Studying architecture is portrayed in a very specific light on the internet – there is many a meme about late nights, caffeine intake and starchitects (Frank Lloyd Wright and the like). It’s is more than a little bit daunting when you start applying to university but it really isn’t like that at all. So let me dispel what I think are the 5 biggest myths about studying architecture:
This is not true. I am most certainly not an artist! I didn’t take Art past year nine and have found joy in just popping out to sketch the city. As great as a photorealistic painting looks, what you learn as an archi-student is that what you choose to communicate in an image that makes it important.
Shading light, rendering in material texture or placing people within spaces are much more effective ways of explaining your building than an exceptionally pretty picture of a lamp. Through the year and a half I have been at uni I have definitely started to sketch more, but they are representative not perfect – they show what I want them to show.
Again not necessarily true. Maths is one of my strong points, so I can say that being good at maths certainly helps with some aspects, but the design module that makes up more than half of your year’s marks needs next to no maths (unless you choose to use it).
Maths is great for accuracy and structural calculations but most of the work that is done (especially in first year) is about process, development and having a basic understanding of method (not getting the exact answer every time). Also the lecturers who cover the maths based content are extremely helpful if you ask them questions about what calculations you need to do.
When you return from studio to your flatmates they often seem horrified that you have spent the entire day in this mysterious place called ‘studio’ because they assume that it is like sitting in the quiet zone in the library when there is no talking, no eating and no fun. This is not what studio is like at all!
We spend so much time there because we are essentially hanging out with our friends, just with a drawing or some tracing paper in front of us. Though the atmosphere can become intense before a deadline, the studio is a good place to be, and makes the work load less of a chore!
NO! All nighters are spoken about in architecture as if they are a given that everyone must endure at some point. Having had five big project hand-ins and seven crits since I started uni, I (and many of my friends) have not done any all nighters. Managing work load is not so difficult, and working in two hour bursts of productivity with regular breaks can dramatically increase the amount of work you get done in a day.
It is very rare for someone’s best work to be produced after 1am, so staying up is often not worth it. Setting small goals that you can easily track will make you feel more productive as well, avoiding the awful ‘I have got nothing done today. What a waste’ feeling that can come as deadline looms.
When you tell people that you are studying architecture often people say ‘Ohhh I’ve always wanted to build my own house’. This is not what we do. Projects often have much more important social context, for example my last project was a building to help disadvantaged young people reskill so that they can get off the streets and make a living for themselves.
Bigger is not always better as well. Grand Designs’ homes are often huge buildings that stretch over vast amounts of land. It is often much more interesting and more of a challenge to create a small space that has many more intricacies than a building that is huge just to make things fit in easily.
Grand Designs makes architecture look glamorous and perfect when it rarely is, and takes out the most interesting part of the process – the designing. There is so much more to architecture than just making a pretty looking building. Also, Kevin McLeod never reflects on your work while a camera pans out from your pin up at the end of a project.
Architecture is most certainly a challenge, but that is what makes it so interesting and enjoyable!