Design Studio: Top 10 Things you should know

September 28, 2010 — 71 Comments

It’s that time of year once again and architecture students are either back in the studio environment or about to be back … Aaahhhhh (breathing deeply) the familiar smell of despair, B.O. and basswood.

 There are a few things that I thought I would share with all you new studio rats. These are things you will probably have to figure out for yourself but I wish someone had told me some of these things when I was still spending 35 bazillion hours a week up at studio. There are many different experiences people might value from their time spent with other future architects but I would like to expose some commonly held urban legends associated with architecture and design studios.

1. All-nighters are not a requirement

Architecture students are terrible at managing their time. While part of the design process is the vetting that goes on between students, rarely do architecture students show up, put their heads down, and get to work in a methodical productive manner. There is a lot of competition and gamesmanship that goes on but if you manage your time in the studio like it was your job, all-nighters simply wouldn’t happen. I see all the time that when older people go back for an architecture degree or a masters – people who have been out in the work place or have other “grown-up” responsibilities, they never pull all-nighters. They don’t have to because when they are at the studio for 8 hours, they get 8 hours of work done. It’s the guy sleeping in the lounge during structures class whose desk is littered Starbucks cups that pulls all nighters. This person will also brag about pulling an all-nighter … as a “grown-up”, this makes me chuckle.

2. Last minute changes do more harm than good

It’s always hard to stop designing, especially in school, but at some point the goal is to present the concepts, the drawings, and models to support your ideas. If you were to think of this process as if you were presenting to a client and work backward from a deadline, you will have far less negative work. If you determine that it is going to take you 4 days to build your model out of basswood and 2 days to render the drawings, leave yourself the appropriate amount of time and stop creating original work. If you have all these great ideas and no method to effectively communicate them who cares? I don’t and the people who will be sitting in on your crits don’t either.

3. A bad presentation during your review will not sink your grade

If things are still the same, people get really worked up and more than a little stressed out when the time comes to pin their work up on the wall to get reviewed. The good news should be that your professor, the person who will actually be giving you your grade, knows all about your project and how much time and effort you’ve put in. As a result, you should be less concerned about the guest professors/ reviewers who don’t know anything about your work, have 10 minutes to “get it”, and then offer some meaningful insight. More times than not those professors have their own pet project or something that they are into and their comments are simply a narcissistic way to make your project about them. Your project could be a multi-disciplinary research housing station on the dark side of the moon and the “sustainable” professor will find some way to ask you about rainwater harvesting. (think about it – I’m not making a joke). Same thing happens to the person who can render really, really well. Their presentation will look amazing and the guest reviewers will go on and on about how great this project is and how feeble the previous one was, this person’s on a entirely different level, etc. etc. … but everyone in the class (including the professor) knows that this project doesn’t work, despite looking as great as it does. Everyone is influenced by snazzy graphics – but unless this is a rendering class, you professor will know who did what and where the value lies.

4. Your portfolio has a 3 year lifespan (max)

Yes, your portfolio is important and you will use it at various points during school and your early career to leverage it into something you want. Just realize that at some point in the early future, you will be embarrassed that you thought your work was so great when it clearly sucks. Your portfolio will find a home in some closet with other items of diminishing importance because you will discover that the purpose your portfolio serves isn’t what you thought it was. It isn’t to show off some awesome creative project you designed, it’s about illustrating your proficiency in the various skills of the trade and demonstrating that you know how to think and process information. Think about it – do you really want the only message your portfolio to send is how great you can render? Because you’ll be the “render guy” when you finally land a job.

5. Hard work is easy to see

You aren’t fooling anyone, there isn’t any coasting and if you think you can get away with it you will learn the truth in the most public and humiliating manner. That guy we mentioned earlier – the one who thinks you have to pull all-nighters even though he sleeps during class – he’s full throttle isn’t he? He lives, eats and breathes this stuff  – clearly he is going to make a great architect. Right? I could make a drop-in appearance in any studio and pick out the people who work really hard versus the ones who work hard at looking like they are working hard … and your professor knows it too. Yes, there are still prof’s out there who like and support this sort of behavior because it shows “dedication” or at the very worst a high interest level. Ultimately, hard work is it’s own reward.

