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Thread: Architecture/Planning Combo

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Architecture/Planning Combo

    Hi folks,

    I've been thinking about pursuing MURP for a few years now, but recently decided that I might like to get an M. Arch as well. Partly because I'd like to spend the bulk of my career in the private sector, and architecture seems better for that than Planning. Partly because I read some Jan Gehl, and it helped me realize how intertwined the 2 disciplines are. Partly because I'd like to have lots of creative latitude in my work, and planning seems so political - planning on the scale of cities really appeals to me, but there's only so much compromising I can take.

    Anyway, how common is this particular combination? Is this basically what's meant by Urban Design? Has anyone been down this road and can give me some advice about the pros and pitfalls? Also, if anybody knows which schools are strong for the dual program, that would be great too. Right now my top choices are probably Virginia, Berkeley, Penn, Washington and Maryland, followed by Minnesota, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Colorado-Denver ...

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    Quote Originally posted by Mountain Magic
    Hi folks,

    I've been thinking about pursuing MURP for a few years now, but recently decided that I might like to get an M. Arch as well. Partly because I'd like to spend the bulk of my career in the private sector, and architecture seems better for that than Planning. Partly because I read some Jan Gehl, and it helped me realize how intertwined the 2 disciplines are. Partly because I'd like to have lots of creative latitude in my work, and planning seems so political - planning on the scale of cities really appeals to me, but there's only so much compromising I can take.

    Anyway, how common is this particular combination? Is this basically what's meant by Urban Design? Has anyone been down this road and can give me some advice about the pros and pitfalls? Also, if anybody knows which schools are strong for the dual program, that would be great too. Right now my top choices are probably Virginia, Berkeley, Penn, Washington and Maryland, followed by Minnesota, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Colorado-Denver ...
    I would STRONGLY consider Harvard Design School as well. Some of the best minds in the nation.

    Colorado-Denver's program is not that highly regarded in the design world. You may want to rethink that one...

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    ma + murp

    while i escaped with an mla, i'm a harvard gsd grad and took mostly planning studios, so i spent a good amount of time with the ma/murp crowd. most of my fellow students were really happy (though stressed out of course) to be there, so do check it out (there are open houses a few times a year). it's, well, the gsd....the resources are incredible, the lectures are amazing, and, the pressure's very very much there.
    all programs have their strengths though. don't be afraid to wander the studios and class-crash, it helps.

    from what i've seen, an ma/murp is a common enough and very effective combo. you could also pursue the embodiment of the combination architecture and planning - urban design - which would speak more to your itch to put the political and idealistic bits of planning down onto the ground. so it might be worth a look into the mla-ud and ma-ud programs, which are offered at a handful of schools.

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    Let me put on my broken record and recommend you look at Landscape Architecture. It's my expereince in the private sector that Landscape Architect do most of the site planning.

    People unfamiliar with Landscape Architecture assume it's garden design, but most Landscape Architects are site planners. In school you learn design, site planning, a little constructin technique and construction management. It provides a multidisciplined understanding of the development process.

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    Quote Originally posted by CosmicMojo
    Let me put on my broken record and recommend you look at Landscape Architecture. It's my expereince in the private sector that Landscape Architect do most of the site planning.

    People unfamiliar with Landscape Architecture assume it's garden design, but most Landscape Architects are site planners. In school you learn design, site planning, a little constructin technique and construction management. It provides a multidisciplined understanding of the development process.
    Sorry CosmicMojo, but I actually have that exact impression of Landscape Architecture myself (only garden design and park design). Maybe I need to take another look at the profession from a non-urban planner's eye I believe we are also discussing which schools would be optimal for a city planning/urban design curriculum, and Harvard GSD is definintely one he should consider in the list in which he is applying for.

  6. #6
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    Thanks to everyone who's replied so far. I guess my post was a little misleading, in that I didn't have exactly have a stellar undergraduate career and although I'll probably apply to one or two of the schools in my top five, I doubt I have a realistic shot at most of them, let alone Harvard. So if anyone has suggestions for less competitive programs (particularly in big cities), that would be great. Just to clarify, I earned a B.A. in Government from William & Mary in 2000. I have taken a few classes since then, and the As I got in them have probably pushed my cumulative GPA above 3.0.

