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5 Mistakes to avoid if you want to survive architecture school

You will still definitely *probably* survive if you end up making these mistakes too... and write a blog post about it at some point... *side eyes*... But thinking back, I would have definitely appreciated this advice back when I was a student of architecture.


For people who have been through architecture school and have been students of architecture the architecture studio is a fairly memorable and predictable platform. I constantly hear most of the same stories that I myself or my colleagues have been through. I have been fairly detached from being involved in my university (by choice) after graduation and qualification, but from what I have gathered from students who I tutor from time to time, most of the atmosphere remains unchanged except for a few notable differences. Today's post is not about the *good old days* - I am focusing more on personal lessons that I have learned through successfully completing a Masters in Architecture.


So firstly...and most importantly... DON'T STUDY ARCHITECTURE! IT'S THE WORST!


Just kidding! it's great ! I wouldn't do anything else even if it would pay me more.


So let's get to the real 5 mistakes to avoid...


top down view of pen and ink architectural sketch with apple ipad pro
Your Everyday Architect - The Studio

1 . Do as many things as possible that DON'T relate to architecture.


Studying architecture can very quickly be all encompassing. It will end up completely taking over your identity as a person if you let it *trust me I know*. Something that I always wished I had realized before I was in my Bachelors (4th) year of architecture is that the more you laser focus on your work while not taking down time to relax *have a life* - the less efficient you become at it.


I'm gonna go ahead and say what I wished someone had told me back then - it's totally fine to do other things, in fact, doing things that are completely irrelevant to the work at hand actually helps in resolving bottlenecks and problems that will definitively arise *especially in design related tasks*.


You will realize that you are a much better architect for it. If you give yourself that chance to have more experiences in life, those experiences will inform your work and help you put more of yourself into your work.


So go shoot some hoops, follow your passion and start that leather work hobby you have been putting off, go camping, do anything really - just set aside some time to be anything other than 'a student of architecture'.


Basketball extra activities are important when you are studying architecture
Go shoot some hoops

2 . Caring (too much) about what your professor or tutors says.


Scene 1

* A very prominent and well known architect decides to honor us with his presence at our design studio one day*


I walk into class and the entire studio is surrounding him and listening intently absorbing every word of his *cough* brilliance.


"For a thesis project if you don't select a project and a site that is in an urban setting it is not complex enough to be a thesis worthy of passing"

I discretely draw a chair and sit on the outer rim of this circle of knowledge that has formed around this individual *For some reason apparently this is the program for design studio that day*. I was hoping that the "great one" wouldn't notice me and this would be over soon.


*No such luck*


"Roven what is your project"

At this point I was in my final year of architecture and mid way through my thesis project. I had dealt with countless experiences and sometimes witnessed 6 years of academic evaluation of your 'worth as a person' through the work you produce by people like the one asking this question from me.


*You would think that I would be an expert at handling this kind of thing diplomatically by then*

*Yeah...No*


"It's a project in a rural setting. I guess you wouldn't really get it"

*Ever heard pin drop silence become deafening?* *side grin*


This is the same project that was commented on by another very senior and popular architect as being "not even complex enough to be a bachelors level thesis"


Disregarding all of this 'expert' advice I pushed through *probably extra hard* and saw the project to it's end. I was confident in my ability to deliver this project that no one believed in.


Maybe as a testament to the point that you should not take all the words that your professors / tutors say as 'gods truth', or maybe as a testament to the power of believing in yourself and putting in the work - I went on to win the Silver Commendation at the RIBA President's Medal student awards for this project (The most prestigious and oldest on going awards for student work in architecture).


Your professor's / design tutor's task is to inspire you and open your mind to different possibilities. They should elevate your ability to connect seemingly unrelated things. They are not however supposed to pass judgment and evaluate you as a person through your work *which is most often what bad educators do. This is known as 'destructive Criticism'. 90% of Architectural educators are 'destructive'*.


Thinking back there aren't even a handful of architectural educators who have made a short term impact on me and even fewer who have positively impacted me long term. Those who have, to this day know my appreciation for them.


