would not be able to call themselves an architect or open their own firm (a valid reason to pursue licensure).  

But from stories I have heard, firms do not provide any additional financial compensation when a staff becomes licensed.  Typically, there is no more responsibility just because the individual is an architect.

To stem this decline, the profession needs to provide incentive; in turn, we need to provide benefit or incentive to clients to hire architects.  

Most of the other reasons are, in my opinion, "complaining.  The "process is too costly, not prepared for the ARE, etc." are just excuses from the candidate/intern.

I do find it interesting that a full 13% are not fully committed to a career in architecture; while this sounds like a valid reason, why are they not fully committed.

Bottom line, what can the profession do to improve the benefit of becoming an architect?  Is money the solution?  I hope not, but a raise when becoming licensed certainly would help.  I do think more firms help subsidize the ARE and IDP.

What else can be done?  I am not sure, but do not law firms celebrate when their staff pass the bar.  The AIA does provide free convention registration to those who have become licensed in the past year.

As an educator, I try to do my part and strongly encourage my students/graduates to pursue licensure, but what should I tell them is waiting for them?

Just my thoughts!

Design Activity in the Third Quarter Opens with a Bang

Firms see many reasons for declining licensure rates among younger staff

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Best Undergraduate Major to pursue Master of Architecture

I am a high school student who wants to be an architect. My father works at a Nazarene university, so his children (me) gets free tuition to any Nazarene university. Unfortunately no Nazarene university has an architecture degree. I've heard of people getting degrees in non architecture related things and then going on and getting a masters of architecture. So my question is, what degree would most benefit me to become an architect if I can't get an architecture degree where I am going? And what schools have a great masters program?

Thanks for your time!


First, you are correct in that there are many U.S. institutions that offer a Master of Architecture degree for those that pursue an undergraduate degree in another discipline, no matter the discipline.  

To research programs, visit - and

Now, with respect to what degree or major you should pursue, I would first share that pursue one for which you have a passion -- do what you love.  What is most critical is that you have great academics (GPA) when you apply to these graduate programs and you are more likely to have great academics if you pursue one for which you have a passion.

Next, it would be best to pursue a degree that is related to architecture if possible (art, landscape architecture, civil engineering, etc.) as you would possibly be able to waive courses at the graduate level.  Also, you want to pursue a major that would help you build a portfolio -- take courses that create materials for a portfolio.

Lastly, select an institution that is a good fit for you - one that you will enjoy as you may change your mind and not choose architecture in the long term.


Monday, August 11, 2014

After B.Arch, What is Next?

I am an Indian student in a premier institute of architecture, Chandigarh College of Architecture. I am in my final year of a 5 year course and I want an advice on how to proceed with my career.

I know my options- M. Arch. , MBA, MBA and M. Arch. dual degree, M. Des. , and last but not the least- a job.

But I don't know if you know this, the salary given to fresh graduates in India is very very little. Hardly 1/3rd of what is required to survive.

I have been a bright student in maths and I am a creative person in general. Because of the pressure of all other overachievers, my parents want me to do an MBA right away and earn good money. But even for that, you need an experience of min 2 years to get a good college. (When I say my parents want me to do .... , I mean I cant go out of the way and do something else and hope that they get around with it. They'll probably break all ties with me if I do something offbeat or something with late returns (or no returns))

I am interested in masters education in the following subjects;

-sustainable buildings
-urban planning

However, given the situation, a good return is guaranteed on marketing, construction management and a regular MBA in any college I get a place in.

I am open to a job in Europe or USA because I believe that the exposure might be good and they even are financially supporting. But I don't know if I'll be a good candidate because of the recession. F.y.i. I did my internship in Austria and I loved my time there. I learned a lot and enjoyed being among creatively stimulating environs and people.

I aim to do my masters in the US but my family can't afford the education bill. Loan is going to be the only option.

I am giving GRE next month as it will be helpful for admissions in both  M. Arch. and MBA and is valid for 5 years. Apart from this, I aim to give LEED Green Associate exam sometime before I graduate so that I could maybe get any edge while applying for a job (will I get an edge while applying for a job?). 

I hope to receive a good advice from you as I am very confused as to what to do in the future.


I am not sure what you expect to hear from me; my expertise is becoming an architect in the U.S.

Given you are about to complete your 5-year Bachelor of Architecture, you do have choices - career position or pursuit of additional education in architecture and/or related disciplines.

As I counsel my own students, you can go through the application process to graduate programs in the U.S. or elsewhere. Some programs do have fellowships and other means of financial aid; be sure to apply.  For what degree to apply is entirely up to you.  If you wish to become licensed in the U.S., you may consider the professional NAAB accredited Master of Architecture along with joint degrees - i.e., MBA, Construction Management.

