Around this time every year that a new crop of potential future architects are about to start their first year of architecture school, and they have questions. What equipment do I need? Drawing supplies? Computer requirements? What about software and model-making gear? Are there books I should already have?? Well, get ready as we talk about everything you could possibly need in Episode 106: Architecture School Equipment.
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Supplies jump to 3:37
There are several sets of equipment and supplies that should be part of every architecture student’s kit. In this section, we are discussing the supplies necessary to create physical objects. These may be drawings supplies or model supplies, craft-type supplies, and even books. Purchasing these will help you throughout the entirety of your architectural education and beyond. You will keep most, if not all, of these items once you leave school and likely look back on them at some point with fondness. But more importantly, you will continue to utilize these supplies well into your professional career. The other item to point out here is that each individual institution will have its own list of supplies and equipment, and these items may overlap with those. But some architecture programs may not require these supplies, but Bob and I agree that these are still items that should be in every student’s arsenal of creativity.
Drawing Supplies jump to 5:38
Every architecture school is a little bit different in the exact supplies they require you to have when you start this journey. We are making suggestions on what is probably the most useful no matter where you attend school. I think that these are basically essential, and you will need them no matter what type of program you enter. Some schools are more technology and digital-driven right from the start, while others begin more tactile approaches in the early part of the programs, but you still need supplies to supplement your own process. I have based the selection of many of these items on the list of supplies required by his program during the first year, but this is not all of them. These are just the “must haves” for any student. During the conversation, it came to light that Bob and I had some very different school experiences, even with regard to supplies needed and used. The words “bougie school” seems to be mentioned more than anyone would have ever imagined. So we do not agree completely on the list below in regard to our experiences and also our personal workflows. We can agree that these are all relevant items to put into your kit of equipment and supplies.
- Sketchbook – Every architect should have these. They are essential to keep your ideas, scribbles, sketches, and notes in one place. Moleskine Cahier (Bob’s Choice) Dot Grid (Andrew’s Choice)
- Ink pen set – Just a few decent ink pens that have varying pen widths. It will help you practice your sketching skills. Small Set Medium Set
- Pencil set – Some people prefer pencils. So a set with a few different hardness pencils is also a good buy. They can also inform your ink sketching habits. Solid Pencil Set
- Color set – The main goal here is to be able to apply some splash of color to your work as needed. This can be any type of color. Markers, pencils, Prisma colors, watercolors; the list of options is long. But it is good to be able to use color. Marker Sets Color Pencil Set Prismacolor Set Water Color Pencils
- Small drawing triangle – While Bob and I disagree on this one, I like to have this for my sketchbook, so I can quickly make straight lines for multiple reasons. Bob finds this one necessary. If you are not great at drawing straight lines (like me) then this is an easy and cheap addition to your kit of tools. My Triangle of Choice
- Trace paper rolls – Indespensible. Nothing more to say. This is the beginning of every idea. And also the 100 iterations that come after. Trace is great for so many reasons. Even if you just sketch over your computer-printed image. As a super cheap option, but without the transparency, try a roll of painting craft paper from Home Depot. Basic Trace Rolls of various sizes
Model Making jump to 14:51
This one is difficult to list, but we went for the minimal essentials. These tools below will be useful no matter the school. Of course, some schools may get very specific about the supplies required for modeling. This will be information a student will receive each year or even each semester. But Bob and I agree that these tools are always a must. These tools will even be useful if you are laser-butting, 3D printing, or using some other fabrication method for all of your models at school.
- X-acto knife and blades – This is a precision cutting tool. It can and will be used for all types of slicing and cutting during your education. And even after. X-acto Kit X-acto #2 Knife
- Box cutter style knife – This can be a true box butter or simply a larger “snap-off” utility-type knife. This just makes the big cutting work easier and quicker. Example Tool
- Tacky glue or Elmer’s glue – White glue is it. You will learn to glue all kinds of things together in architecture school. But this is the most versatile glue. Quick tip: Use less than you think.
