12 Things I wish I’d known before starting my studies in Architecture

Before starting my studies in architecture

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, during my studies in architecture, is that studying this subject requires many sacrifices. At the same time, however, it can give you a sense of design and creative processes that few other faculties can offer.

Not everyone has an expert guide – an older student, a teacher or an architect – who can explain what one should expect from this faculty. This post is for all who want to understand a little more about all the aspects. These are bits of advice, warnings, hopes and doubts that comes from my personal experience of my studies in Architecture.

1. Do not listen to the teachers. Learn how to use CAD programs (2D and 3D)

Unless you are not an indescribable freehand drawing talent, don’t listen, not even for a moment, to all those dinosaurs who mumble from their primitive experience that the pencil is something else Bla Bla Bla… From the first day you have to learn and improve your skills at best of 2 or 3 programs, and you will at least know how to use the most widely used. My personal recommendation is Rhinoceros, Revit, and Autocad 2D, Photoshop perfectly and others to follow: Illustrator, Indesign, ArchiCAD, etc. This is just my advice, you’ll decide on what to specialize, but believe me… Decide an go straight until you became one of the main experts. Learn to know them as if they are your pockets. They will be a very useful tool for the entire University and an excellent visiting card for the job.

2. The portfolio is the most important tool that you have

Start from day one to think about how to realize the best portfolio in circulation. When you’ll need it in the future you’ll be definitely committed in many other things and almost certainly you will not be able to devote all the time it needs. In the world of Architecture, the portfolio is very important – in the first stage is more important than your character, your face and your intelligence. It is more than a duty to work for all the years of the university to achieve the best possible. Please remember.

3. You have to say goodbye to your old social life

You will meet new people sure, so you’ll have to spend hours and hours with them, and create custom reports only, but forgot to do the same way as your friends who chose economy or design or other noble materials, in which no one is forced to produce tons of tables and models. You can do even worse only by subscribing to medicine.

4. To be a great architect, you have to think only to architecture

It is not wise to start at the age of nineteen years! If you haven’t already had experience in the field (such as parents or relatives who are architects) – or if you don’t have a passion since you were a child – which led you to begin earlier to investigate the countless topics around the world of design (whether programs or even the story) – for you will be very hard. Sometimes you can not bridge the gap if you start from zero, and you may be left behind for all five years if you don’t commit yourself to 100%. Studies in architecture are for your entire life. 

5. You will be required to know/study a lot of things

Thank goodness it is claimed that an architect should know the static, sociology, psychology, graphic, geometry, design, at least 5 programs of 2D and 3D graphics, history, urban planning, modeling, technology and (hopefully) sustainability. Fortunately. The buildings have great responsibility for the life of us all. Specialization, if it comes, will come, but you need to know all these topics if you want to succeed through your university exams, don’t forget.

6. The University gives a 50% (or less), the other 50% is up to you

I’m not talking about job opportunities or whatever, in this post we talk about wanting to become the most talented architects in circulation. What I mean is that what they teach you in college will not be enough to make you the best (of course) and make sure once you are in the world of work. In the meantime, you’ll have to experiment, learn and plan for your account. Then apply yourself, the soccer ball was the best friend of Holly and Benji, the pencil and the mouse are yours.

7. It is so late that it is early. Become used to work during nights

Birds singing or the early morning could become a nightmare one day or another. If you are good you will do a few, if you’re like me, you’ll do a bit more, if you’re crazy, always. I do not think there is a single architecture student who has never done a night drawing.

So no joke. There will be a lot of nights, and some of them will be really hard, they will push you to your mental and physical limits. You have just to hope to be always in a good group. Otherwise, they will be horrible moments.

8. The weekend is not relaxing, is only valuable time to finish the boards.

Thanks God it’s Friday, I’m in Love..” NO.
For architecture students the weekend is only an incredible opportunity to live a bit less oppressed the coming week. It is very often used to insanely work on projects. So, forgot trips and travels during the courses.

9. “I can’t.. I have to work” cit.

If I had scored the number of times I said this sentence to my friends or my girlfriend in the last five years, I think that would exceed four zero… Architecture is a sacrifice.

10. If the architecture were a sport, it would be water polo

I played Waterpolo for more than 10 years, and I understand that it is one of the most absurd and exhausting sports in the world. But the comparison with the architecture is not that. (although it could be). The comparison is that in a sport like water polo, as well as a faculty such as architecture, numerous training sessions are needed just to stay afloat. The hours spent on books or in front of screens will be many more than in other sports.

11. To graduate in architecture does not necessarily mean to be an architect

It is also good to have that in mind. At the time I write this post it has been five months since my graduation, and I haven’t yet sent a CV to any architectural firm. For now I’m looking for new roads. Architecture can give you a lot, and you can choose many ways in which to specialize. You will become a technician, a critic, a siciologo, an urban planner, a landscape architect, a designer… Or why not? A great architect.

12. Become an expert in sustainability

In the future will (thankfully) be a fundamental issue. Unfortunately (at least in Italy) we are not yet at a sufficient level, today’s students still look more to magazines than to sustainability, but in the future will be different.

Well, if I read this post six years ago, maybe I would not have joined the faculty of architecture, or perhaps I would have tried to enhance my studies thanks to these advices. If I had not, however, you would not be reading this article. I wish you all the wisdom you need.

If you have any suggestions for those people who have decided to go through the studies in architecture , please do not hesitate to comment! If you need some more advices, ask me all the questions you want!

[Related post] How to earn Money as an Architect or a Designer

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Cover Image @Joshua Earle

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7 Responses

  1. Oh god… so damn true! Every sentence, every statment! Especially 3 and 9… that convey much of the archi-student life. Oh, and maybe you forget about all the money you “invest” in the years making maquette, printing, buying book, living…

    I wish I had known some of this too before starting my damn archi-career. Anyway the only advice I can give to newcomers is to try, do their best and keep enjoying the design process. If you can enjoy all the project step (and you’re lucky with the group you’re working with) sleep, money, stress and everything will just be pulverized by your own satisfaction.

    Great post!

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