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An insight into the life of an architecture student

People have a general and broad idea of what architecture is, however, most of them are clueless about the curriculum and life of an architecture student unless they personally know someone pursuing ‘Bachelors of Architecture’. The physical and mental perseverance that goes into completing architecture schooling has always been overlooked by non-architects. This blog is an insight into the life of an architecture student through the five years of architecture.

This blog also accentuates the influence of architecture in one’s personal life and the downside of architecture.


Introduction

“Architecture of all arts, acts most slowly but most surely on the soul” - Ernest Dimnet

Architecture can be defined as the art of design and construction of a built/unbuilt space that is functional and safe for human habitation or use. However, the spectrum of architecture goes beyond just designing structures. What an architect designs, has to come to life and withstand time. Space can impact one’s behavior and elicit change, hence architecture has the responsibility of making a space more than just ‘habitable’. One’s imagination coming to life has to be the sweetest reward for an artist. Architecture has the power to do just that.

Contrary to what most people perceive and believe, an architecture student learns and experiences a lot more than just “drawing plans” and designing spaces in his/her five-year-long architecture course. The architecture college curriculum focuses on developing a unique skill set that lasts a lifetime. Once you join the course of architecture, it does not just become a part of your life, it becomes your lifestyle.


The course of Architecture


So, What does an architect do?


An architect not only has to produce architectural drawings for his design but also ensure its execution. Architecture can stem into various other career fields such as Interior designing, heritage conservation, landscape design, furniture design, construction management, surveying, etc. It is definitely one of the most challenging yet fascinating fields of study. To be a licensed architect one must have a ‘Bachelor of architecture’ degree, which in India takes a minimum of five years to be completed. Further, one can then specialize in their field of interest for an additional 1-2 years.


What does one learn in the architecture Course?


An architecture student learns to design and draw architectural drawings of buildings. However, this is just a part of the course. An architecture student primarily learns to approach a design problem, analyze it and provide architectural solutions to it. One learns to ‘Think architecturally’. The entire course is a journey of experiences. It is designed such that you not only come across various new hobbies and fields of interest but also mesmerizing places and inspirational people. Architecture unlike other fields is not about mugging up books. There are no definitive books in architecture course yet so many books you’ll have to and want to read. There is no “right way”. That’s just how architecture is; a beautifully bizarre journey one cannot get through without determination, hard work and most importantly- passion. To put it in the words of Zaha Hadid, “If you want an easy life, do not be an architect."


Following are the primary subjects one learns in Architecture College along with other subjects that help students develop various other skills such as representation, model making, communication, etc.

  • Architectural design (Providing design solutions/Designing structures)

  • Building Construction (Methods of construction)

  • Building materials (Various materials used for construction)

  • Architectural Representation and detailing- ARD (Representation of drawings and learning about construction element details)

  • Working/Mechanical drawings (Learning to produce drawings for construction)

  • Architecture theory (History and types of architecture)

  • Theory of structures (Mathematical calculations of various structural elements)

  • Professional Practice (Obligations and aspects relating to finance and management in the profession)

Journey through the five years of architecture



Architecture College is a rollercoaster of experiences. It introduces you to a whole new environment and work culture. You dive into this huge ocean of new beginnings and possibilities. Orientation day of your college itself gives you a fair idea of how interesting your college life is going to be.


Freshman year

The first year of architecture is the year where you build your foundation and brush up on your artistic skills. You’re trained to explore every corner of your artistic brain and learn the basics of drafting, drawing, sketching, model making, communication, architectural lettering and representation. Wearing your portfolio bag like armor and carrying your T-scale like a sword, you feel ready to embark on this venture. The pile of assignments you get assigned in the first week itself makes you realize the importance of time management and timely submissions. The more you procrastinate, the more you have to work. It’s as much stressful as it is fun. Your work becomes your life, coffee and music your best friend and back-ache your one true companion. You get adjusted to studio culture i.e. working on your assignments/designs in your classrooms (Studios) during or after college hours. A studio is a comfortable, fun and collaborative work environment. You also learn in-depth about architecture and architects around the world.


Architecture Studio at Cooper Union. Source: Viviane Moos/Corbis via Getty Images

As the first year of architecture focuses on learning to draft, draw and create by hand an architecture student has to re-do a lot of it until you achieve the required quality of work. You will work on sheets as big as A1 or even A0 size. Your house will be a MESS with your stationery lying around. It is now that you’ll learn to cherish sleep time more than ever and eventually begin to embrace the nocturnal life. Group work that goes on for weeks makes sure you become a team player. You’ll not only work with your batch mates but various activities/occasions like architectural competitions, college fests, clubs, sports, etc. will lead you to team up with your seniors as well. The more people you meet the more you learn and the more fun you have. Architecture instills wanderlust in everyone who embraces it. You travel a lot for case studies, photography assignments, heritage walks, and sometimes just for sketching. You start sketching anywhere and everywhere.


Mumbai University architecture students sketching during college tour. Photo by Ar.Atik Pathan

It is of course a bitter-sweet journey. Your social life outside architecture gets compromised but… you will make new friends; friends you work endless nights with, friends you go on tours with, and friends who become your second family. These tours will fill your heart with happiness and teach you a great deal about the architecture of the place you visit. You will learn to explore and observe the details and also learn various ways of documenting the structures by clicking pictures, sketching, drafting or even by making physical models of the structures. The sky’s the limit!

Lastly, the most important of all, you’ll give your first-ever architecture jury. An architecture jury is when the student has to explain this/her work/design to the juror (examiner) through architectural sheets, models, and any other way of representation and gets graded for it. Not having the required quantity and quality of work might lead one to fail the semester. Other than the jury, students get marked for timely submission of assignments and written examination of theory subjects. With each passing year, the previous year seems like a cakewalk. The first year of architecture prepares you for the bigger picture.


Students succumbing to sleep-demons post architectural design jury.

The sophomore year

The second year of architecture is when you learn to design functional structures, drafting their plans, sections, elevations, 3d views, and details. This is when you start learning the technical aspects of how a particular structure is built. You begin to use and explore various architectural computer software which helps you represent your work better and faster. In the second year of architecture, you draft a million technical sheets and explore other “alternative” methods to do it faster. Regular sleep hours will now feel like a privilege.


Third and fourth year of architecture

Students completely shift from hand drafting to computer drafting in the third year of architecture, however, sketching and other hand-drawn/drafted sheets are always welcomed and very much so remains a part of your work process. Each semester is concluded with a final jury where you have you present your design sheets, technical sheets, and a 3d model. Some universities have their professional internship in the fourth year, while some in the fifth. In this term, most students realize how different the professional world architecture is compared to the one in college. In the internship, you learn to produce working drawings, technical details, and all other professional drawings of your design projects much more accurately. You learn about sustainability, cost efficiency, and various other aspects you need to consider before designing. Depending on the architectural firm you join, you learn and understand different aspects and work of architecture.


The end game

Finally, the most important stage in your five years will be your architecture thesis where you will be assigned a mentor and you will come up with a thesis topic of your choice. You will then work on it with all your heart and you will most surely get emotionally attached to your work. Your first four years in architecture especially your internship will train you well enough to be able to successfully complete your architecture thesis. With your thesis jury, your architecture college comes to an end and the real journey of architecture begins


Influence of architecture in personal life