Architecture school is an extensive one and we all know it. The decision to pursue this five years long grueling course feels like choosing a path for a lifetime at the age of 18. However, most of us would agree that it is worth it for the knowledge we gain throughout those years, the friendships we form while working in teams, the post-studio thoughtful conversations that tend to pick up over a coffee, the eagerness to get done with the review after a heroic all-nighter and the excitement to explore new places during study trips! It is a transformative and challenging experience that changes us forever.
At the time of entering the university, we think that architecture is all about sketching, learning to design great spaces, understanding construction details/building services, and developing the technical drawings. What we may or may not realize, though, is that the tenure in architecture school helps us to attain several other lessons and skills which are an asset outside of academia as well. Here are some of them based on my own experience being a final year architecture student.
Nothing is perfect
Designers are often hampered by the belief that a good design must be perfect. Instead of aiming for perfection, you should be open-minded enough to see what’s not perfect. Moreover, nonconforming oddities can be the enriching and humanizing aspects of your project.
Don’t be afraid to discard an idea
We make a lot of mistakes, both in design and in life. However, the important thing you learn in architecture school is to not hang on to a bad decision just because you spent a lot of time making it. Your goal should be to try things out, think critically, discard the idea if it doesn’t work for your design, and then start looking for a feasible solution.
Leaving previous work behind to make room for new ideas, creating tens, if not hundreds of iterations on one concept, and the process of evaluating multiple solutions to any one problem helps us to become adaptable. Adapting is the key to success and this is true far beyond the realm of architecture. After architecture school, we are hardwired to iterate and adapt.
It’s been rightly said Architecture is One Part Design, Two Parts Problem-Solving. Design thinking is essentially a process that moves from problem to solution via some clear intermediate points – research, ideation, prototyping, decision, implementation, and testing. This process can be applied to any type of problem to arrive at efficient and effective solutions.
In an architecture school, the time pressure is real – minimum attendance has to be maintained, submissions need to meet the deadline, extracurricular activities seem equally important and sleep is also a must! Therefore, students have a good opportunity to learn to prioritize tasks, limit distractions and manage their time proactively. Needless to say, it doesn’t stop being useful after you’ve graduated.
An architecture school allows you to collaborate with your peers for group projects. Though it may be a process full of frustration, it helps you to learn several valuable lessons about how to (or sometimes, how not to) work with people to achieve a common goal or a set of objectives.
Working with people from other disciplines
Through electives, interdisciplinary studios, or some classes in another field, an architecture school prepares you to work with people from other disciplines. Study trips, market research/surveys, and internships also play an important role in developing this skill.
Whether you are sharing your thoughts with your group members, explaining your design concept to your professor, defending your project in your final review, or making your portfolio, architecture school is full of presentations –verbal, digital, or by hand. Professionals who can communicate their ideas succinctly are invaluable.
Since the architecture curriculum involves regular critiques and feedbacks, over time you develop a thick skin and begin to integrate constructive criticism into your work instead of blindly defending your project in front of the reviewer. It is important to express your opinions and have a strong argument but you must listen to the feedback as well.
Stay true to yourself
Architecture school gives you a plethora of opportunities to explore, discover, and go against the grain, and try something different. Since professors won’t always agree with you, it becomes important to understand the full extent and implications of the risk before you take the leap. Stay true to yourself, work hard, and don’t do something that you don’t believe in. Use your skills to craft your future and you may just find your way to true innovation!