How to Create Iterative Massing Diagrams in Sketchup

Massing diagrams don’t need to be complicated or take a long time to put together. In this week’s post, guest author Ellie takes us through her workflow from thinking about the programme all the way down to finishing touches and exporting your diagrams. This is especially helpful if you want to showcase an iterative process in yoru design work and make it clear, simple and effective.

Establishing your Programme

Before you get started make sure you have established the programmes you wish to feature within your building, and begin to make connections between different programmes and understand which require more space and which need much less.

There are several ways to visually document your programme that will also help you understand the spatial qualities these programmes will require. Three different examples of these programme diagrams are:

  • Bubble Diagrams
  • Hierarchy diagrams
  • Spider Diagrams.

The Bubble diagram consists of drawing different sized bubbles for each programme depending on the amount of space required or importance, they are grouped and laid out like an abstract plan of the building and help you to understand which programmes may sit next to each other and which can be apart. The hierarchy diagram used in this tutorial is useful for grouping programmes into larger zones and then breaking down the smaller spaces required for each. The size of the ‘stack’ again depends on the amount of space it needs. The Spider diagram is very similar to a mindmap except for the linking lines between the programmes show which spaces need to be connected and can be physically linked in the building.

Using CAD Modelling Software as a Tool for Thinking

Once you have established your programme you can begin to think about massing and the form of your building and begin modelling your ideas in CAD software. The software we will use for this tutorial is Sketchup as it is geometry-based and lends well for modelling simple forms easily and quickly. The key to using CAD software for massing models is not being too precious about your models and using a few tools to extrude and distort forms and not being caught up in walls or floors. Working from home for the past year has proven that CAD modelling CAN be used as a thinking tool in the way that wood and foam models were used before and is equally useful and easy.

Learning the Basic Tools 

To get started creating massing models in Sketch up you need to learn a few main basic tools: The line tools, Shape tools, Push Pull tool and Scale tool. If you are not yet familiar with using SketchUp it may be useful to watch a tutorial such as this one from The Sketchup Essentials to get to grips with the software before you begin.

The way you model will depend on which is most important to you: specific form, or programme. In this tutorial, we will be following a specific form concept and then building the programme into it, but if you wish to build your form around the programmatic elements and the spaces they need then you may wish to start with the next step and work backwards. Massing models don’t have to fit a certain mould after all!

In our case, we will begin by drawing a basic shape using the shape and line tools, and then the push-pull tool to begin pulling the shape into three dimensions. You can then continue to divide and extrude the shape to form different masses.

Dividing the Form into Programme Zones

Once you have established some forms you like you can begin to play around and divide them into floors and programmatic zones. The way I did this is by selecting the top plane of the form [by double clicking] and using Ctrl + the move tool to drag a copy to the side.

Then using the line tools I divided the form into different areas and extruded them to fill single or double-storey heights. Before extruding each area I grouped them to prevent them from merging with other geometry so that they can be isolated and copied into other iterations. To do this simply double click the plane and right-click → Group.

Once in a group, you can edit these shapes by double-clicking into the group and pressing Esc to exit it after editing. I also pulled up the cores of my building along the blue axis to emphasise their location.

Exporting your Final Massing Models

Once you are happy with your massing models and their zoned copy you can begin to export the forms to turn into a comprehensive set of iterative diagrams. To do so, set up a scene on the Scenes tab. Check out this tutorial on setting up Scenes in Sketchup.

To set up the right isometric view make sure to select the Parallel Projection Camera from the Camera tab, and then highlight the model and click Iso on the camera angles tab.

You may want to draw a small line as a marker so that you can move each new iteration to the same point to ensure each screengrab is consistent. To get three different views for form, zones and circulations you need to export three different images. Firstly capture an isometric view of the entire form before dividing up, do so on the Hidden Line Style with Model Axes and Guides unchecked.

Then go to File > Export > 2D Graphic. When exporting your images choose PDF and be careful to name the images as it can be easy to mix up very similar iterations, it can be useful to also create a separate folder for the images to make them easier to locate.

Repeat these Exports with the zoned model in the Hidden Line style and also in the Wireframe style, all as PDFs, not JPEG.

Doing Post Production in Adobe IIllustrator 

Now it is time to produce a diagram from the models you have made. It is worth mentioning first if you are unfamiliar with Adobe Illustrator it may be worth watching a tutorial series to getting started. Check out our 10 Essential Tools in Adobe Illustrator for some helpful tips.

First open your PDF Straight into Adobe using File > Open and selecting the chosen image. You can open all three styles of the mass and work on them in parallel. Firstly with the zoned form, select all the lines and go to Object > Live Paint > Make to begin adding colour. Live Paint is one of the best tools in Illustrator!

Now you can use the Live Paint tool to begin adding colour to each zone of the building. Once you have added colour you can select all the lines and change them to white should you want them to blend into the page colour. 

Now lock this layer and start a new one and use the Pen tool to draw a shadow extending from the cores to their origins and lower the opacity.

For the entire form models, repeat these steps adding one single chosen colour or create shadows using shades to show the entire form and again change the lines to white. 

For the Wireframe images:

  1. Thicken and change the colour of the lines that go around the perimeter of each zone to indicate where they are but allow view through the entire form.
  2. Then using the Pen tool draw a path into and around these zones depicting circulation in and through the space. In the diagram below I used four different lines to correspond with the four main zones.
  3. Then using the Polygon tool placing small triangles to indicate the direction of the route.

 Bringing the Image Together

Once you have edited each iteration and each of its layers you can begin to assemble a final set of diagrams.

  1. First open a New Illustrator Document in the page size you wish, I recommend A2 or A3, then Select and Group each iteration layer and Copy onto the new document.
  2. Using the rulers drag out some Grid lines for the rows and columns and align each layer on a specific point.
  3. Now using the Pen tool you can add lines to connect a path from each iteration and each type of diagram, using the Scissors tool to trim around the models. Repat for the other iterations and add text.
  4. Finally export your image as a JPEG making sure to Select Artboards and you are finished! Here is the final result below.


What is the Architecture Apprenticeship?

👋 Hi, my name is Sundeep Bhudia and I’m an Architectural Assistant Apprentice at Jacobs. The Architecture Apprenticeship is something I wanted to share with more people!

I remember being in the uncertain position that thousands of students find themselves in every year – trying to decide their career path with various opportunities but often lacking a clear direction. At school, I was always passionate about Graphic Design. This developed into an enthusiasm for Architecture, becoming increasingly intrigued with the forms, purposes, and influences of buildings on the environment and on our lives.

Throughout my later years at school and Sixth Form I applied for work experience at various Architecture practices to try and obtain a feel for the industry I wanted to progress into. I secured a placement at Scott Brownrigg, where I interacted with several architects to gain an insight into architecture beyond the drawing board. I also spent a few weeks at LTS Architects where I was able to work on multiple projects with a team of architects.

After progressing into Sixth Form, I found the University education route was being heavily promoted. As a result of this, together with the fact that to become an accredited Architect required a full-time 7-year University education (with 2 years’ work placement included), I felt pressured to apply.

Deep down, I did not want to progress to University, although I realised to reach my full potential this was the only way. My biggest concern was financial – whether it was worth investing large amounts of time and money into full-time education with no guarantee of a job at the end. I was also worried about fitting in and enjoying the University environment. I have always been someone who thrives off the more hands-on environment rather than academic.

After Securing a place to study Architecture at The University of Manchester, I still felt that this was not the route I wanted to take. Even after my A level Results Day I had held off the offer from the University of Manchester.

After some persistent searching for an apprenticeship, I managed to find a needle in the haystack – a job role advertised by Jacobs for an Architectural Assistant Apprentice, an extremely rare find at the time, the apprenticeship was new and only one university offering the degree. After going through the application process, I was informed I was successful and would be taken on as an apprentice.

What is an architecture apprenticeship?

A Level 6 Apprenticeship within the Architecture community is incredibly new, with only a handful of people in the UK on such a unique course. This University backed Architecture Degree Level Apprenticeship, was the perfect solution for me, taking me all the way from undergraduate to the completion of Part I (accreditation). There are also Level 7 Apprenticeships on offer which include Part II and Part III. Essentially, I work full-time (4 days a week) with Jacobs in their London Office, with a day release every week to attend London Southbank University.

My experience as an Apprentice

Starting my apprenticeship with Jacobs was like starting artwork on a fresh canvas. I did not have extensive knowledge or skills in the built environment sector, but plenty of enthusiasm and an eagerness to learn. With any job, if you do not have the enthusiasm and willingness to learn and build yourself then are you making the right choice?

In contrast to other students, I can earn during my education whilst also gaining invaluable experience in a practice setting. This is by no means easy; the combination of work and University pushes my time management to the limits, and it is incredibly demanding but equally very rewarding. Working 8 hours a day and then having to put in hours towards the university aspect to prepare for crits and submission requires lots of time management.

I am not only gaining practical experience while being nurtured by the professionals at Jacobs but being educated on a course with the required accreditation. I believe this combination is a brilliant platform for me to grow within my current role and progress in the future. Being able to learn from tutors who have a wealth of practical experience has been very beneficial as they themselves understand the ever-changing industry and the world around them. Having the opportunity to get feedback on university design work from colleagues has also been very helpful. Moreover, there is lots of cross over in terms of the technical skills learnt in practice and design briefs given in university.

Jacobs have been great in supporting my development. I have been exposed to many scenarios on a wide range of projects, being pushed and challenged to improve my new and existing skills in and out of the office. Most of the projects I work on are within the infrastructure sector such as railway station/ depots designs as well as a mix of schools and aviation. This is where I learn a great deal about the technical side of architecture.

The team have all been incredibly kind, patient, and attentive. I think it is important that all employers respect, value and help develop young people; at Jacobs this is one of the core principles. At no point have I been restricted; I regularly participate in design and development and am always allowed to express myself.

Jacobs have given me this incredible platform from which I can grow, personally and professionally whilst continuing to help progress the business. Long term, my goal is to become a fully accredited Architect.

Architecture is an incredibly rewarding profession, witnessing your design ideas being built, and how they transform the lives of those who interact with them. Problem-solving is the heart of Architecture, with every project having its own set of challenges, with us as aspiring architects trying to unlock the full potential of the clients brief while considering the potential environmental and technological impacts.

What advice would I give?

Work experience is a must in any industry, employers look for candidates who are keen on learning and willing to get some experience. This does not have to be at a big firm, in fact, many smaller architectural firms offer more work experience and are less competitive.

Do not be afraid to apply and do not be disheartened when rejected (Do not give up after being rejected by one company). When I was on the hunt for an apprenticeship, I had to apply to a few companies. Keep an eye out by regularly checking for any job openings they might have.

Most importantly, keep your CV and Portfolio up to date. There is never a point in your career where you stop updating your portfolio and CV, be proud of what you have produced, it’s your work. You must remember you are not the only one applying for this role, think about what you can offer to the company and what makes you stand out from the crowd.

Networking in a world we live in now due to Covid 19 is key. The benefits of using online platforms such as LinkedIn help put your name out there if used correctly.

I hope this has helped anyone who is still unsure or lost in the pursuit of their ideal career path. I’d say that being able to earn and learn at the same time is a massive plus. I would urge everyone to do what you enjoy, there are many opportunities out there but do not let anyone try and make the decision for you.

If you have any questions, want to know more, or want some advice on the apprenticeship, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or Instagram

Connect with Sundeep on LinkedIn and follow on Instagram

Below are some useful links for the Level 6 Architecture Degree Apprenticeship:






The Easiest Way to Add Textures in Photoshop

Adding textures in Photoshop doesn’t need to be a long, complicated process. In fact, it’s a simple case of image manipulation. In this tutorial we’ll be learning how to:

→ import and adjust images
→ using clipping masks and blending options
→ working in a non-destructive way

But what does adding textures to our images do?

Well, illustrations, sketches and post-produced styled images can produce an array of creative outcomes that a normal render wouldn’t be able to do. Textures allow us to provide a sense of materiality, show context and add a layer of interest within our images. Photoshop is a great tool for this because it can perfectly manipulate images meaning that you don’t even need the finished material to begin with – opening up a range of possibilities and chances for exploration.

In this tutorial, we’ll be using a white Sketchup model as the base for our image. You could apply new textures to simple line work, clay renders and even on top of existing photographs – there isn’t any limit! Textures are also great when creating simple digital collages; something that can convey key ideas of your project.

Before We Begin

First of all, let me start by saying if you are working on intricate files with a lot of detail you need to be saving constantly and keeping your layers in order! There have been a countless number of times I’ve kicked myself for merging layers or not naming them. If you need to remind yourself to do a little clean-up every now and then, set a ⏰reminder or alarm on your phone.

Working non-destructively means that you’re not erasing or permanently altering original images. If it does come down to doing so, make sure that you make a copy by hitting Ctrl + J and just hiding it. You never know what could go wrong or if you wanted to change something in the future, you don’t lose the original image.

Similarly, it can be a good idea to keep a 📂 library of resources or assets that you can use regularly. There are some amazing texture libraries and websites out there with free images to download – but you don’t necessarily need them all! I’d suggest starting off with your own or even downloading some from other architecture content creators. My good friend Oliver from Learn Upstairs has some awesome packs you can buy and keep forever.

How to Add Textures

💡 I’ve gone ahead and imported my Sketchup image into Photoshop. If you wanted to add base colours like I’ve done, you’re absolutely welcome to do so. If you want a texture only collage with no linework then you don’t need to add any colour and can use the Sketchup model as a base or guide.

  1. When selecting areas to fill with the Magic Wand Tool (W) you can achieve a seamless fill by expanding the selection by a few pixels so that it selects the area underneath the linework too. Just go to Select > Modify > Expand. Then, make sure that both layers are set to the Multiply blending mode and the linework layer is at the top.

2. Find the kind of texture image you’re looking for. Since this image is more of an illustration and not a realistic render, we can use a digitally-made texture. Alternatively, you could also draw in an element, watercolour or hatch and even use a photograph – it all depends on the style you’re going for.

