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Thread: Best design schools?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Best design schools?

    I was told Harvard, MIT, Cornell and UPenn are the best schools for design. I need to go to school in a nice, cultured city (that eliminates Cornell and UPenn ) - any other recommendations? I've been trying to find out info about McGill's Urban Design programs, but havent been able to get a sense of their reputation - does anyone know anything about this program? Any help would be appreciated! There is an earlier post similar to this one, but I def can't go to school in middle america (which everyone seems to be recommending) so recommendations for school outside the US are most welcome!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Why can't you go to school in Middle America? Plenty of college towns in that area have the cultural attractions you presumably seek.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Ask yourself this, do you plan on working in the same city after you graduate, or do you just want the experience of living in bustling urban area when you are in school?

    I have no regrets about attending a "middle-america" college. It did not necessarily mean that I would have to stay there after school to practice as an urban designer/land use planner. Graduates from Ball State and Iowa State, which are located in Muncie, IN and Ames, IA respectively, have alumni from their planning/LA programs scattered all over the country, in big cities and small ones.
    If anything, going to school in a rural area has given me a much greater appreciation for rural planning and the preservation of open space/natural space, which I try to incorporate into my designs.

    I still don't understand why so many students on several posts have expressed the dire need to move across the country/world to a big city in order to get a good quality planning education (that's what summer planning internships are for). Maybe I'm just spoiled: my father is a published urban historian and my whole family are bibliophiles, so I got the city exposure at a very young age, either through trips or through books. Cities are living and breathing organisms, and perhaps living in one will help newcomers understand how they operate more. At times cities can also be distrations: going to a ball game or a museum instead of working on a course project.

    On the whole, I don't think a degree from a planning school in an urban area is going to make that much difference than a planning school from "middle-america" (we midwesterners call it the midwest ). I think a combination of good planning professors, modern/up-to-date planning methods, access to networking opportunities, internship experience, and good classes (just to name a few) all contribute to a quality education program. If you think going to an urban school will do that for you, by all mean go for it, just consider all the other options as well.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    along with domo-kun, i think there are many great design schools in midwest that you should consider i.e. iowa state (i will be graduating there in 3 weeks!), kansas state, ohio state, ball state and many other options out there. many of them are located in towns that are cultural-rich and unique.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    I dont want to go to school in middle america or in a rural area - i have interests that those areas cannot meet. Ex. can I see avant garde electronic artists that are touring from europe in iowa - prob not, but i can in a city like montreal or boston. etc etc. I dont expect to put my life and myriad interests on hold for the sake of a masters degree. Anyways, i didnt want to make this a debate on planning schools in the midwest - im sure theyre very good but i dont want to live out there and i dont want to go to school there. really i only want to go to school in the northeast, in canada or in northern/western europe - all places that i would like to live/have already lived.

    Does anyone have any info on the quality of McGill's design programs?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Greenescapist's avatar
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    I heard University of Washington in Seattle is good for design. It's an artsy city and you'd be able to see plenty of live music.

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    If you think that Philadelphia is devoid of culture, you probably need to find a new field. And Ithaca, for a small town, gets plenty of music/artists in town.

    Boston doesn't get that much that Philly doesn't have, they just brag about it more.

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    Quote Originally posted by smapty View post
    I was told Harvard, MIT, Cornell and UPenn are the best schools for design. I need to go to school in a nice, cultured city (that eliminates Cornell and UPenn ) - any other recommendations? I've been trying to find out info about McGill's Urban Design programs, but havent been able to get a sense of their reputation - does anyone know anything about this program? Any help would be appreciated! There is an earlier post similar to this one, but I def can't go to school in middle america (which everyone seems to be recommending) so recommendations for school outside the US are most welcome!
    Philly is actually a pretty diverse city, but if you want to live somewhere highly cosmopolitan go to Pratt. It's a top design school and you can't beat NYC. I've heard good things about it from a prof that's now at Columbia, but used to teach there.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Leezy View post
    If you think that Philadelphia is devoid of culture, you probably need to find a new field. And Ithaca, for a small town, gets plenty of music/artists in town.

    Boston doesn't get that much that Philly doesn't have, they just brag about it more.
    I said "cultured" - ie enlightened; refined. I did not say Philly didnt have culture, it does. Anyways, thanks for the info so far - but it doesnt seem like anyone has any knowledge re: the reputation of McGill's urban design programs, maybe I should start a less contentious thread for that question

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by smapty View post
    maybe I should start a less contentious thread for that question
    IMO, I think you unintentionally boxed yourself into a corner calling all the other schools unsophisticated because they aren't in a big city, so every alumni from Po--dunkville U, including me, got on the defensive. Maybe just asking about McGill would have been enough, I dunno...

