UVA vs. Virginia Tech for Architecture (sustainable design) [undergrad]

<p>i'm a 24 year old fool with ambitions of returning to college. i have an associates in accounting from community school ... but accounting is boring and makes me want to kill myself.</p>

<p>i have always had a serious affection for environmental issues, particularly design related issues. When i graduated highschool in '98 there were still virtually no schools in the USA that spoke of things like "sustainable design" or "environmental design" or "green building". </p>

<p>round about 2000 William McDonough became, albeit briefly, the dean of the UVA school of architecture and started what is now apparently a defunct "Institute of Sustainable Design".</p>

<p>Cutting to the chase, i'm trying to decide between undergrad architecture at UVA vs at Tech. I'm aware that UVA is 4 years with a required 2 year masters to achieve a license. While tech is a 5 year full professional program. </p>

<p>I spoke with the president of the college of architecture at UVA late last year for about 30 minutes over the phone. I grilled him on issues of sustainability and how they have been integrated into the curriculum since McDonough resigned. He praised the university and said that while the ISD was defunct that it was his opinion that under McDonough many of the ideas were merely rhetoric and that currently the school was actively intergrating these topics into their classes. He explained that while there weren't any classes specific to "sustainable design" (atleast at an undergraduate level) that it was being very much talked about in the classes. Particularly the environmental systems classes and what not. He was very enthusiastic about the school in this regards and thought that i would find a lot to talk about with the professors. I know that there are several on staff there with serious backgrounds in such issues.</p>

<p>[I also wrote to McDonough himself, several years ago, and i know he has his new site (along with his 2 private companies) secondnature.org that has good write ups of environmental programs at schools around the country, but this does not answer my direct UVA vs. Tech question. -- plus due to financial concerns, and locality, i'm not interested in out of virginia schools ... no penn state, or tulane for me ... it must be in VA]</p>

<p>Virginia Tech on the other hand i know little about. What i have seen from their website, it appears they have more FACILITIES for their architecture program. They don't have much to say about sustainbility, except they apparently have a pretty serious graduate and PH.D course work in this field.</p>

<p>IF ANYONE HAS ANY INFORMATION or knows anyone currently attending either of these universities in the architecture schools who is also SERIOUSLY INTERESTED IN SUSTAINABLE DESIGN, can you please help me find out which one is the better fit at the moment?</p>

<p>application deadlines are rounding the corner in the next few months, and i'm still not sure which one would be more appropriate. I know UVA is highly regarded as an architecture school, but Tech isn't too shabby either. Plus Tech seems more on the cutting edge with technology, and they require a pretty heavy duty laptop for admittance to the arch dept.</p>

<p>I'm in-state and currently hold a 3.4 with over 70 credits in this and that, so i'm not too concerned about admission to either as a transfer student.</p>

<p>I am concerned about ending up at the wrong school though.
Praise be to anyone who can help me with this quandry.
Thanks in advance,

<p>ps -- oh if anyone has anything to add about going to school for architecture in general, i'd be interested to hear your take on it. As, at 24, it's a bit daunting to think about being in school until i'm 30-32 for a professional degree (though it also sounds like a good escape from my office job -- at which i wrote this post. haha) I want to hear all sides. I know there are alot of people in the Arch profession right now that seriously discourage kids from thinking about it as a career path due to the "celebrity" nature of it. They say that it's about selling your self and being a whore or whatnot. I don't want to get my hopes up about doing something noble with design to help start a Green Revolution, only to find out that it's a crock and that i can't actually get paid. Or that i suck and can't hack it. All that to say share away!</p>

Hopefully I can offer you some advice in your college search as I have the interesting position of transferring from Virginia Tech to Virginia, having a girlfriend in architecture at UVa, and incidentally working for Bill McDonough at WM+P for the past two summers. </p>