I love using Architextures for all my collages and sketch images. The website has an easy interface and a whole bunch of options to adjust the image according to your liking. There are even pre-made textures for you to choose from. Here’s the brick texture I’ve downloaded:

3. After importing into Photoshop, you’ll obviously realise that at a reasonable scale, the texture won’t fit both walls. In this case, we need to Duplicate and scale the image accordingly. You can do this by clicking on the image with the Move Tool (V) and with Transform Controls on, click on one of the control points and drag. ❗ Try not to distort the scale of the image by either pressing Shift or making sure the link icon is clicked in the top toolbar.

Now you will need to duplicate the image (Copy / Paste works fine here) and create a large enough image that will cover one side of the wall. Then, select all the layers and Right Click > Merge Layers. Rename this to Brick Texture and create a hidden copy.

4. Now we can distort the image to fit the correct perspective. It’s a little tricky to see the wall and lines behind so you could either move the layer behind the linework or reduce the opacity for the time being.

Then, select the corner control point, Right Click and select Distort. Now you just need to drag the corners to roughly match one of the walls. Don’t worry about going over the edges either, just make sure to cover as much as you can. Now, we can repeat the same process for the other side of the wall.

5. Then, select both layers by holding down Shift and Right Click. Here you have to make sure that both texture layers are on top of our previous colour fill. Click ‘Create Clipping Mask’.

Et voilà! You’ve successfully added in your texture. The best thing about this is that you can always go back to adjust the scale, colour and position of the texture images. I personally like a rough, imperfect look to it.

6. Additional adjustments. In the image below, I’ve lowered the opacity slightly and created a new Layer Mask which I’ve then painted over with the Brush Tool (B) to make some areas appear even fainter. You could layer the image with more textures, paint in some weathered details and repeat the process for the other parts of the image.

You also don’t have to stick to the lines. Think about the surrounding white space and how that could be used to enhance the perspective. If you also wanted to turn off the linework altogether, that’s also an option. The great thing about using Photoshop and working non-destructively is that you can always go back and experiment.

For more awesome tutorials like this one, check out our 🌞 3D Sun Path Diagram or How to Make Maps articles too.


How to Maintain Your Computer

Is your computer running slower than usual or want to start an easy maintenance routine? then look no further 😉

As architecture students, the work we produce requires a large amount of memory to perform particular tasks on most applications. We come across many different types of issues with our computers during our studies. From applications crashing, and tasks taking longer than they should be to hearing about laptops being stolen in the library. Ultimately there are two important things we need to protect. The years of work we produce and the lifespan of our laptops/computers, considering the amount we invest in them.

This blog will discuss a few examples of essential maintenance that you can do without expert help, both digitally and hardware. I believe they work hand in hand, will make your computer run faster, efficient and safer.

Before performing any steps I recommend creating a backup of your laptop/computer. To ensure you are able to retrieve any files you may have accidentally removed. This doesn’t tend to happen usually, but it is up to you. You can always create an additional backup or replace the one you created after you have cleaned your computer.

This can be skipped but if you would like to, check out the links below for both Windows & macOS if you are unsure how to do so:

Windows 10 backup

MacOS backup

Computer Maintenance – Digital

Firstly, when it comes to digital maintenance, we tend to start off by going through and removing files stored on our computers that we no longer need. Storage is one of the most common issues we face and there many ways to get around this.

1: Freeing up storage space on your hard drive

Our hard drives tend to store more than just our work, but also our personal files including music, photos, videos and others. So it would be a great idea to go through these and delete any unwanted files or duplicates you can find.

Take your time by going through your files. Make sure to avoid important folders that your computer uses to run. They are mostly found in the System32 folder for Windows. However for macOS, Apple tends to hide them but generally, a great start would be the downloads folder. Here you tend to find old install files, photos and videos.

2: Consider using a digital cleaning/maintenance software

There are many applications on the web and app stores that clean your computer to make it run the best it can. However, the two that I use, found effective are by IObit and Macpaw. Both enable you to use some or all features for free but also have premium plans that unlock more storage or features for you to use.

For Windows users, the application from IObit is called Advanced Systemcare 14. It supports 10/8/7/Vista/XP and the size of the installation file is 47.8Mb. The main features, as well as many others included in the version, are:

  • AI mode: This intelligently cleans and speeds up your computer according to your optimised habits and pc performance status.
  • Software health: Here you can see if there are any software updates available.
  • Real-time tuneup: Monitors your computer performance and releases more RAM and disk space automatically.
  • Large-file cleaner: Locate large files and remove them with ease.

However, if you have an Apple computer, IObit has a macOS version that performs similar tasks called MacBooster 8. The interactive standby by menu bar shows you the memory usage, network status and firewall. Alongside these, you can clean your memory, trash, cache and optimize your DNS settings with one click.

Lastly, the lightning booster rocket is a mode that can make your online surfing feel faster. The application requires OS X 10.9 or later and is compatible with macOS Big Sur.

Another application I became familiar with for Apple computers is CleanMyMac x, by Macpaw. The installation file is around 67.7Mb, the application runs on most of the up to date versions of macOS, including Big Sur. I feel this application offers more features and shows more information about your computer. However, you are limited to how much cleaning you can do without having to purchase a license. In addition, they also have an application for Windows users called CleanMypC. It’s great but I found Advanced Systemcare 14 offers similar features for free without being restricted to a certain amount of usage before having to pay for the license.

In comparison, I found that using Advanced Systemcare 14 for Windows and CleanMyMac for macOS were the right choices to go for. For each of them, you are able to do basic cleaning and even more if you wish to.

In addition, there are a lot more features, system information available for you to use and find out about your computer with ease. Macbooster 8 is also great, I would recommend it if you are not too bothered about the extra information and features to clean your computer.

With all the applications, there may be a certain amount of cleaning, features or digital maintenance you can do or access before having to purchase a licence. They offer deals year-round and have different payment methods from monthly to one-off year subscriptions.

Computer Maintenance – Hardware

1. Cleaning your keyboard, openings and mouse

These devices can stop working if you don’t clean them. From crumbs in your keyboard to greasy mouses with stuck scroll wheels. Replacing these can cost you from around £20 and that money can be spent instead towards other things. Cleaning your keyboard surfaces and mouse can be easily done with a damp lint-free cloth.

Spray the water onto the cloth not directly onto the keyboard as this will only cause further damage. You can use scented antibacterial wipes on the sides and back if you would like to leave a nice smell but I would gently wipe over it again with a dry cloth. Whereas, for harder to reach areas such as in between the keyboard, compressed air cans are great for this and can be purchased for only a couple of pounds.

Laptop/computer ports and other crevices also need to be cleaned. Not doing so the dusty clogged ports will reduce the airflow that goes in and out of the device, increasing the chances of it overheating. Don’t use compressed air as you don’t want to be putting the dust back inside your computer. Instead, gently clean them using a microfibre cloth too and if you see any clumps of dirt stuck instead, use a plastic tweezer to carefully remove it. Avoid using metal tweezers as they can cause static issues to your device.

2. Keeping your monitor clean

As much as your keyboard and mouse gets dirty, so does your monitor. We might not realise this until you see dust, fingerprints all over the screen and frame. To clean your monitor, you need to use a microfiber cloth. If there are tough stains, this is where screen cleaner wipes come into hand. Stick to specific LCD computer cleaning products, not doing so may damage your screen and make it expensive for you to repair. Do bear in mind that monitors, especially the LCD can be thin so be gentle when cleaning.

For users who get their monitors dirty quite often, there are smart inexpensive tools you can invest in. I personally use the OXO Good Grips Sweep & Swipe Laptop cleaner. I keep this in my bag and on my desk whenever I need to quickly remove a fingerprint on the screen or dust on my keyboard.

OXO Good Grips Sweep & Swipe Laptop cleaner 
Oxo Electronics Cleaning Brush

Bonus tips & habits

1. Food & beverages – Keep away from your computers/laptops

Whether you’re watching your favourite Netflix show or reading an article – stop having drinks or your lunch near your device, it will make a great change to keeping your device clean for much longer. Yes, all of you all-nighter fanatics, I’m looking at you. This is easier said than done but even if you spill a small amount of your drink on to your keyboard, that can be enough to destroy it. If it goes in any deeper you can cause further or future long term damage to other components.

I suggest implementing a rule of having nothing on your desk but water. Water can also be as dangerous to your device as anything else. Make sure to place it on the corner or furthest part of your desk on a drink coaster. As long as it is placed away from your elbows and hands, you will reduce the chance of you knocking the drink over.

When it comes to your 5* meals, having crunchy greasy keyboards is not the best feeling to work with after you have eaten. Therefore, I would strictly eat in the dining/living room. The additional benefit of implementing this habit if you are able to do so is that will mentally help with the stress of staying indoors.

Due to lockdown measures in place and having multifunctional spaces is that, as students especially we find ourselves doing everything in our room. Doing so can destroy the relaxation or feeling of the room. Just imagine working from home then having a pizza for dinner and shortly you want to take a nap. The smell leftover becomes associated with that space and won’t make you feel great. If you don’t do something about it then you’re going to be dreaming of more pizzas or feeling sick, so it’s up to you.

2. Computer/laptop cases & screen protectors

Investing in cases or covers for your devices can be inexpensive and offer great protection. For computers, you can buy a sleeve or cover for your monitor that protects it from dusk building upon it.

Whereas for laptop users, there is a wide range of cases and sleeves to invest in. They can be tough durable plastic that will protect the casing especially when it encounters any knocks or even drops. Some people may not like the chunkiness or look of them and prefer to keep their devices as slim as possible. That’s why you can also buy different types of laptop sleeves that can offer similar types of protection and they can also sometimes come with a pouch for your charger. In the end, either option would be great as it will protect your device for longer and it’s better than nothing.

3. Software Update hunting

Lastly, keeping your software up to date shouldn’t be something to avoid and doesn’t take much to do. Most updates can be installed on a scheduled time you like or the next time you restart your device. Avoid doing so when you plan to start using your device and make it the last thing to do. They can range in time, you wouldn’t want to do it if you were planning to work and find out it will take some time to finish.

I hope this blog has helped you start thinking about taking care of your device without making it seem like a long process. By doing so you are saving yourself from expensive costs but also rewarding your device for all the work it has helped you produce.

If you have any further questions or love to have a chat, feel free to connect with me via Linkedin and Instagram.


How I Use Notion

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I am obsessed with Notion and all its applications. I first started using Notion in March 2020 – just as we went into lockdown (so it’s fair to say I had a lot of time on my hands). I truly think that using Notion can be absolutely game-changing for architects, students and all kinds of designers and content creators.

The reason for this is that Notion is a workspace tool. If you’ve used Google Drive and it’s other apps like Docs or Slides, it’s sort of the same idea but on steroids. Notion is essentially ‘an application that provides components such as databases, kanban boards, wikis, calendars and reminders. Users can connect these components to create their own systems for knowledge management, note-taking, data management, project management, among others. These components and systems can be used individually, or in collaboration with others.’

Notion is free and has a student / educational plan for you guys to not only create your own workspaces without limits but share them with friends and peers too. This means that you can create an organised system of your own but also share it with other people to track and create projects or areas of your life.

My Notion Workspace

Before I started using Notion, I was using various different notebooks for several things. I hadn’t ridden the productivity wave yet so there was a lot I wasn’t exposed to either. Now, there is no problem with keeping notebooks and I’m definitely not saying that Notion should replace these things, but instead it gives you a digital version that can be filtered, sorted, organised and expanded in several ways – something a regular notebook can’t give you.

I’ll give you an example. Content creating has been amplified by 10 since I started using Notion. Before this, I was still using a pretty organised system, tracking ideas for blog posts on a Google Sheet, planning out my writing in my notebook and writing any sort of idea down on any page that I probably wasn’t going to go back to again. There was stuff that I had to keep going back to such as my branding elements (think fonts and hex codes) but sometimes didn’t have my notebook on me. This caused some friction. With Notion, there is a dedicated space where I’ve kept this information and it can be easily accessed through search by hitting Ctrl + P. I can do the same on the Notion app, share it with other people I am working with or just have a record of my branding elements.

The way I use Notion has changed a lot over the past year. I’ve ‘re-done’ my workspace / wiki / dashboard a handful of times so far and just tried to keep the things I really do use. Most people go two ways of creating their workspace.

  1. They use the sidebar to create pages and pages – all separated. Then they link back to these occasionally and as needed
  2. They create one page and make sub-pages within them

So what I’ve done is a mix of both. Initially, I didn’t even bother with a ‘Home’ dashboard because I wasn’t really using it since I jumped from page to page or just focused on one thing at a time. I then realised that my main use of Notion was to track my tasks so I made my Task Box the opening tab and really where I spent 90% of my time on Notion.

Now, I have 6 key areas that are their own dashboards. Inside, there are sub-pages, databases and links but overall, it covers the 4 key areas I need and stuff I was previously using which has been archived. By simplifying the sidebar, it makes it so much easier to jump if needed and hide it completely (to maximise screen space). Very recently, I archived my task box and switched to Todoist. I was finding there was an increase in friction and due to my timings at work, I just wasn’t inputting tasks because there was a lot of extra information to fill in. The Notion app is good, but it’s not that useful for inputting tasks (in my opinion). Todoist is just pretty easy to see on my phone and sort and has built-in features like priority and labelling which you don’t need to worry about keeping a track of.

In the ‘home’ dashboard, there are mainly links and personal pages that don’t really need to have their own dashboard as well as my frequent pages list. This is more than often a subpage of a project that I’m working on and it makes it easier to have this in front of me so that I can start working as soon as I open my window.

The :scale section is where all of my writing, organising and planning happens. I’ve got stuff like ideas and goals for the coming months as well as general guidelines I can send to guest authors. 90% of my content creating happens in Notion – in fact, I’ve recently switched over the writing portion from Google Docs into Notion too. The table view is AMAZING by itself because you can add in all kinds of fields and sort and filter them and the best feature in Notion is the ‘Create Linked Database’. It allows you to replicate any kind of database in any view and apply a completely different set of filters meaning you only need one master database that holds all the information.