6. Take business and real estate classes with your electives

I never did this and to be frank, it never even occurred to me. I was already taking a million hours and I saw my electives as a chance to coast a little. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy them or get anything out of the process . I took an intro to Ceramics class as a 6th year senior – all the other students were freshman Fine Arts majors. I had a great time in this class and I am pretty sure I had a guaranteed A after 3 weeks. The professor and I would talk about design and trends and he appreciated that I was there because I wanted to be there, not because I had to. I also did about 50x more “projects” than anyone else because I didn’t screw around as much as the others. Looking back, it was one of my favorite classes but I really wished I had burned that elective with something that would have helped me with my job today.

7. Visit your professors during office hours

This should be lesson #1 but it wasn’t as cool a lead off as all-nighters. This isn’t particular to studio as much as it is any and every class you take. When you take the time to visit your professor and ask some questions, say hello, whatever, magical things typically happen. Most professors are required to keep office hours and depending on the class they teach, I found that nothing happens during this time. As a result, I could ask about the lecture and not only would it get personalized for my benefit, but the professor was now engaged and invested in my success. I wasn’t a suck-up, I didn’t go by just to say wass’up but I did make it a point to make an appearance early on in the semester.  I just wished I had learned this lesson before I took Quantum Physics as a freshman.

8. “Sell” your professor

You should get used to thinking of your professor as your client and not your buddy. I know this might sound contrary to the preceding point but this is more about settings expectations. When you talk to your professor about your project, it’s important that you be able to clearly articulate your reasons for taking the design in the direction you have chosen. You need to think that it is your job to convince them that your assumptions are valid and that there is a good idea behind your logic. The professors job isn’t to do your project for you but rather help protect you from yourself and help guide you along the path you’ve chosen. I always like to hear professors engage in psychiatrist talk, i.e. “Why do you think this was an appropriate gesture” or “what do you think the result of that (blank) would be?” It’s their job to help guide you, not tell you what to do.

9. The value of jury reviews is not what you think it is

I touched on this a bit in item #3 but most architecture students think this is just about presenting their design and getting the wise and illuminating input from the guest reviewers – it’s not (see #3). This is really another important part of your education. The most important thing you can get out of these critiques is practicing the art of standing up in front of a room of people and emanating confidence and knowledge. You are the expert on your design so you should be able to convey the objectives, strategies, and directions your design takes better than anyone else. Talking under pressure without ahh’s and uhmm’s is not a gift – it’s a skill. If I had known that the ability to effectively communicate was a more prized skill than designing in an architectural office I would have put more effort into developing it at a younger age. No architect wants to hear that anything other than good design sells but it simply isn’t true. The person who can be put in front of the client, communicate and make a connection, will be more valued than a skilled designer. Those “star-kitects” you see in the magazines generally have the ability to be amazingly good at both.

10. Break the Rules (big picture)

The best projects tend to be about ideas and not about the literal execution – at least it is at design oriented programs. Who cares how that 10″ column is going to support the “lifestyle pod” on your habitat tree. If people are talking about your toilet layout and not your positive and negative space, your design probably isn’t very good and you are on the road to becoming a successful project manager. Kudos.

I feel like it is important to add that there are all kinds of value to staying up late and being with your studio mates. Going out for a coffee and street meat at 1:00 a.m. tends to build relationships and strengthen solidarity within the studio. I am not telling you to avoid that – you need to do that;  it’s part of the education process. I am telling you to get your work done during regular hours (8am to midnight) and then you can screw off with your friends late at night listening to Miike Snow and remixes by Mark Ronson all you want. You can even be “that guy” who walks around offering unsolicited opinions that require a massive design reset if you want … but nobody likes that guy (that’s #11).

I am here to tell you that nobody gets their best work done past midnight – EVER. Look up the word ‘serendipity’ if you disagree with me. I am also aware that the work is typically more important than the grade so please don’t misconstrue what I am saying: this is about smarter not harder. Spend the time in the studio working instead of playing tape-ball. Please don’t act like there isn’t a lot of screwing around that goes on, we all know better. But don’t think that the old guy who is working over there in the corner while your rounding second base is a jerk because he wants to get home and see his kids. You are supposed to have fun in college, I am just telling you that there is an alternative manner on how to go about your business – one that will make a difference beyond this semester.

