Three lessons I learned at ‘archi school’ – and three more I didn’t
So you’re thinking of studying architecture or you’ve just started? Wondering if it’s worth it or if it’ll make you job-ready? While there are other pathways to working in the industry, here’s my personal take on what you’ll learn from archi-school (and what you won’t)!
Three things I learned:
1. Communicating ideas
I remember being enticed by the beautiful visuals and renders I saw on Open Day. While great drawings are one thing, I learned through my studies that the key purpose is conveying a project’s idea. You can spend the longest time producing the most amazing images and diagrams but, if they are not helping you communicate your project, how are they useful?
Think about how you can best convey your project, what diagrams are useful to highlight design decisions and processes and how these images are presented to be most useful to illustrate the project. Some of my projects have included a tourist map of Melbourne, propaganda marketing for an aged care hobby farm and a collection of an ethnographer’s field notes on the suburban homes of Chinese migrants.
While these examples might be a bit wacky compared to what you’ll be doing when you enter the profession, they all helped me understand what information needed to be conveyed to the client and they helped me learn how to present it in a digestible form. This has greatly helped in how I think about creating presentations and reports.
Try www.koozarch.com if you need some out-of-the-box inspiration for unconventional architectural drawings.
2. Presentation skills
I dreaded end-of-semester presentations. I always wished that I could just submit my panels and that would be the end of it. Now I can see they were important practice for when I entered the profession.
Public speaking is still something that I’m working on. I’m learning just how important verbal communication is in the world of architecture. From presenting to the client for their sign-off of design decisions to presenting at internal design reviews and charettes, coordinating with your team members and updating your manager about how your progressing on a task, the ability to verbally communicate in different environments has been a skill that I’ve been observing and practicing every day.
Design studios present some great opportunities to practice your formal presentation skills. Take advantage of them!
3. Taking feedback
If there is one place that can take you down a peg, it’s architecture school. You’ve spent eight weeks pouring your heart into your project for the mid-sem crit to tear it to pieces. We’ve all been there at some point! While you probably won’t experience the same brutality in the workplace, studio crits did prepare me for absorbing and responding to constructive criticism of my work.
Receiving feedback is something you don’t escape after uni. It can come in the form of internal design reviews, presentations to clients, or even workshopping and testing ideas within your team. Learning that feedback isn’t personal, and seeing it as an objective response is so important. I can honestly say that most negative (and constructive) feedback I have been exposed to has made the projects I’ve worked on better!
Three more things I learned when I left university:
1. Architecture is the study of everything!
Architecture is amazing because it’s such a multidisciplinary subject. While uni was a great learning experience, the experience you have outside of uni is what really contributes to who you are as a designer and a thinker. I chose to take a gap year (or two) to travel and intern overseas. I remember feeling super stressed that I was falling behind my peers but, in reflection, all the time that I took off studying to travel and work outside of architecture has provided me with valuable skills and experiences that have helped me land my first architecture job. I’m still so amazed at how many of my colleagues had completely different careers before landing in architecture!
When applying for my first architecture gig, being able to speak about my time working in Government, going on exchange to the US, or interning in China helped demonstrate what type of person I was and how I was different from other grads. While it seems obscure and counterintuitive, taking the time to explore my other passions or curiosities has helped me define the type of architect I want to be.
2. Working collaboratively
Throughout my studies, I remember the sighs of annoyance at the sound of ‘group work’. Now that I’m working, nearly 90 per cent of my work has been in a team environment and it’s amazing how so much of the work you do is coordinating with other team members, consultants and the client.
At uni, I loved the freedom of being able to have 100 per cent control of design outcomes, but in the real world as a fresh new grad, you learn that this isn’t reality of the profession. In the workplace, it’s most common for design outcomes to be spearheaded by the architect(s) and workshopped with clients and consultants. Reaching a final outcome is the balance of a lot of different stakeholders. Looking back at my uni experience, it’s actually quite shocking that collaboration and working with others aren’t emphasised more.
Learning doesn’t stop
If you’re about to finish your course, congratulations! Prepare yourself, though, because the learning doesn’t stop there!
Working in architecture is a whole new ball game. I think while uni has taught me some great skills such as design thinking and problem-solving skills, the technical and practical tasks of creating something that will be physically built is a whole other beast that you can only learn on the job. From the boring stuff like door schedules and learning to document and review construction documentation to executing design and functional planning workshops with clients and consultants, there are so many aspects of working in architecture that you don’t learn about at university.
I guess what I’m trying to say, is that studying architecture provided great learning experiences to prepare me for life as an architect, but it’s not everything. One thing is for sure, like most things in life, uni is what you make of it. Good luck!