A large percentage of the articles I write on this site are the result of receiving the same sorts of questions over and over again. Rather than send out a half-baked, off the top of my head response, I take the time to “craft” a post that tries to answer the question at a level of detail and specificity to actually be of some value. Today is that sort of post and the topic surrounds architecture majors and studio life in college.
1. I’ve heard that architecture majors “have no social life” is that true?
Not true – I had a terrific social life. Part of this is a response to what your definition of “no social life” means. I might not have been as full throttle as my Communications or Business major friends, or been able to take advantage of every social opportunity that came my way, but I certainly thought I had plenty of time to enjoy recreational activities. I also had a lot of fun when I was in studio – something that few of my friends could say when they were working on their homework. There was a lot of social activities going on within the school of architecture itself and I’d say that 90% of the people I still talk with from my school days are from the architecture program.
2. How many hours a week would you say that you spent in the studio?
I spent a lot of time in the studio, but I’m not sure that my experience 20 years ago is relevant anymore considering just how much things have changed within college architecture studios. As part of my degree, I had class time that occurred in the studio for 15 hours a week (three 5 hour classes). The additional time I spent probably averaged around another 25+ hours – of which I’m pretty sure included at least 1 full day (8 hours) each weekend up at studio. These days, many students work from home or their apartments since the work is done digitally. Also, where I spent a ridiculous amount of time building basswood models, most of the students I talk to these days send their digital files to a laser cutter and have the pieces of their model cut for them. Two years ago I sent out a request to architecture students asking them to send in pictures of their desks (Architecture Student Work Desks) and I was simply floored that most of the images I received were from people’s apartment.
3. I’m mainly interested in designing houses rather than buildings and/ or structures, do they require you to build all of those or did you have a choice of what you wanted to design?
When I was in school, I designed a grand total of two houses … and they were so terrible that looking back at them now I have decided that there is ZERO percent chance that they will ever see the light of day ever again. In fact, I’m thinking about destroying any evidence that they ever existed on the slight chance that the future ‘Bob Borson Architectural Historical Foundation‘ might accidentally find them. When you’re in school, you don’t get to decide the project type you will be working on – that gets determined by your professor. Sometimes the professor will make the curriculum available so that students will have an idea of the objectives and projects of that studio, but the truth of the matter is that is doesn’t matter. The actual building type you work on is irrelevant while in school – you go to college to learn how to learn, this time is about learning how to think, process information and solve problems.
4. What exactly is it about the assignments that make it hard?
The hardest part of any design assignment is almost always coming up with the inspiration and the “big idea”. We could always tell that the jury members didn’t think a project was very good if they were talking about the small stuff rather than your concept and how successful you were in executing your idea into some working architectural manifestation. The other thing that students (and some professionals) struggle with is the time management associated with communicating your ideas. It’s not enough to pin something up on the wall that is a couple of scribbles on trace paper while you talk through your concept – the physical work needs to reflect the mental work and the actual work needs to reflect them both.
I have written about the architectural studio before, and if this topic is even remotely interesting to you, they are all worth reading. They will change your life! *
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.
Despite the urban legends that you’ve heard about that person who stayed awake for 6 straight days to finish his project, Architecture school is terrific. Here are a few tips that can help make your experience in architecture studio that much better and more rewarding
At one point or another, every architecture student or graduate has a portfolio of their work that they have agonized over creating … and most people get it wrong. Do you know the true purpose of an architectural portfolio?
For some students, college will be the time when some might struggle to cope with the stresses associated with college life, for architecture students, there is another layer of stress and rigor placed upon them, some times with unfortunate results. This was a guest post iby Ulysses Valiente, an author and recent graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Architectural Science from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada
Hopefully this post and the additional ones I have included here at the end will prove to be of some value. I wish this sort of information had been available to me when I was trying to figure things out for myself when I was in school … although I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have listened.