Bob-AIA scale figure


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  • Laura

    Excellent advice about maintaining “normal” working hours. I’m a bit older than my classmates, and last semester I set my working hours from 7am-11pm no matter what and you know what? I was more productive than the previous semesters when I wandered in at 11am and stayed until 3am. It is part of the culture though to pull all-nighters and drink far too much coffee, and I found that the more I kept a regular schedule, the more I was ridiculed for it by younger students. You’re right that people will talk about how long they haven’t slept like it’s an accomplishment. Here’s hoping I can finish 4th year with no all-nighters.

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  • Laura S

    So I am a 37 yr old mom of three children thinking about going into a Master of Architecture for those who do not have a Bachelor’s in Architecture. My youngest would be 3, then a 6 year old and a 12 year old next year when I would start. I have been a stay-home mom for the last 6 years. I am very nervous about how much time is involved. I was thinking I could do 8 or 9 in the morning (I would also have 1.5 hour commute on a train with wifi – if that would help me with getting some work done I don’t know) and be home most of days of the week by 5 or so; maybe spend two days/week until 9 or so. Is this at all realistic? I am disciplined – I was in the military for 5 years and have more recently been a manager at a bakery for awhile. I like to get my work done, whatever the work is, and get on to real life instead of wasting time. Would this at all be doable? It is a 3 year, plus 1 summer, long program. I don’t want to be a non-existent mom for that long. Also, what are the hours like once you work as an intern for the next 3 years? And is it usually hard to find something near where you already live or do you usually have to move to go where the internship is? Also, is it ever possible to work part-time as an architect once licensed?

    I know this is a LOT of questions, but I have a lot at stake on whether to do this or not. I LOVE creating and used to draw house plans on graph paper ALL the time when I was a kid/teenager. I have great spatial awareness (my dad was a superintendent in construction and when I would point out things that looked askew in something being done he told me several times that most people wouldn’t even notice those things) so I really feel like this would be a good fit for me. I need to decide soon so I can take my Physics and Calculus in time to start next year. Thanks so much!

    • john

      why would you want to do so? are you planning a 2nd career? you do know that Arch. is a tough uphill climb. IMHO, its a bit late in the game, the younger, more experienced ppl will climb all over you. you have a great life with your kids – njoy the family time with them. if u need $, its not architecture.

      • Laura S

        That’s what I’m starting to think – I have LOVED being a stay-home mom, but my husband has been having some medical issues and we are starting to think that maybe I may need to earn an income at some point. I think maybe I will look into dental hygiene or something that is quicker, flexible hours, and good income. I would LOVE to design and create, but I just don’t think I have the time and want to put my family through all that! 🙂

        • TM

          Even getting a chartership/license will take time after the masters. I will be going into my final year soon, and what I fear most like everyone around me is whether I will even find a full time job when I come out. And whether I have enough advanced skills under my pocket. Not only softwares/social skills that are essential, but also to be a graduate worth investing in. I think what is really important is your work experience in different practices even before your masters, whether it be one or two years. It is difficult for those who have not worked a year in practice to find a job apparently.

          Experience in practice is more important than Physics and Calculus education (which isn’t really needed ). Perhaps you should find work experience first, before you want to decide whether you want to continue studying.

          Like John said, it’s a really tough upclimb. If you love to design and create, there are intense 3 months courses in Graphics Design which may be more suitable when you have a family to look after too.

  • Teros

    Hello, thanks for great post. I have question about #10. Can you please explain what you mean? English is not my language and I had a hard time understand.

    Thanks again!

  • Barry

    This is great advice and although it’s been over 25 years since I graduated from architecture school I’d add the following:

    6 is spot on. Absolutely take business and real estate classes as
    electives. Accounting 101, Economics 101, Principles and Practices of
    Real Estate are all good choices. I did take economics and real estate
    electives but did not study accounting so I can expand bit regarding my
    regrets and satisfaction in those elective choices:

    Let’s start with Accounting. Most architecture firms are
    small businesses with less than five employees and it is likely that at some
    point in your career you will need to be able to read and understand an
    accounting balance sheet. In running an architecture business there is generally
    a considerable lag time between when you pay yourself and your employees and
    when your business is paid so it is not immediately obvious how much money you
    actually have at any point in time. The accounting measurements of cash flow
    and future obligations are a primary preoccupation of architectural business
    owners. An accounting class will teach you how to understand these fundamental
    business concepts. Even if you don’t ever run a business, at some point you
    will be involved in project management and in that management role you will
    into project accounting and firmwide billing related to your projects.
    On-the-job is not an ideal way to learn how to read the project billing
    reports for the work under your responsibility and not every firm has a
    kindly and patient CFO who will teach you the way I learned. Accounting
    isn’t hard; it isn’t Calculus or Theoretical Physics. But it is also not
    intuitive or so obvious that you will “just pick up”. It is a learned
    skill that is best learned in college.

