Questions from Christina graduating with a bachelors in sociology. She started in architecture, moved out of the major and is thinking about applying for a masters degree in architecture.
What should I include in my portfolio? What do people look for in portfolios for architecture school without having any background in architecture?
Content for a portfolio might include hand drawings and sketches on paper and mylar, pencil work, pen work, renderings, paintings, collages, mechanical drafting, computer drafting, photographs, & sculpture. The important point here is that the work displays your creativity, not that its just architectural. The second thing to keep in mind is that the work should give the person who’s looking at it a sense about who you are. That is, your creativity, your focus, what are you good at? and what do you enjoy? Here are two links as well. How to make a portfolio video series by yours truly. Portfolio Design by Harold Linton. www.portfoliodesign.com.
How can I use my background in sociology to help me develop my portfolio?
Great question. The answer is, I don’t know precisely. However, I do know that you must like sociology or you wouldn’t have chosen the major. There are insights that you posses regarding the profession (and people) that others would probably enjoy hearing. I would suggest photographs, sketches, text, poems, literature, and even video that you have created. Take a week and work on it. Put every idea you have on paper and work through it. “It’s in the doing that the idea comes.”
I have heard many people suggest that I wait a couple years to apply for graduate school. I have been told that it is always best to go out into the world and gain experience as well as take the time to mature as an individual before going back to graduate school. What are your thoughts on this topic?
Absolutely yes! Wait, get experience, test the waters and then go back to school. Life is short, however it can also be quite long if you hate what you do and have an extraordinary amount of debt.
FYI. The image above is not Christina but an image I found on flickr using the search term ‘pretty girl’. It could be Christina but the odds are against it. Image by liquene.
The test proves nothing! Don’t lose hope but do make sure you read through the page called, “What are architects like?” http://howtoarchitect.com/what-are-architects-like This should be helpful in terms of who you are now and who you may need to be in order to become a successful profession. Keep up the good work and don’t get discouraged!
Question from YouTuber:
How much math is involve in a typical architectural project?
The answer (on the architects end) is very little. A building is defined with drawings, models, words and dimensions. The architectural engineer deals in math with most buildings. He uses numbers, equations, variables and physics to make sure what the architect does stands up. With that said, architects use a few mathematical rules of thumb when designing a building but usually rely on the engineer to make sure what he draws works. He does however deal in simple mathematical terms regarding the dimensional aspects of his design. With that said, the architect uses math and physics early in his career if he wants to be licensed in the United States (or get through school). Architects take lots of engineering courses and must be facile with physics and math. Bottom line - the architect needs to understand rules and concepts in order to design things that work. In practice complex mathematics is more the purview of the architectural engineer.
Image by James Cridland @ flickr
I’m doing a design series about my brother, his wife and their dream home. This has been sitting on my desktop in Photoshop for the last couple days. I’m working through my next video on inspiration and trying to get inspired!
I did get paid as an intern but not much. The first few offices I worked for hired me to make models and do a lot of presentation (hand drawing) work. I loved the work however the low pay did not make life easy.
10. Changes happen.
This could be number one. It’s the single most important lesson for an architect. Don’t fall in love with anything you do. Things change all the time and circumstances are like dominoes. One thing affects the other. Get used to the fact that your ideas, design, details, drawings, models and specifications are in constant flux until their built - and even after that!
9. You’re not a designer yet
It takes a while to be the Design Architect in an office. Especially if it’s a large office. Resign yourself to the fact that your young and know very little. Work hard and climb the ladder.
8. Trial by fire is good
When I was a young intern I worked in small offices. I was thrown into project management quickly. All the mistakes I made stung but there is nothing like on the job training. Mistakes and failure make you better.
7. Learn the rules
Codes and zoning ordinances are a big deal. You can spend a lot of time designing something to later find out you can’t do it. Learn the rules and don’t present design to a client that can’t be done. It’s bad for business.
6. Listen to the general contractor
If you’re working with a good general contractor they’re someone you can learn from. When you manage a job, visit the site, give your opinion but always ask for theirs too. It garners respect and you’ll learn something in the process.
5. Architecture is a team sport
You should be decent at working with other people, because unless you’re the principal, you’ll be sharing responsibilities. The success of an office is intertwined with everyone involved on a job. The better you can work with others, the better off you’ll be.
4. Listen and write good meeting minutes
If the contractor is not doing the meeting minutes, you are. Listen closely, summarize well and keep it short. It will save the office time and money.
Howard Roark won’t like this, but architecture is about compromise. Unless you’re Frank Gehry and you tell the clients what they’re getting it’s usually the other way around.
2. Don’t get too big for your britches
You will make mistakes and some are worth 100’s of thousands of dollars to the client or the owner. Remember, pride cometh before the fall. Shut up, listen, don’t brag and do the best you can. You will fail. Expect it.
1. Never say no
Never, Never, Never tell a client you CAN”T do something. Tell them you’re reviewing it. If you really can’t do something have options you can do.
