How to Make the Most Out of Architecture School

How to make the most out of architecture schoolArchitecture school was a life changer for me. Despite the gruelling design courses, overwhelming workload and countless all-nighters, I would choose it all over again in a heartbeat. From learning about theory and history on one side, to design, engineering, and politics on the other, architecture has equipped me with a holistic view of the world. Everyone’s experience with architecture is unique. Here are three pieces of advice for those who are in the midst of their studies.

Embrace & Experiment

Studios are designed to be a playground for experimentation. Going in with a rigid mindset will hinder your development. Making mistakes, screwing up, and taking wrong turns are all crucial steps. You are here to explore your identity, your thought process, and personal values. There is so much to be gained from being process oriented. It’s all about what you discover along the way.

Embrace the uncertainties. Take ownership over your design process. Each decision you make should reflect who you are and what you believe in. Don’t be swayed to believe that you must frame a problem a certain way. Remain confident in your own reasoning as you go through iterations. There is simply no defined point to stop so keep going but also remain patient. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Build an Architect-Client Relationship with Your Instructor

In studio-based design courses, there are no definite answers. How you approach the student-instructor relationship makes a difference. If you think of your instructor as a client who you work for, your focus moves away from total obedience. It is the designer’s role to steer the wheel.

Cultivating trust becomes key. Good communication is the cornerstone of building trust. Regular check-ins with your instructor can bring potential concerns to the surface early on. Communicating your design intent in a language your instructor can understand is also important. Invest some time in understanding their approach of thinking so you can speak their language when pitching your idea. Use lots of visuals such as 3-D models, virtual walk-through to get your ideas across. Think of potential questions the “client” might bring up and do some homework to back it up.

As a designer, every design decision you make should be true to you while satisfying the client. It’s all about working with them to arrive at an end product.

Explore A World Beyond Architecture

If you are serious about architecture, you carry it with you everywhere you go. Living in the studio can be limiting at times. Go out there and experience a life beyond your work. We have a tendency to become tunnel vision if we are always immersed in this studio culture. It doesn’t help that design students tend to only spend time with their peers. Your work will benefit from a short break.

Architecture students have the reputation of pulling all-nighters, sometimes disappearing for days at a time. While there is an immense amount of work with long and stressful days, I personally don’t believe all-nighters are necessary. Aspiring architects do not need to damage their well-being to stay in the game. It’s about time management, a healthy sleep schedule, and a life outside of studio.

Architecture is a lifelong journey. Don’t feel defeated if you feel stuck at brief moments. If you choose architecture, give it your all and don’t look back. There will be immense frustrations and emotional breakdowns but it will refine your mind. Embrace the uncertainties, foster a client-based relationship, and explore beyond architecture.

Give these tips a try. I’d love to hear about your architecture school experience.


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