<p>First, you said that you weren't worried about getting into either of these schools as a transfer; while the acceptance rate for transfer admission to Arts & Sciences at UVa is around 40% the architecture rate hovers around 7-8%! Last year 83 students applied to architecture at UVa and 7 were accepted. I know 2 of those 7 were from Virginia Tech and both had GPA's of 3.8+. I don’t know exact statistics for Tech but I know they are at a similar level. That's not said to discourage you but simply to alert you to the fact that it may not be as easy as you may think. I don’t know if you realize it or not but you don’t have to have an undergraduate degree in architecture to get a master’s in architecture, which might be another option to consider.</p>

<p>That being said both are excellent and have good rankings especially considering their status as public universities. Overall, it would seem that Virginia has a slightly better reputation than Tech. Tech generally isn't known for its graduate school while UVa's is highly competitive. In terms of undergraduate level, from all the people that I have spoken with UVa's program is much more theoretical and abstract than is Tech's. My girlfriend is a second year in the A-school and has yet to have done anything which one would normally associate with architecture. She is very frustrated with this aspect and the constant heavy work load (though the work load is probably just as heavy at Tech). At Tech I know the program is much more hands on and probably less abstract.</p>

<p>I can’t really speak to the “sustainable” aspects of either school other than to say that McDonough’s position at UVa would appear to demonstrate some commitment to that aspect of architecture on their part. Additionally, at WM+P, to my knowledge none of the architects went to Tech while several are UVa graduates. Also WM+P hires many of their interns from UVa.</p>

<p>Finally, I have come to realize that it takes a different type of person to be an architect. Most have considerable student loans and don’t make any where near as much money as they should considering the education required. They all work terribly long hours. That said, I don’t know any architects who don’t really enjoy their work. Perhaps its one of those things that doesn’t seem like work when you really like it. </p>

<p>Hopefully this was helpful, and feel free to post any other questions that you might have about UVa or Tech. Best of luck!</p>

<p>Hey Wahoo2007 ...</p>

<p>Thanks for your reply - especially considering it is your first post.
i just found this board as well, and i think it will prove to be helpful. I might try to gain some insight from one of the alt.architecture news groups as well.</p>

<p>Your post helped me atleast to clarify the distinction between both school's methods. It sounds like Tech may be more up my alley. I really like UVA and would love to attend, however i would much prefer to get hands on experience from the get go. Infact, tangental to my attraction to design, one of the great bonuses i saw out of an architecture degree was that it was much more project centered -- as opposed to paper centered. If UVa truly is much more bent towards writing and theory research, i'd prefer just to skip out on it all.</p>

<p>I would like to here more about what it is like at WM+P. Is there focus consistently on "green" projects, or are they taking what they can get? I'm just curious as to how players in the field screen potential projects(especially at McD's level) . If even he is having trouble maintaining a focus in the green arena, it would alert me to a potential lack employment opportunities.</p>

<p>I will say that one thing i feel i have going for me is that my aim is not specificaly to get my name out there or to become rich through my discipline. In fact i would almost prefer to spend a while doing something like drafting and planing for the Peace Corps or whatever it is an architect does with them. Then maybe try to find work under some wing of the WTO helping to work towards sustainable global development. **** i don't know. The real thrust here is that i'm using architecture as a means towards altruism.</p>

<p>Your figures on the acceptance rate on incoming transfers (that was for transfers right, the 7 out of 80) is a bit unsettling. I suppose i will try and get my transfer app in soon, and i will maybe see if i can find some courswork to boost my GPA this spring. Also i reckon it couldn't hurt to include a sort of mini-essay making note of my long held interest in the field.</p>

<p>One other question i have is this: Did you have any familiarity \ involvement \ relevant skill in the field before you got accepted? I'm not sure if i'm way off course not having had any drafting (or art experience at all) to include on my application. Is it foolish of me to just assume i can barge into an Arch. program with NO prior involvement in the field?</p>

<p>I have read plenty of design related books ... from Christopher Alexander's current Nature of Order to "Cradle To Cradle" with McDonough ... Design Outlaws w\Lovins, et all ... Permaculture Designers Manual (Mollison) ... etc ... etc ... i'm certainly no real buff, but i DO have a real interest.</p>