    Also, does anyone have any advice on making my applications stronger? I might could put this off for a year or so, if it meant doing something worthwhile that would improve my chances for admission at a good school. I'm hoping to attend Berkeley Summer Sessions this summer and take their introductory Architecture and Planning courses (and hopefully get some As). I'm taking 2D Design (Art 101) now, but I don't yet have any great ideas for a portfolio. I imagine that some relevant work experience would be the best thing, but I really don't know where to start with that, or if it would even matter. Here's a trick I just thought of - say a school that I like accepts me to one program or the other, but not both - I enroll in that department, kick some butt, and move into the other program after a year or so - do they let you do that?

    Thanks,
    Mm.

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    application advice

    okay, it's a whole other discussion, but we landscape architects are most certainly not solely garden design folk - we have our hands in so many cookie jars.... the only definition i've ever been able to come up with is that the profession includes the design of everything you see in a project that's not the building. i have two l.a. degrees and i've worked in the private sector as a landscape architect (doing everything from yes, garden design, to corporate campus design, plazas, high density housing/urban infill, master planning, mass amounts of custom concrete detailing) and in the public sector as an urban designer and planner and park planner. we're all over the map. definately look into the profession - it's a shame the asla webpage is so horrifically ugly and useless, but do some googling and look at the work of some of the bigger multidisicplinary firms, too.

    i used to hold portfolio/application workshops, so, some cliffsnotes that might be of use:

    summer courses are a GREAT first step for application-enhancing! definately do some of that if you can.

    don't sell yourself short. i NEVER thought i'd get into the gsd. ever ever. but i did, and truly, if i can you can...
    one of the best things about the gsd is the diversity of students. they cast a wide net and create quite the design swimming pool as a result. i'm sure there's some wicked numbers to it, and you could easily be accepted or not be accepted in a particular year and application pool because you are or are not a man/woman/white/black/asian/international student/martian. it's obvious there's a keen demographic distribution for each incoming class. that said, i'm sure it's quite similar at uc-berkeley, penn, etc. which is a long way of saying - it's largely a numbers game, all told.

    i cannot stress enough theeeeee most overlooked porfolio asset, which i was told was overwhelmingly the reason i was admitted: writing. showing that you can THINK is the whole point of the application - and being able to convey that with words as well as in drawings is HUGE. so really work on the essays, include writing in the portfolio itself, etc.

    good letters of recommendation are important, of course. it helps to get at least one of your three from a grad of the school to which you're applying.

    as for the portfolio itself, don't be afraid to show that you're a whole person, not just 'applicant #___' - so include art stuff, photography, collections, travel, etc....of course, include it in a well-put-together manner, not an ebay-photoshoot aesthetic. also don't be afraid to merge writing with the above extra stuff.

    again, as you're already onto, summer classes, workshops, reading heaps and gobs, conferences - as much enrichment as your brain can handle, really, is good application prep.

    also, an internship or two. send your resume to local firms and offer up some time, even unpaid/part time if you can swing it. going in as the 'i hope to do this some day/want to check it out' sort is, from my experience in firms, generally more effective than the 'i just graduated and want to put your name on my resume/have something to prove' deal. it can suck, but you can learn a lot just from filing. people rarely say no to willing and able and open-minded help, and, as you can see on these forums, we're friendly sorts who don't mind sharing what we know and where we've been and how we got there.

    as for taking time off - not a bad idea! i wish i had. it's really up to you and where you feel you are with things right now. grad school is a big undertaking - you want to be able to get as much out of it as possible while you're there, so it's important to be truly ready for it, to have a good bit of space carved out in your brain for all you're going to be diving into.

    i *think* you can 'merge' programs when you're in, but i'm not sure. most admissions webpages devote at least a few sentences to doubling up, and if not, call and find out. like i said before, look into the ma-ud and mla-ud programs - there are other hybrids out there too. i got my butt proper-kicked by just one program, i can't imagine doing two, but i know that people do it (generally in 1.5 times that of a single program).

    good luck!