You can also build your own templates to optimise your workflow as I’ve done in the Ultimate Archi Student Hub. This means whenever you add a new project in there will be a set of headings and blocks already in there so that you don’t have to rebuild everything every time you create a new page.

The Possibilities of Notion

It’s been a year since I first started on Notion and in that timeframe, they have released a number of updates and new features. It’s also not a secret that the API is due to release soon 🤫 which is going to bring even more integrations and connections to other platforms and applications. I think this will be an amazing step forward because it’s almost like re-discovering Notion and getting to build or edit your workspace.

You should also keep in mind that there are numerous other productivity applications like Trello or Asana as well as phone applications that might even do a better job than Notion for specific things. I keep a close eye on the Keep Productive YouTube channel to find out about updates or new releases of interesting apps and occasionally give them a try – that’s how I found Todoist!

Another great part of Notion is its community. There is an awesome Discord server, subreddit and a bunch of cool content creators, template makers and bloggers who love Notion as much as I do. This means there will surely be new ideas and uses for Notion that could influence how your workspace takes shape and you can learn almost everything from these guys. We’ve linked our Resources page where we’ve got a dedicated Notion section for you to check out!

Architecture Students

As a working Part 1 Architectural Assistant and content creator, I love Notion for its wide range of applications to what I do. I really think that students will benefit most from an organised system they can build and keep track of. The open-ended structure means that you don’t have to try and cram things into one place nor is there a limit on what you use Notion for.

Notion would be great for the design side as well as a wiki or organisational tool. Here are a couple of examples:

  1. Keeping track of multiple projects and deadlines at the same time. By linking this to a task management system you can also re-surface pending tasks depending on the priority level of the project. If your dissertation is due in 4 weeks, you can plan out each day or week and assign tasks that will help you stay on track throughout.
  2. A reference library for precedents, articles, helpful resources that you’ve used or interest you. Think about how Pinterest works except in Notion you can clip entire webpages including the text and images as your own personal copy. It’s like bookmarks but you’re able to sort, filter and favourite ones you regularly use.
  3. Portfolio planning; you can track the status of which pages you’ve completed or need to work on as well as creating a library of pages that you want to create and include in your portfolio. The best thing about creating instances in a database is that each one will have its own page.

If you want to learn more about the applications of productivity and using Notion as an architecture student, you can find out more in our 🧠 Building an Archi Brain course.

The most important takeaway from this is that organisation is the key to being more productive, having a set workflow and direction and this can be achieved with Notion – but not exclusively! Remember, it’s not the tool that magically makes you more productive, you need to put in the work to create the habits and systems as well as the Notion pages and databases and then keep testing and adapting in order to find the correct balance.

Plus, who knows where Notion can take us aspiring architects right?


How to Expand your Social Media Skills

It’s no secret that we’re the generation who are supposed to be knowledgeable and in-sync with the quirks and requirements of social media. But as aspiring architects how can we use it to our advantage? Social media is much more than just posting pics of your dog (no matter how cute) and using it as a dump box for architectural images and models that don’t really mean anything.

Social media could mean Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn even TikTok 🤮. There isn’t any obligation to be on these platforms if you don’t wish to do so. An alternative could be a portfolio website that showcases your projects and style if you wish to do so.

person holding black samsung android smartphone

Your Instagram or LinkedIn pages could serve to become a portfolio of sorts for yourself if you see it as a personal brand. As architects we tend to overthink elements or disregard social media because we’re too shy to put up our work. Let me tell you the top 3 mistakes architecture students make with their social media pages.

  1. Not posting! The first step of mastering social media and creating a beautiful, elegant and professional social profile is to actually post content. But I don’t just mean every sketch or every failed model. It has to be a carefully curated collection of images (and sometimes text) that represents who you are an an individual as well as a creative. Sometimes we hae a fear of getting negative comments but what many students don’t realise is that the archi-community is a really positive and powerful space. Personally, I’ve never received or even seen negativity because we’re all on the same journey more or less. We all know what it’s like going through critiques every week and putting in long hours for our creations. No one is here to judge you, so be bold and show off your work!
  2. Being detatched from your social profile. If you are going to jump on the bandwagon and put in the effort to create a social profile, make sure you’re not being a robot about it. There’s one thing about firms being professional and posting clean, minimal images because they have other media and clients to rely on – their Instagram’s probably aren’t their number one source. I’ve seen far too many students try and be all fancy and post one image a month with the simplest of all captions. The whole point of being on social media is to be social. Challenge others around you by asking questions related to your projects and images. Although we do love to see a intricate, detailed drawing – we want to know more about it! This could inspire someone down the line so try and explain yourself as best you can in the comments and be real about it – we don’t want to see a mundane, boring explanation.
  3. Not engaging enough. There are several ways you can get your name out there and turn some heads. But for those of you starting out it can be tough. So make sure you’re engaging with content creators, communities, collectives and inspiring individuals to learn from them and support them. The more you do this, you will not only be exposed to similar content, you will also be inspired and the more people you follow the better chance of them following you back right? Other ways of engaging is to be really active in the community, interact with firms or blogs 😉 and don’t be afraid to have real conversations. It really isn’t good enough to post and then forget that Instagram exists, it makes your page effectively dead and defeats the purpose of being on their in the first place.

There are many other ways you can make your content stand out. Apart from having high quality images, experiment with the layout of your feed, the colour palette or even adding your own flair and style. You could turn your social profile into a brand and make it look pretty professional. One great way I saw of experimenting with your feed is by Esmae Abigail on LinkedIn. She essentially added captions within the images and separated each post into it’s own little section, making it a visual CV on Instagram!

At the end of the day, you want to make it work for you 🤍. If you’re not comfortable with having your name out there, post under an alias. Or, if you’re super keen on building a personal brand make sure to be consistent and authentic!


The Truth About my Year Out

Disclaimer: I didn’t LOVE my Part 1 Year Out… and that’s okay…

I left university having been sold the idea that my year out would be this fabulous year of relaxation, inspiration and rainbows and, after a very trying third year, I could not wait! Who would have thought that in a job you would get to bed before 3am and wouldn’t have to spend crit day watching some overzealous tutor ripping apart your work? And you’d get paid?!

Flash forward 12 months and yes, I was working for a well known firm, getting paid better than most of my peers from university, and feeling overly cosmopolitan and lush. But, I absolutely hated my job. I’d applied in a panic after spending the summer travelling and rather naively thought that getting a job with a large, well known firm was the be-all-and-end-all, only to arrive and find that the firm really didn’t suit me, my design style or my way of working as I personally like (and need) to do a lot of research to keep myself motivated rather than working deadline to deadline.

Not only that but large firm office politics are a completely different ballgame to anything I was used to…(you think University culture is bad? Just wait!) I arrived back at University for my Part 2 slightly disheartened by the whole process, having admittedly lost a lot of confidence over the course of the year. However, much like everyone else, during the Covid-19 lockdown I have had a lot of time for reflection, in particular on what lessons I learnt during my year out that have really helped me for my future employment;

1. Money isn’t everything. Yes you need enough to eat, pay your rent, etc, but you shouldn’t solely think with your purse when applying for jobs as sometimes the lesser paid routes provide benefits in other ways.

2. If you get weird vibes at your interview – don’t accept the job! Your intuition is generally right and sometimes you just don’t click with people – that’s okay! For example, on one occasion I arrived at my interview to find that the whole office was abnormally messy. Although that would suit some people, I would have definitely found myself scuttling around the office feeling the need to tidy things, and luckily I recognised that before my first day. In contrast, I’ve arrived at an office before and felt inspired and at home just by seeing the amount of samples and books lining the shelves!

3. You have a lot to learn about architecture in your part 2 so if you’re in a job that is expecting too much from you in an area you didn’t learn in the first 3 years, it’s okay to say so. Architecture school is very different now to how it was 40 years ago, so not all architects know what skills to expect from a part 1. Adversely, if you’re working for a small firm that aren’t very clued-up in areas you are, like social media, or Photoshop, don’t be scared to make suggestions, they’ll most likely be relieved to pass those aspects on to you. There are skills and aesthetic styles you will have that, although fairly common within your University cohort, will excite and benefit the firm you work for, so don’t be afraid to show them off.

4. Everyone has a different style of working and designing – use this as an opportunity to learn more about methods that aren’t your own and take that back to your part 2 studies.

The architect I worked with loved to make a material palette to show to clients and sell her vision, and this was one of the first things I thought of when presenting my final presentation of fourth year, and it was really effective in solidifying my ideas.

5. Detailing doesn’t have to be scary… on your year out there will be a lot of people that know more than you about detailing – take notes on what they’re teaching you as you go and have that at the back of your mind for your part 2! Same goes for attending CPDs, some of which are just a sales pitch, whilst others are really beneficial for understanding the application of architectural design.

6. A year out is as much about personal growth and re-centering as it is about becoming a better architect – use your evenings wisely!

7. As a follow on, there are ways outside of the office to get architectural experience during your year out – you could attend lectures at your local art school, or join an education programme like the Mass Timber Academy!

(…cue self-plug…) The Mass Timber Academy is a recently released life-long education programme for architects and engineers, aiding in a specialism in mass timber systems like CLT. As student members, (applicable to your year out) you are encouraged to engage with a more environmentally sustainable method of construction in a way that you, unfortunately, don’t have in architecture school; competitions, awards, workshops and monthly newsletter.

Of course, there are many other opportunities for learning and designing on your year out, but uniquely the Mass Timber Academy’s programme aims to de-mystify the use of mass timber systems so that, hopefully, you will return to University for your part 2 with knowledge in this area that will surpass even your tutors. You’ve never had so much spare time so why not use it?

8. Network network network – even if there’s ONE architect or part 2 at your job that you really connect with, having the opportunity to ask them questions (in particular about going back to University and sitting your part 3) can prove really valuable. I also cannot press enough the benefit of online networking through platforms such as LinkedIn if used correctly, and this is something that if initiated on your year out will be of great benefit when applying for your jobs post-part 2.

I realise that some of this advice might seem completely useless, particularly if you are spending your year out in the architects firm of your dreams, but I know that if I had read this when working I would have felt relieved about the sort of experience I was getting. Don’t get me wrong, I learnt loads about architecture too and had loads of fun in the office, but when I arrived back at University everyone wanted to use their year out work as an opportunity for competition and I didn’t exactly feel like I was in the race. However, I then found that a lot of the people that loved their year out job actually struggled in the transition back to academia (especially since a lot of the projects are hypothetical…) whereas I was feeling very grateful to return and learn more in preparation for the big bad world of employment after graduating from my part 2.

Upon graduation, and due to my part 1, it has been infinitely useful to know what I DON’T want for my future career, and indeed provided some incentive to look elsewhere for my part 2 jobs which not only improves my CV, but also gives me a much broader perspective of the industry and its future. You’ll perhaps be glad to know that I have now found my interests lie in architectural activism and innovation, and I am working for a company that encourages and compliments me in these areas whilst also providing daily opportunities for a continuation of my learning down a non-conventional route (which suits me perfectly).

I believe that without my part 1 experience I would be in no way ready, both in character and experience, to have such a strong indication as to where my future is leading, even if at the time I was not so optimistic. Please know that your part 1 year out, although invaluable, is not the peak of your career and so if it does not meet your expectations should not be the end of the line, but instead an opportunity to further engage with the wild world of architecture and take some time for yourself.

This article was written by our lovely guest author Kirsty Watt!


Podcasts You Need to Check Out


Recently, I’ve been trying to listen to more podcasts and expanding my knowledge about architecture, productivity and anything interesting. You’ll find that since the pandemic began, there has been an influx in online content – especially in the architectural space. Podcasts can be great to listen to while you do your university work and want to steer away from binge watching movies or tv shows. They’re obviously an audio format so that can work well if you’re cooking or exercising and allow you to learn something new.

To start off with, I’d recommend you start off with a couple of explorations. Suggestions can be great but not everyone’s taste is the same so don’t feel like you have to listen to a particular podcast because someone recommended it. Similarly, not every podcast will be relevant to your interests, In fact, I’ve only listened to a couple of episodes of The Ground Up Show by Matt D’Avella – not all of them pique my interest and that’s okay!

My Current Podcast List [2020]

Not Overthinking

Not Overthinking by Ali & Taimur Abdaal

An interesting podcast hosted by two brothers on social concepts, their personal lives and book discussions. I follow Ali’s YouTube channel where he creates content on productivity.

Business of Architecture UK Podcast | Libsyn Directory

The Business of Architecture by Rion Willard

Although I’m not a fully qualified architect and don’t necessarily have the aspiration to start my own architectural firm, the conversations Rion has with his guests are simply incredible! You’ll learn a lot in these podcasts and I can definitely say I’ve gone back more than one to listen to an episode.

Two Worlds Design Podcast

Two Worlds Design Podcast by Hamza Shaikh

Hamza is probably the most relatable podcast host for architecture students. The guest list is also very interesting as he speaks to notable figures on topics you wouldn’t necessarily think of. The best thing about these are that they are also available on his YouTube channel in video format.

The Student Podcast – Podcast – Podtail

The Student Podcast by Thomas Rowntree

I’d definitely recommend The Student Podcast to aspiring architecture students and first years who may feel a little lost and unsure of how to navigate their time at university.

The Midnight Charette Design and Architecture Show | Listen via Stitcher  for Podcasts

The Midnight Charette by David Lee and Marina Bouh

The Midnight Charette podcast is an interesting one especially being based in the UK, it’s been interesting to listen to the similarities and differences of how architecture works in America. David and Marina have on all sorts of guests which makes for a diverse range of topics. It’s also been fabulous to hear them reflect on their own journeys making the experience quite personal.

The Archiologist Campaign - YouTube

The Archiologist by Maria Flores

This podcast explores all kinds of topics and emerging ideas in the field of architecture. I can guarantee there will be something that appeals to you!

Architecture Social (podcast) - Stephen Drew | Listen Notes

The Architecture Social by Stephen Drew

This amazing community has conquered the podcast realm with a range of talks and advice episodes so if you’re a recent graduate, these will be episodes that you keep going back to.