    When I am in school, I am in it to learn, get my degree, and get back to working. I can always catch up on culture later.
    Last edited by nrschmid; 17 Apr 2007 at 10:22 PM. Reason: forgot stuff

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    IMO, I think you unintentionally boxed yourself into a corner calling all the other schools unsophisticated because they aren't in a big city, so every alumni from Po--dunkville U, including me, got on the defensive. Maybe just asking about McGill would have been enough, I dunno...

    When I am in school, I am in it to learn, get my degree, and get back to working. I can always catch up on culture later.
    good point, new to forums so youll have to forgive my caustic nature

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    On the whole, I don't think a degree from a planning school in an urban area is going to make that much difference than a planning school from "middle-america" (we midwesterners call it the midwest ). I think a combination of good planning professors, modern/up-to-date planning methods, access to networking opportunities, internship experience, and good classes (just to name a few) all contribute to a quality education program. If you think going to an urban school will do that for you, by all mean go for it, just consider all the other options as well.
    Good points, nrschmid. Do you have any advice on how to judge these criteria? I have no idea how you're supposed to find out in advance whether a school is really a good fit. I'm focusing on schools in cities that interest me just to narrow the field a bit ...

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    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmmm....

    Quote Originally posted by smapty View post
    my caustic nature
    Is the very trait that could make you famous and fit right in at an Ivy league school
    Have you tried North Dakota State University?

    http://www.ndsu.edu/ndsu/cea/
    Last edited by The One; 08 May 2007 at 8:33 PM. Reason: A complete disregard for your feelings
    “The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”
    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    - See more at: http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-ph....r7W02j3S.dpuf

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Plus
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    I am surprised by The One - That he did not plug our dear old school.
    So I will not either, but I will be the third poster (nrschmid & bozerwong) to plug - Ball State.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Mountain Magic View post
    Good points, nrschmid. Do you have any advice on how to judge these criteria? I have no idea how you're supposed to find out in advance whether a school is really a good fit. I'm focusing on schools in cities that interest me just to narrow the field a bit ...
    Well...I think there are a number of ways to do it.

    First and foremost, it comes with experience working in the profession. Unlike alot of people who have experience in other career paths prior to planning graduate school, I earned my bachelors in planning a few years ago and am currently working as planner. My strengths and weaknesses as a planner are brought under the microscope with every project that I work on, and I learn to minimize those weaknesses efficiently. I also have a growing network of planners, landscape architects, and architects so I am able to hear the good, bad, and the ugly about different graduate programs. So, when I start "shopping" around for good graduate design programs, I will check out the studios, speak with the students and TA's, the people who run the art supply store, the large format plotting guys (kinkos?) and not just the professors and admissions directors.

    Another way to do it (if you dont have the background in planning) is just visiting the schools, absorbing as much as you can about the program. Don't focus on the city, because you might find out that the city you are stuyding is awesome but the design program is a waste of money. People on cybubia and planetizen will be able to give you their experience with a particular program (of course not everyone logs on this forum on a daily basis).

    Whether you have the background or not, alot about choosing the right design program (or any planning program) is just trial and error. There are no guarantees in life, and the same applies to choosing the right grad progam. Personally, I would be very very cautious about enrolling in a particular program (which is why I am still not planning on going back to school for several years). IMO, bright eager would-be planning students are very excited about studying to be a planner (as they should be ) but I think alot of them rush in without giving it enough thought.

    Hope this helps.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian
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    Re: criteria for a good fit - I am planner right now and know that I want to get into more design work and less policy and paperwork. This means that Im looking for grad schools that are design intensive and I specifically want a program where the architecture and planning schools are part of the same dept. In addition to this all of the common sense stuff (size of faculty, specializations, research opportunities, etc) Beyond that, it really means putting myself in a region of the US or world that I want to live and that would give me the best job prospects.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    Heard some good things about calpoly

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    Quote Originally posted by smapty View post
    There is an earlier post similar to this one, but I def can't go to school in middle america (which everyone seems to be recommending) so recommendations for school outside the US are most welcome!
    ever seen chicago?

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    thanks nrschmid, i wouldn't want to do a shameless plug for my school, but you said it for me. Yes, Calpoly is a good school for design work and does have some culture. I mean if you want culture LA is only 3 hours away, barring traffic of course.