<p>Given all this where does that put me? Back of the line? Front of the back of the line? Hrrrm. What DOES it take? Surely GPA isn't everything. Shouldn't the schools be considering a geniune interest or atleast a relevant skill set (which i, unfortunately, do NOT have. boo)</p>

<p>About the whole Masters option ... well i atleast need some sort of undergrad degree and i would prefer to concertrate in something i have a fondness for (although my competency remains to be discovered) ... i was thinking of saving the grad work for something like urban planning or maybe landscape arch ... since my first real flirtation with green concepts was PERMACULTURE. </p>

<p>I somehow would like to intergrate all of this to involve myself with fullscale planing of green developments ... from siting to construction to the development of the land towards permacultures aims of self sufficiency and right livelyhood with a deep respect for the earth.</p>

<p>Don't forget to give me the inside scoop on the McDonough though. Also maybe a blurb about how you got involved with him to begin with. How tough the screening process for internship there is, what you are learning with him (and NOT learning) ... and if it really is as revolutionary as his writings claim. ( i hope)</p>


Well, I'm glad that I could be of service to you. I guess I should clarify one thing and that is I'm not an architecture student, my girlfriend is at UVa, I merely transferred from economics at Tech to economics at UVa. My work at WM+P the past two summers was more helping on the marketing/administrative aspects than the actual architecture. Although the firm is not very big at all so I had considerable interaction with most of the architects. In response to your question about interning at WM+P the process is extremely competitive! One of my jobs there was to enter the information from resumes we received into a database for them to be evaluated. They might receive 200 resumes for a summer internship and if none of them meet their criteria then they don't hire any of them as was the case last summer. The most successful applicants have excellent work samples and usually it is simply a matter of impressing whoever is reviewing the application with your work samples.</p>

<p>You had asked about the project selection at WM+P. As you are probably aware in the mid to late 90's they did several high profile jobs for the likes of Nike, Gap, Hermann Miller, and Palm. At the time that these projects were going on the economy was in an upswing and most of these companies were willing to spend more money to create a "greener" building. Now however, WM+P is not being given the free-range in design that they had been previously because of cost considerations. However, the firm's size at around 15 architects allows them to continue their selectivity. The main problem that I have noticed is that when a corporation decides that they want to build a green building they now have a great number of choices of firms to work with than in years past so that has been creating some competition in projects that they are bidding on.</p>

<p>In “Cradle to Cradle” there are some amazing ideas and everything that Bill talks about in there is practical and is happening. What one has to remember is that this kind of stuff costs considerably more than traditional practices and because of that they are not able to incorporate it into every project as they would like. But as I mentioned above they still try to maintain their selectivity and don’t generally want projects that won’t allow them to work in a sustainable/green setting.</p>

<p>Here is a link to the page where I got those statistics about transfer to the A-school at UVa. <a href="http://www.web.virginia.edu/iaas/data_catalog/institutional/data_digest/adm_transfer.htm%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.web.virginia.edu/iaas/data_catalog/institutional/data_digest/adm_transfer.htm&lt;/a> and here is the little blurb on transfer from the UVa website if you haven’t already seen it. <a href="http://www.virginia.edu/undergradadmission/transfersarc.html%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.virginia.edu/undergradadmission/transfersarc.html&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>The only reason I know about this is that my girlfriend also transferred from Tech to UVa. She was not in architecture at Tech, so her position was probably similar to yours. Once she got to Tech she decided almost immediately that she wanted to do architecture so she took all of the classes that were required of architecture majors that weren't restricted to architecture majors. This probably demonstrated to the adcoms her interest in the field. You seem to have a very keen interest in the field and I think that that should help your chances as long as you can demonstrate that in your applications. I know that at both Tech and UVa budget cuts have caused them to restrict the number of semesters that students are allowed to spend at school and for you this undoubtedly means that you will have to take classes during the summer as well. Probably someone from either admission office can give you more information than I.</p>

<p>Again good luck and feel free to post any other questions or things that I forgot to answer!</p>