1:100 Architecture Podcast (@1to100podcast) | Twitter

1:100 Architecture Podcast

This is a down-to-earth podcast hosted by a collective of funny, knowledgable women. After attending Oxford Brookes, the founded this podcast which has a host of relatable topics for any architecture student.

Suggestions from you!

I love hearing about suggestions from all of you too, architecture or not! Check out these recommended podcasts if you’re keen on broadening your library.

  1. The Green Urbanist
  2. Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend
  3. The M Word
  4. 2 Dope Queens
  5. Best Friends with Nicole Byer
  6. 99% Invisible
  7. Still Processing
  8. Crime Junkie
  9. No Country for Young Women
  10. Philosophize This

The Art of Moodboards

Moodboards are a great way to collect resources and images that can inspire your design projects. There’s many types of moodboards; physical printed images, digital collections or through apps like Pinterest and Milanote. It’s safe to say as architecture students moodboards will be one of the more enjoyable aspects of the course.

In this article we’re going to show you the best practices of putting together a moodboard and how you can take it a step further by just putting in a little more effort. Even finding one amazing reference can change the nature of your project and help you understand a bit more about what you want to design, your preferred style of architecture or could be useful as a future reference.

‘Good artists copy, great artists steal’

What does that quote mean exactly? Essentially, anyone can copy a set of plans, elevations and diagrams and pass it off as their own. Ideas too can be completely copied exactly but that doesn’t mean that the person copying is a good artist – or in this case architect. The benefit of studying architecture is all about going through the design process, figuring out what works and doesn’t and coming up with solutions to problems. In this context, ‘stealing’ means analysing someone else’s work and interpreting multiple ideas and concepts and creating something new from it. Inspiration is never a bad thing.

The image above is an example of a ‘murder board’ style I created for my second year project. It’s a mix of images, diagrams and text that are all interconnected in some way. This can be a good way of viewing all the initial ideas in one place. The benefit of a moodboard is that if you ever feel like your mind goes blank or you run out of ideas, you can always look back to your moodboard or collection of images to spark any new thoughts.



Pinterest is the place for creating such boards. I make one for each of my projects and honestly, once I start pinning, I don’t stop! The beauty of the way Pinterest works is that once you pin something, it shows you similar images straight after as well as on your home-feed. That way, once you pin one thing, you get 10 similar ones after it. I suggest using Pinterest as simply as possible – there’s no need to faff around with sections because you’d want to keep it pretty general.

Think about the stages of your project aswell. As it comes to the end of the year, you might want to think about creating a board of reference images for final illustrations and renders. This way it’s separate from general architecture projects and gives you a streamlined view of styles and colour palettes you might think of using.

Pinterest is free, has no limits and can be used on desktop and the mobile app.

Other Methods for Moodboards

There are many ways of creating moodboards, in fact, it doesn’t even need to be a collection of images. Literature, music and media can inspire the best of us. As part of your portfolio, you could also create a collage of the inspirations which can help you work out aspects of the design or understand how two ideas can merge together.

A collection of images stored on your computer or external hard-drive could also be another option if you wanted to curate the collection to be minimal. In fact, if you do enough research on specific projects, they can be used later on as case studies where you can show the example of a design aspect and explain that you’d like to re-create it or adjust it to suit your brief. For technical research, references could also be a great way to find specific details or newer materials that you may want to use in your building.

There are multiple tools online to help you create moodboards, mind-maps and collections of references that you can use for your projects. Check out this article on How to Make a Moodboard. Creating a moodboard should be pretty high up on your list when you start a new project, don’t wait for yout tutors to tell you to create one or start looking for projects that inspire you. Take the initiative and create one yourself.

Back in my 2nd year, we were prompted to keep a Tumblr blog of our progress – nothing formal but it was a way of recording our progress and keeping in touch with our tutors outside of tutorials. You could also think about doing the same thing. A moodboard doesn’t need to be constricted to anything specific and the idea is for you to use it along the various stages of your design.

Let us know how you use moodboards and collages and your preferred method of keeping a record!


3D Sun Path Diagram

I know so many of you have been waiting for a 3D sun path diagram since our first tutorial on a regular, simple sun pathwhich by the way is to this date our most popular article ever! The difference between the two is simply a case of aesthetics. This diagram takes a little bit more effort but the key principles are the same.

A 🌞 Sun Path Diagram is one of the pages usually included in your Site Analysis section of your portfolio. After you are given a site, you go around and note things about the surroundings such as the opportunites and constraints, the adjacent buildings and think about what kinds of effects they will have on your site. Similarly, the orientation of the site is important to note if you’re keen on building a sustainable building or you want natural lighting to have a specific purpose in the programme.

Software tools you will need for this diagram include:

  • CAD Mapper or some kind of Ordnance Survey Map where you can download 3D building topography – if you can’t find any, I suggest you make it up based on site photos
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Sketchup is best for this but any 3D modelling software should do the same trick

The Steps

  1. Download a simple line map of your site. It would be very wise to keep in mind a certain road or even the postcode of your site if you can so that it is easy to access.

Set a false height in case there is no building data – some applications like Digimap have this for most UK areas but if you can’t find any, just go by site photographs and estimates.

  1. Open up the file in Sketchup and start playing with the model itself. You can get rid of the placement building that is on your site as we will be using a simple dashed red line to highlight this. Adjust the heights of the other buildings and figure out where your ‘boundary’ will be. It’s always best to have more buildings modelled than to have gaps later on. If your chosen location doesn’t have the data for building heights you might need to rely on your site knowledge and photographs or you could even look at documents in the area’s Planning Portal.
  1. Now you need to fix the scene. For a cooler look, I suggest increasing the field of depth. You can do this by going to Camera > Field of View and drag until you think it looks alright from a top, perspective view. Usually this is about 120 degrees.
  1. Exporting the file can take two roads. If you have access to Sketchup Pro, you can export the line PDF itself or you can take a simple screenshot of the scene and re-create it in Illustrator so that you have the freedom to play with line weights and colours.
  1. Now we will go into Illustrator and set up our page. From a workflow angle, I would suggest using Illustrator to create the diagram itself, refining it in Photoshop if you wanted to add in textures and other rasterised assets. Then, importing into your master InDesign file of your portfolio. That is where you can add your text and page headings.

** Sometimes the PDF can seem quite scary and completely black. In this instance you will need to select everything and reduce the stroke width to about 0.01. Then you can scale it up by holding the Shift key and dragging.

  1. Adding the details. You can follow the steps in our original sun path diagram tutorial to know how to add the 2D elements. Now we can begin Live Painting. Select everything (Ctrl + A) and go to Object > Live Paint > Make. Check to see that you’re able to select most of the buildings individually by using the Live Paint Bucket Tool.

At this point, if you wanted to also paint the road or the edges of the map, you might want to draw in the lines and add it to the live paint selection. You can now begin painting. I usually choose a muted palette and differentiate between adjacent buildings, noteworthy buildings (like train stations or museums) and the others by doing gradients of grey. Don’t forget to expand the Live Paint when you’re done!

  1. Keeping the site as your centre point, draw a circle on top and select everything then Right Click and choose Make Clipping Mask. If you wanted to add in shadows, you can export it as a separate .png image and mask it out in the same way. Usually you would need to resize and adjust according to your current scale.

Final Notes

For the buildings coming out of the circle boundary, you might want to trace them on a separate layer and put them on top of your clipped image. It’s always nice to stroke the entire silhouette with a thicker line to make everything look a bit more cohesive.

If you wanted to take it a step further, you could include screenshots of actual shadow analysis using the shadows tool in Sketchup and making sure the location, date and timings are correct. Most of the other steps are in the previous tutorial as well so be sure to check those out.

Let me know if this tutorial was helpful in the comments below or find us on Instagram!


How To Present Better as an Architecture Student

I’ve been working with students at an international university for the last few months where English is not the students first language. I’m teaching English for Architecture communication, and I’ve learnt some valuable things about how students organise and present their ideas in their studio presentations or crits. I believe the things I’ve noticed and the advice I’ve accumulated could be useful to everyone – ESL students (English as a second language), students, and architects regardless of whether English is your first or second language. 

Firstly, something I’ve felt essential to focus on is cultural differences and making my students aware of the styles that different cultures, in general, tend to adopt. Why? As Erin Meyer describes in her book, The Culture Map different cultures have different ways of communicating. Being aware of these differences can help to make your presentations more successful and you more confident. 

Three of the most critical points I’ve learnt from reading the culture map and communicate with my students:

1. In English speaking countries, we are more likely to give explicit instruction which means we say what we mean with minimal hidden messages. We also tend to value concise presentations that are to the point. Feedback can also be a balance between positive and negative feedback.  

2. It’s okay to express opinions and disagree. Tutors and lecturers will often ask you to expand on points or to defend your ideas so it’s okay to question and disagree as long as you can explain why. It’s not the end of the world when they challenge you; it’s just part of their job to push you, to test you and get the best out of you. 

3. English being your second language doesn’t have to be the reason you should feel held back from succeeding in your studio crits. 

ESL students can feel held back as they believe they lack the technical vocabulary or don’t have the same skills and expertise as their peers who are native English speakers. However, lacking the technical language doesn’t necessarily mean your presentation can’t still be excellent. 

So what can you do? Structure your ideas. 

How to structure and organise your ideas 

One thing I’ve found is that students can over-complicate their ideas and go off on tangents. They may feel that more complex ideas and solutions show better understanding, but this isn’t always the case. They can question themselves and their ideas and compare themselves to their peers.  One way to be confident of your ideas is to go back to the fundamentals of your concept by knowing and presenting your thoughts in this order: 

  1. What is it? 
  2. Why is it like that? 
  3. How does it work?

It sounds so simple, but one thing I’ve noticed is as soon as a presentation lacks structure, the message becomes lost. Sometimes I understand what the student was going for; however, without the organisation and those three key points, I’m lost and feeling frustrated that the student’s great ideas are disintegrating before my eyes.    

ArchiMarathon makes an excellent video which explains just how you can do this. The main point they discuss is to keep the structure of your ideas simple by answering the following questions: 

What is it? 

Don’t just say what the thing is. It’s not a house or a school or a library – it’s more than that. As Kevin from ArchiMarathon points out – it’s the things you can draw –  the forms, the pieces of the puzzle and how the elements and features come together. It’s the parti diagram you would draw if someone asked you to explain your concept on the back of a stamp or a napkin. It’s the program, the shapes, the road map of your idea. When you start your presentation with the what, you’re starting to tell the story to your audience.  Knowing the ‘what’ terminology will help you to explain how your concept works later. 


  • The concept takes the form of intersecting rectangular forms with a box subtracted. 
  • The form of the envelope is a series of staggered boxes in the shape of a curve. 
  • The overall shape is radial/spiral with a series of rectangles projected from the centre.  

Why is it like that?

Once you’ve explained the ‘What’ you can start to explain why you made some of the decisions to include different forms, you can then explain things like how the site context and surroundings or other external factors influenced your choices. When you do this, you can start to see how certain things affect your concept, and if you can’t explain this, then you might need to go back to the drawing board. 


  • I chose to use the radial form with projecting rectangles because I wanted to emphasise the centre as a gathering point. 
  • I chose to use the simple rectangular form oriented east to west because I wanted all the windows to face south (or north if you’re in the southern hemisphere).
  • Go back to your parti diagram to help you explain your overall concept, the program, the features. 

How does it work?

Finally – explain how it works as an overall concept. The tendency with some students can be to explain how the idea works first and the tiny details. 

However, when you do this, you’ve missed the valuable opportunity to ease your audience into your concept and to tell them the story. Kevin explains and demonstrates this in the ‘What, Why, How’ video using Frank Gehry’s Bilbao museum. He tells the story by starting with the Where, and Who (to give more context and understanding) and then continues with the What, Why and How formula. By telling the story with that formula, I gained a much better appreciation for the building and the story behind it. 

The how is, how it works as an overall concept. How do people circulate through space? How does the concept respond to the surrounding environment? For example, the light, the shadows, the prevailing winds and the landscape. 


  • “People circulate through the spaces which radiate from the centre, and the form of the spaces guides them back to the central gathering space.” 
  • In summary, when you follow the formula, it’s easy to see there are no right or wrong ideas. People may disagree with you. However, it’s up to you to defend those ideas, but how can you do that well? 

Practice Practice Practice 

Once you have answered, these three key ideas write your answer under these subheadings. Then practice, practice, practice your presentation out loud.  When you practice, think about the delivery of your presentation. Being clear and concise doesn’t mean saying it quickly and getting it over and done with.

Use the expressions and terminology you already know well. Like I always say to my students using sophisticated language doesn’t necessarily mean more exceptional communication. The key to being clear and concise is using structure. 

For example, use signposting language, you already know well. When you know your structure well, you have a better chance of standing your ground and having the answers for when your tutors and lecturers question you. Practice your presentation with your peers or friends and family. Ask them to tell you if the what, why and how is clear and obvious. 

Examples of signposting language:  

Remember too that not all questions and feedback will be negative even if they are questioning you or disagreeing with you. ArchiMarathon makes another great video to explain why it’s essential to know your main idea well so you can defend it in a studio crit.  Another reason why knowing your what, why and how will put you in a better position to defend your main idea. 

English might be your second language, but it doesn’t need to hold you back. Just keep it simple and structured and don’t forget to practice. 

Why You Should be Updating Your Portfolio

Why You Should be Updating Your Portfolio

This time last year I was constantly thinking about ways I could improve my portfolio to increase my chances of employment. Updating my portfolio was on my mind constantly. In my third year, I always had the regret of not being able to complete my second year design work to it’s full potential. The narrative and driving elements behind the project were well thought out and I had spent a lot of time on research but didn’t give myself enough time to refine the final details.

Why do I need to work on it?

