Considering a Bachelor of Architecture degree? Wondering what Architecture college will be like? Imagine this,
It is five minutes before 9 AM. You enter into a college with graffiti-covered walls and random upcycled installations wherever you turn your eyes to. An army of students is rushing past you into their studios holding T-scales like swords and A1 sheets rolled behind their backs like ammunition. You see some zombified students puddled over their sheets just outside their studio, carefully constructing a North-sign as if their life depended on it while a few are burning their hands hurriedly trying to stick the skewer-truss-roof to the walls of their models. Somebody is shouting for a 0.4 Micron, and you see crying and laughter within the same visual periphery. Inside, sheets are pinned up on walls all-around, models are arranged out in the front, and the professors are judging from afar making a mental list of which sheets to tear.
Bachelor of Architecture is not for the weak- and half-hearted. Ask any unsuspecting architecture student about what to expect, and their natural reflex will be to point towards the door, whispering ‘RUN!’ before they start into rounds of precautionary tips in case you have decided, after all, to sentence yourself to the life of an architecture student.
Regardless of the terror that this course invokes in its students, you will find that the architecture tribe cannot live without it either. This, my friend, is what you’re getting into if you choose architecture- A love/hate relationship of constant learning and constant re-working.
So, here is a ‘Proceed with Caution’ checkbox, if I may:
1. The Reality Check:
First and foremost, if you were under the assumption that all your hard work and tough times end after Boards, oh dear Child, you’re in for a ride.
2. The Studio:
This is a rule, actually. We don’t call them classrooms, we call them studios. Your workplace will not be a 6-hour venue out of necessity; You are going to construct, brainstorm, and imagine worlds in this space. Your studio will become your temple and it is from here in college that you will learn to respect your workspace.
So say it with me, Stoo-dee-oo. We work in Stoo-dee-oos.
3. The Unlearning- Re-learning:
You will unlearn a lot before you scratch the surface of learning. For example, be prepared to say your goodbyes to your sharpeners because your Profs are going to throw them into the bin on the first day and introduce you to the caveman’s technique of sharpening with a blade. Your 15cm scales will be broken in half since you will be expected to work with T-scales, set-squares and grade-B pencils. Oh, and if you think they would at least let you write in peace, think again. You are going to be taught to letter your sheets (Freehand lettering is a legitimate thing) so bid farewell to your running handwriting as well. Your patience and persistence will be tested in ways you will not see coming, but I assure you that in time, it will make sense when you do your Bachelor of Architecture.
4. The ‘Redo’:
You are either going to drown in the ocean of submissions that will be thrown at you or you’re going to YOLO-IDGAF-through it, eventually earning yourselves redos because [A]- No matter how much your coaching prepared you for it, you know nothing and you will require to do it again and again to learn, and [B]- Redos are the fundamental ground of Architecture and Design. Great designs do not just happen; they come after several trials and tribulations, experimentation and learning. Your professors are going to shove several redos down your throat in your first year just to get you out of your funk and into the commitment that this profession requires. My advice? Don’t be disheartened when you get one (or more than one). The more redos you earn, the thicker your portfolio at the end and that’s the mark of hard work and progress.
5. Social Life:
Needless to say, there will be none- Or rather, it will be limited (let’s not kill all your buzz today) until you learn the art of time-management or the skill of smart work. I assure you that by the end of the first year, you will weaponize at least one of the two to your benefit and the balance of the world will be restored thereafter.
6. The ‘I wanna quit!!’:
The unlearning, re-learning and lack of social life will take a toll on you and you, like every other architecture student since the beginning of time, will reconsider the course. It is a natural reaction and a rite of passage in the Architecture community. Most students go through it in the first month, but some with an insane amount of grit may have the first breakdown at the end of the semester. To all of you I say, you will survive and you will conquer.
7. Subjective Learning:
Unlike most courses, there is no pattern or syllabus set in stone to learn the things that you learn in Architecture and that gives you a lot of freedom to learn it your way. There is no right or wrong way to do it so you can either be entering into Platform 9 3/4 or hitting a brick wall, but you will have an adventure either way and you will, after multiple attempts, reach Hogwarts. That is the beauty of this course: You will find your magical way into it.
You will be learning subjects so vividly different from the ones in school too. Imagine exploring the color wheel in one subject, materials in the other. The assignments will be cascading, sure, but you will learn exponentially about subjects you did not pay attention to before. Your observational skills will sky-rocket even if you take the time to find your pace in this course.
8. Subjective Grading:
To all straight-A students who breezed through school, architectural grading is going to come as a huge blow to your self-esteem. Not only are your professors going to roast you golden-brown with their criticism, but they are also not going to award you marks for just doing your assignments in bachelor of architecture.
Architecture and Design are subjective in nature, and so what you see as mind-blowing work might just be a “Did you even try to use your head in this design?” to your Profs. The key is to leave your pride at home and allowing yourself space to accept criticism. You need to be able to defend your design in the face of their roasts but also be grounded enough to respect and understand their suggestions.
9. The Community:
Misery loves company and the Architectural fraternity is evidence of that. You will spend sleepless nights and bath-less days but you will not be alone while doing your bachelor of architecture. Barring a few high-functioning sociopathic exceptions, you will find that everyone around you is sailing the same boat of confusion and restlessness and everyone is willing to help if you ask for it, especially your seniors. This course spares no one, and that is the best part.
10. The ‘Happily-Ever-After?’
The industry is a tough spot to carve you’re being into, and the financial returns are fairly disproportionate to your primary investment. So, if you are under the assumption that all your hard work and tough times will be paid off after college- well, you’re naively mistaken. But that’s for another article.
Architecture is going to grind you to the ground but it will also make space for your passion to find its roots and bloom in due time. If reading this excites your bones, the next five years will be your high. If it does not, don’t worry, you will learn and you will be surprised at how much you have grown by the end of the course because you inevitably will.
This course of bachelor of architecture is a mountainous range and the climb is bound to tire you out, but remember what they say- The view from the top beats the struggle any day. Count on that, my friend, and you will enjoy the journey as well.
Shivani Pinapotu is almost an architect. She started writing to make sense of architecture and in it, she found her joy. She believes that architecture is as much a creative process as it is an expression, a celebration, a million stories untold and she aspires to unfold them all through her words.