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    Great advice gridgirl, I agree with the encouragement to our friend in potentially applying to harvard gsd, my thoughts exactly!

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    Wow, that's a very helpful post. Thanks gridgirl!

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    Quote Originally posted by gridgirl
    okay, it's a whole other discussion, but we landscape architects are most certainly not solely garden design folk - we have our hands in so many cookie jars.... the only definition i've ever been able to come up with is that the profession includes the design of everything you see in a project that's not the building. i have two l.a. degrees and i've worked in the private sector as a landscape architect (doing everything from yes, garden design, to corporate campus design, plazas, high density housing/urban infill, master planning, mass amounts of custom concrete detailing) and in the public sector as an urban designer and planner and park planner. we're all over the map. definately look into the profession
    thanks, girl. I thought I was the only one here who doesn't think landscape architects are only good for telling you where to plant your rose bushes.

    It's a grossly misnamed vocation. It's like a cross between a civil engineer, a land planner, an architect, an artist, and a garden designer. It's a hard curriculum in school because you have to be very good at art, drawing, creativity; and math, calculating, mechanical visualization--using the right side of the brain and the left side. Most people seem to favor one or the other, and landscape architects have to excel at both, and integrate them. Studio classes take up 6 hours a day. You have to carry all your other classes, put this 6-credit class. At my school, LAs were the only students allowed to exceed the credit limit without dean approval because our curriculum required more than a full load to finish in 5 years. After classes are over, you go back into the design lab to draw all night long. There was rarely time to study for regular classes, but you had to keep your GPA up cuz it's very competitive.

    Landscape architecture means the performance of a professional service involving conceptual land planning and conceptual design for integrated land development based on the analysis of environmental characteristics, operational requirements, land use or commensurate land values.

    Landscape architecture includes the investigation, selection or allocation of land or water resources for appropriate uses; the formulation of graphic or written criteria for a land planning or land construction program; the preparation, review or analysis of a master plan for land use or development; the production of a graphic land area, grading, drainage, irrigation, planting or land construction plan; and the planning of a road, bridge or other structure with respect to the aesthetic requirements of the area on which it will be constructed.

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    the eternal dichotomy

    i don't want to stray too far off mountainmagic's original topic here, but in a way this is a perfect example of the reality - at least as i had it - of design school at the graduate level, and the "real world" too.

    there is a great chasm between architects and landscape architects and planners; primarily the former two.
    architects and landscape architects are always all competitive and snide with one another, architects calling us landscrapers, we implying that architects can't build their way out of, well, a building. the truth is that we actually need to cooperate with one another and when it comes down to it, planners and urban designers trump us in the end, every time. it's called 'context'. (it's also called 'client'.) there are no siteless projects. and with the way architects and landscape architects behave most times, believe me, we need a referee in the sandbox.

    there's way too much ego in it all, but i've found that working to drop that and trying to really truly have an multidisciplinary approach - insanely challenging if not impossible at times - is the most rewarding approach to a project.
    we l.a.'s are a wicked-complicated sort as cosmic said - we're art, biology, horticulture, civil engineering, architecture and planning all in a blender on 'puree' for a few minutes too many. we're generalists (mostly) - good at the art of synthesis of all those things. and we need the other disciplines to help us out because man, i wouldn't want to design an hvac system or detail a curtain wall, that's for sure.

    this is where i really feel for you, mountainmagic, and strongly encourage you to take time out to think this through, do some internships, study these dynamics up close and personal in a real office setting. there is no 'right choice' of course, it's what you're most comfortable with. essentially, the biggest difference is the direction and concentration of architecture and landscape architecture, as both dabble with planning (at least in larger firms) professionally. of course, if you ask most l.a.'s, they'll say, study landscape architecture!, and if you ask architects, they'll lure you toward the dark side, um, i mean, architecture (i'm kidding, i'm kidding!)....

