Breaking the Box: Explode out of Architecture School to a Successful Career as an Architect
This is part 2 of the chapter: In Architecture School you will learn ________. If you missed part one click here.
In Architecture School you will learn _________. Part 2
In architecture school, you will learn to draw with your hands.
Or at least one of your hands! One of the first classes you are likely to take is an introduction to architectural line drawing. You will learn the basics: how to draw plans, section, elevations, axonometrics, perspectives and a strange concept called line weights. You will acquire a ton of drawing instruments: scales, triangles, pencils, pens, markers, circle templates, and French curves. You will be introduced to trace paper, also referred to as trash, trash paper, and bum-wad.
As each year goes by architecture schools are stressing hand drawing less and less, as the computer is the new hand. No doubt computer proficiency will serve you well, however the ability to draw by hand is an invaluable skill. A skill that will be vital to your ability to design and could help differentiate you from the pack.
In architecture school, you will learn to draw with a computer.
It is no secret that the professional world of architecture is dominated by the computer. This is the reason why hand drawing is going the way of the dodo bird. In architecture school you will likely take multiple computer classes where you will learn various computer drafting and modeling programs as well as graphic suites such as Adobe Photoshop and InDesign. A majority of your design projects will be composed with a computer.
Once you enter the profession there will be some old dudes you will work that will talk about the good ol’ days of hand drawings and perhaps even brag that they don’t even know how to use a computer. Don’t listen to them! The computer is your friend and will be one of the tools that will help you land your first job. As a young architect in today’s era, computer proficiency is the price of admission.
In architecture school, you will learn architectural history.
Like all of these topics the word ‘learn’ should be replaced with ‘get a taste.’ Around the time you are taking the introductory line drawing class you will also take a 1-2 semester class that provides an overview of the history of architecture. This course will cover a broad period of about 5000 years starting with the Egyptians. You will likely cover thousands of years of architecture in a few weeks and then you will slow down around the Italian Renaissance when things start to get good! There will be additional history classes with a more narrow focus such as the last 120 years when modernism entered the equation along with a guy named Le Corbusier.
You will exit architecture school with a basic knowledge of architectural history and most of that knowledge may go in a drawer never to be seen again. It really depends on where and what type of architecture you pursue as a career. It also depends on how much you would like to know.
In architecture school, you will learn about famous architects.
Those history classes will introduce you to a bunch of famous architects from history as well as present day. Many of these famous architects will become so familiar that they are referred to on a single name basis: Michelangelo, Palladio, Mies, Corbu, Rem, Zaha, Bjarke, etc. Many design projects will begin with your teachers asking you to first study projects by some of these brilliant artists. This idea is covered in the next topic:
In architecture school, you will learn about precedents….not presidents.
Precedents, not presidents. This may be a rude-awakening to you but it turns out, “there are no original ideas!” Why reinvent the wheel? No matter what you are designing, there is always some existing idea in which you can draw inspiration. One of the first tasks you will do when beginning a design project in architecture school is to research other examples of similar work to draw inspiration. We call that precedent research.
The practice of precedent research or visualization carries on into the professional world of architecture as well. It has served me very well. The internet makes precedent research much easier these days. Architects find inspiration on pinterest just like everyone else! And eventually you will be presenting a design and someone will say, “what is your precedent for that?” (That usually is not a good sign by the way.)
In architecture school, you will learn archispeak.
You will be introduced to all sorts of overly complex terms. Some of my favorites include: axis, juxtaposition, bifurcate, rudimentary, piano nobile, tectonic, materiality…..And the list goes on. And at some point you will even here someone refer to a building as ‘sexy.’ You will hear your teachers talk this way and assume it makes you a better architect.
Once you enter the profession, you will realize that archispeak actually makes you sound like an ass-hole and nobody likes when you talk this way. Especially your clients. So don’t do it! Resist. Except sexy…I give you permission to use that one.
In architecture school, you will learn what an architect is supposed to look like.
You will observe that your teachers and some of those famous architects have a distinct sense of style. I think some famous architect once said, “An architect looks good in any color, as long as it’s black!” Or something like that.
A blazer and jeans will suit you very well also. Archi-dudes like to sport a beard and both men and women all appreciate a solid pair of thick-framed glasses (ideally in black). If you want to take it a step further you will wear those wacky circular framed glasses popularized by Le Corbusier and Philip Johnson. Warning, you gotta be really good to wear those circular frames!
An interesting phenomenon has happened within the last decade. Non-architects have started to steal our style! Beards are everywhere as are thick-framed glasses. As the nerdy hipster craze has taken over the world, it is virtually impossible to distinguish architects now. It’s scary. You could be surrounded by architects and you wouldn’t even know! The rest of the world has taken our style and we want it back!
O.K. So that last little bit about what an architect should look like was just for fun and may not make it into the book. But it was fun!
Just one more thing...
The items listed above are no doubt an important part of your architecture school experience however I have saved the best for last. The most important thing you will learn in architecture school will be covered in part 3.
To turn the page to Part 3, click here.