10 golden facts I learned in Architecture school that nobody tells you about!
When I was young I loved to draw, especially interiors. I remember drawing a wardrobe, a window with curtains, a rug and always a bed. I remember that one day, I showed my dad one of my (exactly the same every day) room drawings. He then did something that completely changed my life at that age (5 years old - I think). He added, by drawing an extra line, a 3rd dimension to my "cool" 2d bed. I instantly saw the bed 3D and it was like I just got the keys to a whole new world!
Fast forward a couple of years and I am in Uni, Architecture Uni...because...let's face it, I wanted to draw, build and think up cool stuff, and Architecture school was the perfect place for that. I remember telling myself that it's going to be so cool and definitely not as hard as I kept hearing everywhere around me: "say goodbye to sleep, to social life, make friends in architecture school 'cause those will be the only people you'll see for the next 6 years of your life". Hahah, little did I know. But that is a story for another time ;)
What I want to share with you are some "lessons" I learned there, that proved to be life skills in the long run. Why or how does this help you? Well you tell me, after you finish reading! So grab a cup of coffee, because it's gonna be a looooong run this time. Comfy? Ready, set, go !
1. Everything has to have a story / reason behind it.
There is this movie quote that says: "The stretching hand that doesn't tell a story, will not receive anything" (Philanthrophy). When you create something, you generate an idea or a thought. In architecture or interior design this is called a "concept". Having a concept means taking an idea and developing it. Or, to put it differently, have a concept and the rest is history.
Take this concept for example. By combining two Japanese symbols - their national flag and their famous sun umbrella called wagasa - a building concept for a Japanese cultural centre was born. Like in life, when you understand why somebody does something, you know how to approach them next time. Understanding is everything.
2. Does it work - functionality?
Also known as "think where everything goes so that you don't trip or fall over + shortest distance in between". Or just think "how to be practical". You would not put, for example, a desk and a chair with its back next to a window. You would place the desk so that it faces the window, or at least set it up sideways, so you can benefit from natural light, right?
Zoom out into the real world, and this skill will make you pay attention to your surroundings: where you walk, the things you pass by, the bridges you go under. You become more self aware and it helps you not to trip over borders, because you were too busy looking at some butterfly flying over some beautiful flowers on the other side of the road. Of course, this does not mean you are bulletproofed to tripping over things. Trust me, I've tested it! Just keep your eyes open (*note to self).
3. Does it help?
We all have basic human needs, such as sleep, food, safety and shelter. If these are satisfied, the rest will only help us to evolve as human beings and live a better life. Architecture and design are practices that have the sole purpose to provide people with a good, if not better quality of life. Everything you create has to be helpful or at least make a persons' daily living easier.
This helps you be more opened and empathic when it comes to people problems. You never know what ideas can hit you while listening to what other people need. I remember seeing a couple of years ago, a design tv show (can't remember the name), where a guy designed a cutlery set for blind people by being sight deprived for a couple of hours and understanding their needs. So keep your mind open.
4. Always double check.
Big lesson - always double check - everything. Or triple check! The more the merrier. Trust me when I say, it does not matter how sure you are that you counted something or written down measurements correctly, there will always be at least one mistake somewhere. And you won't even see it - aaaarrrgg!!! So I would also add: do double / triple check your information, and then pass it on to someone else for extra check. You know the whole "pair of fresh new eyes" thing? Do it!! It's does not mean you made a mistake, but sometimes you can miss something, if you spend too much time on one thing. Actually this should be applied to everything in life! Hmm....
5. Provide as many details as possible.
"You can use an eraser on the drafting board, or a sledge hammer on construction site" - arch. Frank Lloyd Wright.
The quote says it all. You always, always should provide as much info as possible in your drawings for the construction workers that are actually building your project. Think of it this way: the point of the drawings is to provide a sort of "how to guide" for the people on site. You want them to understand your ideas and be able to create exactly what you intended.
Now I do not mean "how to" build something (they should already know that), but as a guide that is answering their questions. You may not be available 24/7 to provide answers, so make sure that whatever info you send out, it is helpful enough for the workers to do their work. That is until you have to go on site. And trust me, you will!
So in this case, oversharing is key. Plus you don't leave much room for "site improvisation".
6. You'll start to be the queen / king of deadlines!
You won't know what day of the week it is, but you will know when the deadline is, and that it is approaching fast. Everything will start happening in hours and minutes! You'll discover your productivity and creativity really damn fast. Why? Let's share an example: it's 3 in the morning and you ran out of glue for your model making for the school project. And the deadline is in 10 hours. Aaaand an opened shop is out of the question. What do you do? Besides panicking? Let me know your solution.
