9 Things Top Architecture Students Do

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time; I figured that I need enough experience and befriend enough people to know what I’m talking about.  So when thinking about what I’m going to share with the world I consulted my fellow BTech (4th Year) “colleagues” and came to a general conclusion with 9 things top students in our building all have in common.

The points that I make are ordered regarding the importance it has on top architecture students (according to me), but ALL are very important to top students.  Here we go.

1.   Passion and Motivation:

If you don’t want to do it, chances that you won’t are very high.  Top students share a tremendous amount of passion and/or motivation for architecture, the built environment and creativity.  We’ve all been there, its usually the night before a hand-in.  Its that moment where you sit alone at 03:00 in the morning feeling quite sorry for yourself because all your friends are sleeping – but your model needs desperate TLC or you’ll definitely fail or at best get a terrible mark.  You spend about an hour in this state that borders on a drunken stupor — contemplating whether or not you should just go to bed or suck it up and finish your project.

Personally, this moment came to me in my 1st year (end of first semester; portfolio time) while building a model in the loneliness of my room — without music.  I vividly remember whispering (fine, maybe I shouted) to myself: “What on earth are you doing with your life?”.  I did end up completing my model but not thanks to coffee or energy drinks.  No, the drive I received should be acclaimed to nothing else than the fact that I want to and will become and architect one day and NOTHING was going to and will stop me.  Your passion is your motivation; your motivation is you passion.

If you want to do it, chances that you will are very high.

2.   Get in With the Crowd:

I cannot stress this enough: Groups and/or Partnerships Destroy — if they’re done right.  The courses you do in the field of architecture are not conquered alone.  For new 1st years and even some naive 2nd years it is vital to get into the right group or surround yourself with the right people, now what exactly is “the right group” and “the right people”?.  First of all, these groups are small — 2 to 4 (maybe 5) people.

First of all these people should be trustworthy, loyal, doesn’t complain and then some — because if you’re struggling, you’ll need some backup; in return be the backup (at the right times obviously).  People with passion and motivation just as strong (or stronger) than that of your own make excellent teammates/partners as they will also break their back building models at 03:00 in the morning.  An easy way to spot a candidate partner/teammate for you is to look at who’s doing well, not excellent, WELL — these individuals might already be in a group/partnership, have motivation and skill.  These are the people actually trying without complaining about their all-nighter — they see beyond the crappiness of all-nighters and choose to focus on the blissful future.

A strong partnership doesn’t necessarily have to be with someone in your class, it can be someone older (as a kind of a mentor) or someone younger (for you to be the mentor).  There are a few older students that I look up to and have since my first year.  They have guided, aided and coaxed me to where I am now and for them I am so grateful.  They too have had (possibly still have) fellow inspirational students to whom they go for advice.  In the Architectural Technology course this, borderline, “tradition” hasn’t faded as I myself felt (at certain points) as a kind of a mentor to a few students — it’s the way I was helped and that’s the way I’ll help.

Find, befriend and work with these people and as a result you as well as they will grow.  Motivate, trust and be loyal to one another, talk about current and upcoming projects and share — be transparent with ideas and research.

3.   Respect:

Respect everyone around you.  You don’t have to like someone to treat them with respect. You simply have to acknowledge their basic worth as a human being, no matter who they are or how they are treating you.  Even if you’re upset or angry with someone, they still deserve respect.

The world is much larger than your ego, so deflate it a little.  Keep in mind that there is a possibility that you’ll work with some of the people that you studied with (even the older and younger students), so don’t be daft by building a bad reputation for yourself as being a knobstand.

Respect your lecturers too — I’m not joking when I say that I’ve seen (and heard) my fair share of disrespect towards lecturers.  Not only is this truly priggish and forces me to question your upbringing, but it shows how foolish you really are.  There’s a reason these people are lecturers; OUR lecturers.  Learn form them as much as you can, about as much as you can, even if you don’t completely understand what they’re trying to tell you — I assure you that you’ll look back at these lecturers and find that you have acquired great knowledge and intellectual tools from them.

4.   Go to Class:

I don’t care how tired you are after your all-nighter.  Go to class, sign the register and be attentive if possible.  Even if you know that you’ll probably start to catch fish (the act of nodding one’s head forward and backward as you slip in and out of consciousness) go to class, you’ll be amazed how much you can learn just from listening.

5.   Work|Sleep|Play:

Top students has a classic modus operandi (M.O.) that really doesn’t have a name or title, so let me explain it to you like this:

WORK more than you sleep; SLEEP more than you play; PLAY as much as you can.

6.   Manage Your Course Better Than Your Time:

It is no secret that time management is vital to the success of your university career, but even more important is to learn the craft of managing your course — juggling.  Manage the subjects in your course so that you PASS — it’s all about passing.  What is it worth that you smash a distinction in one subject yet fail another miserably?  Become a clown and juggle your subjects by yielding chances of distinctions for the greater good of your course progress — if it needs be, obviously aim for distinctions.  This point will take you a very long way, trust me.

7.   Roll With the Punches:

Don’t be soft and pathetic.  Grow a thick skin — you’ll need those layers for all the shots fired.  Your work will always be criticised by your lecturers and peers.  It’s a crucial element in architecture and/or design education as it teaches you how to be critical of your own design and thinking.  Have (or learn to have) the mental strength to take criticism on the chin and know that no “crit” is meant to be a personal attack but (at worst) should rather be seen as ruthless; unforgiving; soul-sucking commentary on your design.  Remember that design is subjective, meaning that there is no right or wrong architecture; however, there is good and  bad architecture.

8.   Don’t Complain:

Please, do not complain.  Very little things are as irritating than a younger student complaining to you about how little time the lecturer gave them for their new project or how much work they were just given because the lecturer decided to pitch a “curve ball”.  Guess what, every student older than you went through the same projects, the same amount of work and the same lecturers.  We know how it feels.  Suck it up, you’re not as soft as you think you are.

9.   Don’t Draw, SKETCH:

If you can draw pictures or trees really well and beautifully, fantastic!  People who can draw cannot necessarily sketch — although they do find it easier than people who cannot draw very well.  Think of a sketch as a sort of informative drawing that conveys your design ideas, conceptual approach and thinking process.  Sketching a design means that you show, on paper, how your design functions or works or how it is positioned in context or landscape.

I know about some students that wouldn’t be able draw a realistic tree if you gave them a photo and some tracing paper.  Yet if they sketch a tree, you’ll know that it’s a tree.  You don’t need to be an artist to do this — practice on how to sketch.

There you are, 9 THINGS TOP ARCHITECTURE STUDENTS DO.  Thank you for reading this blog post.  I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I have writing it (I’m not being sarcastic) and that you truly took some notes on these points as they are all true and relevant to almost any creative career.



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