There seems to be a huge difference between architecture as education and architecture as a profession, and the gap is quite evident. As observed from many successful architects around the world, being connected to academia while practicing helps you retain the motivation and curiosity in your practice.
Academia is beyond practical constraints. It helps you to believe that no box has to confine you and lets your creative instincts lead your way, engaging in critical discussions, reflecting upon principles. Profession comes with a responsibility, accountability for your decisions, and putting the users before your ideas. Architectural education might not necessarily stress upon this nature of the practice, rather it is something you learn on your way as a professional.
Architecture is a journey that can be experienced in phases. It is a process of evolution, a deeper learning experience that helps you grow not only as an architect but also as a thinker. People are right when they say that early experiences are the most important anchors which help you find your way eventually. The most valuable learning from an architecture school is not a lot of design projects or attractive visuals.
What one learns is the process of design thinking which helps one to think critically while being in any situation, handling any task; architectural, or non-architectural. It is a perspective one develops towards looking at the world, for forming opinions and being able to reason for them.
- The very first lesson and the most important one is to start understanding the space around you. Human anthropology and its relationship with our surroundings guided by the activities that we engage in are what lay down the basics of space. It opens one’s mind to the conception of each space and why it is designed in a way that it is.
The importance of the height of a doorknob, the width of the bed, the size of a window; it is like a new lens that allows one to look at the surroundings and it might be the first step when we learn how to question, how to reflect!
- Early years of architectural education never really push students to make the best looking drawings, rather they generate curiosity and motivation by laying a pallet of streams that they can venture into and build onto their skills like sketching, sculpting, reading, fabrics, textiles, photography and whatnot. These activities are not just hobbies that an architecture student might be interested in, they enhance the ability to understand and express the thoughts and ideas which often fail to translate through words. They act as platforms offering important discussions about how one can use the agency of design to respond to various conditions—personal, social, cultural, or political. They become catalysts to facilitate the understanding of architecture as a tree with all its branches of art, sociology, environment, anthropology, science, and everything else under the sun.
- An architect must not fall in love with his/ her work. This is one of the most important realizations that any student would have come across at some point in time during the 5 years. It takes a lot of effort to scrap one idea and begin with something completely new. Being open to criticism and taking it in the right spirit and a constructive manner develops an attitude of listening and reflecting upon our decisions. A jury then starts becoming a discussion and there is a greater scope of learning than otherwise. This attitude not only helps your design, but also your personality which helps you rise from every difficult situation in life.
- By stepping into the field of architecture, there is not just that one decision you are making. It is a long-term commitment towards a new lifestyle, activities, perspectives, and you as a person. It is a collaborative field and as a student the first step you take is by working with your peers on ideas originating from you as a group of thinkers making you question them, negotiate, debate, and acknowledge better solutions than what you as an individual can come up with. Not only that, it helps you refine your persuasive skills while reasoning for your ideas, it helps you gain confidence while voicing yourself in public.
As an architecture student, many things challenge your pre-existing notions about how we learn. There are no textbooks, no fixed curriculum that every university follows; no standard qualifications for the mentors. There are no classrooms, there are workspaces. There is a constant two-way flow of knowledge between the mentors and the students, an on-going dialogue that helps them explore different things together. It is a community altogether, which understands no barriers of land, age, and race, thriving on the language of ideas!
One gains the knowledge of all the technical aspects over this period which is expected out of an architect. However, the most important aspect is the string of values and the ability to think critically in every situation. Hence, even after 5 years of education, we are unsure if we are trained to be specialists or generalists of the built environment. We are exposed to innumerable fields associated with architecture that many find their passion in a different stream altogether yet always stay rooted in the process of design thinking. It is not the end of a journey after 5 years, it is a beginning to another journey where you are excited, motivated, confident, and more passionate than ever.