Have you ever wondered what architecture is? Architecture involves designing, constructing, and maintaining the built environment. It is a creative process that synthesizes form and space, materials and technology to serve people’s needs. In architecture school, we learn to analyze, interpret and integrate the many diverse and complex elements that contribute to the built environment. We study a range of subjects, such as construction techniques, building materials, history and theory, urban planning, environmental concerns, and sustainability. Architecture students are also expected to develop creative problem-solving skills. Through the studio experience, we gain an understanding of the design process, from research and conceptualization to implementation.
As an aspiring architect, we are trained to become versed in a multitude of architectural languages. We learn to comprehend the history of architecture, including various classical and modern influences on the built environment. We cultivate a deep understanding of both the aesthetics and the construction of architecture, from the fundamentals of geometry and composition to the complexities of performing calculations for structural and environmental analysis. This foundation allows us to identify and employ visual and material narrative to create meaningful places.
To bring architecture to life and to create places where people feel comfortable and safe, we take into consideration a variety of aspects. We study topics such as lighting and acoustics, as well as the nuances of scale and proportion. We learn to understand the physics and materials science that drive the engineering choices in modern architecture. We consider cultural influences to create designs that are appropriate to the context in which they are built. Lastly, we gain the ability to converse with those practising the trades, such as the plasterer and carpenter.
We also delve into understanding the relationship between architecture and society. We learn to recognize issues relating to issues of politics, economics, and culture. We learn to craft thoughtful solutions and examine the impact of our design decisions on the environment and society at large. We investigate the implications of our choices and strive for designs that foster conversations among all stakeholders. We learn to understand the power of architecture to shape the collective experience of people and places.
The work of architects goes beyond the drawing board and understanding of construction materials. We strive to create safe, vibrant, and meaningful spaces. We practice responsible stewardship, recognizing that we are responsible not only for the built environment, but also for the people and the environment impacted by our decisions. We recognize that architecture contributes to the wellbeing of individuals, communities, and society.
In the study of architecture, we master a range of activities. These activities go beyond drawing and designing buildings. We develop skills in document production, including the use of applications for design development, presentation, and communication. We learn to collaborate with and confidently work with a range of professionals from engineering and fabrication to furniture design and photography.
Architects use a range of tools to capture, communicate, and record ideas during the design process. We learn to draw freehand, sketch by arthand, and use the perspectives. We use software such as AutoCAD (ComputerAided Design) and Revit to digitally produce plans, sections, and elevations. We use 3D modeling software such as SketchUp, Rhinoceros, and Grasshopper to capture the complexity of shapes in 3D and show how they fit together. In the contemporary design process, architects embrace a range of digital tools to support the creative process.
We use a range of visual tools to communicate ideas, such as physical and digital models, renderings, and visualizations for the analysis of daylight and energy. We use advanced animation software such as Unreal to create hyper-realistic simulations of physical spaces. We also use web-based platforms to present ideas and design information—bridging the gap between design theory and practice. Animation, advanced simulation, immersive experiences, and virtual reality help us in this process.
Critiques play an important role in architecture schools. Architects-faculty members and/or invited critics—review student work in regular critiques to promote critical discourse and evaluate the students’ design solutions. Through this process, students learn to evaluate their design solutions against the context of a larger discourse of ideas. Critiques teach students to make well-informed decisions. They instil the importance of self-reflection, opening up avenues of exploration in the design process. By engaging with different perspectives, the student learns to push their limits and open themselves to alternate points of view.
In architecture school, critiques are highly structured and often take the form of the Q&A format, where one-by-one the class engages with a design solution presented on the wall. Through this process, the student develops the ability to explain the genesis of their design decisions and articulate its contemporary relevance. Critiques equip students with the confidence to defend their ideas and positions in a meaningful way.
Architecture students learn to conduct research to inform their design decisions. We conduct theoretical research on the history, theory, and practice of architecture, environmental issues, and social issues. Through research, we learn to uncover potential opportunities that are responsive to context, technology, and the user. We gain the ability to develop meaningful design solutions through an understanding of the environment and society.
The research process involves identifying relevant literature, analyzing and interpreting data, constructing arguments, and synthesizing findings. This enables us to arrive at informed conclusions and to contribute original ideas to the field. We also conduct field research, through which we gain insight into the context, culture, and environment of a domain. This helps us to develop a better understanding of how design can shape the user experience.
Communication is a and vital skill for architects. We develop the ability to effectively communicate ideas, concepts, and designs to stakeholders, clients and the public. We learn tools and techniques that help build trust and foster conversations. We learn to bridge the gap between concept and reality and present our solutions effectively while ensuring they are understood. We practice different types of presentation formats, such as peer-to-peer and public, and use visualization tools to communicate the potential of our designs.
We use writing to communicate the ideas behind the design. We compose texts such as descriptions, reports, and proposals to explain the design to the different stakeholders. We learn to write effectively and persuasively in order to make a compelling case for our solutions. We also learn to critique, assess, and evaluate the work of others.
Social justice is an integral part of the study of architecture. We learn how architecture can address social and environmental issues in the built environment. We investigate the role of architecture in creating equitable and sustainable communities, and in responding to pressing global issues, such as wealth inequality, climate change, and pandemics. We gain insight into the ethical implications of design decisions and strive to prioritize humanity’s complex social and environmental needs in our work.
We learn to recognize the importance of equitable access to resources for all. We gain the capacity to craft solutions that take into account the needs of diverse communities, factoring in considerations such as gender and disability in our designs. We learn to resurface, acknowledge, and address issues related to oppression and privilege in our work, striving to provide opportunities for everyone.