    Economics is big picture thinking about business and
    commerce. Architects are inherently “big thinkers” so an Economics class should
    appeal to most architects. I found Economics 101 to be a fascinating and
    enjoyable overview of commerce, a new way to think about society and a much
    break from Architecture school. A semester of Econ 101 won’t provide
    you with a magic crystal ball of future building needs but construction
    is a
    significant part of the US and Global economy and you need to be able to
    understand and anticipate long term trends in order to make long term and short
    term career and business decisions. Surprisingly there is more math involved in
    economics that you’d expect but it’s mostly conceptual – perfect for architects
    who generally learn Structures without calculus.

    Real Estate: Many of your clients will be real estate professionals and
    your project (their project) is simply the highest and best use of the
    site. Period. They could care less about the axis-mundi and mostly care
    about the ROI (Return On Investment). Even on a simple residential
    project you need to understand what an easement is and how it effects
    your site planning. Real Estate classes will give you a fundamental
    understanding of these components of the built environment. Architecture
    schools treat Real Estate as an elective; in my opinion it should be
    required study. True story: For my architectural licensing exam, problem
    one of the Site Design section was drawing a site from the Legal
    Description of a property. A Real Estate Legal Description is words
    describing the exact location and configuration of a piece of land. I
    had not seen a Legal Description since my Principals of Real Estate
    class four years prior but fortunately I remembered a enough to
    correctly complete the problem.

    Architecture school electives
    should be a refreshing break from architecture classes. Architecture
    School is such an intensive and brain burning experience that the
    academic vacation of electives is needed if only to sustain your mental
    health. But don’t stray too far or too often from the overall
    architectural universe. I loved my three quarters of History of Western
    Music but right now I would really prefer a more solid understanding of
    an Income Statement and Double Entry Accounting.

  • Laila

    Thanks for this tips, they are really useful, especially the all nighter one, yes that’s a thing I should avoud by working during the day and let those all nights for “special ocasions”.

  • Andy

    Maybe a little late to comment on this post…
    I strongly agree on #1, 6, and 8. From my experience, if you are looking at a 33% productive rate within your working hour, you are way above average. So many people simply chooses to waste the hours they should be working and complains how much overtime hours they need to spend. #6 and 8 is something I figure it’s getting more and more important throughout the years. It’s not only selling to your professor, you need to know how to sell your idea to anyone you are required to sell. So many people put all their focus on the “design” segment and never seems to realize only by selling your idea can a business really sustain, and architect is a business. However, I do have a different opinion on #3 and 5. In school, the professor, who has been walking along with you all through the projects, may be very professional and clearly understand your design. Not presenting it clearly in a presentation may not affect your “grade”, but it do place a misleading concept on your future career. In real life, not every client who hire you are as well qualified as your professor and you do need to know how to present it properly so that you can communicate your idea to your client without any misunderstanding. Also, to tell the truth, not all hard work is easily seen. Not saying you should go out claiming how many hours you spend on it, but a lot of hard work and effort go straight into trash and get wasted if not properly acknowledged. A thoughtful design you spend a lot of time detailing to make it just right may just be ignore and never properly maintain if never notified to the client. In the end, the client may just be irritated by something which should have worked but never did because he doesn’t even know how it should have work – while you may be scretching your head not knowing why the client never refers you to anyone.

  • Tamra Arch

    oh, 2010 ! man this article is dusty old, but it’s valid so, thanks for the tips, really helpful.
    btw, I love being an architecture student, being one was my ambition ever since I was a child (yep exactly, just like you sir), but God I hate my university,
    the professors and everything around me, I’m just yearning for
    graduation, may God have mercy upon me, I have two years left.

  • Omar Md. A.

