So you want to match footsteps with the prodigious Zaha Hadid, the unparalleled Le Corbusier, or the distinguished B V Doshi? Who wouldn’t want to build Skyscrapers or bring to life crazy ideas of their own homes? Well, so did I. Imagine leaving a mark in the world, literally, in all its tangible glory!
Having done all my research beforehand, you’d expect me to be prepared for whatever this profession threw at me, but one cannot fathom the degree of difference you see. Architecture College is unlike any other college or high school experience you may have had prior. Because of this one spends months trying to process and acclimatize to the work culture here.
The hardest part is having to batter against the opinion of people who might not agree with you. For some courses, Grades and written examinations are very subjective. That tends to take a toll on me, especially emotionally. Each professor has their own unique style to offer, and no professor is ever the same; hence, the reason why they are so subjective. Sometimes, professors even contradict each other.
It takes a lot of time and convincing for parents and peers to also understand our system of grading and evaluations. It often gets overwhelming, to make a huge jump from our traditional education system that focuses so much on theory and rote concept to a profession that gives possibly the most hands-on experience.
Architecture colleges will throw several curveballs at you. Early to bed and early to rise is a foreign concept in this line of work. The days are long but the nights are longer. The adage that a college student’s life is no work and all play, unfortunately, doesn’t ring true in architecture college. 24-hour studio culture exists, and is often encouraged by professors. Each student would have experimented with every sleep pattern under the sun, sometimes even staying up late on normal days owing to habit. Eventually, one gets so invested in this way of life, that we find it hard to match up to people outside this world.
I would often be invited out by my friends on the weekends, but I was either caught up in assignments or otherwise catching up on sleep and wouldn’t be able to make it. By the time, the number of invitations I got, reduced, and when I asked my friends why I wasn’t invited, they would reply with a hint of sarcasm, ‘Oh! We thought you had assignments.’ But I couldn’t blame them, it was true.
But to think that so much pressure would break a person, as students, we have learned to find peace amidst the chaos. The scampering students, with sheets and models, practically sleepwalking into studios, especially the night before the final jury is a scene to behold. Frantic stressful rambles over a five-minute midnight coffee break with friends gave unmatched contentment. We learn to find humor in these situations. An architecture student’s life revolves around the final jury. Though harsh professors are not unique to architecture colleges, the intimate and personal mode of feedback in these critiques make it all the more intense. Professors are not afraid to tear you down, sometimes, literally. Most students would often have their sheets and models torn by the professors. You can spend an entire semester on a project and the panel jury will beat down your design in a matter of minutes.
It’s important to learn humility, have a tough skin, and take the criticisms in a constructive manner. After all, diamonds only form under pressure. It is imperative to take this in good spirit, as rejections are going to be a staple in the corporate world. The silver lining of the dreaded reviews is that it teaches you numerous life skills. A good design is as much about your presentation skills as it is about your project. Presentation skills also include how you choose to present yourself. Absorb it, and turn it into something productive. We’re taught to develop listening skills. It may not always be bad, listen to what others experience speaks.
And finally, amidst the regular existential crisis one may go through at their time in college, the most debated one will always be whether to have your 4th coffee of the day or nap it out! Architecture college is a war zone. Every minute you fight to survive, and the longer you survive, the more you conquer. Whatever the situation be, never forget to hit save- On the memories or the project you’ve been working on all night, because you will never get them back!