Architects. Planners. Designers.

Tips to Survive Architecture School

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A few months ago, online publication Dezeen.com published an article denoting architecture students as the hardest working college major, citing the immense amount of hours a student is required to spend, beyond class time, to succeed. So is architecture the toughest major? As a recent graduate from the University of Arizona’s College of Architecture, I can say majoring in architecture is no easy task, but with a few tips, I hope to make it a more manageable, and enjoyable 5 years.

1: Sketch Often

No, you do not have to be good at drawing to be successful in architecture. By the same hand, sketching is one of the most simple and effective ways to convey early concepts or ideas to a professor. It is also a great way to quickly get ideas down on paper to stimulate discussion or to help retain the memory of the random thoughts that pop into your head during a long semester of a design studio. As a bonus, the more you sketch, the better you’ll get.

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2: The All Nighter is Overrated

You may have heard the harrowing tales of the long hours many architecture majors spend in studio toiling away at their computers or drafting boards. Some even resort to the infamous “all-nighter” that seems almost synonymous with this particular major. However, it is rarely worth it to devote all your precious nighttime hours to working on a project. You work better, faster, smarter and more efficiently if you put down the pencil, close the laptop and get at least a few hours of sleep each night and wake up (at least slightly) refreshed the next day with a clear mind — trust me.

3: Don’t Get Bogged Down in the Details

While it is crucial to understand the major elements of any design project, it is rarely necessary to physically and painstakingly perfect and draw every detail. Focus on the major parts of the project and how to tell the story. The details that matter will emerge in time, and the ones that don’t will remain in the shadows, never requiring more than a brief and general understanding of how they work.

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4: Take a Break

Yes, you read that right. A mind can only focus on one thing for so long before it gets tired and unfocused. Every so often take a break and escape the stress, go outside and walk around, throw a football in the park, see a movie, anything to take your mind off of architecture. When you return to the computer, you will find that your mind is suddenly full of ideas and ready to refocus on the project.

5: Embrace Studio Culture, but Not Too Much

You will spend a lot of time in the studio, working among fellow architecture majors, often working on the same project. Use this atmosphere for inspiration and as a place to bounce ideas around. You will also become close to the others going through the same program: use them as support. However, do not allow yourself to become stressed out or discouraged if you see someone works differently or faster than you. People work at various paces and styles; find yours, and stick to it.

6: Enjoy What You Do

Architecture school provides some of the most fun, varied and interesting projects many architects will experience. The major requires a lot of work, but be sure to take a moment or two to truly enjoy the opportunity you have to work on a high rise vertical farm in downtown San Francisco or a ferry terminal in Vancouver. You may never get the chance to design something like that again. Work hard, but appreciate the work being done, and at the end, it will have been an experience unlike any other.

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