College has many experiences. Depending on the educational institution, your major and school involvement, your experiences could vary in range from being overwhelmingly stressful to by far the best time of your life. Architecture school is an experience that can easily fit in the category all the above, and then some more. For me, it was overwhelmingly stressful, uncomfortable, exhilarating, energizing, and concurrently one of the best opportunities I’ve had. Now that I have been remove 12 years from my undergraduate studies, my vision is now 20/20. I have realized that my time in architecture school can be boiled down to 5 key lessons/skills.
- Time Management
One of the first things people tell you when you declare architecture as a major is how much time it is going to require. Some students are told they can’t participate in certain extracurricular activities if they are pursuing architecture. Others will joke that your life is in the architecture building and you may as well pack a pillow and blanket in case you need a power nap. These are all facts. However, if you have good time management and productivity, you don’t have to pull all-nighters. At least not that many. Architecture school forces you to manage your time and develop focused productivity.
- Critical Thinking
Design is all about problem solving. Architecture is spatial problem solving. The majority of architecture school is teaching you how to think through a design problem. This is why the studio class met four hours at a time, three days a week. Other classes were one hour, two or three days a week. Learning how to process your thoughts and make decision takes a while to develop. The professor would give guidance, but your process really didn’t flourish until after you discover how you think as an individual. When you realize that everyone’s design process is different you know that comparing your process to others is pointless.
- Graphic Communication
Knowing how to communicate graphically is how architects are best known. Being able to communicate your design creatively so that the client understands and technically so that the contractor can build the design is both an art and craft. Architecture is constantly evolving in this area and the key is being open to those changes. I have also found that this skill is something that needs to be constantly developed. You can never get too arrogant to believe you can’t improve. The moment you do is when you will begin to fail.
- Public Speaking
The scariest thing is to speak to professionals about your thoughts and ideas. In architecture school you will be forced to get out of whatever fear you have of public speaking. I had to learn quickly that if I didn’t believe in my design, they way I spoke about it would reflect my feelings. And if I didn’t believe in what I was presenting, why would anyone else believe in it. I received the best grades when I had confidence. What helped my fear of public speaking, was to simply do work that I was proud of. And understanding that comparing myself and/or designs to others only hurt me.
- Embrace Constructive Criticism
This was a tough lesson. So often I would take criticism as an attack on me personally. What helped me not to give up was the fact that my passion was stronger than the negativity. I always knew that architecture was still worth it. I remember the moment when the all the negativity and criticism shifted for me. A professor told me that I wasn’t going to be successful in architecture and I might as well find another major. It was that moment that I started to use everything that seemed to come against me as motivation. I started embracing criticism as guidance to areas of improvement. I took negativity as obstacles to disprove. I figured out how to get something from what I felt was negativity. That something was my drive.
I am sure you may have expected this list to include things like learning how to draw, perfecting math skills, etc., and of course I learned those things. However, these are the most valuable lessons that transcend any curriculum. Architecture school has shaped my character. Although it was brutal, I wouldn’t change anything about it.