I have done 6 years of studying architecture (two degrees), and looking back, if I were to do it again, I would have done a couple of things differently. Don’t get me wrong, I did fairly well in both degrees as I finished both with a first-class and distinction respectively. And to a reasonable extent, graduating with a first-class requires some consistent strategy that has to work several times.
However, you will think this started off pretty well, but it was quite the opposite. I decided I wasn’t going to study architecture anymore after just two weeks in architecture school. I had spent every night since resumption in the studio redoing projects and questioning the very quality of my existence. At some point, I even sunk into depression.
So what I’m about to share are tips that ensure you don’t go down the path I did – or at least go too far in it if you’ve already started.
I wish I saved ALL my works
‘ALL’ literally means ‘all’! Do not underestimate your work. The problem I had was that I really wasn’t documenting my projects until senior year while studying architecture. This made it difficult for me to properly assess my progress, especially in the Design studio. I relied heavily on my studio critics in assessing my progress in design but this wasn’t particularly helpful as I also became a victim to occasional biases from them – hence the occasional depression.
To avoid this:
- Ensure to document all your work in an organized manner – starting from your very first project. Don’t work on a model all night only to trash it first thing in the morning. Document all your projects, no matter how crappy you think it might be. It can help you document your progress, or at least give you something to laugh about in the near future.
- Photograph and/or scan every single model and drawing; this includes the ones you think are beyond redemption and needs to be trashed. This might surprise you but you can find inspiration by looking at those same drawings and models later.
- Finally, don’t just save the files on your external hard drive, but also save it on a cloud.
Asides from documentation purpose, and having your drawings saved for reference these drawings also provide a large resource base for building your first student portfolio.
I wish I didn’t focus on Design Studio at the Expense of other courses
Almost all architecture students fall into this trap sooner or later while studying architecture. Design Studio naturally demands more time than any other course – only History of Architecture comes close.
This demand forces most architecture students to neglect other courses till when it is close to the period of exams before creating sufficient time to study them. However, trust me, seeing a “distinction” in your certificate looks a lot cooler and gives more access and bragging rights especially in non-architecture roles.
This further leads to average grades in another course and ultimately an average overall CGPA. The good news is, architecture is one of the courses where a high CGPA doesn’t exactly make much difference except your career path is in the Academics. This is because the industry is largely inclined towards performance rather than just intellect.
I was lucky through advice from a senior colleague in my second year to give priority to other courses as I would to studio. Knowledge from other courses like History of Architecture, Building Materials, and Construction can help to positively influence our design projects.
I wish I Developed A Strategy for Design Studio from the start of the Semester
This is one area I never actually figure out till I left architecture school. I never clarified just how far I was willing to go in a project.
Did I want to just produce preliminary drawings? have just sketches? produce 3D drawings? maybe a few rendering views? but just how much quality should the rendering be? Are you having a physical model? How complex would it be?
These questions have to be developed into a strategy at the start of every semester. And also reviewed and adapted to every design project.
It will go a long way in ensuring you are managing your time well as you have a fair idea of the scope of work you are to produce. Architecture students tend to spend a lot more time than necessary on the exterior of the building or what we refer to as the façade. They make efforts to try to make it look sexy enough for their critics and themselves with the hope of scoring high grades in the end.
But an inability to strike a balance between all the deliverables in a studio project will definitely affect the quality of your final work. A really good renderings without properly done floor plans or concept development drawings will not do you well, this is the same as concentrating on the floor plans and flow with little regard for the façade like I did.
These issues however can be avoided with:
- A clear strategy that is developed with a timeline, flexible enough to accommodate real life.
- Be realistic with regard to the number of hours needed to complete a section of the project (never overestimate yourself).
Developing a strategy also helps to reduce stress resulting from approaching deadlines that are usually associated with architecture study.
I wish I learned a lot more about architectural practice
If you think architecture school will teach you how architecture works in practice, you will be disappointed. One of the things I wished I learned in architecture school was a discipline to learn about architecture practice. This is in addition to gaining Internship experience in various firms.
I really wished I made conscious efforts to learn about the ‘boring’ stuff in architecture. for instance; contracts, running an architectural practice, getting jobs, marketing, and how it affects the architectural practice etc. Things that were not taught in school. These are very important things that you will need to know before starting your architecture career.
Things to consider:
- Get a book that explains these topics and make efforts to read it frequently so you’ll be much further ahead. The Architect Handbook is used in the United States and as such, most of the information is contextualized. You would want to consider sourcing for a similar book that has been written for your country.
- Try to get an internship during your architectural study and make sure that it involves practicing architecture especially on Site.
More so, depending on the country you intend to practice, the regulations might be different.
I wish I knew just how expensive it was to study architecture
Architecture is expensive. Modeling materials, software, a good computer with great graphics, textbooks are all super expensive. And even if you have sponsorship or a scholarship, you will need to cultivate a saving culture. No matter how little – as it might make the difference in your study. It’s important you have your own tools and resource for projects so you can be flexible with how you work. These things will cost money.
Your laptop might crash 2 days before your jury and you might need funds to fix it ASAP.
You might even think of upgrading your old laptop or perhaps buy a new one. For better results in design and rendering. and this costs a lot of money.
Of course, this advice isn’t for everyone as there are people that have no problem with funding. But if you are like me, you will need to brace yourself for an expensive adventure.
Things to consider :
- Engage in small freelance gigs. You can join sites like Upwork and Fiverr. You can also check this article where we go through some other websites to consider.
- Start a small stationery business or a Printing service business in school or online for instance.
- Work as an intern or find a part-time job to have some extra cash for spending.
Moreover, knowing that architecture will be expensive should guide you to decide to spend money and cultivate a savings culture in anticipation of emergencies.
I wish I participated in competitions
All through school, I only participated in one competition – a church headquarters. My team didn’t win but it was an interesting experience. After a few years into practice, I wish I participated in more competitions.
By not joining in on all the competitions available during my study year, I missed out on a lot of opportunities. Some competitions allow winners (or even runner ups also) to travel to other countries and partake in internship opportunities in top architecture firms.
Participating in competitions is also good as an addition to your portfolio. In addition, in competitions where you were part of a team, employers can see you as a valuable asset – especially if your team was the winning team.
In conclusion, do better than I did. Study architecture, not just for grades but for real-life practice – let all your learnings and decisions reflect that. These small decisions add up and will point you in the right direction as you set out to become the best architect you can be.