The years spent learning architecture in college made me pick up a thing or two about how this field might be approached as well as what are skills one has to attain in order to make a difference afterward. Below there are listed, under the form of merely friendly bits of advice, some of the things I learned during college and which may help some of the readers develop their experience in architecture.

1. Sort it out

The experience in architecture school can be rather overwhelming and the amount of information received from various professors might result in complete burnout. Managing all the data can be quite challenging, especially in the studio, where the subjective element becomes considerably present. It is hard to imagine there is a student who was never exposed to at least two (if lucky enough) contradictory opinions coming from the studio advisors. When like this, the only chance to survive is to sort things out. Go back to your sketchbook and write down their feedback and try to look at them with a critical eye while trying to choose the best possible solution to improve your work.

2. “Steal like an artist”

As the time spent in the studio working alongside your colleagues is quite significant for sure you should make the most out of it. Sometimes you may notice others have different talents and skills that you would be eager to master. One way of achieving this is by observing how they do those things and then try to replicate them in your unique way. Being in there with so many people should be embraced as an immense possibility of developing various new abilities. Besides the obvious reference to Austin Kleon’s book -which, by the way, should be an absolute must- this one talks about one of the surviving skills necessary to have when studying architecture.

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Steal like an artist_©

3. Enough is enough

Starting a project is undoubtedly one of the toughest moments experienced by most of the architecture students out there, yet once outpaced one may potentially encounter another problem: “when to stop?”. Quite frequently, when diving deeper into the design process, we tend to forget that we still have to comply with a certain deadline. Going into more and more details at once can ultimately ruin the overall design by neglecting the bigger picture. After all, one can work on a specific project for a lifetime without achieving the desired results.

4. Defend your project

No matter the result of your projects, when put in front of the committee to present it, do your best defending it. If you do not do that, then no one will. Sometimes the overall outcome might not please you as you know things could have been better dealt with, but try to appreciate your work as it is. Behind most of the projects lay hours of work, sacrifices, and effort so you have to give yourself some credit for that. If you do not believe in your own solution, how can you convince some stranger to do otherwise?

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Project defense_©

5. Work together

By all means, architecture is about collaboration. This is for sure one thing we are all exposed to when in architecture school and it does not matter if you work with your best partner or with someone you barely know because, in the end, you have to get the job done, or at least learn how to do that. Architecture is, after all, a field that embodies many other specialties in it, and in order to succeed, all those participants have to be synchronized and work together as a whole.

6. Reach compromises

Working together implies lots of skills from being a good listener to knowing the perfect moment to take action, but when exposed to someone else’s opinion and expertise being able to negotiate things is one of the most important assets. Negotiation is not only about making things happen your way but to analyze and choose the best possible solution to reach the common goal. Unfortunately, in these situations one has to learn to accept compromises and reach a middle ground, things endlessly practiced during the studio hours in college. 

7. Involve the others

Try getting the others involved as much as possible. Besides the fact that is scientifically proven to result in much more innovative outcomes, the participatory design also helps to broaden the perspective. Never be afraid to go and ask people who have no background in architecture about their opinion on your projects. Most of the time this will make matters you never considered relevant enough come to the surface and help you reshape everything from top to bottom, plus it will help you confront new opinions and test your debating skills.

8. (hand)Sketch 

It might be seen as an already obsolete cliché these days, but hand sketching truly is one of the biggest assets in an architect repository. No matter your personal preferences for a certain type of architecture, the concept of any project should always start with a sketch. Here is not about the way you sketch, but the action in itself that conveys knowledge, understanding, passion, and an indisputable intimate connection to the project. Architects do not have to be masters in drawing (although some really are) as their goal is not to create beautiful drawings to be framed and hung on the wall but to build and in order to do so, they need a medium to do the transition from their own imagination to the physicality of the end object. This bridge is the (hand)sketch.

Renzo Piano’s sketch_©

9. Focus on all other things, but architecture

One striking thing I learned while in college is that architecture is not about architecture, rather it is about all the other things. In the past few years, there have been lots of debates on the architecture created by architects to other architects. Needless to say, this approach lacks the very essence of architecture: its relation to the environment and to the community it serves. Architecture should not be about a contest on who is creating the most twisted building of them all, or about who builds highest. To create quality works, one has to understand other fields first.

10. Be empathic 

Getting out of this archi-bubble we all tend to live in improves, in fact, the overall approach one submits. By carefully looking around with both the mind and the heart open and ready to learn the architect slowly becomes more empathic and this is a key feature we should nurture a lot more, especially these days. Being empathic will result in better responding to the needs of others. Architecture is real (in a physical way) and if messing it up, the world out there will see it. The sooner the younger generations of architects acknowledge this, the better.


Ștefan is a resourceful and professional young architect. Thirsty for innovation and knowledge, he is always willing to share his passions with the ones around. He finds himself intrigued by the tinniest of wonders and considers words just another material to build up with endless, brand-new possibilities.