What Subjects Do You Need To Do For Architecture

Design and Engineering

Before you become an architect, you need to understand the fundamentals of design and engineering. Learning the right engineering principles is essential when working with complex structures, such as skyscrapers, bridges and monuments. That being said, traditional architecture courses will delve into many of the construction principles and engineering skills, such as structural and civil engineering, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering.
Some architecture schools specialise in interdisciplinary studies, focusing on broad areas including structural composition, hydrology, thermodynamics, acoustics, building codes, and material sciences. Courses like these take you on a journey through the planning, design, and construction of a building, combining theoretical work with the hands-on application of structural calculations, material research and structural integration into the built environment.

Mathematics and Physics

Mathematics and physics are key topics in architecture. You’ll need a strong grasp of angles, lines, spheres, and all the properties and functions of basic, middle to advanced math, geometry and trigonometry. Physics plays an important role too, teaching the laws of matter, forces and mechanics – key components required to construct buildings and ensure their structural stability and support.
Beyond these core competencies, you’ll also need to understand the impact of outside forces on architecture. For example, natural disasters, wind, storms, and earthquakes could cause immeasurable damage, so it’s important to consider these elements beforehand. With mathematical and physics concepts, it also helps to understand aerodynamics and the structure and functions of air-conditioning systems, as well as the energy conservation principles at play in various resorts and other hospitality projects.

Design Methods and Software

You’ll also need to learn the fundamentals of design methods and key software tools to create plans, sketches, and 3D models. As an architecture student, you’ll benefit from using various computer-aided design (CAD) tools, such as AutoCAD, Revit and SketchUp. Additionally, you may learn hand drafting techniques, as well as 3D printing software to build small-scale models for testing and designing.
Tools like these help you explore the aesthetics and engineering of a project from every angle, giving you a more holistic understanding of a building as well as the components of its structure. Programs such as AutoCAD and 3DS Max also help you develop renderings and animations to communicate your ideas more effectively to clients.

Urban Planning, Architectural History, and Theories

Studying urban planning, history, and theories of architecture will give you a greater understanding of the profession. Urban planning courses allow you to apply space-making principles to the layout of a city, especially when it comes to residential, commercial, industrial and governmental structures. On the other hand, architectural history courses encourage you to engage with past structures and concepts, while learning best practices and solutions to many problems encountered in architecture today.
Theories of architecture involve speculative projects and ideas, giving you the opportunity to think beyond the existing limitations of the profession. Whether related to modernism, contemporary or ethical architecture, theories help you explore potential possibilities for creating beautiful and functional spaces.

Sustainability and Building Science

An important element of any architecture study is sustainability. Attaining sustainability is becoming an important factor in today’s modern buildings, and ‘green’ architecture can even involve looking into energy conservation models, constructing with local materials, and using renewable energy sources.
You may also learn building science, which includes environmental design, economy of materials and systems, and energy and structural performance. Principles like these help you build structures to be efficient and cost-effective in the long-term, while also combining aspects of design, materials-technology, and environmental-responsiveness.

Creative Thinking and Ideation

Creativity is key when it comes to architecture, so a large portion of the profession involves generating and refining ideas. This can be developed through courses like design thinking, which involve problem solving and exploring different solutions to architecture problems.
You might also learn about storytelling and scenario planning – which involve creating stories and narratives to establish the founding principals of a project. And if you’ve already developed some of your own concepts and initiatives, you can build on them further with ideation and concept building exercises, to enhance and refine your architectural proposals.

Legal, Business and Management Practices

Apart from learning the technical elements of architecture, you’ll also need to understand the business side of things. You need to get acquainted with bids, contracts, insurance policies, and zoning regulations, as well as the practical implications of construction. Additionally, you might consider learning structures of management, which involves understanding the relationship between clients and designers, and working within them successfully.
You’ll learn the ropes of the job in all its aspects, allowing you to become a more well-rounded and professional architect. Becoming familiar with legal, business, and management practices from the beginning can help you lay the groundwork for a successful career path in architecture.

Projects: Theory and Realization

Architecture is an intricate, project-based profession. Naturally, all the theoretical knowledge learnt, needs to be applied in a practical project. With real-world applications come challenges and you’ll need to be familiar with some of the major ones, along with the solutions.
Generally, projects involve choosing materials that can withstand the elements, and knowing how to use them appropriately in order to construct the structure. Structure and safety are paramount, and you’ll have to consider the strength and materiality of the entire building, as well as its individual elements.
Finding the right balance between aesthetic and durability is also important, with projects often requiring an understanding of the combination of elements to achieve both. You’ll use technical drawings and specification documents, which can help determine the relationship between performance and appearance.

Analyzing Context and Building Urbanism

In architecture, it’s not just the structure but the context in which you should consider. You’ll study the framework and socio-economic conditions of different cities and neighbourhoods, as well as the cultural and political conditions that shape the built landscape.
Architects also need to learn about urbanism and essential concepts for creating better built communities. Concepts like ‘walkability’, ‘spatial justice’, and ‘placemaking’ can help make cities that are more equitable, economically viable, and environmentally sustainable.

The Role of Art and Human Psychology

A major factor of architecture is its visual communication. Apart from structure, colour, and light, architecture also needs to evoke emotion and sentiment. To be successful, you’ll need to consider the psychological relationship between people, place and space.
You’ll also need to learn the basics of art, design, and culture. This can range from decorative art, modernist and contemporary art, film, sculpture, and illustration. Depending on your architectural specialty, you may also have to learn carpentry, landscape architecture, and interior design.

Site and Building Surveying

The construction phase of architecture requires a thorough understanding of land surveying. Surveying is a critical phase that enables architects and engineers to accurately map out a project for construction. Land surveyors generally use a topographical survey to measure the physical terrain of a site and create a three-dimensional model.
Measuring and inspecting existing buildings is also the role of a surveyor. Before a demolition permits is issued, building surveyors must check the structural integrity of a building and map out its current layout, contributing to the planning process.

Philosophy and Ethics of Design

The philosophy and ethics of architecture should never be overlooked. Architecture not only involves building structures, but understanding their impact on the environment, communities and societies. Courses on the philosophy and ethics of design can help you understand the impact a building has on its surroundings, as well as its inhabitants.
Urban planning, architecture, and conservation studies combined also focus on observing the ever-changing environment and how our cities are adapting to these changes. You can also learn how cities are becoming smarter, how to adapt buildings to climate change and how to integrate green technology into existing buildings.

Computer Programming and Robotics

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are truly revolutionising architecture. With the emergence of 3D printing, robot welders and automated machine tools, architects are now designing smarter, faster and more efficient buildings.
That’s why learning robotics and coding is becoming increasingly important. You’ll need to understand coding languages such as Python and JavaScript, as well as robotic platforms like ROS and Arduino. Skills in these areas can prove invaluable in creating the smart, automated buildings of tomorrow.

Anita Johnson is an award-winning author and editor with over 15 years of experience in the fields of architecture, design, and urbanism. She has contributed articles and reviews to a variety of print and online publications on topics related to culture, art, architecture, and design from the late 19th century to the present day. Johnson's deep interest in these topics has informed both her writing and curatorial practice as she seeks to connect readers to the built environment around them.

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