As the saying goes, "when the going gets tough, the tough get going." I have arrived at a point of my journey in the architecture world where I now realise I could not be here if I had not had to soar through it by wondering, learning, enjoying, crying, standing, sweating, creating, and then repeating it again and again.
The journey started with a spark of curiosity that turned into a fascination, then a realisation that finally morphed into acceptance. I remember how I was fascinated yet confused by buildings, shapes, and colours. I always wondered about the building's structure because I wanted to know who built them—which aroused my curiosity in a certain sense—and how I wanted to do the same. I wanted to create something that would last through time. Hence, the first step in the architecture education journey.
Here is the exciting journey of an architecture student from the beginning to the end, and everything in between, based on my own experience.
Entering an architecture school is the beginning of a life full of excitement and delight. It all starts with learning the fundamentals of design and construction, from arranging forms and sketching patterns with various materials to exploring extensive vocabulary and performing extensive design drills to get the architectural mind working. The preliminary stage is overwhelming yet exciting. It is the first round of the competition where only those who have an instinct and pay heed to architecture win and continue to the next level.
The following years in architecture education focus on developing concepts inspired mainly by the works of master architects or, in some exceptional cases, one's original ideas, to create functional spaces and expressional forms with an understanding of contexts, environmental consciousness, and allocated space programs. The architecture thinking at this stage will be developing together with essential skills such as presentation skills, communication skills, and criticising skills. This stage will teach you to be patient and self-dependent through long nights, few hours of sleep, and hectic project deadlines, which mainly will be a typical everyday life of an architecture student.
Assessments of students' work at this level vary by internal and external lecturers and professional architects, where assessors might have various points of view because architecture work is subjective to backgrounds and interests. However, as a student, you must be able to defend your proposal with logical explanations and reasoning for every single line drawn on your sheet. Succeeding in the first three years of architecture education will enable you to pursue your architecture training in an architecture firm where your skills will be sharpened for your future career as an architect.
The practical life is a phase where you learn and unlearn according to the projects
and tasks you need to perform. It might be overwhelming! You will be accompanied by many sleepless nights of working and pushing through. Specifically, you will realise what you face in practical life varies from what you studied in architecture school. But the years of struggle and hard work will take you high up the stairs of success.
The thesis is the next step in the learning process. At this moment, self-examination and applying what you have learned are the two most essential skills needed to excel at the advanced stage of learning architecture. The thesis, which is the most emphasised component of the 5-year degree programme, is a summation of your academic experience. It is entirely up to you how you oﬀer that summary to the jury and the public. Here, you will be exposed to more sophisticated courses and architecture applications. Philosophical theories on society, the economy, and the environment will shape your thesis road. In-depth research and exploration are required to generate and defend your thoughts on the upper level of mindfulness debates and be able to translate those thoughts into a work of architecture. Inputs from architecture school at this stage only form 30 per cent of total education input. The remaining 70 per cent comes from your self-thought and personal exploration.
And Everything in Between
Even though students in architecture schools face many challenging situations, their life is full of enjoyable moments and memories. There is no single-click trick to being an architect. One of the ways to learn is by reading up on life lessons from established architects and their architectural values. As my mentors say, projects take time and establishing yourself takes more time than you anticipate. We have to be patient and deliver all tasks with passion. The more time we spend here, the more values we will get back. With a strong work ethic, together with patience, persistence and perseverance despite many difficulties, you will be able to complete any project and achieve any goal. As the new normal is set up in today's world, it's essential to have a soft corner for this new normal in architecture.