    A big thanks for those tips….
    well I’m an Egyptian high-school senior.. I’m planing on entering the faculty of Fine Arts in Alexandria….well, I have started using some architecture programs like Auto cad & Google Sketch up & hoping to be able to use 3D Max soon…..
    I would like to ask you about the programs i should learn which i will use in my college years….. if u could reply, It will absolutely please me.
    And thanks again for the post.

  • Juachi

    I’m a young architect from Nigeria and I laughed at that all-nighter bit… I figured out in my first year when I woke up and found half a dozen lines on my sheet that I wasn’t a ‘night’ person… my friends all thought I was crazy when I simply refused to do nights especially right before a review… lol
    Glad I found this blog 🙂

  • krzystoff

    Bob, some great advice, I’m sure many people wished they had the insight of this article in their early college/university years!

    however, I cannot get ‘#4 your portfolio has a 3 year lifespan’ — after 20 years working, I am still asked by job interviewers and hiring agents to “bring along and show us your folio”, it has been the same at every one of the dozens of architectural firms, including the 17-18 where I have got the job. granted, it has never remained stagnant, constantly changing and updating over that time — I would love not to have ever to look at it again, but apparently it’s a necessary evil of the business — is your experience different ?

    • the 3 year lifespan has to do with your school work – not the actual portfolio. That having been said, I don’t bring a portfolio to any meetings or interviews. Now we bring iPads.

  • Love it. And I’ve made the mistakes you mentioned. I did however find that the best design work came after a long break of doing nothing but drinking coffee and shooting the air with my non-architectural friends. I’d head back into the studio and just sketch out all those ideas in my head until the design said stop – then I’d sleep until class time. Those were always my best projects… even now.

  • thank you so much

  • Carlos

    I can not tell you how thankfull I am at this moment, I am studing arquitecture in Mexico and most of the questions I had about the carrer, you have mention them, thank you, is great to hear the experience from the perspective of an arquitect that remembers the time when he was a student. I will continue reading your articles, this is great.

  • Sahiba

    I am currently pursuing my bachelor of architecture degree and am now a fourth year student. I landed on your article because I was searching google for ‘can I be an architect’. It may sound weird going four years into the course, but I now feel sad and disheartened because I feel I do not design ‘creatively’ as my peers do. What I do anybody can do that. Any word of advice on that?

  • Thanks, I am a high school senior entering freshamn year of architecture school hopefully at Cooper Union. This is really helpful.

  • I am in my third year as an Interior Design student and this part struck a chord in me:

    “The best projects tend to be about ideas and not about the literal execution – at least it is at design oriented programs. Who cares how that 10″ column is going to support the “lifestyle pod” on your habitat tree.”

    Particularly because I often find that the crits simply refuse to discuss ideas (which ultimately I care hearing feedback about and whether I’ve executed it well and whether it works with the program of the assignment etc.) and spend most, if not all, of the time on how your wall is pochéd in the floor plan.

  • Good post Bob. As a 3rd year design studio instructor, I couldn’t agree with you more about taking a Business or Marketing class (preferrably in the first year of schooling).
    I would add a #11: It is OK to be a “good” architect.

  • Corey Vaillancourt

    Thank you for re-posting this

  • MN Msomi

    I am currently doing my practical year, and I find this very interesting to really in preparation for my coming years in completing my degree.
    Thank you for the share. I was one of those students that literally lived in the studio, after reading this I hope I adapt these good habits.

  • I’m in my second year as an Interior Design student, and these same ideas apply to us as well

  • Arturo

    He leído la postura de la cual, todos o muchos de nosotros hemos vivido en las aulas de las escuelas de Arquitectura…

    Me pareció bastante útil los 10 puntos…¨Así que quieres ser arquitecto…?¨

    me gustaría invitarlo a dar una charla a la Universidad, y el Tecnológico…

    y que se dirija a los alumnos…

    dando su postura…

    Como es su buen oficio…

    le dejo mi correo

    fb: veintitres arquitectura

    Le mando un saludo desde la 23 Arquitectura…

    en Chihuahua, Chihuahua, México…

    Atte. Arq. Arturo

    • Hi Arturo,

      Uhm, I don’t speak Spanish and I’m not sure Google Translate is making much sense of your post here. Care to try again but in English?

      • Paraphrasing: He’d like to invite you to give a talk at the two Universities in Chihuahua. Email and facebook info in last lines of message 🙂

  • Neha Chandel

    Yeah…..I agree wid this article………..Bob, u r so right!