Sketchbook, Pencil, Pink, Portfolio, Creative, Design

No one really tells you to update your portfolio – in fact, looking back, I didn’t get any kind of guidance regarding your portfolio for applications. This is very different to the portfolio you submit at the end of the year but if you want some tips on that, read our post The Process Behind a Successful Architecture Portfolio. Your applicant portfolio is a much more refined, concise and informative set of pages. Now, this particular blog post is not about how to put together the perfect portfolio (but let me know if that is something you’d like to see!). Today, I want to convince those of you currently seeking employment that the best use of your time is to update your portfolio.

This process is best done in combination with your CV as well because making sure both these things compliment each other gives off a very professional look to your approach. So I’ll tell you the reason for this un-called portfolio update. The time we get during university is never enough and I truly believe that each project can go much further than the way it gets submitted.

The key here is not to add to your existing project, it’s to demonstrate skills that you are currently learning and creating a meaningful output from it which you can still add to your portfolio.

After graduating, I was itching to get back to university – I still look at the new briefs that come out hoping to get inspired or just to think ‘what would I have done?’. The process of starting a project excites me to the core and I think why not continue that after graduating? Making the best use of your time is to:

a. learn a skill that is in demand,
b. show your creative application of that skill and
c. creating beneficial additions to your portfolio.

A lot of firms in the UK ask for software experience in Revit and Vectorworks (these have been the most popular in my opinion). AutoCAD is a must, but I feel it is something we’re all used to and doesn’t require too much effort as compared to the others. Usually we don’t focus on extremely detailed, technically sound drawings because our job is to design and our projects are hypothetical. Now, if you can show that you can not only use the software well and efficiently, but you understand the technical thought behind the building – you’ve just scored double points with the hiring manager.

After many months of applying for jobs (which I hope you don’t have to face!), you begin to see commonalities between job advertisements and a standard set of skills and requirements. Updating your portfolio can tick many of those boxes – plus give you something to do.

How do I begin?

Bear in mind, I’m also not suggesting you go re-design the entire project! Instead, build on certain aspect you felt were weak. For example, in my micro-community project there were essentially two parts, the housing and retail and the community centre. I spent a huge amount of my time working on the housing part of things because it was essentially the main part. But somewhere, the community centre / temple got lost in a sense which contributed to my final result.

Nevertheless, I felt that it had a lot of room to grow. Similarly, my second year project was well thought out, but the internal arrangements didn’t work as I wanted them to. I focused too much on hypothetical aspects because I hadn’t applied my research to my design. When planning for my ‘mega-drawing’ I wanted to take a look at the entire set of drawings once again. So I went back, asked myself what works and what doesn’t, and re-designed the plans up to a point I was happy with.

The purpose there wasn’t to produce amazing final plans, but it was to give me a base to curate a mega-drawing. Of course, this was a side project and so the mega-drawing is on the back burner for now – but believe me when I say it’s not gone. I’ve set aside some time to work on it and hopefully finish it, so make sure you stay with :scale long enough to see that final outcome.

I suggest for this kind of project, don’t bust out the timetable, don’t treat it as a chore or job because you won’t be able to take advantage of the creative spirit that comes with doing something you enjoy. It’s pretty difficult and stressful – even more so now, constantly applying to jobs. Sometimes it can get pretty monotonous and you might begin to question yourself. I assure you it’s not you! It happens to everyone and the employment market is pretty unstable right now so there’s no saying which firms are hiring and which aren’t. Everyone is in this middle-ground where no one is quite sure how to proceed.

Highlighting your skills

Making your portfolio and CV the best it can be is crucial in avoiding those bubbles of self-doubt. In fact, it can be very interesting to update your professional image every now and then according to the experiences you’ve had. For example, if you’ve written for a blog I would recommend adding it to your CV (for the time being) to show some kind of initiative and interest in other areas. If you’re thinking of entering a competition, use some of the images in your portfolio. These can be more than just images, they’re a series of skills applicable to the workplace.

Think about stuff like time-management; which can come with competition deadlines, managing multiple projects or something as simple as software skills. Essentially you are trying to show employers that you have a diverse range of skills. A portfolio update can also be beneficial for learning something new and that never hurt anyone!

In this Medium article, number 9 on the list of micro-habits that are life-changing is to write everything down. This is so underrated, especially in architecture. Since we are visual thinkers and designers, we tend not to use text to convey our ideas and thoughts, but I’ve always found it a great way of keeping a track of data. Using Notion has been an integral part of writing more, in fact I’m writing this on Notion itself! In second and third year, we were also encouraged to create a Tumblr account to record our progress and findings and for our tutors to be able to see our projects outside of tutorials. This could prove to be an alternative solution for online classes and allows you to keep a virtual diary of your thoughts and ideas without the commitment of articles or longer text.

Writing things down for your portfolio update can be important for when you get round to doing the work. If you’re in education right now, it could be great to write little notes about possible explorations that aren’t suited for the current moment but could be useful in the future.

So, if you have some time on your hands, take a look at your past projects. I guarantee you there will be aspects you will look back on and think ‘what happened there?!’. It’s because unknowingly, we learn so much and it’s only when we look back on things is when we realise the little mistakes.

Part III The Basics

Part III – The Basics

So, you have finally made it through the first five years of your journey to become an Architect in the UK. You are a Part II graduate, who is either looking for a job or already has one, and are considering undertaking Part III but have no clue what it involves. Hopefully this post can help. 

Before actually enrolling on my Part III course I had no idea what was expected. To make matters more confusing the course criteria and assessment varies depending on the institution you decide to take the course with! The focus of this post will be on the RIBA North West (NW) Part III course, as that is the one I undertook. While courses differ slightly, a majority of the information below is still relevant.

Firstly, Part III is all about the profession, your professional experience, competence and ability to meet the prescribed criteria set by the ARB (Architects Registration Board). These include demonstrating you can meet the following Professional Criteria: 

  • PC1 Professionalism, 
  • PC2 Clients, users and delivery of services, 
  • PC3 Legal framework and processes, 
  • PC4 Practice and management, and 
  • PC5 Building procurement 

Before enrolling on a course it is a good idea to have some professional experience. At a minimum you will need at least 24 months experience before you can apply to sit the exam, 12 of which has to be from within the UK. But do not worry if you do not have enough experience just yet, you can still sign up on the RIBA NW course and take the exam when you are ready (you have up to three years to do so). However, do check the course your applying for as some do require you to sit the exam within a year of enrolment.

The RIBA NW course teaching time is limited to two intensive seminars, generally held over the weekends (Saturday – Tuesday). During these seminars you will attend lecture after lecture, it is hectic and you will be exhausted from it (although due to COVID-19 this may all be online now). Most other courses I am aware of run weekly lectures instead. Other than the two seminars there is not much teaching or tutor time. There are the optional drop-in sessions held every month. Other than this you are assigned study groups with other members on the course that you can arrange to meet up with in your own time. 

The elements used to assess your ability to meet the Professional Criteria by the RIBA NW course consists of a documentary submission, exam and professional interview. 

The documentary submission is comprised of the following:

  1. CV [2 pages max]

Treat this as your professional CV. It should be clear, concise and up-to-date. Plus make it visual, include images of projects you have worked on!

  1. Self-Evaluation [3,000-5,000 words]

Treat this as a reflection on your experience to date, include your architectural schooling, professional experience and future aspirations. Remember this is an appraisal so make sure to reflect on the good and bad parts of your experiences, and what you have learnt looking back. It is easier to split this into headings and work chronologically. For example, ‘Path into Architecture’, ‘RIBA Part I Architectural Education’, ‘RIBA Part I Professional Placement’, ‘RIBA Part II Architectural Education’, ‘RIBA Part II Professional Placement’, and ‘Evaluation and Future Aspirations’. Again, do not forget to include pictures and add a timeline to map out your career path.

  1. PEDRs (Professional Experience and Development Record) [min 24 months]

I know everyone says this and then does not necessarily do it, but try to keep on top of your PEDRs and make sure you get feedback from your mentor. Although PEDRs are painful, they are a really good tool and opportunity to get your office to give you more varied experience and cover all the RIBA Work Stages. Plus, they are even more painful when left to last minute and you are left scratching your head trying to figure out what you have done for the last 24 months!

  1. Case Study [8,000, or 10,000 if you are using dual project case studies]

This is one of the main components of your submission and involves you writing about a project you have been involved in, reviewing it from inception to completion. If you have not been involved on a project through the majority of RIBA Work Stages you can choose to shadow a project. This will require having good access to project material and someone you can talk to who has worked on the project. 

The key to the case study is to write about what happened and then critically analyse this in relation to ‘best practice’ (basically what the textbooks tell us should be happening). For example, if the project you picked had no formal appointment with the client, you could highlight this and mention best practice would be to have one; and then identify the risks of not having this to show you understand why it is needed. If things follow best practice you can also compare how different procurement routes would impact the project. 

For ease pick a project that is not too complex, where you can access all the information, and know a few things that happened which did not follow ‘best practice’. 

  1. Practice Problems 

In this section you include your answers to the exam questions. The exam itself is two full days of answering five questions a day and then one day to review. Questions are scenario-based and usually presented as the director in the office needs your assistance with an issue. Answers to the questions will either include drafting a letter, writing a memo with your thoughts on the matter, or filling in a standard form depending on the question. On the third day you are able to correct any spelling or grammar mistakes, and finish formatting your answers to form part of the whole document submission. 

It is an open book exam, but you do not have much time to flick through and find information. By knowing ‘best practice’ for your case study you will already have covered quite a lot of the material, and this will form part of your revision. That said, I would advise trying to do as many past practice problems as possible beforehand. By doing so you will notice similar topics coming up, get a better idea of the format of the exam, and how to approach questions. Plus, by doing this you can set up some template letters, memos, project programmes and resource schedules. 

Also, please remember the following: You are not expected to know everything! Instead you are expected to be able to show how you would professionally approach the problem. Be logical, there is no right or wrong answer!

The CV, Self-Evaluation, PEDRs, Case Study and your response to the Practice Problems make up the physical submission. You will need to upload these as one complete document to an online portal and send two spiral bound copies in the post to their offices before 17:30 on the day after the exam.

A month later is the final step, the interview! Use this time wisely to review your exam answers. Pick a few questions you felt you did not do as well on and make some notes on what you could have done. The interview is a perfect time to correct these answers. You will also find that some questions do not have an obvious answer, so it is useful to speak to your peers, study group and people in the office for an idea of how they might have approached the questions. Also do not forget to review and refresh yourself on your whole submission before the interview.

The interview itself consists of two examiners asking questions about your submission for 45 minutes. Do not worry it does go by quickly! They will most likely go through each section and ask a couple of questions, and then focus on the case study and practice problems. Try to relax they are not there to catch you out, but instead to check your knowledge and give you the opportunity to correct any mistakes. If anything, they will likely try and prompt you until you get the right answer. After all they are not trying to fail you!

The workload is high and no easy feat when you are also working full time. The best way to tackle everything is to plan, plan and plan. Be realistic with your time, break down the document submission, and leave yourself time to revise for the exam! Get out your calendar and plan out the months working backwards, set goals for completing sections of the document submission and areas to revise, and factor in if you miss them. As soon as you do this, you will realise you need a good amount of time before the exam to prepare. I am not talking weeks, more like months!

As part of your planning, I would recommend setting up your document, placing in a contents page and sections for each element of the submission, which you can fill as you go along. I would also select the fonts, graphic style and colour scheme you want to use and keep this consistent throughout each part. Start with the easy wins like the CV and Self-evaluation, these are not weighted the same as the rest of the submission so do not get too caught up on them. With the case study the structure is typically broken into sections, such as ‘Project Summary’, ‘Introduction’, ‘Project Environment’, ‘Legislative Framework’, ‘Procurement Contract Choice and Tendering’, and ‘Post-mobilisation’. To be able to get through the case study I found it helpful to work on one section or sub-section per week, reviewing relevant lecture notes form the seminar weekends and doing additional reading around best practice. 

Typically, you will find people who finish the document submission in advance and leave themselves plenty of revision time for the exam. As my time management skills are not the best, I factored in I would still be working on my case study close to the exam. Therefore, I decided to make sure I spent two evenings a week attempting practice problems, alone and with my study group.

This worked well for me, although I would recommend completing each part of the submission as you go! You will feel much better knowing you do not need to keep going back to finish things when the exam is looming closer. Closer to the exam aim to set up regular meetings with your study group. As there are no published past answers to the practice problems it helps to go through these with your study group to have an idea if you are on the right lines. A good idea is to set five questions for everyone to attempt before you meet up and then go through these together. I found this to be extremely helpful.

woman reading book while sitting on chair

Some other tips for Part III:

  • Do not leave any of the document submission to last minute. The process is stressful enough whilst working a full-time job! Aim to have all the document submission done a month ahead of the exam date at an absolute minimum.
  • For the case study do not fret about being involved in the whole of the project, as long as you can access all the relevant information, records, and have someone to discuss it with you will be able to fill in the gaps. 
  • Study groups and senior colleagues are a really good resource when it comes to running through practice problems. Try to get your study group to meet regularly and stick to these meetings.
  • Add a page in your submission which shows how you have met the ARB criteria. You could do this by using a diagram or coding system and link it to the relevant sections within your submission. The examiners can hardly let you fail if you spell out for them how you met all the criteria!
  • Do not be afraid to ask your firm, or in job interviews, what support they offer for Part IIs undertaking their Part III. I know firms who will pay the course fees, and designate mentors to read through your submission and give you pointers. Likewise, try to soak up conversations in your office and do not be afraid to ask questions!
  • Speak to friends who have recently completed their Part III. Ask if you can see a copy of their submission and if they have any resources they can share. It helps to see what you need to produce when it comes to having to put your submission together. 

Yes, doing your Part III is daunting. But as soon as you sign up and start the process it does come together. Even if you do not presently have a job, do not let this put you off from thinking about undertaking your Part III. There is nothing to stop you getting ahead of the game and starting some of the submission elements before enrolling. But when it does come to enrolling one thing you need to get in order, other than scheduling time in, is to let your firm know you are planning on doing your Part III and need their support to place you on a suitable project for the case study. 

If you have any questions, want to know more, or just want some advice about your Part III feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. All the best to anyone who is thinking of or undertaking their Part III! 

This article was written by a community member!

