Architecture schools can be an intriguing place. Engineering students always question architecture students about their work and how different their classes look like. Because no two studios look the same, even in the same year! That is what makes architecture a mind-boggling course to the outsiders, originality.

First-year of architecture school

Every architecture student clears the NATA or an entrance test to secure a seat in a college, with the hopes to groom a city, shape the world or earn more after the degree. In my first days, the engineering students and onlookers were bamboozled by my weapon which was the t-scale. While being told to study squares and rectangles, I wondered about the accuracy of my notion towards architecture, crazily twisting buildings. Leaving something behind as a legacy was why I took the course, added to the creative freedom compared to engineers who immerse themselves in theories and derivations. Other students had a plethora of reasons, like interest in sketching, disinterest in math and physics and so on.

In the second semester, the actual design was introduced. The first task was to design a room, which took a month and a half. The year ended with me designing a basic residence, a dip into the deep rivers of design.

Image 1_Mood board design for house_©

Second-year of architecture school

All of a sudden, architecture school became more technical. Professors who were unquestioning of weirdly angled walls in the previous semester talked through the importance of structural integrity and that construction of a design is the final goal, salvation of a drawing into permanence and perhaps, the start of a legacy. One needs to build to be paid, another statement that made more sense than the former. 

The tour taught the importance of observation. Inspiration comes from everywhere, from the grain of dust to trees, depending on how one envisioned it. The architecture was not the unearthly structures rising from the soil. Aesthetics which seemed important shifted to functionality, slowly but evidently.  

Village survey

My perspective on rural architecture widened with the village survey, there was more to those huts than just a mound of mud. Context, buildability, logistics and economics all played into construction. It demonstrated how culture was instilled into architecture with open porticos where people spoke and met each other, while cities had walls to separate humans. Architecture slowly unveiled its multifaceted self.

Image 2_On-site experience trumps studio learning_©Rodolfo Quiros

Third-year of architecture school

My education slowly pushed me out of the drafting board into real-life scenarios. Never do many architects get the chance to build skyscrapers. Even the greatest had specific typologies they catered to best. The creative fuel was dampened slightly by the introduction of services and other technicalities, drawing a line to what I can achieve. Engineering and architecture were co-existent. Structural stability is equally important as a well-planned layout. One provides the ability to exist rigidly while the other influences the inhabitants psychologically. Good designs go only so far that communication and networking was the final leap to become a successful architect. Beyond the hard skills of drafting, modelling and other technical skills, etiquette, attitude and mannerism were the pieces completing an architect. 

Students who had more drawings achieved more marks, but I was focused on that person who nailed the technical skills, the actual skill needed to survive in practice. Having professors who had firms showed me that architects are not the celebrities that I imagined of, and that there is a larger race at play after graduation. One that the faculties are secretly playing, but were still trumped by starchitects. Communication was the soft skill I intended to learn, it demanded to be worked with differently in various premises. With workers, my same professor spoke colloquially, instantly switching to professional English when conversing with students. There was also a mention that we needed to know the native language to be vocal with the craftsmen and site workers, opposing the modern world which measures a man’s intelligence with his English. 

Fourth-year of architecture school

With every passing semester, the cap on how much architecture schools taught widened. The industry skill gap grew evidently. Sheets went only as far as the semester and designing for clients was more important. The urban survey was a revelation while I believed the villages were a better demonstration of organised architecture. But cities proved me wrong, life can spring up everywhere there is a choice. And in the chaos, emerged the epitome of human activity. Learning from the urban study, a minor design was also on the side. More emphasis went to detail, the factual parts of sheets. 

Fifth-year of architecture school

The final year gets into the technicalities and nitty-gritty of detailing, understanding planning, materials and everything relating the study through the thesis, the final chance to display the creative prowess gained, perhaps the last time a student works on such a large scale project. The scrutinising jury is a trailer to how a client could be, and in a situation where we need to fulfill the client or lose them, communication is put an emphasis. Being able to sell the design is currently my favourite skill, even with a mediocre design, marketing could go a decent distance.  

Internships introduce us to the practice. Learning to work in an atmosphere, simulating real-life conditions where the creative bar goes low (this time because of budget), when you have to adapt to be different. I felt as though architecture school made me less creative, but it showed the challenges in real-life. This set of hardbound rules helps us innovate and think out of the box, making us the most creative and original professionals. Modern problems require creative solutions.

The period in architecture school grounds us to reality or at least fails in completely doing so because architecture cannot be mastered in a school. Practice and experience groom an architect, a process that is completed in decades, if not years after graduation.

Image 3_Graduation is just the first step in the right direction and not the end_©Emily Ranquist



Vignesh Esakkinathan is a final year architecture student from chennai. He blogs about climate change and productivity with the hopes to become an architectural journalist. When he's not playing cricket, you can see him philosophising life at his rooftop.