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  • Wonder

    Hmm…a VERY nice and very helpful post. I’m a high schooler considering architecture as my career. However I’m kinda put off by the whole “stay up till the wee hours” thing as I’m very much the early sleeper, as well as being religious so I wouldn’t be clubbing etc at night. Wondering if that would get in the way of me producing good work at all?

  • Endeavour2828

    This was a great read!  Every point – so true….. fun to see that design studio was a near identical experience for someone in a totally different part of the country (I’m from NJ)

    I wish I had this list when I was in studio in the late 80’s/early 90’s, it would have helped me out tremendously.  Thanks for sharing and hoping this helps out people currently in school!

  • Tj

    Fantastic! I’m starting my 5th year of study (UK) and I’ve learnt a lot from this succint post! Thank you – (please write a book!!)

  •  Me encantan tus articulos, saludos desde La Paz, México.

  • GREAT article. Im gonna keep this handy.

  • Chiricu1

    Im currently a sophomore just getting into the studio routine and at the end of my first year in studio I have found that everything you said is completely true, and it has helped me not only survive studio, but actually do well. You also helped me realize which skills I need to work on, and how to prioritize the skills I have to develop. Thank you!

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  • It was fun reading this. I just happened to have a dream last night about studio! Even though it was 15 years ago…I guess it will always be a part of me and I’m thankful for that. Would have been great to have these insights back then… but I probably wouldn’t have gotten the gist of what you were saying at the time.

    • This is definitely a looking back post although I might have been able to take advantage of some of these items. I think for the most part, peer pressure and the maturity of the individual would play a larger role in whether or not individuals have the ability follow any of this advice.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • Great read. Reminds me of the fantastic little book called “101 things I learned in architect school” by Matthew Frederick.

    I wish experienced professionals would share this kind of insight more often. Bookmarked!

    • Kristian,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I have had several people mention that book to me but I have never seen it. I suppose I should go to the book store and check it out.

      I look forward to hearing more from you in the comment section – cheers!

  • Greg Swedberg


    This takes me back. 8 years removed from school, I laughed out loud a few times while reading this. Thanks for putting what we graduates ALL now know (at least subconsciously) and wish someone had told us sooner. ‘love #11, everybody knows someone like that. good stuff.

  • Great stuff Bob,
    As a current student, I always appreciate pearls of wisdom from those that have come before us (and survived). An example I’ve enjoyed is Mathew Frederick’s “101 Things I Learned in Architecture School”.

    I’d like to comment on the issue of communication, and ask some advice. Its no secret that there’s a patter that many people develop in presenting their design, and often some buzz words. (Related: As someone who can avoid the pitfalls usually associated with speaking in front of others, I still find it hard to avoid the garbled jargon of archi-talk, especially when I’m surrounded by it. What advice can anyone offer for avoiding this and for improving communication/presentation?

  • Quite interesting. Here is the advice I give my students: Eat breakfast before coming to class. Put your gum and phones away. I’m nice, but I’m not going to change my rules and pass you just because you didn’t realize 3 absences max really meant that. Don’t come late; don’t leave early. Sucking up to me helps too, but not really. Now, do you wish to come to class?

    • Anonymous

      Those are the sort of rules that shouldn’t really need to be rules even though I think the coming to class is more for the ego of the professor. The kids are paying for it if they come or not but if they show up, they should be respectful of the time and efforts of the teacher and the other students.

      For the record, I never missed class. I might not have been there mentally from time to time but my butt was always in the chair. Then again, there’s lots of things I would do different if I went back.

  • Great post – especially dispelling the myth of the all-nighter!!As someone who spent 5 years in space planning & facility management, I would also suggest spending at least one of your pre-license jobs doing the same. It’s not glamorous, but it is a challenging part of design never taught in school. Buildings keep living after they get their C.O., & making them easy for the occupant also applies to those who take care of it.Mountains of ongoing costs in maintenance & trying to “fix” poorly thought through design can be saved if the non-glamour (maintenance & flexibility) is factored in when it’s being pushed around on paper or SketchUp.

    • Anonymous


      The tail end of your comment comes at a funny time. I was lead around on a building tour of the Blue Cross Blue Shield facility here in town and the Facilities Manager said the same thing. She loved the architecture and had tons of praise but she said there are items that just don’t work, are hard to maintain, or impossible to repair. As soon as she caught me paying attention to those things, she started pointing them out everywhere. Turned out to be one of the best walk-thru’s I ever went on.

