As a student of architecture, I get asked this a lot, “Do you think you made the right decision joining architecture?”.
To that, I say, from my years of experience in this field and otherwise, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself every step of the way through this course.
If you’re a high school student, graduate or even just looking to start your own practise in Architecture and the Arts without any formal training, then here are some tips you need to keep in mind before you begin:
1. Question yourself first and foremost
Architectural practise and design is one of the most encompassing subjects in the world and has been since time immemorial. An architecture graduate is expected to know and be well versed in matters that concern almost all spheres of life. Everything from geology, geography, biology, physics, mathematics and civic studies to even obscure subjects like astronomy, sociology and history are ALL a part of this vast field of study. Hence, if you’re ready for the challenge, are generally a knowledge-seeking individual and are open to LOTS of criticism and learning, then this is the right field for you.
2. Time management
This is truly, as I am still learning the value myself, one of the most important habits one must possess.
Each person works differently. The processes and approaches to different problems all vary drastically. For instance, while I work well under pressure, my friends may find a more gradual approach to their work beneficial. No method is wrong. But, time is of the essence and any good architect can meet their deadlines by hook or by crook.
3. Late nights, early mornings
If you have friends studying in this course, you’ll know what I mean 🙂
From staying up all night to working on sheets to waking up early morning to revising for that viva the next day, we students don’t really get that much sleep.
But don’t worry, this won’t become a lifestyle UNLESS you let it (that is the key). A healthy lifestyle with time to exercise and eat healthy is still possible most of the time.
4. Design aptitude
There are various tests and exams, some mandatory and some optional, in countries all over the world, that can help you gauge your aptitude for design thinking and creativity. It is a good idea to try any of those to see for yourself if you’d be adept for this course.
Ex. In India, the national council for architecture conducts the NATA exam, which every architecture aspirant must undertake before applying to architecture colleges.
5. Good with art
Now, it’s not necessary to be the best artist or painter in class to excel (although that does help sometimes lol). However, the most important thing is to understand basic concepts of sketching such as perspective, scale & proportion, shadows, highlights, etc. which are taught as basics in most architecture schools as well.
Representing and articulating the ideas in your head is what you learn primarily in architecture school.
6. Structural understanding
Getting a grasp on the subject also means, that apart from designing structures, you’ll be actually building them. Hence, a basic understanding of structural integrity, geometric forms and similar such concepts, are absolutely necessary when it comes to taking up this field.
Visualising in the third dimension is a neat trick that every single course will teach you in some form or the other.
7. Dealing with a creative block
It’s only natural that most of us might fall into some sort of a creative block when dealing with formulating concepts and ideas in our head. Because after all, that is exactly what we will be selling to people in the long run – IDEAS.
However, it is important to remember that, however hard it may get sometimes, we must always have a few backup getaways/hobbies/safe spaces, that allow us to recharge and refuel at any point of life.
Getting over a creative block also becomes a process that one begins to enjoy.
8. Thirst for knowledge
A natural yearning for knowledge and information is paramount.
Without this, one will neither find the motivation to get forward in this course nor go through the integral learning ladders that need to be conquered for mastery over subjects.
9. Sociological & Cultural understanding
An unbiased sociological and cultural understanding of the community we live in. Be it the current/past state or even future possibilities of growth, the knowledge of growth patterns and cultural context is key to understanding humans (who eventually become our main clientele). Therefore, knowing and understanding human history and behavioural patterns is necessary to be able to design justly.
10. Know your competition
Getting into the architectural sphere requires a slight air of competition.
Today in India, architecture colleges churn out roughly 35,000 graduates every year!
On a larger scale, that’s a whole lot of unused talent gone to waste.
While most people go on to pursue other streams, it’s integral for you, if you wish to solely pursue this one field, that you stay in tune with the competition, not only in your own country but around the world. It’s necessary to keep giving oneself reality checks every now and then. It could be done by following pages of students and firms on social media, or taking part in competitions, or even interning/working in places apart from your home town. A well-rounded world-view of matters is extremely necessary in this field, especially since building technologies are getting updated every single day!
11. Actual competitions
Taking part in competitions from an early part of their academic career, is probably what got most of the famous architects today, their name and fame. Competitions help you broaden your mind sphere and make you come across other ideas and possibilities in the world of design.
Don’t worry about winning, though. That should be your last concern.
More than anything, these projects also give one a good idea of time management, which will ultimately make you a better architect.
12. When do I get into the work-sphere?
As with the previous topic, it’s never too early.
On average, by the time a student graduates from this course, he/she has already gone through two separate occasions of internships/working jobs.
The best time to apply is during the vacations (summer/winter).
The best time to apply is atleast 2/3 months before you intend to start.
And the best way to apply is to just look out for the firms’ contact/job application/internship email ID’s and numbers, and contact them through that.
For the above, you’ll also need a basic portfolio of your work and a CV. Doesn’t have to be too fancy. And it’s also recommended that you don’t ask for pay atleast the first few times.
13. Extra help?
There are also several portals and agencies online now, that help architecture students and pursuers alike to achieve their goals.
Look out for workshops, events and shows that happen constantly in your city and make an effort to go to places and make as many contacts as you can. Contacts ALWAYS help.
14. The strongest voice in the room
Being an architect means you’ll be giving out your opinions on matters from time to time. This means, that they will have to be informed opinions, preferably never biased.
Therefore, having a strong speaking voice is integral.
Selling an idea is the way we make our bread. And so, the voice that sells the idea must always be cool, composed and confident. Articulation of thoughts is something that must always be practised.
15. A genuine feeling of responsibility towards the planet
Above all, as denizens of this wonderful planet and as builders of the future, it becomes our faithful responsibility to ensure that our creations don’t destroy the fate of this planet in any way possible.
Sustainable development should be our main goal as architects.