Now that it is mid-summer and I have had a couple weeks to readjust to a normal sleep schedule after a particularly grueling final semester, I am able to reflect on how much I have learned, grown, and changed in the past five years. Instead of going back-to-school shopping this summer, I have been reminiscing about the things I will miss the most and the least about architecture school.
5 Things I’ll Miss About Architecture School
Spending (almost) unlimited time on the fun stuff
In the unrestricted realm of architecture school, where the term “budget” is only brought up in a handful of technology classes along with a disclaimer that “you’ll figure out what that is once you get to the real world,” devoting extra time to schematic design, conceptual thinking, and research is no big deal. In fact, if you are really ambitious (or have poor time management skills) you could end up presenting a final project that is purely schematic and there is nothing wrong with that. Devoting a few weeks each semester solely to research and conceptual design was one of the best parts of architecture school because 1) it was fun and 2) it was teaching us how to think abstractly and how to do it quickly so that once we got to the “real world” we could move efficiently through the schematic phases without wasting a firm or client’s time and money.
Running headfirst into a design that was doomed for failure from the start
Learning to embrace failure is something we’re all taught from a relatively young age, and it is an especially prevalent lesson in the architecture studio. No matter how many times you hear someone tell you how important it is to learn from mistakes, nothing compares to a first-hand experience. I am sure many architecture students are familiar with the feeling of defeat when they realize they’ve spent countless hours developing a project only to hit a dead-end (that feeling is amplified if your professor knew you were headed for the dead-end all along but kept quiet and let you figure it out for yourself). Fortunately, mistakes like that are relatively easy to recover from while you’re still in the safety net of school. Instead of carrying repercussions, they keep us on our toes and teach us to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
The obscure habitat of the studio
When I was in high school, I dreaded college tours until I found a tour guide brave enough to walk me through the maze-like sea of desks in an architecture studio. The place was a mess, but I loved the idea that I could throw cardboard around and get a grade for it. In the five-year span of architecture school, it becomes almost impossible to define the studio as a classroom as it becomes more of a collective dorm room for a few dozen students (complete with hammocks, towers of empty coffee cups, and late-night relay races on office chairs). Granted, it cannot be healthy to spend more hours per week at a desk under buzzing fluorescent lights than in the apartments we were all renting, but the camaraderie we established couldn’t be replicated in any other environment.
Always having someone around to lend a hand
Building off that, the thing I will definitely miss the most is being constantly surrounded by so many different but like-minded people. In a graduating class of sixty students, we all formed some close friendships that will undoubtedly continue for years to come, but there are so many people with whom we formed temporary friendships and alliances even though we will most likely fall out of touch with them. Sometimes the best people to have around were the ones who came running when you needed an extra set of hands as your half-glued model was falling apart or those who kept up everyone’s morale at 2am by assuming the role of studio DJ.
There is always one class each semester that seems like a waste of time, and instead of focusing on learning about humanities we find our anxiety building as we watch the clock until we can go back to the studio and continue working on our design project. The required core design course can easily become all-consuming, but fortunately, electives, minors, and semesters abroad exist to provide relief from the constant grind of studio. Of course, I will continue looking for chances to keep learning throughout my career, but it will never be quite as simple as signing up for a photography class because it sounded fun.