Being an architecture student is like revolving in a metaphysical orbit for five years. Surrounded by all the physical material reality, the experience goes quite beyond the tangible. After a very concrete entrance exam with questions that answers a proven right and wrong, coming into an architecture school seemed vague at first. I was suddenly handed a fruit to examine, understand the mysteries of its behaviours and call it concept. Pillars became Columns. I was taught how to write in a stencil-like fashion by my teachers.
My seniors gave an impression of intelligent young people who spoke a unique register and made moving working models that looked spectacular. Strangely, as these five years passed, I did everything I was sceptical and scared about initially. The learning followed a steep curve peppered with random bursts of creativity. It did become overwhelming at times but the technical, as well as the soft skills I learned in these five years, will remain with me for time to come.
The Importance of Patience in the Process | Essential Learnings
As cliched as it sounds, having patience and trusting your progress is beneficial. Semesters can get long, and there will be some subjects and professors that can get difficult and hard to understand. Thus, one will have to navigate, adapt and lunge through the corridors of the mind leaving room for changes and inclusion of different schools of thought. Funnily, I realised that most times when I would linger around these dark corridors, I would end up finding light in my first attempts of expression.
Often, ineffability is what we suffer from. Making the transition from thought to paper seemingly impossible. The uncertainty of what comes after and the prospective impossibility of travelling in a straight line persists till the newly constructed ideas palimpsests with the one originally conceived. Patience here is the only virtue, giving my thought enough time to germinate, not rushing or skipping experiments that can be experimental yet enterprising. Having the resilience to push through the uncertainty and believing that there is a possibility in upheaval.
Having a strong conviction yet not taking myself too seriously.
Architecture comes with its amount of reactions that cannot be predicted. With criticism that is hard to face, sometimes it would seem better to give in and simply agree with what the professors say. What I learned is that I should constantly question, improve and celebrate my failures. After a few semesters, one has to realise that learning is more than a set of instructions, not bound by paradigms and modules but, it is in between interactions, critiques and sheer exploration.
The key learning is to be open to varying opinions, to understand and cognise them rather than forthrightly discarding or ignoring potential variants. Beginning from a quantitative outlook I slowly grew to appreciate ideas that were impactful, resourceful and baked with artistic conviction. More than often the number of deliverables is assumed to be the yardstick of one’s performance. This notion pushes you to traverse on a path of unhealthy competition focused on producing more. Personally, Working with conviction and showing honesty in the translation of ideas/theories/design has been substantially more satisfying and fruitful than participating in the quantitative race.
In this profession of subjectivity, it is not always possible to be successful and thus, though being proud of your work is an absolute must, but so is not taking it personally or too seriously. Accepting your flaws and understanding that you are as important as someone else helps you stay in order and accept/ appreciate whatever comes your way with grace.
Time Management | Essential Learnings
Lack of sleep and time most likely top the reasons for complaining in architecture schools. Before beginning school, I was warned about ‘pulling all-nighters’, hectic submission demands and a fading social life to the degree that it made me doubt my level of perseverance.
Even till my last jury, to-do lists were extensive with 15 different things that all felt strenuous and time-consuming. Like mindless scrolling on Netflix in search for content, I often undecidedly looked at my to-do list like figuring out what to do and when to do that particular thing. Procrastination was a recurring wave, and overnights seemed unavoidable but I did, at last, figure out that the best way was to just get on with it, just anything and mark off tasks, one at a time.
Being consistent and ordered, especially during initial research and proof of concept is key to making the next stages of design and implementation, seamless and harmonious. Many times, coordination and communication with professors could hinder the speed of your progress and the best way out is to make sure that you do not wait. Halting the progress could be restrictive and with the wide availability of sources, educating oneself could prove monumental.
The art of observation.
As an architect, we need to build environments that are conducive to existing surroundings. Understanding multiple contexts of the site as well as delicate relationships of people interacting with it gives architects clues on how to design. Looking in on subtleties, it can be an invigorating exercise to get on the field and judge the circumstances that can emerge once the thought occupies a physical space. One must understand why a structure or a house is designed the way it is and how it brings utility on top of the beauty. The only way one can do this is by observation and research. In architecture school, we would go on trips and study public places. We would sketch them out, portion them and study them in detail. Simple ‘why’ questions would also give you a lot of insight.
The creative benefits of observing help one navigate through the process, making it more relevant to the brief. Reconciling the forces of the site and binding them together makes the design more democratic and successful post-occupancy. Observation is more than just seeing something, it is an active mental process that helps relate and infer objects/events that otherwise seem quite unrelated.
Being a polymath | Essential Learnings
Fueled with curiosities, this profession made me look at things more critically and methodologically. With the exposure to multiple fields and understanding its impact on the physical environment opened me up to myriad tools and approaches to explore and taste different ideologies of the field. My ability to meander through various disciples and understand one situation from multiple perspectives allows me to construct my niche and helps me to be adaptive and constructively responsive to new challenges.
Architects need to be the jack of all trades. Building on a combination of skills, architects have to not just design a building but even evaluate theory, technical details and its social and psychological impact. Working with multiple agencies, architects are often the conductor of this orchestra, thus having knowledge across multiple fields and integrating them into my practice has helped me to bolster my projects.
My interdisciplinary interactions with different professors, professionals and labourers have facilitated me to open up my project to their skillset and learning from them has set me up to solve more complex problems and create with total experimental freedom.
Today, selling is just as important, if not more, than making something. Architecture and the fine arts, live and breathe and come forth from the minds of talented individuals. These ideas won’t be grasped if the people aren’t told or explained well. Especially in architecture, which caters to large diversity, on an individual and on an urban scale and where people come from different cultures and backgrounds.
It’s a weird conundrum. Marketing is excruciating, yet, some would say its art itself. Conversations, observations are important for a project. Architecture helps you hone these skills. Many students work much more than the others, but the way words translate your progress to the jury makes or breaks it. You can explain what a building is, how it feels, how it should feel, how it should be placed, where its materials should be sourced from, what it’s dimensioning should be. Expressing yourself in a jury helps paint a picture. Then comes the other bit, why do you need the building? That’s the marketing. Sell it.
Once you do more and more juries and presentations you get better at these skills and come around to become a better architect. You understand your design well and get an idea of what qualities you want to highlight to make your project pertinent. You learn how to make people agree with you or like what you are presenting. These skills are important and architecture will help you prep them up.
The balancing act.
For five years, we have been practising the art of balancing, squishing through narrow spaces with our kit of parts – boards, sheets, models and all other piercing apparatus. Balancing entire miniature cities on my hands through doors have often resulted in many fatalities.
Walking on a tightrope through the entire course, balancing opinions and navigating through all the barriers of architecture school, what I wish to master is the skill of Work-Life balance. Most times, architecture education and later work can overpower your life, thus trying to achieve some equilibrium is a must to avoid burnout and stay healthy and creatively stimulated.
Save | Essential Learnings
One thing that Architecture taught me is that hurried explorations often end up somewhere where retrieval is difficult. Throughout the five years, I have been slowly trailing out of my errors and blunders with the Ctrl+S. After being through those helpless times, I have learned the most important life skill, and that is to SAVE THE FILE.