Architectural education is a long term commitment that extends well beyond Architecture School. This continuity of knowledge acquisition is the product of the expectation of an architect to know a little bit of everything. However, the luxury of dedicating yourself solely to learning is usually unavailable after school. On that account, architecture schools try to diversify their subjects and expose students to as much as possible in the given time. Irrespective of whether you opt for a five-year professional program, choose to take on a handful of years of graduate school, or both, architecture is a gruelling process. 

Irrespective of the pedagogy or program, there are a few fundamental lessons that are taught exclusively in architecture school. Some of the fundamentals an architect must learn are familiar to most professions such as time management, problem-solving, and understanding when to follow or avoid advice. However, one’s ability to understand the ones taught exclusively in architecture school can determine the course of a career. 

It is imperative in every creative profession to have the emotional maturity to save a project that came at a high personal cost for another day. An idea that might hold great significance to you, or might be the product of many sleepless nights could be your reviewer/client’s worst nightmare. A necessary skill to acquire is the ability to pen down a concept for a later day and be able to tweak or redo your design for the comfort of your client. In Architecture, it takes decades to be a respectable designer, but anyone can be a critic. 

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The art of handling this criticism leads to learning the delicate balance between knowing your worth and learning not to take yourself too seriously. It can be quite the task to learn to market yourself and have a strong sense of self when a large portion of your final evaluation relies on criticism from reviewers. Low self-esteem can make it impossible to settle into the architectural workplace, which can be extremely demanding of time, energy, and mental capacity. However, the other end of this spectrum can be an over-reliance on pep-talks that tarnishes your ability to evaluate yourself correctly. Creative professions are rife with criticism and rejections, and the inability to laugh at yourself once in a while can make it difficult to survive in these environments. 

This thick skin is not just a product of deafening yourself to criticism, but the ability to evaluate and critically analyse it. Every student of architecture has had to face a handful of harsh reviews. There are so many different types of assessments in architecture. Some have lots of constructive feedback that make you a better designer, and some are just brutal personal attacks because the reviewer is having a bad day. A good architecture school will teach its students the ability to make that distinction. Criticism of work is never personal and if a reviewer is insistent on criticising you, remember that you are not up for review. It is up to the student to decide what truths in the review resonate with them and are worth listening to; a good school will ensure you understand this. 

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This confidence in yourself comes from practice – that practice includes continuously putting yourself in front of a diverse audience far more qualified than yourself and making your case. In architecture school, you are presented with a tremendous number of opportunities to showcase your work. Each time, you are tasked with convincing a highly educated audience why your work is worth their time, and in the case of hypothetical stakeholders, their money as well. By combining presentation and time-management skills, you learn a variety of methods of pitching yourself, your designs, and your pedagogy. A lifeline in architecture school is mastering the elevator pitch, which is one of the most essential skills to learn while speaking to demanding clients. 

These continuous presentation opportunities help you learn to defend your work and your ideas. By repeatedly practising this skillset, you learn to strengthen your arguments, so you’re better prepared for well-informed clients and consultants. These presentations help you in marketing your work; but more importantly, they teach you how to present yourself. An elevator pitch is not just for clients, but can also help you get through some challenging interviews. Taking pride in your work and having faith in yourself can be what differentiates you from other candidates with excellent work. 

Another significant skill that one learns in architecture school is the ability to work with other people from different backgrounds with a variety of skillsets. The sheer scale and diversity of responsibility in the design of any piece of infrastructure requires a team working in near-perfect synchrony. With so many experienced designers with different ideas and different areas of expertise working on the same project, friction is the norm. The ability to respect each other’s work in such a high-pressure environment is an essential skillset taught in architecture schools. The saying goes, “a camel is a horse designed by committee.” The ability to take responsibility for your part, and credit your co-worker for their design of the hump will take you far as an architect. 

An architecture school assigns many tasks that make you a competent designer. However, it is your competence in reading between the lines that makes you a genuinely exceptional architect. The ability to know when to follow instructions and when to break the rules is imperative. Another skill to acquire is knowing when to trust your own instinct and when your intuition might be misleading you. It is the unspoken skillset acquired in architecture school that distinguishes a creative in the short and long term. 


Aasiya is an aspiring creative professional with a Masters in Architecture and Urban Design from Columbia University GSAPP. She is an avid feminist, climate change activist, and an amateur guitarist. The excitement of knowing that proper design will help meet an individual’s requirements is the only sentiment she holds as her own.