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    Quote Originally posted by gridgirl
    i don't want to stray too far off mountainmagic's original topic here, but in a way this is a perfect example of the reality - at least as i had it - of design school at the graduate level, and the "real world" too.

    there is a great chasm between architects and landscape architects and planners; primarily the former two.
    architects and landscape architects are always all competitive and snide with one another, architects calling us landscrapers, we implying that architects can't build their way out of, well, a building. the truth is that we actually need to cooperate with one another and when it comes down to it, planners and urban designers trump us in the end, every time. it's called 'context'. (it's also called 'client'.) there are no siteless projects. and with the way architects and landscape architects behave most times, believe me, we need a referee in the sandbox.

    there's way too much ego in it all, but i've found that working to drop that and trying to really truly have an multidisciplinary approach - insanely challenging if not impossible at times - is the most rewarding approach to a project.
    we l.a.'s are a wicked-complicated sort as cosmic said - we're art, biology, horticulture, civil engineering, architecture and planning all in a blender on 'puree' for a few minutes too many. we're generalists (mostly) - good at the art of synthesis of all those things. and we need the other disciplines to help us out because man, i wouldn't want to design an hvac system or detail a curtain wall, that's for sure.

    this is where i really feel for you, mountainmagic, and strongly encourage you to take time out to think this through, do some internships, study these dynamics up close and personal in a real office setting. there is no 'right choice' of course, it's what you're most comfortable with. essentially, the biggest difference is the direction and concentration of architecture and landscape architecture, as both dabble with planning (at least in larger firms) professionally. of course, if you ask most l.a.'s, they'll say, study landscape architecture!, and if you ask architects, they'll lure you toward the dark side, um, i mean, architecture (i'm kidding, i'm kidding!)....
    Gridgirl, how about planners and urban designers like myself who do not have a specific design educational background per se, but who have a graduate education in urban planning and have worked on several design projects in the private sector (civil engineering and architecture firm in San Diego). What kind of pedigree (education) are LA and architecture firms looking for with respect to working on urban design projects (primarily in the Bay Area)? Can one with a "mere" AICP-unaccredited M.C.P. degree from San Diego State University and B.A. in Geography from University of Vermont squeak by by having a polished resume, design portfolio, cover letter, and list of professional activities and awards which may qualify one for some of the interesting urban design/planning positions available at firms such as HOK, KenKay, Calthorpe, Roma, Sasaki, Gensler, Dyett and Bhatia, Hargreaves, Solomon E.T.C., or others who typically hire MArch's or MLAs?

    Basically, will I really need to go back to grad school to pursue a 2nd masters, this time in either LA or Arch at UC Berkeley to get my foot in the door and be "allowed" to practice urban design at any of the big name firms?

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    Quote Originally posted by vtboy99
    Gridgirl, how about planners and urban designers like myself who do not have a specific design educational background per se, but who have a graduate education in urban planning and have worked on several design projects in the private sector (civil engineering and architecture firm in San Diego). What kind of pedigree (education) are LA and architecture firms looking for with respect to working on urban design projects (primarily in the Bay Area)? Can one with a "mere" AICP-unaccredited M.C.P. degree from San Diego State University and B.A. in Geography from University of Vermont squeak by by having a polished resume, design portfolio, cover letter, and list of professional activities and awards which may qualify one for some of the interesting urban design/planning positions available at firms such as HOK, KenKay, Calthorpe, Roma, Sasaki, Gensler, Dyett and Bhatia, Hargreaves, Solomon E.T.C., or others who typically hire MArch's or MLAs?