Image by -= Bruce Berrien =- flickr
Question from an interior design student:
Hi, Doug, Your videos are so inspirational. I chose interior design because it’s related to architecture. However, when I look back I feel like I should’ve gone to an architecture school. I love interior design but I feel like I want to do more with architecture. Do you think it is worth getting a master in architecture? If so I was thinking of working for two years and get my certification in interior design then while working for a firm I will go back to school and get my masters?
When people ask if they should train as an interior designer or architect I always choose the latter. Architects are trained to be interior designers more so than interior designers to be architects. In fact, architects are trained to design everything including structure, exteriors, interiors, millwork, cabinetry, details, furniture, etc… An education in architecture is broad. If people are certain interior design is what they want their lifetime focus to be, it’s the right pursuit. Otherwise, starting broad and narrowing focus is the way to go.
To your question. I think working first is the right thing to do. You have no idea how much you’ll enjoy interior design before you do it. Work for a while and then decide to go back to school. You may enjoy it and make a good living. A talented interior designer can make far more money than an architect. It’s a fact. I work with a few highly respected professionals that do very well.
Images by joshua l @ flickr
Question from a YouTuber:
Hey doug! watching your videos has seriously inspired me to become an architect — really! im applying for colleges that offer architecture. what should i expect as an architecture student? the course work/load/college life as an architecture student?
It’s been a while, but I’m relatively familiar with Penn States program which is outstanding. All five years have Design Studio, the most rigorous and time consuming aspect of any program. First year is structural engineering, visual communications and architectural history. Second year adds materials, theory, and more structural engineering. Third year adds planning theory and control systems. Fourth year is the foreign study program and fifth year ads professional practice with some technical systems. All five years also require a variety of electives. This is your chance to learn about subjects other than architecture. Take advantage of it! Here’s the link to Penn State’s program. Bottom line, you’ll be very busy. Personally, I didn’t have much time for extracurricular stuff and my experience was not unique. Good luck!
Image from Penn State’s architecture program website.
Absolutely. The more architects understand and build on historical precedent, the better architecture we’ll inherit.
The same thing an employee of an architectural firm does, but I’m my own boss. I have about 18 years of experience in high-end residential work / 12 with Joeb+Partners in Greenwich, CT. That gives me the freedom to work for myself or other firms. I’m a project manager. I run large residential projects doing coordination, design, construction documents, clarifications and management.
If you want to know if you could be an architect (relative to your talents) watch this video series called Could you be an architect? and take The architect’s aptitude test. Both are a good start, particularly the page after the aptitude test that describes an architects abilities in more detail. It’s called, What’s an architect like?
Yes. I’m a consultant for an architectural firm called Joeb+Partners in Greenwich, CT. I work for them year round.
The MIT Press catalog is out for 2012! Here’s the cover of the catalog and the cover of my book. Available at bookstores everywhere late February. You can pre-order here How to Architect.
Here’s what MIT Press says about the book. “How to Architect is a book to guide you on the road to architecture. If you are just starting on that journey or thinking about becoming an architect, it is a place to begin. If you are already an architect and want to remind yourself of what drew you to the profession, it is a book of affirmation. And if you are just curious about what goes into the design and construction of buildings, this book tells you how architects think. Patt introduces each entry with a hand-drawn letter, and accompanies the text with illustrations that illuminate the concept discussed: a fallen Humpty Dumpty illustrates the perils of fragile egos; photographs of an X-Acto knife and other hand tools remind us of architecture’s non-digital origins. How to Architect offers encouragement to aspiring architects but also mounts a defense of architecture as a profession-by calling out a defiant verb: architect!”
Image courtesy of Orange County Archives
Question: Doug, Given that you spend nearly every moment of every day inside or around architecture, and because 97.3 percent of architects have OCD (I learned that medical fact from a general contractor), do you find yourself constantly critiquing your surroundings? For example, if you came to my house, would you be doing a mental monologue:
A spacious entry way, made a bit cluttered by the overturned Winnie the Pooh train in the middle of the floor that appears to have been hit by an IED. The oversized, bay window in the living room is pleasant — are those Elmo underpants on the window sill? — but I would have gone with a circular frame, and a hexagonal bump out for a window seat would have been so much more functional. Plus, why in the name of Ghery does this room not have higher ceilings? The area rug is crooked, and is being used for what appears to be a war between dinosaurs and naked baby dolls. The whole mélange is unfocused and spatially disconcerting. Oy, and what is going on with this kitchen layout? Remember your wife’s warning, try to be complimentary. Do not obsess about design. But, but … what incompetent clod thought it was a good idea to put the sink there?! Holy Shnikes! Is that a pitifully tiny half bath with a pocket door? Pocket doors are the worst! This place is a Design Build atrocity!
Is this an occupational hazard? Or can you shut off the inner architect voice?
Answer: It is an occupational hazard.
Tony Lucido is a lawyer, cosmonaut and contributing author to this blog. You can read more of his stuff at tonylucido.blogspot.com