Learn more about Samya Kako on our Writers page.

How to Use a Laser Cutter

How to Use a Laser Cutter – The Essentials

How does a Laser Cutter Work?
Preparing Your File
Setting Up Your Work

Hand-made models are great but at some point, precision becomes very important. There are some people who are very good at making models by hand quickly and precisely, but using the laser cutter can help save time, if you know what you’re doing. This article will go over some essential steps you need to know to prepare your file for laser cutting. 

Where to start

Laser cutting machines work by reading vector files. The technician will help you to use the software for the laser cutter but before that you need to prepare the file as a DWG. You can use AutoCAD, Sketchup, Rhino, Illustrator etc. Any vector program that lets you draw 2D. Check out our CAD 101 post to understand file types. 

How Does a Laser Cutter Work?

A focused laser beam follows ‘instructions’ from the computer to cut shapes, engrave and scribe. The beam goes through a lens/mirror which helps to focus the beam and get the precise cut you want. The intensity, heat output and length of the beam can be controlled and set according to the material you are using. Speak to the technician regarding the material as not all machines are the same. 

If you are interested in all the details about these, this is a great post which explains it in more detail.

There are three types of laser cutters:
– CO2 laser cutting
– Crystal laser cutting
– Fibre laser cutting

Preparing Your File

You can do this in most CAD programs, Sketchup, Autocad, Rhino, Illustrator etc. For this example we will be using Rhino.

1.Scale your work

If you are drawing out pieces for a model then your work is fine at a 1:1 scale e.g 200mm on the drawing, is 200mm. However if you have a site plan thats at 1:1 you need to scale everything down to the scale you plan to make your model. e.g 1:50

2.Organise your layers

Make 3 new layers: Board, Cut, Engrave. Select the objects and move them onto the correct layerSelect the objects and move them onto the relevant layer 

3. Set up your board

First of all; you need to know the dimensions of the laser cutting machine. The maximum of the one we use is 590X820. This will help you to figure out the dimensions of your drawing board. You obviously can’t go over that, and if you decide to have your board as the full size; it’s recommended that you leave a tolerance of a few mm, around 2/5. This depends on your machine- speak to the technician before you sort out your board.

Place your line work on the board that you have drawn. Things can get a little complicated and you are likely to get confused with your pieces so it is recommend that you mark them. It might be a little time consuming but it is worth it. Put the markings on a different layer and call it ‘engraving’

Select and export as a DWG or DXF
Need to recapture

2.Preparing to cut

The following may differ for different systmes, so make sure you speak to the technician about templates and settings for the laser cutter. However in general you print from Adobe Illustrator.

1. Fix the colour of the lines, they should be RGB- RED cut and BLUE Engrave
2. Select all and place on to a single layer

Move all objects on to one layer
Delete the empty layers

3. Change lineweight to 0.1pt

File is ready to cut. Save it as an .ai (Adobe Illustrator file) and also make sure to back up as a DWG/DXF file.

Note: Remember to remove the board out line once you have the correct artboard size.


  • Mark your work after it has been cut out so you know where to place your pieces
  • Make sure your material is clean and to try minimise burn marks cover the surface with a specific type of backing paper (workshops usually offer this) but if they don’t you can use low tack masking tape.

*this can be a bit time consuming if you have a lot of detailed engravings as the machine will cut them but you can weigh the benefits*

Usually you will have a workshop technician to guide you through the process and make sure you’re allowed to use that machine so if you have any doubts you can always ask them.

Leave a comment below letting us know what you think the best ways of using a laser cutting machine are, and tag us on Instagram with photos of your laser cut models to get featured!

A First Years’ Experience in Architecture

A First Year Student Experience in Architecture

Hi everyone! I am currently in my 2nd year of Architecture studying at the Liverpool School of Art and Design – LJMU. Before coming to University, I attended Sale Grammar School Sixth Form to complete my A Levels in Mathematics, Physics and History, plus an Extended Project Qualification. 2 Years and a Results Day later, I was heading to Liverpool to begin my Architecture journey!

Despite really enjoying my 1st Year of University, I did sometimes find myself with sudden extraordinary challenges. However, this is a normal feeling that many students experience studying architecture for the first time. The majority of us come into university with little knowledge of what to expect starting the course. Suddenly, in a matter of months or even weeks, most of us become absorbed into this universal ‘Architecture Student Lifestyle’. Unfortunately, this is inevitable as Architecture is associated with long days, long nights, and many hours of hard work. However, how you manage this, can make what is considered to be an intensive experience; a fun and enjoyable one!

In this article, I will share what helped in my first Year of Architecture school; emphasising the importance in balancing academia with other aspects of university life. I hope this will be helpful for those starting university soon! I understand how both nerve-wracking and exciting this new beginning can be, especially if you are moving to a new city and living with new people. Hopefully, the following tips will give you a head start in terms of what to expect in your first year as an architecture student. 

  1. Prepare for Tutorials & Reviews/Crits 

Coming in straight from A-levels, tutorials and crits, were a brand new experience compared to the standard learning structure. Presenting ideas was something I did not do much before. However, it becomes a very frequent activity in architecture school so you eventually get used to it very quickly. 

Tutorials 🡪 A weekly session, where you discuss your project with your tutor. This is an opportunity to get feedback on your work, discuss ideas and ask questions. 

Review/Crits 🡪 This is considered to be the most important day in your design process. This is where you pin up your work and present your design proposal to reviewers, including guests (depending on the University). It can be considered to be a very formal and sometimes difficult process or a casual experience (the experience varies between design units and universities). 

Ultimately, how you come out of these sessions is dependent on the quality of work and preparations you have done. Before a tutorial session, be sure to prepare what you want to show to your tutor and list some questions you have, to make the most of the sessions. Before a review/crit, be sure to prepare a pin-up which showcases your hard work and understanding of the project. Prepare what you are going to say during the review/crit, even if that means writing up some notes and presenting to yourself in your room the night before.   

  1. Get to know studio mates 

These are the people who will change your experience in architecture for the better! Architecture is an intensive experience, but who you surround yourself with can make that experience enjoyable. During my first year, I was lucky enough not only to find a group of people who are passionate and good at what they are doing, but also, looks out for one another. You will find that people have different skill sets and are open to sharing opinions and tips. Be sure to get to know the older years as well! They are more experienced and are eager to help when you are struggling with something as they understand what it is like being in your place.

  1. Keep involved in your hobbies through University Societies, Clubs, or Personal

University is the perfect opportunity to either try something new or enhance skills you already have. Before coming in September, I knew that I wanted to keep fit and continue playing sports at university. Therefore, I attended badminton training sessions and now play for the university badminton team, as well as selected for varsity. 

I always tell people that balancing architecture and badminton was a struggle, which in most cases, it was. However, the pros outweigh the cons. Getting involved taught me to have a balance and to organise my time properly. This helped me become more productive and I found when I came back from training or competitions, I was refreshed, and ready to start work again. 

  1. Start early – Wake up early 

This was something I struggled with in first year. Waking up early to start my work was only achieved the day before a review/crit. This was so that I could do as much work in the day and prevent working through the night. Unfortunately, I failed to recognise just how effective this could have been if I incorporated it into my everyday life.

Waking up early is really efficient in terms of productivity. It allows you to get a lot more work done. This is definitely something I want to do more often, and I would encourage others to try and do the same. Start early, finish early, and then you are free to enjoy the rest of your day! 

  1. Take breaks 

Breaks are very important, both short and long. When spending a day in the studio, make sure to take breaks! Go on walks with your friends, go to the local café, or sit outside for a bit. This may sound obvious but remember to eat! The Architecture Society at my University did an architecture-type ‘Bingo’ and one box read ‘Forgot to eat all day because you were too busy doing uni work’. It seemed as though the majority of students from all years ticked it off, proving this habit to be quite common among Architecture Students. 

Lastly, breaks are important due to the fact that Architecture consists of many projects and reports. In some Universities, there are few exams, however for others, it may be 100% coursework. The fact that coursework is significant in Architecture makes the workload quite intense. However, do not feel as though you need to constantly work on your project from the day you have been given the brief, to review/crit or submission day. Manage your time properly, allocate breaks, even if that includes days where you will not do any architecture work. Be productive in a healthy way and remember: quality over quantity! 

The main point for first year architecture is to enjoy yourself! Especially for 1st years where the university experience is so much more than the course. It is about trying new things, getting to know new people, and enjoy exploring the city you are in. As you progress in your architectural studies, you will start to appreciate the architecture around you more. My perspective of Liverpool in my first month of living there compared to my last month has completely changed. I am really excited to continue my Part 1 Architecture degree there. Whether you will be starting architecture in Liverpool, a different city, the UK or a different country, I am sure the city you will be in, will be a city you love, and if not, you will learn to love. Best of luck this year, and be sure to ask me anything you are unsure about  🙂 

This article was written by a community member!

Learn more about Elyza Yunus on our Writers page.

Towards a Sustainable Studio

Towards a Sustainable Studio

Over recent years, sustainability has been a recurring subject in studio, practice, education, and research. People want to take part in creating a more sustainable world to live in, but there are times where taking on sustainability feels as a small but difficult task to do.

This is especially prevalent  in studio and academia, since it might seem as if there is no significant impact when the project – or discussion – stays as a conceptual idea. But, what if instead of talking about sustainable methods, one can find a way to practice it? Instead of leaving it at a conceptual state, there are ways where one can start making small, easy decisions that would expand how we understand and talk about sustainability.

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle

Almost every person knows about the ‘three R’s’; Reuse, Reduce and Recycle, which is what sustainability consists of, but there is another verb, to repurpose, which essentially sums up what these three words intend to do. Even though adding ‘repurposing’ to the repertoire does not change the scale or outcome of the projects, it serves as an active process of taking action on sustainability. 

When referring to an active process, instead of a passive process, it means that one is automatically looking for a reason to repurpose. Instead of recycling or reducing materials, if you actively decide to repurpose something, you are challenged to think on how something will be transformed and given another use or meaning. When using the phrase “to repurpose”, one explicitly determines what will happen, where it starts and what is the outcome.

That mindset would start the groundwork for a different perspective on how to take on sustainability. Although, in academia, there may still not be a big or realistic result, it serves as an exercise for oneself that can, again, create a basis for a different mindset.The concept of repurposing already exists, be it remodeling a building, or historical preservation, those are ways in which architects take on sustainability by repurposing what they are working with.  

In the studio

How can students themselves act on sustainability within the circumstances or pressures the studio or academia puts on them. The immediate thought when it comes to architecture studios, is the fun, but sometimes dreadful and expensive model making. One thing students sometimes underthink or do not analyze much is how model making can actually serve as an experimental tool for the design.

Most of the time, students imagine and tell themselves that the models need to be an exact physical representation of what the project is. Which, really is not the point. Instead, students should re-imagine and experiment with the different ways things can be represented. And this is a great example of where one can repurpose materials or objects. 

On a more personal note, one of my previous studios had a big part of the semester concentrated in models for the sake of models. This allowed me, together with my other architecture students to experiment freely without many limitations other than the ones that exist when modelmaking, resources, money, and of course, gravity.

It also let me create models of materials that are not that common or standard in architecture studios. This allowed me to create the model that I am most proud of; a model made out of more than 3,000 toothpicks. Yes, it does not actually serve an architectural purpose, but the possibilities are endless. 

So what can we do to be sustainable?

Now, before deviating from the main purpose of this article, what I want for readers to take from this anecdote is that if you want an opportunity to act, or a sustainable approach, try creating a model out of repurposed materials. Look at the resources you have, and ask yourself how this can turn into a representation of the project.

The toothpicks idea was far from representing architecture. But that is where you need to challenge yourself on how you can transform or use something to your advantage. And simply enough, that is repurposing. And if the start of this article did resonate with you, then you already know that repurposing is just the start of acting sustainably and there are a million ways to take it further.

This article was written by a community member!

Learn more about José Alfredo López Villalobos on our Writers page.

Workflow Tips You Need to Implement Right Now

Workflow Tips You Need to Implement Right Now

A solid workflow is important when you have deadlines to meet and projects to finish. First let’s make sure we know what workflow is. Workflow as described in the dictionary is ‘the sequence of industrial, administrative, or other processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion’. This is the part where you are being productive, not planning for it, not refining it, but the actual process.

Over the course of your studies, you might build up a workflow that works for you, a method that ensures you are working to the best of your ability. If you’re a newer architecture student, it can get very overwhelming very quickly. By the time Christmas rolls around, you have deadlines, crits, weekly tutorials and a project to be working on so your workflow could change over time.

Implementing some good habits and creating systems is the best thing you can do right now. If you’ve just graduated, this could be a way to prepare for work or to make sure you are using your time as well as you can and sending out applications. If you’re in between years, creating a workflow that suits you can be the best thing you do over summer.

🟢 Keep a sketchbook

A sketchbook is a must and you will have heard that multiple times on our website and from other architects. Having online productivity tools like Notion is great for note-taking or collecting links and resources but there is something different about drawing out your ideas. You can also do this on some trace, and scan it in, but remember that these are simply tools for you to output your thoughts and creativity.

You will inevitably be using a sketchbook in university and in practice, so try and make sure that you keep it on hand at all times. You could even have multiple sketchbooks that you use for individual purposes. Make sure you keep track of important details of your projects so that you can refer back to them. Sometimes your sketchbook can be much more informative of your design approach and decisions than your final portfolio.

🟢 Organise your tasks

This point links to the previous point. How you use your sketchbook is up to you at the end of the day. But it might be better to keep a separate planner or online system that can allow you to organise your tasks. If you didn’t know already, we’ve been using Notion, and it has been a gamechanger. There are many possibilities and uses but to start out, a simple to-do list can work. If you often end up giving yourself too many tasks or don’t always check off tasks, Notion can provide multiple views such as a table or Kanban board to make it more interactive.

The purpose of organising your tasks is so that you have a clear set of actions to complete in an hour, in a day or in a week. This is especially helpful if you often find yourself stuck and don’t know how to proceed. It also lets procrastination sneak in which you will end up regretting later on.