- A big cutting mat – This is a great addition to any student desk/workspace. Some schools require them. A great piece to have for cutting anything from paper to 4-ply chipboard. Medium or Large Mat
Books jump to 27:42
While I know that books are not a typical supply anymore, some books are always going to be useful. Most of the books that are recommended are more for references. You will return to these books throughout architecture school and even into the profession. I know you can google search to find answers, but books can often be easier and even better resources. Used books are totally acceptable for most of these titles, and they can save you lots of money. Many of the books have several editions, but they have changed very little in the past decade, even with updates. This selection of books is all about the fundamentals.
Some of the ones we mention specifically are listed below.
While these link to new books, again, any nice or gently used book always works for these editions. If used properly, they will not stay in “mint condition” for long anyway.
- Francis Ching – A Visual Dictionary of Architecture – It helps to know the terminology. While we do not condone “archi-speak”, it is still beneficial to know the terms and meanings. Also, this has loads of illustrations and images to help you understand the meanings.
- Francis Ching – Architecture: Form, Space, and Order – A type of introduction to many architectural principles and thought processes. This is the book with the most foundational principles on the list.
- Francis Ching – Architectural Graphics – This is a reference book for architectural drawings, standards in the field, and other useful graphic representation information.
- Rendow Yee -Architectural Drawing: A Visual Compendium of Types and Methods – This is another great drawing and graphic representation resource book. This plus the Ching book is greatness!
- Roger H. Clark – Precedents in Architecture – This book helps a new student understand the same information about 100+ projects through simple diagrams and limited text
Of course, there are many more books that we think are worthy of purchase, but no need to list them all here when both Bob and I have placed these lists on another site. So you can find each of our entire suggested book lists over at these links. Bob’s Essential Books. Andrew’s Books List
Technology jump to 38:19
Of course, this is an element of your equipment that will be consistently changing. I will concede that there is a bit of a difference in teh technology you need in school versus what is needed in practice, but they are very similar, and probably the gap is constantly narrowing. In some instances, as a student, you may have access to more technology than is available in practice. This may be true, especially in your work in a small or medium firm that is not tech-forward. So the basic needs are listed below. Again your mileage may vary from school to school, but it is 100% certain that you will need this equipment. The main goal for purchasing technology as you start architecture school should be to buy the best equipment your budget can manage so you will not be forced to re-purchase again before you finish school. I know that this can be a very expensive component of your school start-up costs, but it also contains the most critical components to your success as a student. So the top few necessities are coming up.
Computer jump to 39:26
You will need a laptop for architecture school. A good one. You don’t want to have to buy a second laptop during your time in architecture school. I will say that most likely, the one you have now that is used for creating text documents, emailing, Netflix, and the internet is not going to be up to the task of architecture school. I have seen many students struggle with their laptops due to the immense amount of power many of the programs we use as designers chew up their machines. The last thing you want is to get close to a deadline and have your laptop die on you. I mean, literally, die.
The best advice here is to buy the best laptop you can afford. It’s kinda that simple. But there are three components that are more important than others. These components will allow your laptop to tackle the intensive work required by architecture programs.
- RAM Memory – This is the power center of your laptop. You need to have no less than 16GB of RAM. But 32GB is much better and really recommended. This is priority number one for a reason.
- Graphics Card/Processor – This really should be (like must be) a separate/dedicated card in the laptop. Onboard graphics are just not as strong and usually do not have as much dedicated memory as an independent card. Again here, buying as much dedicated memory as possible 6GB or more is a good place to start. Many of the software we use as designers require specific graphics card properties.
- Main Processor Chip – This is not quite as critical here, but you want to get as strong of one as you can afford. Like an i-5 or i-7 if you can. Also, the max number of processing cores. So maybe it could be an i-5 with more cores that an i-7.
