Published April 8, 2015
The School of Architecture and Planning’s Department of Architecture has received a positive review by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). The rigorous external evaluation, last completed for the School of Architecture and Planning in 2012, measures the quality of the program's curriculum, faculty, student services and library against a set of standards for architecture programs across the U.S.
The four-member review team – with a representative each from the American Institute of Architects (AIA), National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) and American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) – completed its review after several days of interviews with academic leadership, faculty, staff and students; facility tours; and an intensive examination of student work from the undergraduate to graduate level.
Noted in particular were three NAAB criteria that the School of Architecture and Planning has met “with distinction”: comprehensive design; applied research skills; and collaboration, both among students, between students and faculty, and across the disciplines at UB.
The evaluation reflects well on an architecture program that has significantly restructured over the past several years to re-focus comprehensive design at the undergraduate level and enhance research opportunities through graduate-level research groups.
Team lead and NCARB representative Kin Dubois, FAIA, a sole practitioner, praised the school’s comprehensive approach to practice-based architectural research. “Applied research skills are pervasive among the students and embodied in the program in a strong way,” he said during the team’s presentation of findings to faculty, staff and students.
Reinforcing this point was Mitra Kanaani, chair of the undergraduate program at the New School of Architecture & Design in San Diego and the team’s ACSA representative:
“You are unique in that you use research as a vehicle to bring coherence to your program,” she said, adding that in some cases programs pursue research to the detriment of the fundamentals of architectural education. “In this way, you connect your research program to what architecture is all about – and that’s practice. I commend you for that.”
The School of Architecture and Planning’s balance of comprehensive design and in depth research builds a strong preparatory foundation for today’s practice environment, according to AIA team member Thomas Ahleman, principal of Studio Talo Architecture in Chicago.
Referencing the profession’s need for architects with T-shaped skills – or competency across a broad area and strong expertise in a single field – Ahelmen said, “That’s what you’re developing here.”
A culture of collaboration also runs deep at the School of Architecture and Planning. The team’s AIAS liaison, Michael Kemner, said student-to-student collaboration was clearly evident in the way students work together to develop and present their work.
“Exceeding that further is student and faculty collaboration. The fact that students have the opportunity to work with professors on research is amazing,” he said, referencing the diverse opportunities provided by the school’s research centers and its active partnership across the disciplines at UB.
Areas in need of improvement include pre-design, particularly with regard to related laws and standards; student advising; and the school's library, which the review team found under-resourced. The team acknowledged the challenge of the school's transitioning facilities, at the same time noting the promising rehabilitation and restoration of the historic Hayes Hall, which the school is set to reoccupy by early 2016.
The team will now present its findings and recommendations to the full NAAB review board, with a complete accreditation report to be presented to the School of Architecture and Planning in July.