Your are in architecture school to explore and develop your process of thinking through educational tasks set out to teach you to use your own opinions and experiences and form them into a unique critical thinking process of your own. You must discover this yourself. Your educators cant do this for you and the ones who attempt to bring you down as a person are not worth your time.



3 . Not caring enough about what your professor or tutors says.


Despite the humor *and arrogance* of what I've written in point 2 above, what you must realize is that you need to know enough in order to disregard what your educator says. In point 2 the main takeaway should be that your professor or tutor should not treat you as an extension or reflection of the work you produce. They do however definitely know more than you do. So put that ego back in your pocket no one wants to see that.


I have heard many students complaining about how their design tutors never get how much of a genius they really are. This is probably a reflection of how poorly you are doing at explaining your genius to them. Remember, you are the genius behind your project, if you can't explain it well enough to anyone so that they can actually understand you, are you really a genius? *never thought I'd write the word genius so many times in a paragraph*


Don't be quick to think that when your idea is not being understood, the short coming is from your professor's end. There is a possibility that you have missed the mark somewhere in your process or delivery. Be patient and listen to someone else. You will definitely make some real progress on your project and experience some much needed personal development.


Your professor / tutor / juror not understanding your project is definitely not a reason to discard your idea and start from scratch. Take a deep breath, re-evaluate how you've delivered / explained / drawn the idea first - most often this is where architectural 'genius' fails.



4 . The 'Concept' of your project - is everything


The concept in an architectural project is the 'Big Idea'. It is (or should be) the overarching principle that governs or is depicted in the core of your project. This is what you should focus on in your design projects. When asked to articulate your concept, if you are unable to deliver it very simply and efficiently - this means that you have missed mark in your design process. Architectural design is a very complex articulation of many moving parts. In the best design projects, the concept is what guides the solutions and decisions taken to address the design problem. Design Studio in architecture school is all about the concept or 'big idea' because the main goal and skill that you need to develop as a you architect is the ability to think critically about everything.


During a tutoring session I don't really bother too much about checking where the projects bathrooms stalls are placed or how your furniture is placed *these are important but they are almost tertiary to the importance of the concept*. If you have critically analyzed the design problem and addressed it effectively through the design concept then I guarantee the spaces and all their furniture will already be in the right place.


Why are you proposing that solution ? what is the concept that made you end up with that particular solution? figure it out, articulate it as simply as possible *avoid cliches and complex words used for the sake of sounding intelligent*. Once you have it, let it guide every aspect of your project.


Top down view of architectural drawings in the studio


5 . Trying to achieve 'perfection'


I left this till last as it still is something I work on *or battle with* today. This is as relevant to me today as a practicing architect and blogger as it is to you - the architectural student spending that extra amount of time delivering the finishing touches to your project that , let's be real, was done yesterday.


I am the worst person to preach about this as I still struggle with trying to perfect the delivery of every single project that I work on (regardless of scale) at the same level of detail / effort / and time allocation. There is a point that you will start to feel fatigued and it will all be meaningless as you will be unable to deliver anything at even a certain level of 'greatness'. You will instead deliver everything at level far below your actual capabilities *trust me I've been there*


Having actively worked on this issue personally, I have a system I try to follow when the 'perfectionist bug' begins to crawl in. I use social media to post images of my work in progress. While this helps to get your work out there, I have found it acts as a mental milestone of having reached a level of progress which you will rarely back-track from. Having a daily 'sharing goal' will help you freeze the work at a particular level publicly *if you are brave enough* or simply among a group of peers. This is a small snippet of the system I follow, which I will cover in more detail in a future post.


your everyday architect work ethic motto done is better than perfect wooden scrabble pieces
Done is better than perfect - Words to live by

There you have it, 5 rock solid pieces of advice that will be useful to any student in a creative academic field.


Also, this is advice you never asked for so take it with a pinch of salt *or a swig of beer* whatever works for you. This may not apply to you at all *but it probably does*



Cheers my friends !

Your Everyday Architect sign off hand written





 

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Leave me a comment below with your thoughts...or just say hi...Let's have a good old fashioned conversation.


 

Peace . Love and Architecture

 
Your Everyday Architect monogram hand drawn ink sketch

Your Everyday Architect

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