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Architecture Modules

A Picture of Bethany

Table after table will show you that an architecture student’s life is a busy one. I spend an average of 60 hours in University per week, with only around 8 of those being official contact hours.

This vital private study time means that the course has no optional modules, as we have to fit all our lectures in very specific parts of the week. But what does that mean, and how does it affect the course?

All 120 students in my year are expected to take the same five non-design modules – two technology based units exploring structure and construction, a history module covering modern architectural history, a sociological unit exploring the meaning of home, and the first (terrifying) part of our dissertation studies.

The Pros

  • The non-design modules add structure and understanding to the experimental design side of the course. We are granted a lot of freedom in the studio, so to have clear learning outcomes to a lecture series really helps to focus what you are learning.
  • We cover a wide range of topics. This helps us build an understanding of what ‘architecture’ is about in terms of theory and practice. I have learnt about all the parts of a brick wall (there are more than you think) and how the concept of home has changed over time, as well as the key movements of twentieth century architecture and what the future of sustainable homes is.
  • As part of an undergraduate degree, it gives you a really good amount of knowledge that you can specialise in to use later on in the long 7 year process of becoming an architect.
  • There is no panic when module choices get published! We don’t have to anxiously sit in front of a computer hoping that the capped modules we REALLY want to study haven’t already filled up. We know the modules we will be taking each year, and know what to expect when we start in September.
  • We also don’t have to spend painful hours deliberating over which modules we want to study for the next year.

The Cons

  • The lack of choice can be frustrating. Sometime it feels like you are just jumping through hoops for the university to give you a tick saying you have done a piece of work, rather than exploring themes and ideas that interest you, like we do in the studio.
  • When you find a unit you really like it can often feel like there isn’t enough time to really enjoy it. However this can be really helpful when thinking about what to write a dissertation on, as it gives you a strong base level of understanding to build upon (excuse the ironic building metaphor)
  • On the other hand if there is a unit you struggle with, there is no getting away from it. Many of the topics appear in each year’s modules, so if you don’t like something you just have to stick it out and do the best you can.
  • We get no choice as to how we are assessed. With optional modules you can chose to take solely coursework based or solely exam based assessment depending on what you prefer. We don’t get that luxury and, no matter which we prefer, will have to sit an exam and write at least one piece of coursework through the year.

Like most things in life, there are moments when I’ve loved the compulsory modules and moments that I’ve loathed them, but they are ultimately giving me a really good introduction in to all areas of architecture.


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