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.
Hi Doug, I'm a big fan of yours, I took the "The Architect's Aptitude Test" on your site and and it says 'Architecture is probably not for you.' I recently went back to college to get my diploma and I'm doing maths and english again to get on to the architectural program in university, I can't imagine myself doing anything else buy architecture and the test kinda disheartened me, I had my doubts but does the test prove I can't never be one, I can be one with extra work in my weaker areas?
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!
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.
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!
Did you get paid as an intern? could you please write about the types of things you did and learnt as an intern? thanks!
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.
The second video in a series about how architects ask questions, get inspired, have ideas and turn it all into a building. This video is about the program. The program consists of the clients requirements for a home as well as their conceptual and stylistic inclinations.
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.
I'll be enrolling in school in the spring to finish a bachelor's degree, and this time around I'm studying architecture. I was wondering if you could recommend some literature to read in order to get acquainted with my upcoming education and prepare me for my studies
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.
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!
Hello, Mr. Patt. I am a huge fan of your blog, it is very interesting, and very resourceful! I was wondering if there is there is still a place for modernists in the contemporary field. I am very interested in the minimalist dogmas of Mies, Le Corbu, and Loos, and I'm wishing that when I eventually get into the field I will be able to practice a similar style.
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.
Hi doug im an aspiring architecture student , well my question is "is it ok for me to take architecture though im not good at drawing at the same time at math? but im willing to do everything just to be good at it" thank you so much.
The first video in a series devoted to the design of a dream home for my brother Scott Patt and wife Lisa DeJohn. It’s essentially the first step in a hypothetical brainstorming project that Scott and Lisa hope will become a real building on a real site some day.
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!”
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
He tells me that drafting seems “very boring.” He believes from looking at Frank Gehry’s work that architecture must be much more than just drawing. He says, “should I choose to go for this industry?” In his second question he asks, “college programs (sci arc., cooper union) tend to promote their creative works which makes me think that’s more of what (architects) do. He asks, Will you still be walking the same path as general architect if you want to be an architectural designer?”
Design is a small part of what the architect does. The first five to ten years of your professional life will be spent doing a lot of drafting. If you find drafting boring, I’d recommend you find something else to pursue. Gehry’s work is amazing, but very few reach that kind of freedom. Like anything, its possible, but it takes a lot of hard work. Think about being an architect and becoming a designer like climbing a ladder.
You start at the bottom rungs and do things you may not love - the view is not as good. As you climb higher you get closer to the top. Eventually, if you’ve got the stamina, you’ll be a designer. The view at the top is much better. Bottom line, you don’t get out of college and do much, if any, design work. Unless of course you’re already wealthy, with lots of wealthy friends that are willing to hire an incredibly inexperienced designer.
What kind of job can a guy who is waiting to start college get in an architect’s office? I mean, why would they hire someone with no professional training or experiences?
You don’t necessarily need experience to do every job in an architects office. I would suggest calling a local small office, meet with a partner or principal and tell them you’ll work for free (at least for a few months). Free help is hard to turn down and you’ll get a taste for what the profession is like. Who knows what they will eventually trust you with? You never can tell. It may lead to invaluable software training or maybe even a job after college!
I received these questions the other day and thought they were poignant. I don’t have all the answers but thought my response might be helpful to others.
1. I’m working in a local company in Hong Kong and wishing to work for big popular firms like SOM, HOK, Gensler, etc.. Would my chance of being employed in these companies be higher if I had a post professional degree in some specialty in architecture?
Honestly, I’m not sure although with a little research you could figure out where there might be opportunities within a specialty in the area of the world you’d like to work. What I do know for certain is that your chances of getting a job are always better if you know someone at a firm who could help secure an interview. I’m also fairly certain (in this challenging global economy) that more and more people are getting graduate degrees only making your chances tougher.
2. Although I have a graduate degree in architecture - B.Arch, if I have a Post professional degree would I have a higher pay?
Again. It depends. My experience with pay is that it’s tied to your skill, your job and the type of office. A graduate degree may help you look more qualified, but if you don’t have the experience a job requires you won’t be considered, regardless. There is no magic bullet to make more money. It’s relative to many factors.
3. Suppose if I pursue M.Arch in Urban Design. Are there plenty of scope for Urban Designers than Architects? Is the pay for Urban Designers higher than Architects?
I unfortunately don’t know any urban designers closely enough to understand if their salaries are comparable to architects. What I believe is that there are fewer urban designers than architects in the U.S. It’s quite a specialized field.
Bottom line, In my opinion, you obtain a graduate degree to fulfill a need in your own heart to pursue architecture more deeply. Everything that comes with it is gravy. Of course their are implications to getting that degree including debt and/or increased attractiveness to employers. Pursuit of money is one thing and happiness is another. We’ve all got to decide what we want most.
I received a few emails about taking a look at some of the work in my portfolio. Here is a video portfolio and a link to my flickr site with a few of the jobs I’ve worked on with Joeb+Partners in Greenwich, CT. http://www.flickr.com/photos/howtoarchitect/
Hi, Doug I would like to be an architect but I think my vision is lacking. I have a poor imagination and a bit unable to makeup my own design without taking bits and pieces from other. How can I change that and make something unique, different and appealing?
George Kembel is the Executive Director of the Stanford Design School. I was lucky enough to meet with him at the university not too long ago. I’ve attached a link to a talk he gave at the Chautauqua Institute on Creativity. It would not be going too far to say that George believes people aren’t just born creative, but that they can become more so.
To answer your question as best I can, I would have to say what I always say. “It’s in the doing that the Idea comes.” You take bits and pieces of what others do because that’s very natural. That’s what people do all the time. Even those who consider themselves creative. What’s harder, as you can clearly see, is to be more original. This doesn’t just happen, it takes hard work. Drawing, Sketching, Modeling, Writing, Reading and Collaborating. Put another way - working hard through a problem. I wish you all the best!
Architecture students present their projects to their piers (alliteration), and practice makes perfect. Said a number of ways, Remember the 7 P’s. “Persistent Practice and Preparation Prevent Piss Poor Performance.” Good luck!
Top 10 things an architect should never say to his client
10. Your Frank Lloyd Wright tie is not hip. 9. Your builder is right. Radon is a myth spread by the government. 8. I get most of my design plans off the internet . 7. I never visit the job site unless there has been a fire. 6. Feel free to call me 24/7 with questions or concerns. 5. If we go over the initial budget, I’ll work for free. 4. You have the aesthetic sensibilities and personal warmth of Genghis Kahn. 3. Don’t worry about my fee. 2. Natural light is way overrated. 1. I’m not bothered by the fact that you sued your last three architects. That’s why we have insurance.
Doug, what are your experience regarding architecture and photography? A lot of architects and students tend to be quite involved in photography, with the belief that both skills come hand in hand. What's your view on this?
Photography is definitely something worth pursuing as an architect. Photos convey ideas and architects are consistently communicating and embodying the same with their buildings.
Quote of the day from the comments section of one of my vids. Genius.
"I have a drafting degree and have been a steel detailer for 5 years. I am also currently an engineering student. I don’t care much for architects. They have no clue how anything is really built and generally have almost no common sense. Maybe if they focus more on the actual content of their designs, and not the aesthetics or letters so much, they would stop producing such a bunch of crap work."