  • Brokenkeys

    Great article. Here’s some things I learned about a few of the items on your list:
    All-nighters; not for me. I discovered a simple formula early in my architectural education. 1 hr of partially-rested, semi-coherent work = 4 hours of exhausted, caffeine-fueled, incoherent work.
    Jurors; their job is to crit. They don’t always have productive things to say, either because they can’t find anything or they weren’t paying attention or they’re just assholes (sometimes all the above). Like you say, the professor is grading you not the juror. Crits are only practice, so relax and have fun.

    • Anonymous

      Thats funny and I could see a hilarious graphic being prepared to demonstrate the sleep to work quality ratio.


  • Oh, man this should be required reading for any college student doing anything in the creative arts anywhere! Creative writing, ceramics, architecture, theatre, web design, graphic designers especially, journalists.. so much here…

    • Anonymous

      You are right that this could apply to any creative arts student. There is a lot that I could have covered (this post clocks in at a brief 2,000+ words). Easily could have included another 20 items.

      • Dan

        You should do this post 2.0

        I’d love to learn more. Just finished my second year, and this advice is great. 

  • Preston

    Bob, I loved this. You nailed it! I’ve been thinking about putting together my own list similar to this as I give advice/guidance to those coming up in the profession. However, I feel like often times this wisdom goes in one ear and out the other. Similar to everything my dad told me growing up as a kid that I shrugged off and am now realizing — as a father myself — actually had some value. Hindsight is 20/20, right?

    • Anonymous

      Preston –

      I would agree with you on everything. My Dad has regained some status over the years as I have come to understand and appreciate some of his “teachings”. I think most architects can relate to this post – not to mention write it themselves – but even if I did hear all this when I was in my 1st or 2nd year, I’m not sure how much my behavior would have changed.

      • August

        As a 1st year myself, I actually do find this quite a beneficial read (and actually find myself already agreeing with some of the points – when my peers are stressing out about our crits, I have found myself telling them the same things you say here).

        Of course, what I say I’m going to do and what I actually do are often not the same thing, and of course while I sit here reading about how I should be spending my time in studio more productively and thinking to myself “well of course! I definitely need to do that”, I’m sure come 5-10 years down the road I’ll look back and think “yeah, that didn’t really happen” 😛

        Needless to say, I think reading about it at least puts it on my mind, which is a start at the very least (and I’ve already committed to no all-nighters (or as few as possible) because they’re really not beneficial at all). So thank you for the pointers!

  • Ebogan63

    Count me as another older student that finds this post valuable! I will keep this in mind when I start design studio-thanks a lot!

    • Anonymous

      Glad you liked it. This post could have easily been a top 50 most likely. One of the things I debated including (which I didn’t) was how to deal with older students and graduate architecture students who have undergrad degrees in other subjects. I used to think that these people were all talk and no game and readily dismissed them. I missed the mark on that one for sure.

  • Zane D.

    awesome post! I’m that older student you talked about. I haven’t had a studio class yet, but already I can see how things are going to be different. after lecture, the students gather outside and chat but I put my head down and head back to my day job.

    and its certainly encouraging to hear that its not required that I spend the next 3 years apart from my wife so that I can finish my education!

    • Anonymous


      A word of advice, I always thought that the older students missed out on some of the best parts of studio because they left at reasonable hours. I would plan to get in the trenches on occasion even if you don’t have to. Some of my best memories happened when I should have been working and it was 3am.

  • Marcy

    ahhh….Goldsmith Hall….brings back memories. And I think the all nighters were required 😉
    At least it taught me what it would be like with deadlines and working late at work.

  • Jennifer

    I’m in my third year of my BS Arch, and I’ve never pulled an all-nighter… I think I might be the only person in my studio who hasn’t. I don’t understand why some people see it as a badge of honor to stay up all night working on a project. It’s just not worth being late to or incoherent during your final presentation.

    • it’s not just some people, it’s a lot of people – who do stuff they like, they like to stay up all night doing it.
      just as a normal person would stay up all night partying or having sex.
      i hope this helps you understand.

  • Raul

    Very good. I think every architectural student should read. I’ll post it on facebook