The myths and folktales of life in architecture school involve two main characters: The Jury, and the night owls. An industry that is a complex mold of the technical and the creative, architecture has a unique diversity. Diversity can be translated as opportunity. It also translates as skepticism and uncertainty. It appears like a purely creative field to the normal eye. Well, it isn’t. Though creativity is a necessary aspect of architecture, the details in the subject derive engineering aspects that bring a building to function. Architecture students are insisted by their professors, peers and parents (like in every other major) how success in architecture college shapes your professional career. They are right, but not in the way you think. Architecture students are never told what success means in college and how to make the most of it so that we become successful professionally and beat the competition. Students are told the what, but now the how. Simply put, students are never told how to excel as an architecture student. Being an architect for the past couple of years since graduating from architecture school in 2016, one gets an indication what makes a successful architect, how activities like reading and competition projects play an important role and what was futile in college education. It is not a wise move to generalize how one can become a excel as an architect in a field of such diversity. There are a few points that are commonly right for any direction the architecture degree can possibly take you to.
1. How Grades MatterWe live in a corporate world where grades matter. Analysts, engineers, managers are judged based on their grades when starting their careers. And the news is: Grades matter in architecture college as well. Before falling off a cliff mentally, let us understand what role college grades play in the architecture industry. Over the three years working as an architect in two offices and sending my application to over a hundred architects, I have been quizzed over my work portfolio and my resume, and if applicable, my past work experiences and my role there. For your understanding, check any job openings searching for trainee/intern architects or graduate architects. Figure I is an example of what AECOM was look for in their opening for a Graduate Architect. Some application forms asked to enlist my college grades, ‘some’ quantifying to roughly 15% of the offices that have processed my application further. That is a low proportion! Where your grades count is for post-graduate application. Universities investigate various areas like grades, college activities, academic portfolio, and work experience, if any. Image source: linkedin.com/jobs/view/875188759
2. Expanding your range: Reading & WritingArchitecture is a client-driven industry. Different clients have different requirements, ranging from a Romanesque colonnade to contemporary metal casings around columns. This requires an architect to be well-informed regarding various styles implemented over centuries. The opportunity architecture college provides is enhancing knowledge through the regular curriculum. They are the toddler steps. From there, it is pretty much up to the students on progressing from that point. There are several ways to do that:
- Reading Books: This is not limited to architecture school but also the normal lifestyle. Go to the college or city library and check out their books. Download architecture book PDFs and read them during the free time (have fun too. You don’t need to open your kindle in the movie theater or a house party). The reason I insist books over the internet is books keep you focused. Internet can be distracting. Go through research papers that are related to something you’ve been curious about or the design project or competition you are a part of. To learn more read our post on best architecture books for architects and students.
- Creative Hobbies: Traveling, photography and journalism are a few good options to name. Experiencing cities and buildings in person rather than through a photograph or a video is a very different experience and one to cherish. Photography and journalism are great channels to express ones views and perspectives.
- Competition and Research Projects: Surf through architecture forums and college fests and check out the competition projects they have in offer. Stay in touch with professors to stay updates with Call for Papers and Competition projects. These projects help exploring designs, opening minds in the creative side and are great challenges worth cherishing.
- Online Courses: Thanks to websites like Coursera, uDemy, Autodesk and forums by universities we have access to a wealth of courses that facilitate students and professionals to enhance their skills, be it new or acquired. Rewards? Knowledge, viewing processes in videos and certifications that can be added to your CV!
- Summer Internships: While architecture schools help unlock the creative side of a student’s mind, architecture offices provide hands-on experiences with projects. It is a great opportunity to witness professional work and understand the direction of design process.
- Ask questions: The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.
- Software and handwork: While reading and design sense enhances the creativity, software dexterity assists the expression of the design. It is necessary to be comfortable with architecture design software to become a good architect. Keep in mind, though, that the software is not the design but a medium of expression. It is advisable to take over handwork as the medium of design expression in the initial years of architecture school.
- Explore variety: One of the boons of entering a creative course is you are open to several options. I have friends who are full time photographers, journalists, product designers, film set designers, animators, film-makers, business managers, professors and of course, architects. It shouldn’t come to you from day one. Be open to options and with time during architecture school, you will eventually know what your inclination is towards.