How to Win in your Final Year in Architecture

Here are my thoughts on the work and play ethics of a final year architecture student. 

First, let us get across some context. I have just completed my final year in Architecture. While most people take a year out (maybe two) before going on to complete their postgraduate studies, I decided to take 6 years in between. I did not choose to do this, but I have begun to appreciate having to go through 'doing time' in practice. I learned so much at work on how to actually 'do work' that it set a basis of how I approached my final 2 years of study.

Always think about the end goal.

Make sure it is not all in your head because that makes you look foolish.

For whatever project you take on, at the end of the day, how you submit and present it is the most important thing. More important that your self-satisfying crave for knowledge. 

Make sure you see the finish line. Go into detail and visualise it. Sketch it if you have to. Then leave it all to reverse engineering. For example, if you decided to embark on a regeneration project that would address the future needs of a super-gentrified community, heck you better jump the research bit for a second and make sure this project would result in an architectural intervention in the first place! Then decide on how it would be presented in the end. Would a 5m hand-drawn section suffice? Or maybe video. Perhaps if the final-crit was just 5 minutes, there would be no point in drawing the floor plans at all. I thought about this all the time whenever we got a new brief. It helped me streamline my workload to a fraction of the time with production work, so I would be able to spend less time slaving in the studio and more time at the pub chatting with other people on what they thought about my concept. 

Be very comfortable and accepting towards changes

It happens all the time, you might as well embrace it.

Record them all and package them as a part of your process. Iterations are a norm in all practices and it should be no different with university work. I had to learn this the hard way. When I was working in practice, we juggled changes every single day on our projects. It was basically the main task of being an Architectural Designer. Most of the time they occured as a result of factors beyond our scope as the architects on the job. Which got me thinking, if it took 2-3 years to build something, it makes perfect sense to see design changes made along the way. Same thing with your final year project. The architectural practice is a series of push and pull moves among a select group of people trying to achieve the same goal. If you are always geared to react to things and come up with alternatives quickly, you will be seen as a capable designer among others. I guarantee it. So many architects out there are living proof!

Speed is the Key

Execution without speed means nothing nowadays.

And for this reason, I urge you to rethink the quality in which you pass time. I used to believe in the work of perfection and timeless pieces and how you cannot rush awesomeness. But those concepts are now democratized. You need to do more, try more, learn more all in half the expected time. In contradiction, you need to rest more and play more as well. This is a self driven notion to win. For example, I always try to sleep, work-out and rush for a deadline all within a 6 hour schedule. It was a struggle to do this at first, but it is very possible. Plus, I just think taking an entire academic year to complete one project is absurd. I spent most of my undergrad years slaving for my projects and at the end of the day what mattered most in my portfolio was everything else I did outside of school. It is sad to admit this, but it is the truth. Yes, your final year project will probably be the most important piece of work you will do up to date, but it will not be your last. At the end of the year, you should aim to complete your final year project and have one or two other completed/on-going side projects. Do freelance work for small firms in your area, or join design competitions for students. It is important to keep it casual and snug under the design umbrella as this directly affects what you will be able to show in your portfolio.

Reach out, share and don't give AF

If you are going to the next society social, you might as well tweet about it. 

The average architect only showcases 2% of all the work done in his lifetime. With social media at play, that percentage is even smaller. The rest remains stored in an external HDD like a metastable allotrope of Carbon kilometres below the earth's crust. OK I lied, that's not a real fact. But it I'm sure for a second there you thought it were true. To a certain extent, it does make a whole lot of sense. As designers, architecture students are pretty timid (in comparison to interior architects and motion designers). Getting noticed and building a community takes time getting used to. Best to start now while you are in your final year! I spent a year doing this, and honestly this is tough work. It is important to make your presence known. You should open an Instagram account and start documenting your process. Write a blog, submit your sketches and make them into T-shirts, sell your studio trip photographs on GettyImages or tell you what ... give away your 3D modelling assets online. With social media nowadays, if you do not have a presence you simply do not exist. With most HR departments skimming through Linkedin and Facebook spheres as they hire, it is crucial that you leverage yourself as an online brand to suit a modern day context. 

In the studio, we have a saying that 'Design is a behaviour and not a body of knowledge'. Things could  not have been put in the better way. I think a 'modern' day designer is an abomination persona between an artistic perfectionist and a business mogul trying to monetise every second of his/her life. And for a really long time it was either or. I always viewed architecture to be bigger than me (or anyone of us). I probably do not understand it fully yet, so I'm just going to wait it out. In the meantime, we can always assess our architect-ness ** in the context of it all. In the context of thousands of architecture students graduating annually, what is the worth of your awesome project? More importantly, what is the worth of any awesome project? 

Tell me ... what is your work and play ethics like?

** yeah I coined that. Mic-drop