Starting the next phase of life can be daunting for a youth. It took me a while to ponder what should I study next. Considering my interests, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and pursue Architecture. With the knowledge I gained reading from the internet and magazines, I stepped into a college for the first time as a first-year architecture student.
After studying architecture for one year, I return home to spend my holiday with my love ones. They would always comment on how I have changed. My family would always state that I became more calm, observant, and detailed-orientated while my friend would usually praise my improved fashion sense. Yet interestingly, both sides noticed that I have developed a new habit when we travel out. I would make frequent stops whenever we walked past an interesting building. They would have to patiently wait for me as I photograph the surrounding buildings before we continue our journey. This made me analyse what has changed me during my architectural journey. I have also noticed that I had many misconceptions about this course before starting my first year that was proven wrong through my interactions with my tutors and classmates. Therefore, let me share with you my changed perspective about architecture:
Our Architecture Secret Code
Before I studied architecture, I have always thought that the most important skill is to be able to draw to convey my design ideas. Never would I imagined that the architecture language is also another essential skill to master until I entered the school of architecture. During my time as a first-year student, I have expanded vastly my vocabulary and knowledge regarding architecture. My architectural history lecturer was passionate about historical buildings all over the world. He showcased many building characteristics during his presentations and introduced technical phrases that helped me to articulate well in describing a building, classifying infrastructures, and even inferring the period the structure might have been built. Through my architecture technology lectures, I was also exposed to the world of materiality and building methods as I listened to real-life construction stories from my experienced tutor. My design tutors also created a safe place for me to experiment with my design ideas. They gave my studio a platform to share and express our ideas, giving us as many feedbacks as possible. They would also introduce new terms and precedent studies for us to explore, in lined with our area of interest. I believe that knowing these architectural technical terms is very crucial for all architecture students. From my experience, the knowledge regarding these unique terms come in handy whenever we have external architectural speakers sharing about their projects. These lecturers widely use architectural terms to explain their projects, ranging from conservation of historical buildings to showcasing their built buildings. Being able to understand these architectural phrases’ definitions helped me to unpack their design concepts and further expand my horizons on how these architects handle challenges posed by their clients and sites. The use of special terms such as “Vernacular”, “Typology”, “Type”, “Topology” and many more does confuse people who do not study architecture in depth. I remembered one incident when I was having a discussion with my architecture colleague about a certain building that unexpectedly resulted in another friend feeling left out as she was unable to follow and join in our conversation. Hence, I would like to believe that these architecture terms are our secret language which we use to communicate efficiently and effectively with other architecture-lovers.
Importance of Quality Over Quantity
From young, it was instilled in my mind that I must complete all the schoolwork assigned by my teachers. I have always had this belief that the more I do, the better I will get and eventually it will translate into obtaining better results. However, this belief was proven inaccurate during my first year. In each brief, there is an output list that requires students to produce a detailed site analysis, floor plans, sections, and models. My college welcomes students to explore both digital and hand-drawn mediums of presentations. However, they placed more emphasis on encouraging students to explore at least three different scales for each of their projects, observing how our design impact our brief in the macro, micro and meso perspective. Before every final presentation, I would be spending weeks with sleepless nights to accomplish all the criteria. By the end of the first year, I realized that the tutors appreciate more on works that are carefully curated by my colleagues. The tutors shared that they do not expect everyone to follow the list, instead, they wanted students to explore our concepts and to be able to express our ideas well in diagrams, visualization, and in words. They like to see progress work on how our exploration leads to the final design outcome. I recalled an incident in which my colleague only produced one set of plans and one model due to time constraint. However, he was able to communicate his ideas and his progress work was documented. He was willing to accept all feedbacks. The tutors were able to understand his ideas and gave him pointers to overcome the challenges he faced. In the end, he was able to obtain a good result as he was able to polish his work in his portfolio submission during his free time after the final presentation. Truthfully, we can never be satisfied with our end products as architect students. Hence, I believe that the quality produced, amount of exploration you did, and having the correct learning attitude is more crucial than the amount of work you produced.
These are my thoughts and skills I have gathered about architecture after studying it for a year. These opinions might change as I progress down the road, but I am also interested to know about your thought on your perspective on studying architecture.