- Screen Size – This one is debatable for me. I prefer to have a smaller screen that I can then hook up to an “extra” monitor and really use the laptop as a computer only. But many people do not mind using the laptop screen as the work area. If you want to get an external monitor, then I say a 14-15” laptop is perfectly fine. Heck, maybe even 13”, but that is a bit small for my hands on the keyboard and me. If, however, you want to work on your laptop screen, then, by all means, I say go 17” if you can, but definitely no smaller than 15”. Be aware that a 17″ laptop is big and sometimes tough to tote around.
Back-Up Drives jump to 44:20
I suggest that you have multiple ways of backing p your work. I think students (heck, even adults and professionals) do not practice this enough. But I would (and do) urge every student to back up their work daily. Every day when you stop working, whether at 9:00 pm or 3:00 am, back up what you have done that day. And back it up in 2 places. One in the cloud and one on a physical device that you can keep separate from your laptop. This could be a flash drive and external hard drive or a floppy disc, but make sure you double back it up. It only takes a minute but could possibly save your project in an emergency. I can honestly say that at least once per semester, this happens to a student. Most of the time, they have not backed up anything, and they are forced to start over. That is a terrible situation to endure. So make sure you have some physical means to back up your work. There are multiple options to choose from; whether it’s a small flash drive or a portable hard drive, you should have an option that is not on the cloud.
What the Rank jump to 49:22
Since it has been a heat wave for most of the country lately, but certainly here in Texas, we decided to rank something cool. We also went for a Top 4 instead of a Top 3 because ice cream is so wonderful. It is one of the few desserts that we both enjoy.
What are your Top 4 Ice Cream Flavors?
|Bob’s Top 4 Ice Cream Flavors||Homemade Peach||Americone Dream||Strawberry||Homemade Vanilla|
|Andrew’s Top 4 Ice Cream Flavors||Rocky Road||Chocolate Almond||Cookies and Cream||Cookie Two Step |
(Cookie Dough + Cookies n Cream)
This was a delightful discussion about what constitutes “wacky” ice cream flavors. Also, we learned that Bob likes vanilla ice cream with fruit added. Well, and of course, just regular vanilla. Yet he was not afraid to judge Andrew’s flavor choices as being “wacky” right off the bat. I have never really thought of Rocky Road as a wacky ice cream flavor, but according to Bob, it most certainly is one. Despite the flavor listings above, Bob’s peach and strawberry entries are vanilla ice cream with those fruits added. (This is not to be confused with fully blended ice cream like a solid pink for strawberry, for example). So, in reality, Bob likes vanilla ice cream with limited additions. Andrew, on the other hand, likes either chocolate with limited additions or vanilla with limited additions. But in my opinion, none of the ice creams listed would fall into a “wacky” ice cream category. Those would be reserved for flavors like “Avocado Chile Lime”, “Jalapeno”, or “Peanut Butter Pretzel and Marshmallows”, which are all flavors I can purchase locally in a grocery or ice cream shop. No matter what ice cream you enjoy, it is definitely the time of year to indulge.
Episode 106: Architecture School 101: Equipment
While times have changed drastically since Bob and I first stepped into our first year of architecture school, we do know that there are some things that should never be gone from that experience. While I have been working on these types of lists for a few years now in academia, I have been able to adjust them to the current workflows of school and practice. The reason that some of these analog elements never should go out of style is that they work, they are actually very efficient, and they can help in your critical thinking about architecture. This is a pared-down version of what many new students will be required to purchase when entering that first year of architecture school. As a new student, you will certainly be asked to have more, and that will vary widely by the institution that you attend and even the professors that teach design studios. Be prepared to add to this list of “essentials” with another list of all kinds of supplies. I know of one studio professor that wanted students to mold in clay! So be ready for anything.
I have made a few other posts about starting architecture school that might come in handy.
Also, this link is to a giant list of all kinds of architectural school supplies and alternatives to those above.