    Basically, will I really need to go back to grad school to pursue a 2nd masters, this time in either LA or Arch at UC Berkeley to get my foot in the door and be "allowed" to practice urban design at any of the big name firms?
    oh goodness no, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater just yet...!
    maybe it's just my humble state-school undergraduate upbringing, maybe because i'm from the south, but take heart: it doesn't hurt to ask.
    spam them. ok not really, but put yourself out there, like you said, with polish. (like for shoes not like sausage).

    in my experience, diversity works, and well. if you haven't sat at a table full of edaw/saskai/hargreaves/pwp/swa-ers, it's chock full of penn/harvard/berkeley-ers. we penn/harvard/berkeley-ers get sick of ourselves, or at least i did. so please, don't sell yourself short (you and mountainmagic, sheesh!). put together a sweet little mailer and send it anywhere you're interested. i think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the response.

    i don't think there's any one answer for the 'what do they look for' question. each firm is as different as each set of upcoming projects they have in mind when hiring for that specific position.
    of course, all firms have their 'styles'. if you're headed to a designy sort, a sasaki/hargreaves/pwp/swa, you can't go in as 'codebot.' if you're going more a+e, like an hdr/hart-howerton/hok/gensler, etc., making it clear you're very much technically able is important. i think you want to blend the two, the former being 70/30 design/planning, the latter being maybe 55/45. design is not EVERYTHING. it's important, but most (?) hiring partners realize it takes a village, so to speak... just show what you do, an appreciation and interest for what you want to do, and that you're good at doing and at learning. and again, wrap it up in a nice clean well-design package and you're good to go.

    ...it really doesn't hurt to ask, and a few weekends of color copies, postage and cover-letter-writing is a hell of a lot cheaper than a second masters!

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    Quote Originally posted by gridgirl
    oh goodness no, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater just yet...!
    maybe it's just my humble state-school undergraduate upbringing, maybe because i'm from the south, but take heart: it doesn't hurt to ask.
    spam them. ok not really, but put yourself out there, like you said, with polish. (like for shoes not like sausage).

    in my experience, diversity works, and well. if you haven't sat at a table full of edaw/saskai/hargreaves/pwp/swa-ers, it's chock full of penn/harvard/berkeley-ers. we penn/harvard/berkeley-ers get sick of ourselves, or at least i did. so please, don't sell yourself short (you and mountainmagic, sheesh!). put together a sweet little mailer and send it anywhere you're interested. i think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the response.

    i don't think there's any one answer for the 'what do they look for' question. each firm is as different as each set of upcoming projects they have in mind when hiring for that specific position.
    of course, all firms have their 'styles'. if you're headed to a designy sort, a sasaki/hargreaves/pwp/swa, you can't go in as 'codebot.' if you're going more a+e, like an hdr/hart-howerton/hok/gensler, etc., making it clear you're very much technically able is important. i think you want to blend the two, the former being 70/30 design/planning, the latter being maybe 55/45. design is not EVERYTHING. it's important, but most (?) hiring partners realize it takes a village, so to speak... just show what you do, an appreciation and interest for what you want to do, and that you're good at doing and at learning. and again, wrap it up in a nice clean well-design package and you're good to go.

    ...it really doesn't hurt to ask, and a few weekends of color copies, postage and cover-letter-writing is a hell of a lot cheaper than a second masters!
    Thanks so much for the advice, it really puts things into perspective for me. It also gives me a bit more confidence in my abilities as well

    Try this on for size... What if one decides to work as an urban designer/planner for the next few years at a 50/50 planning/design A+E firm (taking your advice) but hits a point where he wants to pursue a graduate education in Landscape Architecture at Berkeley. I realize working full-time is not feasible (or recommended) by faculty/staff at UCB, but could one consult as a planner/urban designer part-time, go to school, graduate, and then start their own private practice firm in LA, planning, and urban design?

    I guess I just want to keep as many options open as possible (and not beome a policy planning A+E codebot), especially if at some point I decide to teach planning or design at San Jose State, Davis, or Berkeley. Quite honestly, without a Berkeley degree in design, I believe I will never have an opportunity to teach there either as a visting lecturer or professor. I still feel like at some point down the road without a design graduate degree, I am going to hit a proverbial "glass ceiling" and will be passed up for higher level professional principal and/or associate positions and educational/teaching/lecturing opportunities because of the lack of (Harvard, Berkeley, Penn) design degree, especially in a location as competitive and selective as the Bay Area.