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    i consistently hear negative things about mcgill. if it's design you're looking for, you'd probably be happier at harvard, mit or penn. you said you're open to europe; if so, check out ucl, which houses a very reputable architecture program and a design-oriented planning program under one department. and you can't get more "cultured" than london.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by SuburbanNation View post
    ever seen chicago?
    Chicago doesnt have any design schools, unless you consider UIC or IIT's architecture programs, which are third tier. I looked into these programs when applying to college, and I really didn't care too much for them. However, I was accepted at UIUC's architecture program downstate which was ranked within the top 15 schools nationwide at the time (there are far more architecture schools than planning or landscape architecture programs).

    There is only one planning school in Chicago and that is at UIC. This program has a new undergraduate degree in planning (in addition to their MUP program). But don't let them fool you: just because they are located directly southwest of the loop does not mean they have anything to do with design. They are public policy-based. A lot of planners also earn geography degrees from NIU in Dekalb, but again, this is not a planning school.

    Hope this helps-

  22. #22
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    Chicago doesnt have any design schools, unless you consider UIC or IIT's architecture programs, which are third tier.

    What identifies them as third tier?

  23. #23
    Cyburbian
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    First tier, second tier, etc are entirely subjective classifications for architecture schools (I implied this in my last post: I didn't care too much for UIC or IIT based on my interviews with the faculty, studio facilities, libraries, computer labs, talking with students, projects, brochures, etc.) so I gave them a third-tier ranking). IMO, the first tier architecture programs are the Ivies (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc.) and some non-ivies (MIT, University of Michigan, Pratt) etc. Second tier would be the big state schools (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Wisconsin-Madison, etc., Iowa, Washington University in St. Louis, etc.). Third-tier would be everyone else, including other state schools and a handful of private colleges. It is has been a decade since I visited architecture programs and checked out the rankings, so my knowldege might be rusty. At the time, Princeton Review, US News and World Report, and Newsweek ranked architecture programs. I don't know who does it now. Also check out AIA or even the National Architectural Accrediation Board (NAAB) for a full listing of accredited schools.

    Keep in mind, architects are the REAL designers (not urban designers, not landscape architects). I think it makes a HUGE difference which architecture school you go to, and can make the difference between one day working on huge scale designs around the world versus cranking out strip malls and townhomes for the rest of your life. As I mentioned earlier in this thread, there are many more architecture schools and the quality of education, opportunities for internships and jobs, and course projects vary widely. I tend to box architecture schools into different tiers based on what I have seen, who went where, and what alumni have to say about the program. Again, it is trial and error. If you are interested in architecture school, I would recommend at least a second tier school to offer the most flexibility.

    Even though I am lumping theses schools into separate castes, I am not really bashing any of them. I am sure each school has their own unique characteristics. However, the opportunities to do really big design work around the world is solely within the demain of architects and engineers, not planners or landscape architects. You can make a HUGE amount in either architecture or engineering if you are really really good. Like medicine or law, not every architecture school carries the same weights, and the profession can be hyper-competitive when compared to planning or even landscape architecture.

    Hope this helps-

  24. #24
    Cyburbian RubberStamp Man's avatar
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    Well that earlier post you were referring to was probably from me or my contributions about McGill.

    The UD program there is "new" - IMO its a marketing thing to link the MUP and Arch programs there that have been going on for a while.

    Your last post about being a practicing planner andll wanting more design experience I think nails down what you want. Look for a school with an Arch program b/c IMO in North America Urban Design tends to be most strongly focused with universities that have an Arch program.

    In Canada you want to check out UofT UrbDes within their Faculty of Arch (not withint Planning/Geog). McGill is a good option too, but the best thing to do is phone the school and the phone some local arch/urb des firms to get a sense of how they are. Dalhousie may be another option, but I suspect its not as metro as you are looking for. You can also try UCalgary - lots of good things going on there with the VERY robust economy - Council has more appetite to ask for better designs and maybe even try looking at UBC.

    I think your best bet will be either UToronto or McGill - good schools with established Arch programs and metro cities. Toronto (the City) doesn't have the best Urb Des projects from the past but there are some decent projects that are starting to emerge. Montreal has a more european flavour but can be a dirty city (hard to explain if you haven't been). The Planning schools at UBC tends to be more theory so try your in with Arch program first.

    In the US boston and philly are GREAT fields to examine examples of urban design - very fine cities to study and party (I mean experience how they function). I imagine NY would be great but housing prices can be insane.

    So in Canada my choices would be Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary. In the US my choices would be Boston and Philly followed by NY for what YOU want being en education and very metro lifestyle, if I have interpreted your posts correctly. If you can afford it - the Harvard name is tough to pass up. If money is a bit more precious then look around for the best deal.

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