Architecture School: A cauldron full of emotions, which is unlike any other environment we have or would ever work in. The extraordinary highs and lows that go with each late-night design modification and preparation for critical reviews are exhausting. But, with each semester our ability to push our mental capacity and overcome struggles leaves a permanent impression on our minds.
Although my journey towards becoming an architect just began a few years ago, my inquisitiveness in the subject dated back to when I was a 13-year-old working through my art classes and relating everything I learned under the sun back to the creation of tangible and intangible elements of the surroundings. This resulted in my profound passion for art, my appreciation for architecture, and my longing to change horizons.
Yet, once one decides to pursue architecture as a field for the future, we are always burdened with the input of others informing us about how it’s a very demanding and strenuous field, mostly male-dominated and is hard for a woman to sustain in. On orientation day, the dean of the architecture school told us that only people who dare to dream and follow their passion without thinking about the monetary values and profits can survive in the field of architecture. But over the years none of these views from people ever strayed me from my goal and ambition to become a creator.
But Architecture school was not a cake-walk and was exactly what I was first told – tedious and draining. Every time the pace of the semester slowed down a little we were overloaded with projects and deadlines again to remind us – it is about the survival of the fittest; Deadlines leading us to sleepless nights, spending hours before the digital screens, and a lot of manual work from the beginning to the end of the semester. The beginning of architecture school seemed like it was going to be a smooth ride as the first project assigned was – onsite sketching. It was pretty easy and interesting and taught us about lights, shadows, and details – but most of us didn’t realize that that’s not all that architecture school had to offer. I remember being in a group tutorial after our first project and my tutor told us a story about his first encounter in architecture school. His mother had always wanted him to be an architect and spoken highly of architecture school. He too thought it was all about sketching and designing spaces till he received his second project which required him to draft with precision and later use the software. He was furious at his mother for not painting him the entire picture of what undergraduate school had in store for him to which she politely replied, that she can only tell him so much and that he would have to work through and experience things himself in life, starting here.
With this story in mind, as semesters progressed I realized it wasn’t an easy route to graduation. Once we were assigned design and drafting projects, like every other student, I experienced criticism for my design and lacking technical knowledge, difficulty in operating all kinds of software, pressing deadlines, the stress of incomplete models and sheets, lots of changes through the process, and impromptu presentations. The one incident that has stayed with me over the years is an extempore presentation debacle we faced in semester five.
We had an early morning lecture, presented by a famous local architect and none of us were ready for what was after. At the end of the lecture, he insisted on staying back to review our work.
It was for an elective – “Theories of Architecture and Urbanism” and we were divided into groups of 6 to do intensive research on different streets around the world. Our group was assigned a street in Manila, Philippines. Realizing we had a consultation with him and our professors we were alarmed as we had no work done due to our extremely busy schedule that focused on the studio submission which was the day before.
We had no idea how we would tackle this presentation without looking like we didn’t do the groundwork required. Thankfully we were the 8th group to present and that bought us some time to prepare. So, a couple of us went to our desks and searched for the map of the area and within 15 minutes we had identified the elements – Landmarks, edges, districts, and paths after skimming through the “Kevin Lynch – The Image of the City”.
But we were running out of time as each group was only given 5 minutes to present. Quickly one of us went to print out the maps and the rest of the group discussed the circulation around the site and collected facts on the landmarks. Once we thought, we had enough information to present the basic knowledge we had accumulated, we decided to go back to the classroom and as the professor was talking to the group before us, I realized we were lacking the fifth element which was the nodes. That set us all in a panic mode. Two of us pulled out our phones and looked intensely at the map as the printed maps arrived. Just when the assessors were giving their comments to the group before us. We decided to start setting up and I just ran to my desk and grabbed some colored markers. The professors only glanced at us and continued to review the other group’s plan on the board. As our turn came along, I started marking all the landmarks, edges, districts, and paths in different colors. Soon enough when we approached nodes, I randomly marked some high and low-density nodes on the map and waited for someone to explain them. Immediately one of the members from the group started explaining the critical points and reasons they were created, how the paths connected and aided in creating nodes and their varying intensities at different hours. We were all stunned at how smoothly he elaborated on the points as none of us had a clue about what he was saying. He used a few more colors, almost changing the city on the board. Once the 5 minutes were over, the professors began praising us for our in-depth understanding of the site, our hard work, and the fact that we memorized the urban layout so effortlessly. At last, after giving us a few pointers on our ideas, they gave us a go-ahead to continue our good work.
While moving back to our desks relieved, we were all still in awe with the work our groupmate had put up. When asked how he managed that, he simply said he applied his football strategies and just juggled nodes between the spaces as if the ball was the nodes on-site, the players were the density and the map was a football field. Although we thought it was very uncanny but funny when he told us that, it also made us realize that these stressful and humorous situations mold us into individuals who are ready to take on any unforeseen circumstances and aids in building resilience. Even though architecture school was a turbulent experience and had been a nightmare in terms of enjoying university life to the fullest and the number of sacrifices and dedication needed was not something that everyone was willing to abide by, it prepared us for the innovative and invigorative process of constant reinvention and change that awaits. But, while the infamous ‘architorture’ was pretty unbearable at the time, each psychological hurdle cleared was another step towards realizing the dream of becoming an architect – and that toughens one up for the trials of professional life ahead shaping each future architect into an easy-going, passionate, confident, creative and versatile individual ready to carve the skylines of the future cities.