Many people have approached me saying they were interested in pursuing Architecture as a career, and I thought I’d write a post about what it means to study Architecture, how Architecture school works and what becoming an Architect does for you as a fresh graduate from High School coming to their own in the big world we live in.
As with any design oriented field, Architecture school is largely focused around “Design Studio”, the large open space filled with drafting desks, building models, and thousands of drawings of projects as students explore different ways to tackle a design problem. Being an Architect is not as simple as designing a building. Anybody who puts enough time and effort can do that, the study of Architecture is a much broader education. One that covers all issues that today’s professionals must consider in any field. Globalization, technological advancement, social change, environmental change, and many more issues that heavily influence the design of our built environment. A well educated Architect knows enough about any field, that they can take that knowledge and apply it in design. An oversimplified example of this is, an Architect designing a museum must understand issues of lighting with reference to art, they must account for space, and how art should be viewed. It is not as simple as designing a “cool looking” building. A cool looking building that does not fulfill its function has failed as a work of Architecture.
In school, Architecture students learn to conceptualize space, and how to explore various design possibilities in an abstract way that becomes the basis for pragmatic design.
While these drawings don’t look like a building, they explore the relationship of spaces in a real building. The design strategy of public vs. private space massing, which are extremely important factors when designing any project, are drawing here to understand the Architect’s intentions better. Public space in the project above is defined by more open spaces without many interior walls, while private spaces are more intimate and therefore fall into a smaller modular plan. This type of diagrammatic analysis is extremely important in the education of an Architect.
Another major tool we use is physical models. Whether final models that show the building in its smaller scale, or diagrammatic models to explain design strategy, models help Architects (even professionally) understand and further design their projects. Students learn quickly how to create beautifully crafted models, made by hand and with laser cutters in order to best represent their design proposals. Below are three images of a model for a project I completed this year, with a final rendering from the digital model created on Rhino, a digital 3d modeling software architects and designers become very familiar with. As you can see, while the rendering looks more “real”, the model allows for more insight as to how the building functions. More about this project can be found here.
Architecture is subjective, and therefore really has no right answer at a design abstraction level. Of course things like structural requirements and code regulations have preset parameters that must be met, yet Architects are constantly analyzing projects with their own opinions, and learning how to hear a critique of your project is extremely important as an Architecture student. Our “final exams” for studio take on a very different format than what most other majors have. Our final presentations of our work is done in a “Review” form, where the student will pinup the drawings and models they’ve done on the wall, and professors and visiting critics will have a discussion about the project, pointing out weak points or issues with the design. Reviews are the best time to learn as the feedback you are given can not only apply to the given project, but to any project you tackle in your career.
Lastly, and what many people wonder and are concerned about. Workload. Architecture is a time commitment, and the amount of work you have to do in a given amount of time surpasses that of any other major. According to some people, Architecture majors get the least sleep, (and I believe it). Now while that may be intimidating for many people, anybody who is dedicated enough to study Architecture will want to push themselves to achieve truly remarkable work, and that takes time, and lots of sleepless nights. We do it because we love to do it, and the outcome always makes you look back upon your effort and say “it was worth it.”
Architecture as a field is for people who are driven. People who want to learn in a more hands-on way. I was never the type to enjoy sitting in lecture halls listening to lectures and taking notes, and while some classes I take are still like that, the core of Architecture as a field is in “making stuff” and that is how I like to learn best. It is not an easy major, but it certainly is a rewarding one. It opens your eyes to many pertinent issues in today’s world, and gives you an opportunity to tackle them in a way that benefits people.
Click here to see my design studio portfolio’s for first year.
I’d love to answer any questions people may have, so please feel free to comment your question below for everybody to see your question and learn from it.