Are you thinking about going into architecture school but not sure what to expect? Maybe you have just started and you are contemplating whether or not to continue? This one is for you…

This list is geared toward the School of Architecture and Design (SOAD) at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. However, many of these points should apply to most other architecture schools.

 

Architecture school is unique

I could never in my wildest dreams have imagined architecture school being the dynamic experience it was. Architecture programs are much more hands on and there are a lot of technical and graphic skills you will learn.

 

Not exactly creative? You can learn

I was NOT a creative person whenever I stepped foot into architecture school. Believe it or not I actually learned how to be creative (it took me two years to finally feel this way). This is one thing I appreciate most about the program. The professors teach you every step of the way. Check out this piece of art i did as a site analysis…

 

Arch 202 site analysis. Not my best work...

Arch 202 site analysis. Not my best work…

 

… of course it only went uphill from there! So even if you are not the most creative person, do not let that stop you if you are interested.

 

 

Every architecture program is different

Different architecture programs teach different philosophies. This becomes much more important when choosing your graduate school. For undergrad, and especially if you are coming straight out of high school, I would recommend not worrying about this.

You may be more interested in another design program

Many students go into architecture school not knowing that there are related design fields they may prefer. The 1st year in architecture school is spent learning “how” to design. You are in a class with ALL design majors that year. This is good because you are going to be exposed to what industrial design is as well as interior design.

If these other programs sound interesting, take a look at the SOAD academic programs to see further into other design programs offered at UL Lafayette.

 

Learning “how” to design is tough

Thinking as a designer (an architect is considered an architectural designer) in my opinion is a different way of thinking altogether. It requires you to think out of the box, explore your intuition and creativity, and solve problems which often have no 100% correct answer.

But really, design is a process. It can take a lot of time to learn this process. This may be intimidating at first, but it gets easier over time (you do have 6 years in school to practice)! Eventually you will find it fun, if not right away.

 

You will not jump into designing a building

This was the hardest pill for me to swallow. Before designing buildings, a basic understanding of the design process is needed. This is learned in 1st year. 2nd year is when you start to use this process to design buildings (we had to call it a spatial enclosure!).

 

You will start with things like this in 1st year:

1st year letter project for a "Bunk Johnson" sign in New Orleans. If I could only remember why I had an "H"...

1st year letter project for a “Bunk Johnson” sign in New Iberia. If I could only remember why I had an “H”…

Detail of the 1st year letter project

Detail of the 1st year letter project

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And end with things like this in graduate school:

My personal graduate school rendering of a final project.

Arch 502 final rendering located in Lafayette, LA.

 

I didn’t design what you would call a “building” until my 3rd year in architecture school (this is no longer the case as of a few years ago). Wouldn’t you know it, it came out amazing! This is ONLY because I had an understanding about the process of designing.

 

 

Architecture school is expensive

Model making can take a pretty penny to produce! Not to mention you will make hundreds of models over your academic career (although many are smaller and inexpensive). I personally enjoy making models. I am sure many others would join me in saying model making can be a stress reliever.

Arch 402 model. About 4'x4' in dimensions.

Arch 402 model. About 4’x4′ in dimensions.

 

Arch 402 model raining detail. All hand cut.

Arch 402 model railing detail. All hand cut.

 

In addition to model making, you will also be spending money on mixed media to produces sketches and diagrams, as well as printing for presentations as you develop your architecture projects.

Speaking of presentations…

 

Prepare to present your work. Often

In the professional world, architects present their work to clients and other project members quite often. Presenting is a skill you will spend your entire architectural education learning to perfect. This is a skill that is understandably difficult for many at first. The good thing is that your professors will be working hard with you every step of the way to teach you this.

501 final presentation

ARCH 501 final presentation

Get ready to lose sleep

Prepare to pull a few all-nighters per semester. Design projects can take a while to complete! With great time management, you will be able to avoid this however.

 

Focus is on “design”, not math

Architecture is not engineering. That being said there is not a lot of math involved in the curriculum. There is a year in your education where you will learn the basics of civil engineering, which I believe is very important!

If you plan on designing buildings with overhangs and crazy structures you need to have a basic understanding of how structural loads work. Throughout your professional career, you should be familiar enough with civil engineering to hold and understand conversations with structural engineers.

 

Becoming an architect is a long journey

It takes serious dedication to become a licensed architect; licensure requires education, internship, and examination.

Check out this page from NCARB to get the specifics. Overall, you are looking at around an 8-10 year journey.

 

You will see your world differently

Architecture school instills stewardship principles into their students.  This furthers into your responsibilities as an architect to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the people you are designing for.

Seeing the world through the lens of a designer has changed a lot about me. Every time I am in building I evaluate it, wondering what is working right and what could be improved. I wonder about how we can build more efficiently and more sustainably in the future. Most importantly I think about how each one of us is capable and responsible towards making a change in the world.

If you are thinking about going into architecture school, just do it! It is a great experience!