The ones who want to study architecture, ones who are already in architecture college, and those who have graduated will relate to this article. Architecture is a vast profession with uncountable facets to it. There is a lot to learn and experience over 5 long years. The basic design exercises in the first year, the study tours, and the practical training in the final year – all amount to a lifetime of learning experiences and opportunities. 

Before starting architecture college, I had the preconceived notion that architecture was mostly limited to built structures. None of the members in my family are even remotely related to the field, so I was going into this with very little knowledge. In the first year, we were introduced to various basic design exercises, to stimulate our creativity. Subjects like workshops helped us to develop our model making skills. We learned intricate cutting, interlocking, modular volume making, and much more, which later translated into the detailed models of our projects. 

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Bamboo design_©

Drafting was very cumbersome at first, as every other subject required us laboring over the desk for hours together. Subjects like BTM – Building Technology and Material and ADG – Architectural Design and Graphics had about 15 -20 sheets per semester. These subjects taught us basic line-work and graphical language that is to be used in our design sheets. BTM was a very interesting subject as it had different construction techniques and materials to learn every semester. There were also several hands-on workshops related to the topics. We learned bamboo construction, we constructed a brick dome and an arch using iron molds on campus. We had a Ferrocrete workshop in which each group of students made a 150 mm thick ferrocrete wall. A part of our college was demolished for extension during the 2nd year, and we saw the construction of a wall made using staggered brick coursing. All the tools and techniques that we were learning theoretically, such as leveling of the brick course using a plumb bob and a carpenter’s level. 

AD – Architectural Design presented us with a different project every semester. The first-ever design project was a small-scale shop, such as a pharmacy, tea, or sweet shop. We made 2 different trial models of the shop at the initial stage, and for the final model, we made small furniture and placed it in the model. We designed it to look like a real scaled-down shop. In the 2nd year, we had to choose one of the ‘-isms’ – such as minimalism, environmentalism, regionalism, etc. The design brief was for a school and a bungalow for the principal on its campus. This particular project taught us one of the most important skills in architecture – anthropology. We had to study the requirements of children in primary school. Their average height and reach determined a lot of important things such as the height of a riser of the staircase, design of the toilets, etc. This project also taught us the psychological aspect that is linked to architecture. Architecture is more about creating a space rather than just building walls. With the children’s school, we learned that the unbuilt is as important as the built. When people inhabit the spaces you create, they should be able to utilize the space to its full potential. 

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The 3rd semester’s design project was a mall, and it was to be situated on a contoured site. It is very challenging to design on a contoured site – which is an area of land which has multiple levels, varying in heights. Ideally, you would expect the foundation of your built structure to lay on a level, even and stable surface. But with the right guidance from our professors, we learned the technique of designing on contoured land. This particular project taught us an aspect of sustainability as well. Typically, with contoured sites, the ideal approach is to use the technique of ‘cut and fill’ – which is removing elevated land and then filling it in ‘valleys’ or fill sections. But if you design according to the levels naturally present (unless they are too steep or unfavorable) then you can achieve sustainability, and also create interesting levels and viewpoints in your design. 

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Landscape design_©

Another interesting subject introduced in the 3rd year was Landscape Design. Landscape architecture tends to be generally overlooked, because of the focus on the built structure. When people hear landscape design, they immediately associate it with the planting of trees and shrubs around the building. But you will find that in some cases, the landscape design can actually shape the built structure. For example, when there are several existing trees on site, which are of different species and have important ecological value. In this case, uprooting of the trees is not ideal. The built structure, then, has to weave its way around the vegetation. It ensures maximum sustainability. An excellent example of this is the Collector’s Office in Pune designed by Sanjay Puri Architects. They have preserved and marked the names of 93 local and existing trees on site. The entire building has been designed around the vegetation, and not the other way around. 

The maintenance and daily operations of a building are planned simultaneously along with its design. The subject of Building Services covers important building services such as electrical, ventilation drainage, and firefighting. The capacity of the water tanks, the direction of drainage in the basements, the pattern for fire fighting sprinklers, are some of the important skills we learned. Not just the building, but the same services are required for the site as well. There are different methods of regulating the temperature of a building. Some are conventional, such as using techniques such as passive cooling, which are sustainable and cost-effective. 

We started using software such as AutoCAD, SketchUp, and Photoshop to draft and present our designs to the maximum potential. Architectural software has been a game-changer for professionals and especially students. Not only is it faster than the conventional drafting methods, but also allows room for quick correction and updates. One could have the most unique idea about the design of a structure, but it all comes down to the presentation. Creating panels and idea boards for your project will help the examiner or the jury in an architectural design competition understand your ideas better. Creating 3D views and interior concepts for the project has become easier with the help of these digital software tools. Considering the current pandemic situation, digital sharing has become an absolute necessity, and software learning is a skill that has become mandatory. 

In conclusion, there are countless skills to be learned in the duration of the architectural degree course. Any built or unbuilt structure – be it a bungalow on a small site or a campus spanning across many acres, has multiple aspects to be dealt with. Architecture has various allied subjects that are interesting and further enhance the design process. I found that architecture is a complex process of space making and can range from buildings to monuments to plazas. Ultimately, the most important factors governing architecture are people, context, and the environment. 


Sanika Bondre is an aspiring architect and artist. She is also good with words and hopes to combine her profession and hobby into a new passion. She is always reading about sustainable methods in the field of architecture. In her spare time, she loves reading, sketching and looking at photos of dogs.