Experiencing Architecture

Experiencing Architectural School: How is it Like at the School of Architecture? The bare bones of what a curriculum offers though should not be enough to help you decide fully if architecture is the field for you; it helps to know what going to school for architecture is actually like. Counselors in any high school will tell you about the financial obligations of a post secondary education, but it is much harder to learn of things like the expected workload, the lack of sympathy from anyone, and even the change in vocabulary that you will have to learn in order to survive. This is where this article comes in.

The first thing that surprises students in their first year of architecture is the sheer volume of work there is to do. Projects, deadlines, and exams often overlap and pulling all nighters goes from being something you heard nightmares about to being a reality; especially when a deadline for a particularly lengthy or finicky project is looming.

There is even a word for it: charrettes which refers to the spurt of energy all students get just before the deadline. Get used to it. Architect students are some of the most hardworking, dedicated, and completely sleepless students you can find on campus which is meant to toughen them up for the workplace, so the faculty will not be very sympathetic. The best thing to do is to have a wider streak of ego and pride than you do of exhaustion and self pity and simply work through it all.

The other big change is vocabulary. Suddenly, words like ‘interesting’ and ‘very interesting’ interpret themselves into letter grades, along with words like ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’ (yes, one can have their design called ‘ugly’) which were once subjective words and now can mean the difference between a pass and a fail.

Architect students also learn that a building can be ‘read’ and if the professor can’t read the design, it has to be rewritten. There are also words like ‘function’ and the ‘harmony’ of the building. It will be enough to make any student’s head spin for a while until they figure out exactly what the professor is saying and how it relates to the work being done.

Finally, until the skin of the student toughens, he or she may experience ‘pencil phobia’ whereby, despite the fact that one has to draw in order to be an architect, one will refuse to for a time because drawing leads to criticism, leads to being upset.

Many students go through ‘pencil phobia’ and it is a matter of pulling oneself out and understanding that the long critiques are meant to help the student become a better architect, not pull him or her apart. Besides that, pencil lines can be erased, so the pencil drawing is always going to be the rough draft; do not get too attached.

If this all sounds horrible and you are thinking of turning away from architecture, do keep in mind that all this rings true for any post secondary degree. The fact is, you will endure sleepless nights, overlapping deadlines, a vocabulary overhaul, and you will be terrified to put ideas to paper. Architect students have it rough to be sure-they have to contend with deadlines that make them camp out in the design studios at times, words like ‘interesting’ are vague at best and yet so much depends on it, and they can be terrified of their own tools; but then, any degree can have these problems. Do not let some hard work and sleeplessness stop you from making your dreams come true.