Despite having heard about the demands of studying architecture in college, many prospective students still enter the fray with little or no preparation for the trials that lie before them. The course can be arduous enough for the most determined individuals to find themselves questioning their choices at times. Some end up looking elsewhere for career options, after understanding the field’s underlying principles over the years and realizing that it did not align with their earlier impressions. Others may find their calling within its sphere through the ordeals they face. There are many takeaways from studying architecture in college that may shape you as an individual over the years and aid in your professional life which include:
- Seeing It For What It Is And Forging Your Path: The general public often have a fairly vague idea of what architects do and sometimes equate the field to fine art or engineering. While architecture offers plenty of opportunities to express your analytical and artistic sides, it fundamentally exists to solve the demands or concerns of people and the spaces they inhabit. An architect’s primary concern is the nature of the interaction between people and the built environment. Every ‘design problem’ comes with the constraints and guidelines that help define this solution and finding creative methods to incorporate them into this desired resolution is how great architecture takes shape. That being said, it is also vital to develop your own philosophy – to which end you can experiment and express yourself, as no two architects will ever devise identical solutions to the same problem.
- Researching, Learning, And Staying Informed: Much of your education will take place in reading and researching about architecture. Each design decision you make must be justified by factors such as ergonomic standards, coherence to underlying concepts, functional efficiency, aesthetics, or climatic conditions among others and all of them require thorough research. Read project reviews, descriptions, or opinion pieces in architectural publications to stay informed about the state of the industry, prevailing trends, and events. Study the buildings, styles, movements, or theories of the past and understand the forces that shaped them. Draw inspiration from architects that you admire and apply their ideas to your own work. This step is essential in developing your approach.
- Experiencing It For Yourself: Additionally, for all the time spent in lectures, studios, or books, there is no better teacher than buildings themselves. Grab every opportunity you can to visit buildings that interest you, experience them in person, and try to pinpoint what exactly drew you in. Visit construction sites if possible, speak to supervisors, contractors, or workers, and observe each stage of execution. This sort of practical knowledge will serve your design process well in the long run.
- Focusing On The Process, Not The Product: The most important skill you will develop over the four or five-year program is your own design process. Hence, refining your approach to design is more important than the end product itself at this stage. Study a problem comprehensively before you dive in to find a solution, as your view will gradually change over time with more clarity. When certain aspects of the problem initially go unnoticed, ideas that appeared groundbreaking at first might not make the final cut under newer constraints. Constantly question or evaluate your ideas and be aware of how or why you make these choices. As Matthew Frederick so aptly put it “The most effective, most creative problem solvers engage in a process of meta-thinking or thinking about the thinking.”
- Knowing How To Present And Defend Your Ideas: Juries and reviews are an integral part of life as a budding architect. While representing, expressing and justifying ideas to a group of peers or faculty may come more readily to some than others, it is a vital skill that will be necessary even after college when selling your ideas to clients or supervisors. The evaluation of design is subjective in some respects and criticism may, at times be opinionated or open to debate. Don’t sell yourself short and work on presenting and explaining your design decisions as concisely as possible.
- Being Open To Criticism And Feedback: On the other hand, many of us have seen or been the type of student that will go to any length to defend their work, regardless of its demerits. As mentioned earlier, explaining and backing up your ideas is important, but being flexible in your beliefs and open to critique is equally crucial. You will receive your fair share of warranted and unwarranted criticism throughout your studies and professional life. Hence, it helps to know the difference between them and apply what you learn to your future work. More importantly, learn how to engage in a constructive exchange with others about your own projects as well as those of your peers.
- Managing Your Time: Being able to prioritize tasks and allocate your time wisely is a skill that few possess, which highlights its importance. Poor time management invariably leads to long nights, last-minute work, and sleep deprivation – an unrewarding combination. The importance of this skill cannot be stressed enough and students will find many opportunities to develop it due to the course’s consistently heavy workload. Developing these skills early on in your studies will ensure that you are capable of handling any stressful situation in a professional environment.
- Teamwork And Networking: The old myth of an architect depicted as a solitary genius has been dispelled for quite a while now. Architecture is a collaborative endeavour where experts from many different disciplines pool their knowledge to develop holistic solutions. You may initially get accustomed to collaboration through group projects in college. In time, getting acquainted with experts in your field as well as other allied disciplines will help you understand how their work and responsibilities align with yours. Moreover, being well connected in the industry will aid you in finding work in the future, as well as in finding consultants for projects.