WHAT DO YOU LEARN AT ARCHITECTURE SCHOOL?

WHAT DO YOU LEARN AT ARCHITECTURE SCHOOL?

"So, what do you learn at Architecture School, anyway?"

It's a simple question, but it's also the one I am asked most often, both by readers of Portico and by anyone who happens to know I studied architecture: friends in different fields, family members, and people I've just met. It sometimes seems like everyone is interested in architecture, but no one knows quite what it is or exactly how you go about doing it.

That's why it's a fairly understandable question, really. Most teenagers won't have met an architect, let alone understand what they do every day, or what you might need to learn to become one. 

Funnily enough though, my answer is never that in Architecture School "you learn to draw plans," or "you learn how to build houses." As Gary Stevens writes in The Favored Circle, it's not about learning to "do architecture."

But I also don't usually respond that "you learn to become an architect." Instead, my most-used line is:

at architecture school you learn two things:

first, how to think architecturally; and then
how to apply your architectural thinking.

ARCHITECTS YOU SHOULD KNOW: Atelier Bow Wow

ARCHITECTS YOU SHOULD KNOW: Atelier Bow Wow

ATELIER BOW WOW

tokyo, japan

Atelier Bow Wow is a Tokyo-based Architecture firm founded by Yoshiharu Tsukamoto and Momoyo Kajima in 1992. They are one of the most innovative, original and productive architecture firms of the present day.

At the heart of their work is a deep curiosity in how people occupy space, and how we build relationships with one another through space. 

Their investigations lead them across scales - from the ephemeral communal bicycle dining experience to an analysis of the typologies and changes of the vast urban fabric of Tokyo city.

Perhaps because of the breadth of their work, and the depth and intensity of their investigations across scales, it’s difficult to pinpoint what they are best known for. 

 

Surviving Group Projects at Architecture School

Surviving Group Projects at Architecture School

THE INFAMOUS GROUP PROJECT
AT ARCHITECTURE SCHOOL

how do you feel about group work?

It's a contentious question - I know. 

In my experience - both as a student and as a teacher - there are two kinds of people at architecture school:

  • those who love group projects; and
  • those who begin trembling with anxiety at any mention of working with others.

Unfortunately, all it takes is one bad group project experience to tip those in the first group into the latter group. And going back the other way isn't such an easy slope to climb.

You think you're at architecture school to develop your individual creativity, your unique architectural potential, and to realise your dreams. And you are. But how you develop your sense of self is intricately connected to how you relate that self to others, how you communicate your ideas, and how you can identify personalities and skills to complement your own. 

group work and architecture school

Increasingly, Architecture schools are turning away from the image of the individual Architect. Instead, their aim, in varying degrees, is to enable students to be widely engaged professionals, with advanced collaboration skills and abilities to interact with a range of other people - from coworkers to children to lawyers, clients and consultants. 

Why you need to make your architecture concept presentation believable (and 3 steps to achieve it)

Why you need to make your architecture concept presentation believable (and 3 steps to achieve it)

THE BELIEVABLE ARCHITECTURE PROJECT

Construction basics for Architectural Students
Concept is concept right?
It doesn’t need to be structurally or constructionally viable, right?

WELL, YES AND NO.
 

Yes, one of the joys of architecture school is that not all your thinking needs to be shaped by the realities of what is constructible, or fits within a certain budget. In at least some of your design studio projects you're free to dream and explore and push boundaries and enhance your learning by finding your own limits.

 

But, when your drawings have glaring inadequacies in the construction or structural department, your tutors, critics, peers and clients will be distracted from the really rich, well-considered and revolutionary aspects of your work. 

AND THAT'S ABSOLUTELY NOT WHAT YOU WANT.

your aim is to make your architectural concept believable.

IS IT TRUE: Do you really learn more about Architecture in 1 year of practice than you do in 5 years of study?

IS IT TRUE: Do you really learn more about Architecture in 1 year of practice than you do in 5 years of study?

The ‘gap’ between university and practice is a hot topic of discussion in the architectural community worldwide. A large part of this discussion focuses on scrutinising everything that Architecture School doesn't teach you - but practice does. The phrase I've heard architects and graduates use time and time again when talking to students is that:

"You'll learn more in your first year of practice than you ever did in architecture school."

It's true there’s things you won’t learn at Architecture School. But let me ask - did you really plan on studying for 5 years, and then learning nothing more and just going through the motions day in and day out for the next 45 years? Probably not. I certainly plan on - and revel in - learning something new every single day. On the flipside, that doesn't mean I don't value my time at architecture school immensely.

It's interesting to me how much my perspective on learning about architecture, and about what is important, changes over time. After a few years in practice now, I feel like I'm fairly well positioned to assess, from my own experience, not just what but also how I learnt at university, versus the what and how of learning in practice. 

And to me - the idea that you'll learn more in 1 year of practice in an architecture firm than you will do in 5 years of study just isn't true. It's a myth.  
 

THE MYTH OF LEARNING ABOUT ARCHITECTURE

This post isn't about content - the quantifiable 'stuff' you learn - in either situation, or about how well architecture school 'prepares' you for practice. Instead, I'm going to unpack for you:

  • why I think it is a myth that you learn more in practice;
  • the conditions that perpetuate this myth; and
  • why it's a dangerous way to think - not matter what stage you're at in your journey. 

I hope that in doing so, you'll understand that it's just a myth, and doesn't have to be your reality!

Instead of falling prey to the myth, you can choose to be strategic in your education, and take the driving seat in your architectural journey.