When I say queen/king of deadlines, what I mean is that you'll have no power or control over it. The only thing you can do is learn how to organise yourself and your work better, so that you'll always have 5 more minutes to do rule no.4 and be able to get some sleep (although that is a relative term as well). You'll discover your limits, body and mind, which brings me to no. 7.
7. Remember to eat - and eat healthy!
Whilst working on a tight deadline, or deadlines (yes, multiple!!!!), you'll enter what I call "the trance". The trance is that place in which you forget to eat, although you've register in your mind that starvation feeling, but there is no possible way you could squeeze in 10 minutes lunch /dinner break. Food or deadline, dealine or food?? Luckily for me, while I was going through that in architecture uni, my parents would enter my lair (mess of a room) and be a constant reminder: "eat, now"!! Thanks guys, for being my alarm clock, and ensuring that I was eating healthy (not all chips and Cola).
Also, sleep deprivation (another "fav" of all architecture students), is a whole other problem. Once that deadline approaches fast, you instantly discover the many, fruitful hours that the night provides! So you stock up on some coffee & chocolate to keep your eyes open, so that you can finish your work (yes it really does get to that - I'll write another time why it gets to this point). But even so, trust me when I say that if you get to the point where you are making the same mistake 3-4 times in a row, and it's past 3 - 4 a.m. give up & go to sleep. You are more likely to ruin your project than to get something productively done. Plus, you don't want to get dizzy, sick and end up throwing up (yup, that happened).
You need your sleep, your food, and your health, I cannot stress this enough. Nothing is worth your health (if any student is reading this, trust me - been there, done that)! You can make your deadlines and be healthy too, you just have to organise yourself better and don't slack off. Simple as that! People who proud themselves in pulling "all nighters", in my opinion, actually show their lack of organisation. Sure, it happened to me as well, but not like 20 times in the last 3 months or something. Be smart, eat and sleep! Slogan for a better life ;)
8. Nurture your love for your craft
"The things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling" - Fabienne Fredrickson.
You chose this path for a reason, whether you are aware of it or not. If you love what you do, if you started it because you originally found it interesting, then that is all that matters. The rest is just water under the bridge. You can learn from everyone around you, but don't listen to those voices that will try to bring you down, or to make you doubt why you love your craft. There will always be people like that, so ignore them. Move forward. Your life, your choice, your time invested in it. Remember, you cannot get your time back, ever, it's gone! So spend it on doing what you actually love, on doing what makes your soul happy & perfect your craft. Keep exploring and stay strong. Everything shall pass.
9. Learn that any criticism is helpful
Nobody likes criticism. It would be so weird if you did. I mean, who would like to hear how bad they are at something? But it is something inevitable and it's a part of life. It will always be around, so you need to learn when it's good to listen to it. Think of it this way: it's a free feedback on your performance or an aspect or your life. People love to give their opinion on something, does not matter if it's good or bad. It is human nature. Some people overshare (so thoughtfully) negative opinions on purpose, while other do not. So try not to be affected by it, because what they actually do, is giving you solutions for your improvement, and for free!!
So: critisism -> locating problem -> solution - > improvement -> mastering your craft. That's the way to go, what more can I say? For free people, it's for free!!!!!
10. Document your progress
One of the best things you could do really, it's like doing a back up of your drive! The obvious reason would be so that in case you lose your stuff, you have proof that you actually did the things you say you did (which came in handy in uni - where projects would just disappear - yeah, it happened, more than once).
But the main reason (my main reason), is so that you can see your personal growth! Sometimes it's easy to feel like you got stuck, that you are not improving, or it takes you waaaaay to long to do something, while X is already bathing in money. When you have those moments, taking a trip down progress memory lane, will help you get back on track. You will see that you are better than you were yesterday, or a couple of months ago, and that you should just keep going, mainly because you love doing this, it's your passion. And just as everybody is different, so the progress happens differently.
The funny thing is that, by seeing your progress over time, your confidence will also grow. And so it should. After all, only you know your projects 100%, from idea to concept, to paper, to reality. So believe in yourself! You are tougher than you give yourself credit for.
Pffiu...done! 10 BIG FACTS!
You know....when you start University, nobody tells you to watch out for these moments that will help you grow into the best version of yourself. To be fair, some teachers did tell us about some of the first rules. But they never answered our evergreen question "why"? I guess it all falls on yours shoulders. You have to put the work and effort into it (as in all things), to find these "life hacks/ lessons" (whatever you want to call them). Maybe that was the whole point, or maybe you only see them after you graduated, who knows?
What were your life hack discoveries in University? Would love to know!! Imagine how different everyone experiences must be! Share 1 thing you've encountered, or head over to the facebook page and let's chat there. Until next time!
All images that are credited as '©Detail Movement', are done by Raluca Vaduva for Detail Movement. All rights reserved. All pictures that are not my own, I credit them to the best of my knowledge & research, to their online sources. I do not claim ownership over them in any way.