Hello Buildings Are Cool Nation! Today we have a special treat. My pal Michael Riscica of the Young Architect Website has written a special guest blog. Michael is the man and has been an inspiration for the work I do on Buildings Are Cool. He consistently provides valuable resources for Young Architects and this post is another goodie.
And without further adieu.....Michael Riscica:
Architecture school was a really important time in my life.
Up until that point, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. Really, I was lost. Architecture school was the first time I ever became completely obsessed with something. And everything else in my life was pushed aside, so I could completely immerse myself into my education.
I put myself through architecture school. My family helped a little bit, but in the end, I walked out of there with approximately $75k in student debt. Every semester, it felt like I was mortgaging my future so I could just keep studying architecture. As my debt started to rack up, I started to make a commitment to myself that my goal was to milk this fancy education for everything it was worth.
Below are a few tips to help you Maximize the Value of Your Architectural Education, and leave you feeling good when you look back at your time in architecture school.
Burn the Boats (aka Become Deeply Committed)
Have you ever heard that old story about burning the boats? During some war (I forgot which one), when the army arrived by boat to invade their opponent, the first thing they did was set their own boats on fire. This gave them conviction that they were either going to win that battle, because there was no plan b. A.K.A. no retreat. Plan b was to die, because all their boats have been burned.
Many people start architecture school and don’t know what they are getting into. Generally speaking, most 1st year architecture students do not end up graduating with a degree in architecture. Some students get very far along in the program without ever really being certain that they really want to be in architecture school.
The faster you can become deeply committed to doing your best work, the faster you’ll start making sacrifices toward maximizing your education, and the more value your education will start to offer you. Opportunities magically find the architecture students who are fully committed to their education: Those are the students who get hand-picked to work on special projects, travel overseas, or obtain any other hidden opportunities that an architecture school may have to offer.
If you can become deeply committed towards becoming an architect, while you’re in school, then you should have no reason at all for worrying about what happens after college.
Find A Best Friend.
Architecture school is designed to foster teamwork, so you’ll learn from each other. The person who only shows up for class to present their work—but isn’t working in studio—is severely missing out from one of the most important aspects of their education.
It might be incredibly powerful if you could team up and work with another person. That way, you’ll overcome each other’s challenges and struggles during architecture school.
Find someone at school who works just as hard as you—someone that you admire and appreciate. Create a pact between you and that person: To become deeply invested in each other’s success in school.
During architecture, my best friend and I:
• Shared books, supplies, computers, and equipment.
• Helped each other when the other person had free time.
• Made trips to the store for both of us.
• Paid close attention to each other’s design process and projects.
• Studied together .
• Most importantly, we learned a ton about architecture from each other.
By getting invested in the other person’s success, both of us were able to accomplish significantly more than if we didn’t have each other.
Learn From Everyone.
I recently went to the final reviews at an architecture school, and the room was packed for the first presentation. And then everyone else was missing for the remaining presentations. I kept asking:
“Where are all the students? Why aren’t they present and listening to these presentations?”
I later learned everyone was either sleeping, working on their own projects or doing something dumb.
The only way design is learned is through observing, hypothesizing, and testing.
A really great attitude to have is that there is something you can learn from everyone—even the worst students or projects in your class. Other people’s projects consist of design decisions that you didn’t make, so you should be paying attention to how their decisions played out. That way, you’ll make better-informed design choices.
A good way to help pay attention at reviews, is to write down something you learned from every single presentation in your class. By actively looking for something you can learn, it starts to make every project and presentation much more interesting.
Exercise and Eat Healthy Foods
Your performance in school will greatly benefit from exercising. Try to fall in love with an exercise that gets your heart beating and makes you sweat, and that you love showing up to. Regular exercise has a very positive impact on the clarity of your brain and on your performance in school. Most importantly, exercise is really the best way to burn off the stress from architecture school.
Start paying close attention to how the food you put into your body effects your energy levels. How well does your brain work after eating Thanksgiving dinner? Is your digestive system going into overdrive because you ate heavy food, and it left you with little energy to do your work? Everyone is different, and each person has a different diet that is specifically best for them.
For me, I have the most energy and do my best work when I eat light, simple foods. That means tons of vegetables and clean meats. I avoid carbs, too much bread, sugar, and starchy foods that make me want to go to sleep after I eat them.
A healthy diet is much more powerful to your energy levels, than drinking caffeine.
Either Work in a Firm or Travel during Breaks.
When I was architecture school, there were 2 schools of thought about how to spend summer and winter breaks.
Group A thinks: “You should get a job at an architecture firm, so you can start building your resume. That way, you’ll have real-world experience when you graduate!”
Group B thinks: “You should travel as much as you can and learn about architecture, because after school you will have the rest of your life to work in an office.”
I don’t agree with either. I think the best way to maximize your architecture education is really to do both. It’s a balancing act, but if you only do one or the other, you are completely missing out on the other one.
Working in firms as a student really helped me significantly get ahead in architecture school. It taught me how to effectively draw like an architect, use software, and learn how a set of construction documents fits together. And most importantly, it started to give me a window into the business of architecture. All of these skills became very beneficial to me as a student.
Most importantly working while in school will give you insight if working in this profession is really the kind of work you want to be doing after you graduate. You should check out the free eBook I wrote last year for architecture students called Working While Attending Architecture School.
Traveling teaches you about life. It showed me how different people live and interact with their environments around the world. Most importantly, it forces you to realize the rest of the world is not like the bubble that we have lived our lives in. This cannot be learned in a classroom or an office. Architecture is about serving humans with design, and traveling is one of the best ways to learn more about human nature.
Working and traveling are both great, but neither of them is more important than the other. Spend this summer working in a firm, and then next summer use all that money to travel. This methodology will help you become a better student and human being, and ultimately a better Architect.
Let’s summarize how you can maximize your time in architecture school.
If you want to find your way through architecture school, try using this map crafted by someone who’s already been through it:
- Burn the Boats. Become so deeply focused and committed that you are willing to die trying.
- Find A Best Friend. Teaming up with a partner is extremely powerful.
- Learn From Everyone. Actively learn from all the design decisions you didn’t make.
- Exercise and Eat Healthy Foods. Strengthen your mind through exercise and nutrition.
- Utilize Your Breaks. Either work in a firm or travel. Ideally, you’ll find a way to do both.
About Michael Riscica
Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect living in beautiful rainy Portland, Oregon with his Yellow Labrador. He started blogging about architecture, when the light at the end of the very long tunnel started to appear with his architect exams.
As soon as he had his license in hand, he transitioned all his newly acquired free time, right into building YoungArchitect.com a blog for Architecture Students, ARE Candidates and other Architecture Professionals. In 2015 Michael published his first book, How To Pass The Architecture Registration Exam and also hosts a 10 week Virtual ARE Study Group that helps people prepare for their first exam.
Feel free to connect with Young Architect on social media.
Steve's Wrap Up
I hope y'all enjoyed this special treat from Michael Riscica. Michael has been providing valuable support to the youngsters of the Architectural World and we all owe him a big hug.