Architecture college is always very frustrating in the beginning. At times one has to struggle to obtain passing marks. Initially, it becomes very overwhelming, to try and manage the intense studio hours, long after studio work hours, to familiarize with new skill sets, learn to explain and present oneself, learn to become more observant and critical and in particular learning about the new design ‘language’ and discovering one’s own design principles is usually a big struggle.
It’s almost a year since I am working, out there in the real world, and I have already started realizing what mistakes I made, what opportunities I missed and what processes of learning I didn’t indulge myself in during college years. Through my own experience and in no particular order here is what I think one should certainly do during the college years, for the future good, as college is not only about following the curriculum and having fun but also about setting up a foundation for one’s future.
Reading is very important, in general. But by reading I don’t only mean reading architectural books. Obviously that’s also important but your knowledge base will always become better and stronger once you are exposed to much more than only architecture. Hence, one should start reading about more varied topics like – photography, art, history, travel, different cities – their cultures and their trends, economics, business, management, design (Not only buildings. It can be furniture, electronics, automobiles etc.), etc. In short, whatever interests you! I know, at times it’s really difficult to read those thick heavy books but today we have so many other options to read from online (Your source could be magazines, blogs, cool websites or maybe even Pintrest boards!) that even if you are not a book lover you shouldn’t use it as an excuse to not read. Remember, where there is a will there is a way.
2. Have a broad set off mentors and advisors.
When studying Architecture usually students isolate all of their influences and mentors to people who directly work in the industry. While it is important to have these people guide you, it is also equally important to have many influences and mentors from outside the industry. This allows one to learn from people with vastly different perspectives and considerations and to then apply this thinking back into architecture, creating a broader and more interesting forum for discussion and negotiation.
Limiting your influences can quite simply lead to producing designs that look generic because one can only imagine the reproduction of what they know or have seen. Having broad motivations and influences will allow you to constantly inform your peers and tutors and to keep them engaged in your projects and processes by showing them a perspective which is unique and outside their own.
3. Take your electives with more interest to learn about that topic, rather than because of the fact that you have to do it.
I know, I know architecture college life is already full of submissions. Who wants to take upon more submissions on oneself? Hence, when you have a chance to choose one elective from a bunch of them your criteria’s are usually – Which professor is the most lenient? Or which subject would require least work at home?
To be frank even I never took them too seriously. But now, I really wish that I had taken the electives more seriously and tried to expand my knowledge in those subjects which would have maybe helped me with my job today.
4. Break the rules.
It is really important at times to go beyond the design brief and even question everything in the given brief. For example – ‘The structure shouldn’t be higher than 7 floors’ or ‘Allocate spaces for these 10 different sports’. However, if you have a better solution, break and/or negotiate the rules – but always understand why. Always remember, unless you ask questions you will never find their answers. Like, ‘Why can’t I go higher than 7 floors if I have the necessary open space requirements around the structure?’ Or ‘Do I really need to give separate spaces for all these sports?? Can’t I design a space which can work for most of them?’ There is never a straightforward answer rather it is all about hypothesizing many and asking the right questions. By doing this you think about how architecture works as opposed to only how it looks.
5. Be a creative problem solver.
Not an amazing sketcher like your classmates? Or a very untidy modelmaker? Or not that good with computers?
To be a good architect you necessarily don’t need to have all of these qualities within you, but you DO need to be a creative problem solver. Skills can always be developed but a good design always emerges from finding creative solutions to the problems (which now-a-days everyone calls OUT OF THE BOX THINKING) and also by rationally analyzing the entire critic you receive on your idea.
6. Keep upgrading your skills.
Your tools of communication will significantly affect your ability to communicate your design concepts and ideas. You need to develop strong visual, verbal and written communication skills. Also never be afraid of upgrading these skills or learning new software’s or techniques as and when things come in the market. Something as simple as mastering Google search, new software’s or getting models laser cut can increase your efficiency and the quality of the final output significantly!
7. Learn to take criticism positively and re-evaluate your thoughts.
Design is a very subjective field. Not always will you find your juror’s agreeing with your ideas. At times in the jury they might take your case which can be quite demotivating. But rather than losing your confidence or giving a deaf ear to their comments and criticism (Remember, it’s not necessary that you are always right!) it is very important to slowly go through each of their comments, analyze and re-evaluate your design. You never know, that criticism and the whole rethinking process it forced upon you might now take your design to another level.
8. Last minute changes do more harm than good.
It’s always hard to stop designing, especially in college. One always feels that there is still a scope to better the design but one must never forget that at some point the goal is to present the concepts, the drawings, and models to support your ideas. If you think that it is going to take you 3 days to build your model the way you want it, 2 days to complete and render your drawings and a couple of more days to compose your sheets, leave yourself the appropriate amount of time. If you have all these great ideas and no method to effectively communicate them it’s all a sheer waste.
9. Process is as important as the final product.
Once you have a strong thinking process and an evolutionary design it is difficult to stop, while without a base thought, it is difficult to start. Our beloved faculty hopes to see progress every single week and if you start developing your design from day one without stopping, it is unlikely you will feel the need to pull an all-nighter before submission time. The most successful projects are unlikely to be developed in just the night before the submission and design tutors are well aware of the students who haven’t slept based on the thoroughness of their project. Having this kind of design practice will also knock out the need for major last-minute design changes that often do more harm than good. Last-minute changes are usually less resolved and less likely to be communicated successfully.
10.Do smart productive work and not donkey work.
I have realized that I have done a lot of donkey work through the 5 years of college. It wasn’t always my choice, at times I restrained myself from taking the newer more efficient way and at times, the system forced me into it. But I never opposed or never went to my teachers with better ways of doing it and trying to convince them to accept the new way to do things. Maybe, if I would have tried, they would have also given it a thought.
I hope everyone studying architecture, or planning to study architecture finds this article helpful. For anyone who has finished architecture college or currently learning things along the way I did love to hear your own experiences and advice in the comment section below.