The top 3 architecture graduate schools change from year to year and may vary slightly based on who you are asking. Many of these elite architecture graduate programs specialize in different aspects of architecture, meaning they will appeal to some critics and students more than others. However, if a graduate school falls into the top ten of all programs in the country, that means they could be the best to some people.
According to Architectural Record, one of the top sources for all architecture news and opinion, the top 10 through top 4 architectural graduate programs in the country are The University of Texas at Austin, Cal-Berkeley, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Pennsylvania, University of Cincinnatti, Cornell, MIT and Columbia. The top 3 architectural graduate schools for 2011 are listed below.
There aren't many programs at Yale University that are not elite and the Yale School of Architecture is certainly one of them. YSoA offers a three-year program, which leads to a Masters degree in architecture and a two-year post-professional option that also leads to a Masters in architecture. The design studio at the Yale School of Architecture is paramount to the school's curriculum, as this hands-on training allows students to really see the interrelationships between design, collaboration and innovation in the architectural medium itself. Projects that are designed in the studio will be critiqued by fellow graduate students and faculty to help grade students on their mastery of architectural design. This will be an aspect of just about every course at the Yale School of Architecture, as application of what has been learned in the classroom is one of the most important parts of the education process.
It is not surprising that Harvard's Graduate School of Design offers one of the best architectural graduate schools in the country, as Harvard is one of the elite educational environments in the world. With top tier faculty who rotate in from some of the best architectural design firms, Harvard Graduate School of Design will put students in front of some of the best architectural experts in the business on a daily basis. The school's mission is to make students rethink a building's design based upon what they already know, so that architecture can evolve with each new educated generation of students. Of course, just having a Master's degree from Harvard means you have been taught by some of the best in the world.
The best architectural graduate school in 2011 is Michigan Univeristy's Taubman College, which is as much an art school as it is an architectural school. 420 graduate students attend the school each year and work with a distinguished faculty who all work in a very tight-knit and hands-on environment. There is a deep connection to the Great Lakes region through Taubman College and, especially as of late, has led to the students to work closely with the city of Detroit, to help bring it back from its knees during the past rough decade of unemployment and financial hardship. Few graduate programs allow their student's knowledge of architecture and fresh ideas to be applied to an American city, immediately changing the world around them.