    I agree with you and think having an SDSU Master of City Planning degree will suffice in getting my foot in the door at many of these firms, however over time, the divide between my state university education and the Ivy league/Berkeley grads will become greater and rear its ugly head during my pursuit for upward mobility in the professional and academic realm.
    Last edited by vtboy99; 09 Mar 2006 at 5:43 PM.

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    Is it better to go for a combined MUP/March degree now, if I am interested in an march degree down the road (5-10years)?

    The problem is, I have no background in sketching. I mean, I have these ideas in my head, that's not the problem. I need to learn to draw. But to get into an arch program, i need a portfolio? wth? How am I suppose to learn to draw like an architect, if i need to draw like just to apply to the school that's supposed to teach me???

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    aesculanus:

    DO NOT try to put architectural drawings into a portfolio for an M.Arch. unless you have a previous architectural degree. DON'T! go here to look at good portfolios. ONLY concern yourself with the ones from students in the same boat as you: no arch background. instead, you should be showing off your creative skills in sculpture, photography, sketching (NOT ARCHITECTURAL!), GIS, some writing samples, whatever! you'd be surprised at what people do. architecture schools want to see potential in M.Arch. I candidates, not preexisting architects.

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    vtboy99:
    consulting in the bay area can be hard to pull off - it's a saturated market as far as we designers are concerned, planners too...that said, if you can swing it, i know a few who do quite well. i guess it's all who you know and how and being in the right place at the right time and all that connections stuff. i worked as a contract employee at an l.a. firm for a bit and it was awesome. i could work 16 hours one day, zero the next, 12 the next, 4 after that, nothing for two days....the flexibility was perfect, and prevented burn-out and the standard office-politics (which in design are pretty ugly). so maybe you could find something like that while pursing a grad degree, if you choose to do so.
    from my experience in grad school, you don't even really have time to eat or sleep, so working?...i couldn't have done it. if you can, rock on, brother.

    from what i've observed of my peers, breaking into academia seems to require a CV with the concoction of good practical experience, an upper-level (masters) degree, and publishing. so, you could concentrate on getting published while you think on the second/design degree. having an active brain and utilizing it would seem to be a good prereq for a prof. though i can name a few where that didn't seem the case...maybe tenure can do that. also, assuming you're in a bigger l.a./a+e/planning firm in the bay area, one with some prestige, tagging along on studio reviews (that no doubt the principal and/or other high-er ups are doing) helps for more good resume fodder.
    i'm no expert on breaking into academia - i haven't tried it myself - but my impression thus far is that politics are the bigger fish to fry. who you know at what school, who you have recommending you, and bigger still, what the schools' breakdown of demographic needs are at that point, and/or specialty (land use v. master plan v. ecology v. transit). it seems that if you fit all those bills, the diploma on your wall is quite secondary. i say this because i've had teachers from no place hoity, yet they were amazingly well-published and read and probably the better of the lot, come to think of it.
    of course, it wouldn't HURT to have such a degree, i just don't know...the glass ceiling absolutely does exist. maybe since i already have the degree in question my views are totally skewed...i'm not sure i'm much help, sorry.

    aesculanus:
    exactly what the district said. archinect is a great resource. don't try to do what you're not best at when it comes to applying to such - you're throwing yourself straight into the fire without even stepping foot into the frying pan. if your ultimate degree is an m-arch, go for it, but find a school that offers a core program (which you'd be directed toward anyway if you haven't a background in design), where you spend your first year or two (generally of 3 to 4) learning everything from drawing to modelmaking to arc. history, etc...it's like design boot camp.
    otherwise, don't try to draw like an architect, instead put a lot of what you know and speculate you'd like to focus on in your porfolio, using the skills you have - writing, collecting images, whatever medium you're comfortable with.
    as for what degree to get, when...it's totally up to you and how much schooling you can take. another degree never ' hurts' per se, except for your student loan balance... but if you really want an m-arch and to ultimately work as an architect, you may as well go straight for it.

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