I am really excited to share with you the first guest article on the website. You may be aware that I am always keen to share my readers stories so I was thrilled when KC got in touch with me to share her experience of starting out in architecture. She has some really great advice for anyone thinking about, or just getting started as an architecture student. So, I’d like to say a huge thank you to KC for contributing to the site.
KC is an architecture freshman student. She finished high school in Canada and moved back to her home country, the Philippines, to pursue her undergraduate degree. Aside from reading architecture books, her hobbies include news writing and learning Mandarin. She is also currently working as a freelancer in logo designing.
Starting Out As An Architecture Student – By KC F.
The first step in entering the world of Architecture, professionally, is education. A lot of questions, doubts, and feelings of uncertainty come to mind as one thinks of pursuing a degree in Architecture. It’s the same for all of us, including me as years ago, entering the design world was only just a dream. I applied for an undergraduate degree in Architecture around Spring 2016 and started schooling as a freshman just last August here in the Philippines. The little experience that I have collected so far felt like my whole high school life already. Reality slapped me really hard on the first day, realizing that this field is simply not a playground, but more of a rollercoaster ride.
I wasn’t one of the rare people whose first dream course is what they actually took. I wished to be a doctor, a neurosurgeon to be exact, a teacher, or a graphic designer. I even thought about taking civil engineering instead of Architecture. I looked up information about all those courses and compared them; such as tuition fees, length of studies, potential universities, career placement, demand, fulfillment, impact, how I really like them and so on. Architecture has its drawbacks, especially the salary. Perhaps being a neurosurgeon would be more fulfilling in terms of money. You might not get a decent job after graduation as you are required to have a two-year work experience before taking up the licensure examination (here in the Philippines), you won’t even get to plan an airport or a mansion the day you enter the workforce (probably just an errand boy at first), or you’ll have to take five to seven years to finish the course. However, what made me choose this course is because of passion, the feeling of having to do something no matter what. Others may want to build a family home, or took Architecture because they love to draw, but for me, what drives me is how someday, I’d like to eradicate (realistically, to decrease) the homeless people and tragic structural events that occur every natural disasters. Sounds cheesy, but for someone living in a developing country, it’s something to be aware of. Motivation is something you really need in taking up this course, aside from anything else including patience and hard work. Before taking up architecture, really ask yourself why. Once you’ve got a clear answer, you’re ready to be a future architect! What’s next?
Research and Preparation
First things first, advanced research, reading, and preparation is most recommended. Architecture is a straining course, knowing that, you have to really prepare yourself so that when the time comes, you’re not too stressful about it. What I did is that I subscribed to free online architectural newsletters (there are plenty of them out there!) and read them every release (some are daily, though try not to skip any!). I also went to the library, borrowed and read archi books, even e-books (I think this is better especially when school starts so you dont have to carry a lot). I started with thin handbooks or how-to’s and read thicker and thicker ones after (about drawing, measurements, materials, drafting, history, theory, design, interior, etc.) Bookmark and frequently visit architectural sites and forums (like First in Architecture!), look back on posts and ask questions. I actually allocated a good hour or two in reading everyday, and longer during weekends and holidays. When waiting for someone, stuck in a traffic or when time is too idle, I recommend to go have a quick read.
Of course, not everyone’s a fan of books. Looking up architectural designs and inspirations on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram (follow a lot!) works for a quick glance too. The direct benefit is knowing what your professors are gonna teach in advance. During my lectures, I feel so amazed when I get the abbreviations and relate to what he’s talking about (My most memorable experience so far is when my professor kept on saying CHB and I get it as Concrete Hollow Block.) Rather than looking it up later or be confused, better know it beforehand. “Won’t that make me a nerd? How about my social life?” is what you might ask, but looking back before I took archi and did this, I still have time to spare and do numerous and memorable fun things even over the Summer. So it’s all fine! As long as you have the next one: time management.
Ah… Time management. It doesn’t matter how great you draw or how majestic you plan; if you’re slow and submit your work incomplete, it’s incomplete. Won’t a plate (drafts, plans, concepts, and drawings) being both great and complete be better? Even my seniors told me that time management is key. It’s simple yet complicated. Nevertheless, the trick is knowing self-control, your priorities, and always asking on whatever you do: “are you sure you’re doing this instead?” The reward: no homework. If you’re putting aside playing basketball to do your plate (drawings), you’ll have a lot of time to play after it’s done, no worries too.
