So, what do we learn at an architecture school, anyway?
It’s a very ordinary question that architecture students get asked a lot by the people who know they are studying architecture or even by family and friends. It seems as if everyone is quite curious to know about architecture but isn’t too familiar with what all goes on in this field. So, let’s dive into this article to know more about how an architectural degree can change one’s perspective and thought process!
Role of Architectural School
Architectural education is rich and diverse. At an architectural school, students don’t sign up for one ‘architecture’ course but end up studying a string of varied courses each semester. Initially, the subjects might seem a bit disparate; some will be historical, some creative, and some more technical. Over the years, as the study progresses, the learning areas overlap, and the dots get all connected. Some of the subjects covered in this course include – Architectural design, Building construction, Building services, Landscape design, Interior design, etc. The final year’s thesis project is an opportunity to integrate and present all the five years of learnings into one exciting design project.
With a degree in architecture, one learns to see the world from a different perspective. For instance, if you have an architect buddy, don’t be surprised to see their gallery or Instagram profiles loaded with pictures of buildings, some incomprehensible design details, or images from construction sites. Architects can find inspiration for their next cool design project from anything – be it a fruit, an anthill, a cauliflower, or a cycle seat. In simple words, designing can be as easy as getting inspired by everyday experiences, objects, and concepts and applying the relevant and appropriate ones in the design. Developing, planning, and executing the design is where all the skill set lies.
The Architect’s Perspective
Frank Gehry’s deconstructivism experiment – Gehry Residence in the leafy suburbs of Santa Monica, is indicative of an adventurous spirit that would culminate in some of the world’s most iconic structures during the following decades, including the Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain.
An architectural degree changes one’s perspective and teaches one to think architecturally – identifying problems, analysing the components, and looking at problems as opportunities to unleash their creativity. Even in difficult situations, architects get excited about the possible outcomes of their design and what they can make happen. They ought to possess great observational skills, which improve significantly with their study and practice.
If you have ever travelled with an architect or even a design student for that matter, one can observe that they possess great photography skills too. They know how to find the right perspective and achieve balance in the frame while keeping it aesthetic and the best moments to be captured to narrate a fascinating tale. All this comes naturally to them with the hardcore architectural design training.
The Architect’s Perception
Architects study a building or a site through creative thinking by making observations and reflections. While visiting a site, they can be found doing quick sketches and diagrams, jotting down their initial impressions and analysis. Sketching helps to express their feelings and represent their perceptions more intuitively. Through analytical diagrams, architects study the built environment, understand how buildings engage with their surroundings, and develop a perspective. With some perpetual sketches, the experience, views, and character of the place can be captured. With these 2d drawings, architects get a better understanding of the place, and they can now run their creative engines and make discoveries for their designs.
Whenever an architect visits any building or monument, their analytical mind starts dissecting the building design – what could have been the design approach and perspective? Why were certain materials used in the structure? Challenges faced by the architects, the site context, climate response, the design concept, and the list go on. Even while travelling or watching movies, an architect can make out what architectural style is reflected in the place or movie backdrop respectively and also relate a structure or two in the same style. This kind of perspective and observational skillset gets developed after architecture.
Take a look at the picture below,
Before starting architecture, would you have ever given a deep thought about the design concept and execution process for this structure- Falling waters by Frank Llyod Wright? How was the structure designed while keeping the landscape intact? How were the foundations for this structure planned? How was the material brought on-site? These are some of the questions that can pop up in your mind only after architecture, when you develop an architectural perspective.
While most people might be interested in knowing the final design outcome – the structure, architects are equally interested in all the processes and things that go into making the design a reality from paper onto the earth. Architects look at everything around them and keep two tracks of consciousness in mind: The way the world is and the way the world could be. There’s a constant effort trying to bridge the gap between the two.