So you want to follow in the footsteps of the prodigious Frank Lloyd Wright, the unparalleled Zaha Hadid, and the remarkable Le Corbusier? I don’t blame you – in what other profession do you get to design city skyscrapers, or build future cities? Architecture is perhaps the most visibly tangible way to leave a mark on the world. But before you can get to that stage, there are the trials and tribulations of architecture school to contend with first.
With this in mind, I thought I’d do a little inside digging on behalf of all you future architects. Ahead, discover what architecture school is really like – beyond the school prospectuses – courtesy of our architecture student friends over on Reddit.
Be Prepared to Work Long Days and Even Longer Nights
The old adage that a student’s life is no work and all play unfortunately doesn’t ring true in the realm of architecture school. 24-hour studio culture exists, and is sometimes even encouraged by professors.
“As mid-reviews or final reviews approach, most of us [do] 1-2 all nighters and [work] about 10 hours per day; this is actually encouraged by all of my professors. Reviews are very hectic as professors typically make you change things a few days before the final presentation. You have to change parts of your project before you can render, make the final floor plan, Photoshop, or even make physical models. Each of these steps are long and tedious.”
“Be ready to give your life to school. [Say] farewell to weekends and sleep.”
You’ll Quickly Learn to Develop a Thick Skin
An architecture student’s life revolves around the final critique in which you are expected to present your work in front of a panel of professors. Though harsh professors are not unique to the world of architecture, the intimate and personal mode of feedback in these critiques make it all the more intense. You may want to start working on that thick skin of yours now!
“The final critiques are brutal. Architecture requires a high level of humility. Professors are not afraid to tear you down. I cannot tell you how many students I have seen in the bathroom or in the elevator crying. One of my professors, (let’s call her Regina), threw away my friend’s physical model that she spent days and over $600 on. Regina said, “it is better that way,” (direct quote) as she threw it all out. She also would intentionally drop our physical models to the floor to see if we glued it well enough. She was a nightmare.”
“You can spend an entire semester on a project and the review jury will tear down your design in a matter of minutes. It’s important to learn humility, have a tough skin, and take the criticisms in a constructive manner. After all, diamonds only form under pressure.”
Grades Are Often Subjective
Critical feedback is par for the course in most walks of life, but what stings the most about the critique dished out at architecture school is the fact that grades and feedback are often based more on subjective opinion than unbiased benchmarks.
“The hardest part is definitely having to batter against the opinion of somebody else who might not agree with you. Grades are, for some projects, very subjective. That’s (for me) very tough, especially emotionally.”
“Each professor has their own unique style for students to learn from, and no professor is ever the same; hence, the reason why they are so subjective. Some [professors] even contradict each other. Architecture is a very subjective profession because it incorporates art with science.”
A Strong Portfolio Is Key to Scoring an Internship
Given how stressful and all-consuming architecture school can be, it would be easy to put off thinking about what happens after you finally graduate. But that would be a huge mistake! Your time at architecture school is a valuable opportunity to perfect important foundational skills and build up your portfolio.
“I recommend for every architecture student who seeks an internship to learn Revit, Adobe Creative Cloud (Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, and Lightroom mainly), and AutoCAD. These programs are the most popular programs in firms. Make sure to show the usage of these in your portfolio, and always look online for other portfolios to give you inspiration and ideas.”
Success Is as Much about Your Presentation Skills as It Is about Your Project
This isn’t to say that the quality of your work is unimportant, but if you can’t effectively communicate your vision to your professors and peers then you’re going to struggle to make it to the top of your class. Oh and heads up, presentation skills also includes how you choose to present yourself.
“My friend wore sweatpants to final critique once because she pulled an all-nighter the night before and did not have time to change. This one professor did not let her present at all because ‘it is unprofessional and shows disrespect to the project’, which I can understand, but I would’ve let her present since she worked so hard.”
“I wore a laced flower shirt for presentation once, and got scolded. They said, “Your shirt is distracting us from your project.””
*Some answers have been edited for grammar and clarity.
What are your experiences of architecture school? Is there anything we missed? Let us know in the comments below!
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