On the fourth week of school, we received a plate (drawing) assignment about doors, windows, and finishes that’s due the following week. At first I thought that it was easy, that I could do it in less than ten hours. So what I did is that I goofed off the entire week and did it the day before (specifically 18 hours before passing it.) What happened? I have to stay up all-night until 4am just to finish it. I barely got any breaks, even time to goof off. It was 15 straight hours of doing homework. Not just that, but when I came to school, our professor told us that day that we’re doing our preliminary exams… additional eight hours of doing a drawing assignment. The good thing is that I’m sure that I did my best on both assignments. So yes, time management is important. Make your plate homeworks your top priority from first year until the end. Another fun thing that came with doing it is the bonding you get with your friends. That’s the next one you need.
Friends. “Won’t they just distract you? This is college! We don’t have time for friends!” No, I believe that is wrong when you have the best group of friends to hang-out with. On my first day, I thought that everything would be so serious that I won’t have time to make friends, nor have the capacity to. However, that was not the case. It won’t be just you who will take the rocky road of architecture, your blockmates will too! It was awkward at first, but I did not hesitate to break the ice around the first week, or the following weeks. Be noisy, be nosy, be someone enjoyably irritating. You’ll just realize that you’re always with them few days later, with laughter and tears. College is confusing, so if you have questions, go ask them. Even if you aren’t familiar with them just yet, questions are the best icebreaker. Not only with your classmates, but also with your seniors.
Be a class officer! Be involved. Also, every person is unique, each has their own strength and weaknesses. My asset is my mathematical knowledge, my friends’ specialty involve drawing in different mediums, penmanship, previous architectural experiences, musical instruments, movies and media, calligraphy, computer skills, etc. Sharing what you know feels amazing, and learning something from others feels great as well. Surrounding yourself with people who know stuff will make you know about those stuff in no time. Next thing you know, you’re practicing something you didn’t think you’ll do.
Rumor says that free time is rare in architecture. It’s half-true. My first few weeks was full of plates (drawings), but since I go to school really early, I have time to spare every morning. I combined my classes in the morning so I have plenty of afternoon and evening free time. Pack your schedule on weekdays, or only have one or two on weekends. During those free time, I read books, hang-out with my blockmates at the library, eat somewhere with them and talk about plates (assignments) and other stuff, learn about what they know and practice.
Keep on practicing perspectives, orthographic drawings, architectural lettering (it’s better to master it before taking up the course), rendering, monochromatic drawing (shading, stippling, cross-hatching), and enlargement of images. You’ll be surprised on how high your grades will be when you put your skills and skills learned from others on your work. Even your professor will be shocked and proud! Of course, always take criticisms and judgements. Instead of being mad about your mistakes, learn how to correct and improve them. Before I submit a plate (assignment), I’ll ask almost everyone in my class (even my professor and friends outside of the field) on how I could improve it. Of course, if someone asks you, give them your honest opinion, help them, and encourage them. There’s never too much hard work.
Lastly, architecture needs care. Drafting tools are really expensive! You don’t need all tools on your first year, but have high quality ones from the very beginning. Quality is really important in this field, and only correct tools can deliver the best quality. Learn how to use them, also how to properly take good care of them… especially your technical pens. I lost my 0.5 tech pen while in a hurry to leave the classroom (lack of time management once again) on my first week! I looked for it for two weeks but I didn’t get to find it in the end. Being clumsy and forgetful is unacceptable. Name your things and carefully count them before leaving the room. It’s not something to be embarrassed about. Of course, it’s not just the tools that need good care, also yourself. Never forget to sleep when you have time, eat and drink a lot, and exercise. What good is it for an unhealthy student?
The shortcut in this course is to take the painful road of research, reading, practice, hard work and asking tons of questions. In the end, I assure you, if you’re having fun on doing all these, you are going to survive architecture. Never forget to take breaks too! Join a club or an organization you love, attend acquaintance parties, have “group studies” (where you actually just play cards and dance until sunset), eat lunch together with your friends. It’s college. You have more freedom than before. Of course, do things moderately. Learn how to balance fun and school.
A senior pat me on my shoulder while walking out of the library. He saw me doing my plates (drawings) there. I was surprised. He told me, with very serious eyes: “No matter what happens, never ever give up.” It’s the same thing I’ll advice you architecture aspirants. Whenever I see my seniors at the library doing their work, it excites me that I’ll get to do them later on. I also see them in pain, but having fun. The faint smile on their face overpowers their tired-looking eyes. Observing them is fun. Ask plenty of advices, it won’t hurt. Architecture is a really fun course, and it’s more fun when you are doing plates and just surprise yourself that you can actually do something architecure-ish. I never would’ve thought that I could draw still life, but architecture taught me how. Every course is difficult when you’re not serious about it and not put effort in it. It’s all about moving on and never giving up.