🟢 Work in small chunks

The pomodoro technique is possibly the best and easiest way to get started with time management. Think about what kinds of tasks you want to accomplish and be very specific. By writing down ‘make a model’ you’re not thinking about the logistics involved. What if you need to go buy materials first? Or you need to wait for your 3D printed elements to finish printing. Being specific means that you’re also being realistic and can fit those tasks into small chunks.

If the 25 minutes seems a bit too short for you, try 50 minutes and a 10 minute break afterwards. As you progress, you will start understanding how much you can do in under an hour. This blog article has taken me 26 minutes up till now and I know that I can finish it within in hour because over time, I have gotten used to the workflow of writing an article and once I am in the correct mindset, the words flow a lot easier. But having a rough outline helps too.

Basically, if you incorporate this into your daily schedule it can work out great and push away the pressure of having to work for long hours on end or think about staying up all night to finish something.

🟢 Finish your current task before starting a new one

This is something that people often don’t consider. Obviously, procrastination can be detrimental in the long-run, but if you tend to skip on to the next task or switch in-between different things without finishing something, it might confuse you or you might not even finish at all! Usually this happens if we don’t enjoy the task that we are doing. So it’s not a matter of not doing what you don’t enjoy but instead, making those tasks enjoyable in some way. For example, if you’re going to be doing a mundane task like annotation, pop open a second screen and put on an episode of something you’ve already watched but enjoy.

You will end up linking these two tasks together and will actually start to do these things naturally. If you’re struggling with being productive, have a look at Ali Abdaal’s class on Skillshare. Here you can get an idea of what productivity is and how it links to workflow.

🟢 Keep goals in front of you

Goals can give you motivation. We often say that as designers, we tend to think visually. So if it means keeping a photoshopped image of yourself at graduation, do it! It isn’t uncommon for students to think about dropping out if things aren’t going as well as planned. But by having your goals either written down or in front of you, it will give you that motivation to keep on going. Over time, this motivation for short term goals can also turn into a drive for longer term achievements. If you can positively visualise them happening and if you have the determination to see it through till the end, there should be nothing stopping you.

Although this is an article on workflow tips, we shouldn’t get bogged down with what tools will make us work better. We have to also think about what we want out of having a better workflow and what are the end goals.

🟢 Switch up your workspace

If you have a quiet study room with an adequate amount of space, then you might not even want to switch up your environment. But through lockdown, we know that it can be difficult to stay on task if there are others around you. Sometimes, you might need to take your laptop and sit on the couch, take your model and work in the garden in order to get a fresh perspective. We work long hours anyway and nobody wants to be sitting in front of a screen for the entire day.

Make sure you take breaks in between. These can be your social media breaks, a coffee break or something quick, but make sure you stick to your time and get back to work when you need to.

🟢 Plan in detail

Similar to being specific when you plan tasks, you need to remember that the same can apply to other aspects of your workflow. Take the time to invest in the proper tools for your desk, plan out exactly what you need and want and get rid of any distracting clutter. Plan out the next couple of months and what you want to be achieving each month. This way, you will avoid being stuck or clueless as to how to proceed. If you’re applying for jobs, plan out the kind of firms you want to apply to (but apply to them all), plan out a cover letter template in advance – you get the gist.

Having a good workflow can prepare you for a lot of things, not just in architecture. Hopefully, you can being to implement these things yourself and become a bit more proactive. If you didn’t know already, we often share advice like this on our Discord server as well as our Instagram. If you’re struggling with something specific, don’t hesitate to contact us and make sure to leave a comment below!

6 Tips For Your Year Out

6 Tips For Your Year Out

Leaving the somewhat safety of being an architecture undergrad can be a daunting experience for anyone, especially if you haven’t worked in a practice before. But we all start somewhere – hence the year out, and it’s something that I try to remember every time I feel disheartened by my own lack of knowledge and experience.

In light of this, it’s important to pass on what we’ve learned through our experiences and hopefully help dispel the myths of what it’s like being a part 1 in an architecture practice. I’ve been fortunate enough to work in both a large high-profile studio, and a small practice and here are a few things that I learned along the way:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

I know it may feel like you’re being annoying by asking questions but it’s important to look for help rather than sitting there unsure. Saying this though, Google can be your best friend. Any time you don’t know something, Google it first and if you can’t find it, ask someone on your team. Unless of course like me, you arrive on your first day, sit in front of a new computer you’ve never seen before and have no idea how it turns on, then you can bypass Google!

2. Try to find what you enjoy doing

Show some interest in things you have absolutely no knowledge about. Alongside learning something new, you might find that you end up becoming even more intrigued.

With that being said, it’s always great to stick to your strong suits and take part in things you know you enjoy. The sense of familiarity will help and won’t leave you feeling bored or unmotivated. Your year out isn’t supposed to be like university, it’s meant to challenge you and let you have a practical experience. If you’re open to having a go at everything you can, you’re more likely to find your niche. Which leads on to my 3rd point.

3. Be open to admitting your weaknesses to yourself and try to work on them

Part 1 is a learning experience, no one expects you to be good at everything right from the get go. My personal weak spot was model making, so I often tried to go to the workshop that we had in the studio and learn something new to familiarise myself with different making processes. It doesn’t detract from the fact that I still love making visuals but increases my skill set to be more flexible, which can only be a plus in our current predicament.

4. Connect with the other Part 1s and 2s

Under ‘normal’ circumstances I’d suggest going to the pub or going for lunch as a group, but right now we’re more isolated than ever. If you’re in a studio that has more than one of either part 1 or 2, try and find ways to reach out to them. The Part 1’s in my studio have a WhatsApp group to keep in contact. The other Part 1’s are in the same situation as you, and the Part 2’s will have gone through it recently so they’re a great support to have. Learn from them and don’t be afraid to ask questions, they will be more than happy to help.

5. Make your voice heard, you are important

If you have reviews within your studio, your opinion on subjective design matters is just as valuable as someone who has been working in the industry for 20 years, so don’t be afraid to comment if you think something doesn’t work. If your studio is interested in staying contemporary and innovative, they will appreciate your input and fresh ideas.

6. Attitude!

Such a huge part of getting the most out of your year out is having a great attitude towards everything. I found I contributed and learned the most when I had a positive attitude, and if I felt tired or overworked, everything seemed like a chore and took longer to do. So take care of yourself! Maintain a work/life balance so that you can contribute and learn at a higher standard.

And lastly, enjoy yourself. You’re blessed with the position of learning without the responsibility and accountability of being an architect. Of course it goes without saying, my words are not law, simply take what you need from each point and go out there and smash it.

P.S. Here‘s another article that explains some of the more logistical aspects of a year out if that’s what you came here for.

This article was written by a community member!

Learn more about Nathalie Harris on our Writers page.

The Importance of Sketching

The Importance Of Sketching

What are the benefits of sketching?

As digital tools and software become increasingly popular with time, sketching is losing its relevance. However, it has its own benefits and advantages which a digital tool may not. Sketching is one of the best ways to put out our initial ideas when starting a new project. In addition, it is also a quick way to record ideas, memories and observations. When opening a laptop and starting a software can seem long or we don’t have those tools near us at times, sketching can be a quick way to get down our ideas on paper. It is also a more convenient way as we can always keep a sketchbook with us in our bag or even carry a pocket sized sketchbook in our pockets, instead of having to carry a laptop. 

Sketching is one step closer to thinking like a true designer. You see, you think, you visualise and you sketch to test out the idea, then, you change it and add to it. It is a great way to communicate your ideas to another person. 

Based on the National Center of Biotechnology Information, sketching is a great way to stimulate creativity and open-ended thoughts, making the mind think in a different manner, forcing it to problem solve.

My experience

Over the past three years in university if I have to describe my journey of sketching, I would describe it as a ‘rollercoaster’. In my first year, I was told to have three different sketchbooks for different purposes. However, at the end of the year, I found myself not even completing one fully and even so, most of the pages were filled with calculations and scribbles which were attempts at drawing sketches. This was mainly because I didn’t understand the importance of sketching or even know how to start sketching and do it properly. 

Often, I would look at examples of sketches and question them as at first I failed to understand why some people would decide to draw roughly instead of using digital tools straight away. Later I learned and realized that most of the sketches we see or do are not worth showing off, because sketches are not about looking good, their main purpose is to communicate ideas or record them.  

Once I understood this, in my second year, I started to sketch a lot more.  I would show them to my tutors, but I wouldn’t receive the reaction I had expected. Turned out, they weren’t able to clearly interpret whatever it was I was trying to convey. However, as my project developed, I found myself going back to those sketches and using them to further develop my project, allowing it to become  an important part of the process. Later – as advised by my tutors – I ended up including some of the sketches in my portfolio, which at first I thought were rubbish. 

Often, the sketches we do are not meant to be presented to other people, as they might not communicate the same ideas for them as they would to us, making a lot more sense as we are the ones drawing them. 

In my third year of university, I lost interest in doing sketches as I got better and enjoyed digital drawing a lot more. However, looking back at my portfolio, I regret doing that as I realise that it would have helped me to document my ideas before I started drawing something in digital software or in the process of it, when I changed ideas. 

I do not think I am particularly gifted in sketching, but I did realise that over the years, my technique in sketching has changed. These days, I am practicing it a lot in my free time and I am trying to find my own style so it becomes recognizable as my own.

Tips on sketching well 

Truth is, there is no right way to sketch. While with digital drawing we are unable to draw freely, with sketching there are no restrictions. Sketching is not drawing with straight lines and makes things perfect, but is meant to be quick, light and, well, sketchy. 

Some of my personal tips for sketching:

  • Don’t try to draw a straight line all in one go, stop in the middle if you can’t draw it all in one go. You will be surprised how straight the lines come out that way compared to a line you attempt to draw all at once.
  • Leave the intersect lines, don’t rub them off. These will allow you to show the very nature of sketching as it is. 
  • Use different line weights. Create depths, shadows and contrast by using different line weights. 
  • Use tracing paper. Don’t hesitate on using multiple layers of tracing paper. Don’t worry, they won’t make your sketch look ugly. Play with ideas and show the design process. 
  • Be careful not to smudge the page. I used to get annoyed whenever I drew in pencil because I would smudge a lot of the page, ruining the sketch. At some point, I learned that starting the drawing from upwards and in the opposite direction of the drawing hand, can help prevent smudges. In addition, a lot of the time, a drawing can be smudged even after finishing it, depending where you place it. For this, I was advised by one of my tutors during university, to use a fixative spray to set the drawing. But remember to only use it at the end, because you can’t erase the drawing afterwards. 

Get sketching

Some of the best ideas start with sketching. Sketch when you are on the road and you suddenly see something interesting. Sketch when the tutor is speaking and suddenly an idea pops up into your mind. Sketch when you don’t know how to start a project and you need inspiration. Sketch to document the process of a project. Sketch whatever comes into your mind, chances are they would become the start of something amazing. Have different sketchbooks for different things. Most importantly, get sketching!! 

This article was written by a community member!

Learn more about Tamanna Tahera on our Writers page.

Actual Interview Questions You Should be Prepared for

Actual Interview Questions You Should be Prepared For

We’re sure you’ve heard of the standard questions that every interviewer will supposedly ask you. In fact, I was given a list of such questions in order to prepare for an interview. Let me tell you that the list didn’t come in use at all. Something I realised very early on was that in an interview (for Part I’s at least), is that the employer is more interested in your work rather than logistical details or cringe questions 😬.

They want to get to know you as a person and understand your journey throughout university. This includes your design decisions or interests that can show through in the type of buildings you design or the topics for your written works. We can’t speak for every single employer and it will most likely vary depending on the size of the firm, which person is interviewing you and if you even make it past the initial impression in order to get an interview.

Over the course of a year, I’ve given 10 such interviews – the last one being successful. Apart from two, they were all for a Part I Architectural Assistant role. What I learnt at the beginning was that my 💼 portfolio was the star of the show. This meant it had to be immaculate and interesting, and I had to know every little detail about it.

If you’ve had previous experience, take some time to think about what your role involved, what you enjoyed there and what you think could have been better about the experience. Similarly, what are you expecting from this firm? Is it just a year-out experience, are you hoping to understand their sector better or do you want to just get a feel for office culture.

There is no right and wrong here. Every answer will depend on you as a person, as a student and consider all your experiences and skills. Sometimes, the person interviewing you might have only looked at your CV moments before they meet you. If this is the case, take the time out to go through your CV slowly, explaining more than what is shown. Usually they will ask for you to give a brief introduction, who you are, where you’re from, what you’ve been doing recently. In this case, I usually like to say that I am a recent graduate. But this doesn’t define who I am.

I would then go on to say, I’ve been utilising my time to learn Revit and run :scale blog. These are talking points. They don’t need to be some expert level achievement, but something that will intrigue to interviewer. You could mention a hobby you started, a volunteering experience, academic achievement you’re proud of and so on.

Popular Questions

🔴Why did you decide to make this decision in your portfolio?

When going through your portfolio, it is common for the employer to ask questions so don’t fly through the entire thing, take your time, and explain everything slowly. To give you an example, I had an interviewer who was very interested in one of my projects because they recognised the site and actually had worked near there in the past. Then, they were interested in the sustainable elements of my project which also happened to be the basis of my technology report. The question on their mind was why was I including sustainable solutions in a residential project in the middle of London?

‘It’s because the current situation of overcrowded back alleyways needed to be eradicated, especially the influx of unnecessary building systems. I proposed a series of sustainable elements (which were very creative and realistically not possible) in order to introduce natural ventilation and allow for better interior organisation.’

The employer might pick on the smallest detail that you didn’t even think about. So go through your portfolio several times. Present it to a parent or sibling acting as if you’re in the interview. It will allow you to see how much you actually know about your work and help you understand what areas are of most interest to you. Your portfolio should support whatever you are saying. If you want to highlight that you have spent the time working on your CAD skills, showcase this in your portfolio.

🔴 What would the people around you say is your best and worst quality?

