Top tips for new #Architecture Students

So, you’ve received your CAO/A’ Level results and hopefully a place and you’re set to start in your journey to maybe become an architect…

Here are my top tips to get you through what can be a difficult and stressful course:

1. You need an overriding idea or concept

This is the starting point of your design. There needs to be something that the entire design can hang from and can vary from design to design. Jane Darke called this the Primary Generator something that “connotes a dynamic force that drives the project forward”

2. The plan is the generator (but the section is equally important)

You need to make the plan work but it doesn’t end there. Working in plan only is just space planning – to create architecture you need to be working just as importantly in section.

3. Think emotions

Continuing on from 2. What emotions are you creating with the spaces you are designing; Frank Lloyd Wright for example would give a larger open space after a smaller, closed space – this would create a discomfort and a subsequent freedom that is described as ‘Compression and Release’. Therefore think about the emotions you want to instil as a user travels through your building.

4. Populate

Populate your designs by showing the specific things that happen in those spaces. This applies to your plans, elevations, sections and 3D views. This will help show that you are designing spaces specially for the users needs and that your design can accommodate them

5. Sketch

Sketch, sketch and sketch some more. The tutors want to see your thoughts as a design process and this is achieved by sketching in 3D. To get practised in this sketch buildings, people, still life, art classes… sketch everything!

6. Precedents

There is not much new under the sun and it’s important for you to study how other architects have tackled similar problems to your own. These ‘Precedent Studies’ divide into three categories for you to study:

A. Function

How does the plan and section work in other similar buildings?

B. Materials

What types of materials do other similar buildings use?

C. Form

What other sites/buildings have a similar form to your own – this could dictate the form of your building

7. Measure and draw

Go round and measure and draw different spaces and different functions. It’s your job as an architect to understand the space requirements of the designs you are creating. To do this you can measure and draw the spaces you use.

8. Get used to uncertainty

You are now studying under a different set of rules from all that has gone before. There are no right or wrong answers. There is no book that contains the answers. The answers are within YOU and it is up to you to embrace this uncertainty and work towards certainty. Therefore, don’t forget that the tutors don’t have the answers either.

9. Don’t stress the crits

Your architectural student life will now be focussed on ‘the crit’; where after your project is completed, you your work pin on the wall, present and then are ‘critiqued’ by a crit panel comprising tutors (both internal and external). The purpose of these grits is not to embarrass you or to diminish your work in anyway. The end result (hopefully) at the end of the crit is to give you the opportunity to reflect upon your design so that you can become a better architect.

10. Design with sketches and models

A lot of students feel that the sketches and models are done at the end – my advice would be to use the sketches and models as part of the Design Process. Working this way shows how you are sculpting three dimensional space. This IS the designing and the tutors want to see how your design process is developing. Think of yourself as an inventor of 3 Dimensional space and to achieve this you need to learn to sculpt in 3D and this is achieved by cutting and gluing foamboard, card, sketching and working with programs such as SketchUp. Be careful however that you don’t become over reliant on computer graphics; they can limit you three-dimensionally and my advice would be to show 3 dimensional space in an ‘analog’ way rather than digital.

And a bonus 11th tip

11. Switch between big and small…

The successful architect switches between the overall and the detail. Both the overall and the detail both need to work. Don’t get fixated on one or the other. Get used to switching back and forth from the detail to the plan, the overall to the specific.

Best of luck to all starting Architecture School this September…

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