So You’re About to Begin Studying Architecture?

Mentee Amelia Cloney provides her tips for current architecture students


Over the last five years studying there are a few things I’ve learnt that I wish I had known earlier. As I finish my studies and you start yours I hope this will give you a good head start!

  1. Be yourself: Architects come in all shapes and sizes and if anything being different is your greatest asset. Just because everyone is trying to become the next “Corbs” or Zaha doesn’t mean you have to be. Find out what you like and where your interest lie and push those boundaries. While being inspired by your fellow students work can be a benefit it isn’t the be-all and end-all if your work doesn’t match up in style; you’ll develop your own.
  2. Inspiration: Inspiration is such a tricky subject, my best advice on this one is to keep your eyes open because you never know when it’s going to hit! Make a habit of keeping a pen, notebook on you, as cliche as it is I have been caught more than once asking for a pen so I can scribble a thought on a napkin while grabbing a coffee. Recently I was inspired for a project while I was chatting to a friend about my food truck obsession. But unfortunately there are times when you will completely struggle to find an idea or a start point, in these cases I will pass on the advice of one of my lectures “Change it up”. Blank page *or rhino* syndrome is worse when your staring at it. Go for a jog, watch some Grand Design (a totally valid study break option), have a cup of tea, flick through Pinterest, (…& ArchDaily, Yellow Trace, Design Boom) have a cider with a friend, get an inspiring architecture book, talk to someone about your project and your total design crisis. You’ll be surprised how doing this can help open your mind again. Should your black page problem persist? Just do something, anything! It’s amazing how just getting something down and returning to it later can result in something worthwhile. And, most importantly, speak to your tutor, they will appreciate your effort and struggle as they have been there too.
  3. Jack of all Trade: Architecture has a thousand elements, forms, theories and rabbit holes to go down and it can be quite over whelming. We range from discussions on the latest sustainable material, government planning policy, OMA’s latest commission, May 1968, biomimicry, the latest rendering techniques, building methodologies – I could go on and on. But it’s important to understand that you cannot possibly know it all inside out, sure if something sparks your interest explore it but taking a broad brush approach and knowing a little about everything is at times the only way through.
  4. Resilience: A Critique is by its nature is a criticism of your work! One of the most frightening parts I found coming into Architecture was the dreaded critique. However, it has also been one of the most beneficial parts, and this is coming from someone who has been left in tears after a particularly harsh critique in her second year! Being able to get up in front of a group of mostly strangers and present your concept is an essential skill for becoming a professional architect. It provides an opportunity to learn how to answer what are at times difficult questions about your ideas and approach. It is also a chance to get some great feedback from an experienced group of architects, so you can learn where you can improve for next time. However, as mentioned above, these critiques don’t all go well, not only have I had a negative experience myself but I have also witnessed other students going downhill due to difference of opinion or a picky juror. The important thing to remember is not to take it personally, take on board the advice and build your resilience. At other times you will know full well your project is a bit of a disaster and it can be a real blow to your confidence, but its important to get back up on the horse, view it as a learning experience and keep going!
  5. Be kind to yourself: Studying architecture can be an incredibly time (life) consuming adventure that takes a big toll on your social life and on your health (physical and mental). And making sure you set aside time for healthy eating habits (mee goreng noodles 3 times a day is not great), exercise (even if it’s just a stroll in the sunshine), a good amount of sleep and even the occasional night off to hang with friends – are all key to surviving and thriving. Every semester the stress gets to me at some point, and it took me a few years to understand that getting the balance right was more important than a high distinction. Surround yourself with an understanding support team, family and friends and fellow students, but also be prepared to reach out to your tutors, student advisors and seek professional help if you need it. And learn to reward yourself! Go out for that celebration when you hand in the assignment worth a shocking 70% of your grade, take that yoga class that gives you the hour of zen you deserve, and head to the footy to scream your lungs out with your mates.
  6. Be prepared to work hard: My architecture degree has been the hardest undertaking of my life but it has also been the most rewarding. I would love to say to you that it’s all fun, and while it is at times, there is no denying there is a lot of hard work, late nights, last minute submissions and missed social occasions. Be prepared to present your concept again and again for your tutor to only have them turn around and say start again. Get ready to learn at least 5 different modelling, photo editing, and cad programs (probably at the same time). Start recalling the hundreds of influential architects, theories, movements you will need to call on for you designs. Moments of panic during your final printing as you realise you have left off north points. Hoping to the god’s of architecture that your jurors do not realise that your model is completely mirrored as you forgot to reverse it on the laser cutter. Look forward to some long nights waiting for your final render to complete, and enjoy your midnight visits to emergency because you cut your hand building a blue foam model.And get ready to have your whole world changed as the study of architecture is an incredibly eye opening experience where creative thinking is key. But it also this strange club you’ve just become apart of. This will most likely only make sense to you after your first studio submission, experiencing the wildness that process brings, the characters it creates, and the pure moment of satisfaction you get seeing your ideas completed, printed panels, drawings and models. My adventure into architecture has been one of the best things I have done in my life – embrace it and enjoy it!7. Finally… SAVE AND BACK UP YOUR WORK. Seriously. Hard drive, USB and the Cloud. You’ll thank me later.

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(originally published on ‘That Architecture Student’ by Anthony Richardson here.)

IMG_7064Amelia began her studies the University of Canberra before moving to Melbourne to complete her Master of Architecture at the University of Melbourne in 2014 and currently employed as a draftsperson. She is about the begin the “terrifying” journey of design thesis and then will be moving in to the real world. She is interested in sustainability, materiality, interior design, finally having some time to head back overseas and making the perfect G&T.

You can find her here:
Instagram: @arc.design_

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