The true question is what make most sense given where you will be in your career in 10-20 years.  Predict your future!

Sources for information is and  Both will provide a list of programs in the U.S. for architecture. 

I do think obtaining your LEED GA will be a plus, but do recognize that it will be nearly impossible for you to gain employment in the U.S. without first being a student at a U.S. program.


Art History to Architecture

My daughter just graduated from UC Berkeley with a major in art history.  She has always been attracted by the field of architecture and is now contemplating a career in architecture. She took an introductory class this summer and loved it. Spent a lot of time in the studio!   

With your experience, what are her chances to be accepted in an M Arch program, given her background in art history?   

Any advice?

Thank you very much!  

Ultimately, her chances of admission to a Master of Architecture will depend on your credentials - i.e., GPA, GRE scores (if required), portfolio, letters of recommendation, and personal statement.  In many respects, her admission will NOT be dependent on her actual undergraduate major.
Most, if not all of the architecture graduate programs fully expect candidates to apply for a myriad of academic backgrounds -- English, engineering, fine arts, etc.  The programs assume an interest and desire to pursue architecture - the question is if they have the potential.
Given UC-Berkeley has an architecture program, contact them for initial advice on applying.  Have her talk/shadow an architect to learn more about the profession.

As well, consider obtaining the book - Becoming an Architect, 3rd Edition.

Becoming an Architect: A Guide to Careers in Design - 3rd Edition

Best and feel free to have her contact me with additional questions.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Joint Degree: Worth It?

I'm not sure if you remember me, but around seven years ago I sat in your office as a student in College Park and you told me to apply to Michigan. Two years later you gave a lecture to my class at the Taubman College of Architecture in Ann Arbor about becoming an architect. During the lecture you called me out in the audience, which confused the hell out of my classmates. I graduated with a BS in 2010 and have been working in New York and the Middle East since then. 

Lately I've been contemplating a return to school in order to pursue an MArch. My boss is critical of the idea, mostly because of how much work we're getting at the moment, but I think in the long run, it's the right move. I've been doing a little bit of research into the MArch/MBA dual degree and I came across this link:

Pretty weird coincidence. Figured I'd drop you a line and ask your opinion of these dual programs. My main hesitation is the intensity and workload. I can't imagine pursuing an architecture degree while simultaneously attending a school like Wharton or Ross. I also feel like I'd inevitably miss out on some useful architecture electives (fabrication, processing, etc). At the same time, I've worked for enough offices to recognize that architects are generally poor businessmen, which is what led to my interest in this option in the first place. For students who do complete the dual degree, what kind of jobs are they getting out of school? 

Sorry for the monster email, but it's not often that I randomly cross paths with the same person, even if it is over the internet. Just by suggesting that I check out UMich, you've already had a pretty big impact on my career, so I appreciate any other advice I can get.    

On the surface, I wholeheartedly support the pursuit of joint degrees at the graduate level.  It makes you as the candidate more marketable in the job market.  In most cases, it allows you to complete two degrees in less time and less investment.

To best determine what graduates are doing, I suggest you contact the programs that offer the joint MBA/MArch degree. From my experience at Illinois, some depart architecture for various reasons.

As to whether you should pursue the degrees now or not will depend on your situation.  If your firm has work, perhaps now is NOT the time but you can research, take the GMAT, etc.

In the long road having two degrees creates options and opportunities; what those will be is determined by you.


Psychology to Architecture

I have recently been considering going back to school for architecture but do not have any background in the field, so I was looking for some information on what the path would entail. I have a B.A. in psychology from a top US university and have been working in biomedical research for the past two years. Where would I start in terms of schooling to become an architect?

Thank you for your help.

Given you have a degree albeit in another discipline, you may pursue the Master of Architecture (3-4 years).  If you wish to research potential programs, visit - and/or  Both will provide you with a list of institutions that offer the Master of Architecture.

As well, a group of schools in Illinois host the Chicago Architecture + Design College Day - Saturday, October 18, 2014 - --

A good place to start is obtaining a copy of Becoming an Architect, 3rd ed. published by Wiley.

Becoming an Architect: A Guide to Careers in Design - 3rd Edition

As you research programs for F15, note that some may require you to take Calculus and/or Physics.  As well, you will need to submit a portfolio with your application.  Start drawing or consider taking a drawing course.

If possible, shadow an architect; contact the local chapter of AIA American Institute of Architects.

Keep in touch in your path.