Despite what you might hear, architecture school is terrific. I know that it isn’t easy and I can still remember moments of crippling panic as I looked around the studio during my presentation. Fast forward 20+ years and things have changed … I may have an easy time standing up in front of a lot of people and talking now but that wasn’t always the case. The idea of wiping my entire body with antiperspirants didn’t seem out of the question. Common sense would have you believe that the more you do something, the more familiar and comfortable it becomes – now it seems like I don’t know how to stop talking.
Well, time heals all wounds and I have been steadily adding to my long running Do You want to be an Architect? series. Most of those posts have focused on the process of becoming an architect after you’ve graduated from college so today I thought I would jot down some things from my collegiate days that will probably resonate with others who have already gone through and survived the process known as “Architecture School.”
1.) All nighters generally do more harm than good, rarely does inspiration come after midnight. There is a phrase that is something along the lines of “inspiration must find you working” but if you are sleep deprived, you won’t be doing your best work.
2.) Talking like an architect makes you sound like you are trying too hard to sound like you know something. Outside the studio, people don’t want to hear your “archispeak” so learn how to communicate in a way that is approachable to other people.
3.) Listen to people who have been around the block, they know things and most are trying to teach you something.
4.) Pay attention to what’s important to you, learn who you are, not who you want to be. This is harder than it sounds but the point here is to simply pay attention to your own behavior and find what motivates you. The earlier you learn your skill set, the better things will go for you.
5.) When you are sick, stay at home – nobody wants your cooties. Well, someone might want your cooties but I don’t. Call in, find out what’s going on, and work from home. Just because you can power through being sick, nobody else wants the opportunity to try.
6.) It’s architecture not emergency surgery, mix in some hobbies during the weekend. Learning other skills will actually make you into a better architect.
7.) Take some business classes with your electives. Learning how a business runs and how to sell work will actually take you farther in your career than just being a designer.
8.) Most people don’t like coffee breath … even if it is from Starbucks. Make it a practice to always go home and clean yourself up before you start the next day.
9.) Being good at CAD does not make you a good architect. Most of the things you learn in school are simply tools for you to use during your career – the trick is knowing when to put all those skills together. Don’t worry if you’re not good at all of them.
10.) Be a participant in developing your education – nobody can read your mind and know what you want. As the son of an educator, I feel confident when I tell you your professor not only wants you to succeed, they want you to be the best – ask questions and ask for help.
11.) Learn how to speak well in public – take a class if needed. While in studio, you will get the opportunity to practice standing up in front of a room full of people and presenting. In this moment, most people are concerned about how their project will be received but the real value lies in the time spent presenting.
12.) Pay attention to everyone’s opinion and treat them with respect. This isn’t just a studio skill, it’s a life skill.
13.) Hand drawing is not a gift, it’s a skill and has value beyond creating pretty pictures. If your school doesn’t put any sort of emphasis on sketching, burn an elective (or two) and take a class over in the arts building.
14.) The person in school that you thought had terrible designs – but could talk about their project - will be your boss. Nobody in architecture school knows it yet but there are so many roles besides designer in the field of architecture that there is a place for everyone. The person with the most skills typically wins.
15.) You will always have someone in studio that you don’t like – it might even be your professor … find a way to make it work.
What happens when you are actually still in school? What about those poor souls? Recent emails made have got me thinking about the things I didn’t learn while I was in architecture school. Yes, there are too many things to write down here, and the knowledge of what to do when you get pulled over by the cops and you have an open beer inside your pants leg doesn’t seem relevant. Some tidbits of knowledge are worth sharing and if you can think on these without having to learn them the hard way than all the better. If you need a refresher on the Do you want to be an Architect Series, here you go, these are some of the most read posts from the series:
In all, there are over 30 different posts in this series and hopefully some of these kernels of wisdom will have some specific value to you. If you think I’ve missed something obvious, please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comment section.