Back to Architecture School! #ArchiTalks #Passion added! @odonnell_tuomey mentioned

I was dropping my 2nd lad at University for the first day yesterday for the start of his new course as a Fresher (not Architecture!) and one of his flat-mates was a Fresher starting Architecture at UL (University of Limerick); obviously I was banned from talking to him too much or giving too much advice in order for my lad to settle in without the reputation of having a deranged father.

I then also caught sight of Bob Borson’s post HERE on his (and other architect’s) advice on starting or returning to Architecture School; anyway – here’s my twopenneth:

Firstly, I couldn’t find any photos of me in the studio, but here’s one early on in the course hitching to France. I’ve still got the book of sketches we did whilst in Paris – dedication!:


To the Freshers of today I must seem like an old man (I guess I am that old) but as I said in a recent tweet it doesn’t seem like two minutes that my father was dropping me off at Oxford Polytechnic to start my Architecture course. I wrote THIS post a while back that shows a typical day on the course and the general format of the architecture education (excluding the fashion statements) are not that far different from today’s courses. Here’s the video again as it’s so good:

So what advice would I give any Fresher starting Architecture?

1. Now’s the time to do outrageous things

When you’re out in the big. bad world you’ll probably not get the chance to do outrageous designs. Open your mind and come up with the most outrageous designs you can possibly think of. I played it far too straight throughout my course – especially at the beginning. Be outrageous. Be mad. Push the boundaries.

2. Work hard and play hard

This seemed to be the mantra of our course; medical courses seem to have a big reputation for this but IMHO Architecture students will push them hard – Work Hard and Play hard. The course is tough and you’ll need to work hard but the flip side is that you’ll get the opportunity to have fun like you’ll have never had before. Make the most of this opportunity and make sure that you enjoy yourself.

3. Don’t get upset at crits

The back bone of the architecture course. The critique or crit is the bane of the architecture students life. When it goes badly the process essentially involves:

• Work endless hours on a project
• About half way through have a session with one of the tutors whose advice is to essentially start again
• Work more endless hours, frequently through the night to finish the project
• Pin the project up on boards and debate with fellow students which is the best slot to go in: First to get it over with? After lunch as they’ll be a bit tired? Last as they want to go home?
• The design is hated vehemently. It’s metaphorically ripped to shreds and you sit down after completely deflated and worthless.
• The next student then has to pin up after this mauling and present his/her work. And on it goes…

I’ve now been on the opposite side of the table and I’m now involving in critiquing student’s work. And I now realise how tired and emotional some students are during this process and I have to admit that one of the students did get very weeping during her presentation.

Therefore you’ll cope with critique better if you understand it’s purpose and how you should handle it, so here’s some advice:

• The tutors are there to help you progress. They are not there to deliberately upset you.

• Treat it like a job. I know it’s hard not to get upset but dust yourself down and move on. I get upset when clients don’t like what I’ve done but remember that tutors are just people and are effectively your clients – they will have their own ideas, likes and dislikes. Go back to Point 1. You are there to learn and to progress.

• “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Friedrich Nietzsche. Each crit will make you stronger. More able to stand your ground. More able to deal with the people and more able to stand up and present.

4. Don’t just do architecture!

College life gives you the opportunity to participate in a multitude of different sports, activities and clubs – all at subsidised prices! So, PARTICIPATE!

5. Being an architect isn’t really about designing

This last item is for when you finish. I saw this tweet recently and it especially applies to architects. You may think that architecture is about design. It isn’t. It’s about you dealing with people; whether it’s as a marriage guidance counsellor between husband and wife over their design, or getting a builder to demolish his work in order to build it again correctly; this applies:

“Remember that 80% of the success in any job is based on your ability to deal with people” @thereaIbanksy


To get you through the course and survive as an architect you’ll need to be passionate about your work. Passionate about architecture and passionate about design.

I was at the RIAI conference last year and the keynote talk by Sheila O’Donnell of O’Donnell Tuomey Architects was inspirational and Sheila recounted a story of when she was on holiday on a boat and each morning swam to shore. Each morning Sheila realised the route was slightly different and after a few mornings she drew out her route on a sketch of the bay. What Shelia was hoping to find was a pattern in the randomness of the swims and whether there was any transfer of this mapping that could lead to the motion of people through the architecture of their buildings. Now that is passion for your work!

I still have a passion for my work. As I said previously you have to. And looking back through the scrapbooks I found the sketches I made on the trip to France where the ‘hitching’ photo was taken shown above. Below are a couple as examples – remember passion for architecture!



For more architect’s advice on starting Architecture School – here’s Bob’s post again…

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