I quite like this one. You don’t have to sound vain or make something up on the spot because they want to see how others feel about you. Think about the times your peers and tutors may have praised you for a skill like organisation or punctuality. Think about what you would like to be better at such as communication and presenting in front of an audience.

Switch it up and tell them what you think your worst quality is first. This might surprise them because we often tend to not talk bad about ourselves in an interview. ⭐ But being honest is the best thing you can do ⭐. Tell them that you’re working on this but be specific. For example, if you’ve been wanting to get more hands on with software, take the time to start a course or simply mention that you’ve been actively learning a specific software. It will show them that you’re all about bettering yourself, reaching for your goals and building skills.

It’s important for an employer to see that you are proactive. If you’re doing all these things for the simple purpose of learning something new, it’s obvious that you will apply the same mindset to work.

🔴 Has there ever been a time where you were faced with criticism?

This might seem like a challenging one at first if your mind goes to formal experience or other circumstances. But you’re an architecture student. Crits are full of criticism! If you think about it, we’re faced with some form of criticism every week. Your tutors will definitely support and help you, but a big part of their role is to make us question our design choices and dive deeper into why you’re designing in a specific way.

Really, the interviewer wants to know how you deal with it. I love the idea of taking something usually construed as 😕 negative and turning it into a 😁 positive. Look for the silver lining. If you’ve faced criticism regarding your designs or the wording of your essay, think about how you can take what the person has said and turn it onto something positive. The best way to do this is to write down what’s been said and coming back to it at a later date. If you had a crit yesterday and don’t want to face what’s been said just yet, leave it for tomorrow.

When you sit down to start your tasks, think with a positive and open mind and address the criticism. If it’s something really small, you will need to ask yourself if it’s feasible to make the changes that are being suggested at this stage, and if it is, why wouldn’t you make them? If you don’t have an answer to that, it might be something to consider.

🔴 How do you handle multi-tasking and deadlines?

Let’s be real. No one is perfect at multi-tasking every single hour of every single day. But essentially, the interviewer will want to know how you manage your time best in time-pressured situations. Everyone works to a deadline and you need to explain that you’ve been doing these skills throughout university and will definitely carry that into your professional life. In the interview, it could be hard to think of such ideas on the spot, but if you take the time to think about it and be honest, it shouldn’t be difficult.

To give you an example, I’ve answered this question by explaining that I pride myself on a different kind of workflow. I set myself deadlines slightly earlier than the actual deadline so that when the time comes around, I am ready and can utilise the time between my personal deadline and the actual deadline to do extra things. This also allows me to have a stricter timetable so that even if I don’t complete all my tasks and everything I want to do, there is still some leeway towards the end.

Balancing several projects can be tricky for some people and as an architecture student, I’ve found that after graduating it was very difficult to switch off my brain and get out of the designing mindset. This skill is important when multi-tasking because you need to constantly switch between your design project to your dissertation, to thinking about employment prospects.

The secret to this, is to be doing things that you enjoy. If you aren’t interested in the dissertation topic you’ve chosen, you will be more likely to avoid doing it at all. So while you think you are multi-tasking, you’re probably not. Another great habit to have is to schedule in days for certain tasks. For example, I liked to save Friday for all the extraneous and lower priority tasks that needed doing. I could catch up on that drawing I was supposed to annotate or write a list of drawings.

All the small things would happen on that day. Then, the other days would be dedicated to each project that was happening. This can get you into an automatic workflow where the boundaries are clear. It also doesn’t need to be set in stone and will need to change as deadlines approach where you might need to allocate more time to one project.

🔴 What is your strongest skill?

I won’t give you a script for this question. This is something you need to consider yourself. Think about what you were terrible at when you first started university and whether or not that skill has become your strongest yet.

Don’t be afraid to expand on your answers in the interview. Obviously, the interviewer isn’t looking for an essay-length response, but it might be good to explain why you feel a certain way.

🔴 What kinds of software have you learnt?

Again, being truthful in your responses is key 😇. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it will show weaknesses or put the interviewer off from going forward. If you tell them honestly that you’ve never worked with a software, it can save you a lot of trouble and embarrassment in the future. Similarly, don’t tell them you are an expert in Rhino when you’re just a beginner. Some employers might invite you back for a second interview that could include a surprise test!

The best way to go about answering this question, is to tell them you are using your free time to learn new software (in particular whichever one the firm works in). This will do many things for you; it will show them that you’re putting in the effort to learn whatever software that firm uses, making sure you are ready for the role. It also shows that you are being proactive.

It will also allow you to respond with a question. Ask them why they prefer this software, what kinds of things do they do with it primarily and how you would be using it on a day-to-day basis.

🔴 What did you enjoy about university?

I received this question a couple of times which actually threw me. I hadn’t actually thought about my experience at university as a whole and how it had shaped me as a designer. Of course, I enjoyed the course, had some realisations after graduating, so overall I felt that it was what I signed up for and more.

🔴 Do you have any questions for us?

This is the best and most important one in my mind. Before an interview, I like to go through the firms website, any articles, and publications about them and write down a list of questions. Another good way to do this is to look at the job description and highlight the bits you don’t fully understand. For me, I was often asking how does a Part I fit in within the entire firm. I usually got the answer that I’d be working in a team or be multi-tasking on multiple projects but would usually have some kind of guidance throughout the process.

Definitely make it a point to ask at least one question. If you feel like whatever you were going to ask has been answered in their description of the firm, let them know.

Another topic I haven’t mentioned yet is salary. Obviously, this will depend on the firm and their approach but in an initial interview, I’ve never discussed salary apart from a generic range. But a good thing might be to talk to your peers or those who have already completed their year out and get a feel for this area.

Hopefully, this article will help you to be a little bit more prepared and allow you to understand actual questions that are usually asked in an interview. Let us know what kind of questions you’ve been asked and think could be helpful for fresh graduates! Make sure to keep up with us on Instagram as well 😄

Setting Up a WfH Workspace

Setting Up a WFH Space

First of all, well done to everyone who managed to complete their studies online this year. It was an interesting experience, wouldn’t you say?  Due to the pandemic, cities went into lockdown, compelling educational institutes and public workspaces to be closed. This didn’t mean the world stopped functioning; we just had to adapt our lifestyle and carry on. For some people, it was easy, but for others, it was a little bit more than just typing on the computer. 

The architecture facilities at university are an essential part of education, it is not only the large studio space, but the computer labs, workshops and many other amenities other amenities that students need to access to. There are students who are already comfortable working from home. However, for a lot of students this was a new experience, which took some time getting used to. Let me assure you that none of us have experienced working from home quite like this.  

It is safe to say that, architecture students went into a slight mode of ‘uncertain panic’? Confused about how we were going to make models, how we were going to scan work, how tutorials would work etc. etc.  Nonetheless, we have finished and made it through; again, well done.  

With no vaccine, and a confused government, there is still much uncertainty in educational institutes. Many universities are considering to have everything done online for the 2020/21 academic year and many are considering to start online and then transition back to irl (‘in real life’) teaching. Watch our space for a guest post coming up to discuss the upcoming changes in September!

For the moment, the best and only thing you can do is prepare for the worst or best outcome. During this period, I would say I have made myself quite at home. To help you prepare for university, here are some tips that I picked up from my experience of studying architecture at home.

Set Up Your Space

Since you will be working from home, you need to find a space that is comfortable and suitable for your work. You are free to move around and it can become chaotic if you don’t settle on a general area. Make sure you keep all your equipment and materials organised and clean. Avoid working on the bed, it just won’t work out.

Drawing Space

It goes without saying that drawing is a fundemental part of who you are. You need to make sure you have a place to produce your large drawings since you won’t have access to the studios.

Drawing Table – The large drawings we produce, require large tables, (preferably with straight edges to hook on your t-square). You don’t need to buy a new table. As an architecture student, you learn to adapt and modify what you already have. The best way I found working was by using an A1/A0 MDF board. Anywhere between 10-20mm is thick enough to tape down your paper and hook your t-square. You can buy a board from almost any home depot construction stores like Wickes or even on Ebay and Amazon.  

If you have a large table you can place your MDF board on that. If you don’t, you can buy blocks to place under the board or place the board on a few large text books on the floor. Nothing beats working on the floor on your favourite rug. Have a look at our post for recommended drafting and modelling equipment.

Digital Space

This is the space, for most students, once you develop your skills from first year. Most students from 2nd year will spend a lot more time on the computer using CAD software for drawing, rendering, portfolio set up etc. Using your laptop to check emails and casual work is totally different from spending 12 hours setting up drawings and rendering. It is really important you have a set up that you are comfortable to work with. 

Here are a few factors to consider: 


You will be sitting for a long time, try to take a break every 15 minutes, but you, as well as I know, that it can be very easy to be sucked into work. Especially during deadlines. 

This can cause serious damage to your body, and you don’t want to be feeling like a grandparent before you have even started your life. I am no physio therapist, but this is an excellent post which will help you with posture. You don’t need to buy anything extra, everything is possible with what you have already. Certain devices can make a difference. I really suggest to buy an ‘Ergonomic’ mouse; a game changer. They are available at most tech stores and online.

Wrist support You can buy a support cushion for your ‘mouse wrist’ and a keyboard rest as well. Or as an architecture student why not make one yourself? There are plenty of tutorials out there.


Take. Care. Of. Your. Eyes. It goes without saying that you need to take care of your eyes, but we all need that reminder now and again. I highly recommend either installing a blue light filter or buying a pair of anti blue light glasses, these are widely available anywhere and are not prescription glasses. Here is a post which summarises what is blue light and how it affects us. 

Dry eyes -Staring at screens can also dry your eyes, I found that my eyes would sting or itch after long hours of work. Two simple things that helped me were to use a cool eye gel under the eyes or leave two tea spoons in the fridge and just place that over your eyes. As alien as it sounds, it does work. Alternatively you can also look into hydrating eye sprays that are widely available from opticians and pharmacies. 


Without getting too technical, a good desktop or laptop is  essential if you are going to be working from home.  The software you will be need a lot of power and doing all your work on a computer that’s not built for it may put you at a disadvantage. The core factors to consider are: RAM, Graphics card, Processor, Hard Drive and Screen Size. 

You don’t need to buy a super expensive ultimate PC or laptop, there are plenty of laptops within a reasonable price range, which will get the job done.  This is quite important and I can’t cover everything here, we’ll go into the details of computers in a later post. But in the mean time there are a lot of other articles out there for suggestions, be sure to have a browse and reach out to us if you have any questions! 

Screen Extension Having a screen extension is super useful but not everyone has the space or the funds for an additional screen. If you have a tablet, there are screen extension programs such as Spacedesk that connect your device to your computer. Since it is wireless, expect it to lag slightly but it works great if you need to have a reference image to the side while you draw or model work. 

Headset – you don’t need a super headset; just make sure you have a good pair of headphones and a mic that works so you can have productive online tutorials and meetings 


Don’t panic if you don’t have a high tech camera. You can always buy a standard DSLR or use your phone. If you don’t know anything about cameras, this post will help you get started.

Next, you might ask how do I use a camera? There are several important features to consider when taking photographs. Below we’ve linked a brilliant video which explains how to use your camera and what to consider. These principles can also be applied with phone photography and will significantly improve the quality of your photos if you understand them.


Table lamps work fine, I tend to use two or even the phone torch in some cases.  But nothing beats natural sunlight. Note the time of day you take photographs – because natural lighting can often work best when photographing models. If you set up a reflector you can create soft shadows. You can use white card, foam board or even a bed sheet as a reflector. 


The backdrop is very important. If you have a clean background, it will minimise the post editing process and you will have more control over the shadows. Most models are photographed with either a white or black background; you might be tempted to use different colours or textures but that all depends on your concept.

In general the background should be plain so the focus on the image is your model. Setting up a backdrop depends on the size of your model and on the space around you. Your usual options are to photograph your model on the floor or on a table.

For the backdrop you could:

  1. Get a large sheet of paper or a bed sheet which can be taped/pinned to the wall- this should be long enough to provide a base and backdrop
  2.  Use A1 Card as a background and base

If you have small models you could also make yourself a photography booth.


Make sure you have some way of setting your camera in a stable position. It makes all the difference.  Tri-pods are made exactly for this reason. If you plan to only use your phone for photography, then you could purchse a phone tripod; however you will be constricted by height and position. It’s good for minituare models but you might struggle to capture larger models.

I suggest you have a regular tripod (you can buy an additional phone mount to attach) and a phone tripod, so you have the best of both. It doesnt have to be an industry level tripod- The Hama Star 700 tripod available on Amazon or Ebay is a standard tripod, easy to use and can be packed away easily. Alternatively, you can place your camera or phone on a pile of books. 

Model Making

Your MDF board will come to use yet again. You can use one side for drawing and one side for model making. Essentials you need for general model making include:

  • Scalpel with 10A blades
  • Heavy duty glue
  • Glue gun + glue sticks
  • Masking tape + double sided tape
  • Set square
  • Metal ruler
  • Cutting mat

Printing and scanning

Even though you are not required to have a printed portfolio, don’t feel that your hand drawing or sketches can’t be used or have to be done on a4/3. You don’t need an A1 plotter. To scan larger drawings at home, you can use a scanning app on your phone. I tend to use CamScanner, which has no watermarks on the free version and gives you a lot of editing options. 

Alternatively, print shops have opened up. Their services maybe limited due to COVID-19 regulations, so it is worth calling to check.  If you are around Central London, Panopus Prints provides an amazing service for students – I highly recommend them.

All Set

You are probably sick and tired of hearing this, but it is true. We are living through ‘unprecedented’ times and at this point our generation don’t even know what to expect next; we just have to adapt to whatever comes our way. On that note, this guide should help to prepare your home-work space for the academic year ahead. Good luck!

Why You Need to be on LinkedIn Right Now

Why You Need to Be on LinkedIn Right Now

It’s a no-brainer that LinkedIn is the platform for professionals including architects. LinkedIn is wonderful for more than just making connections. It has a great job board that links to your own profile as well as the opportunity to join groups, follow pages created by companies and show off your work. We’ve previously discussed that being on Instagram as an architecture student can be quite useful to showcase the process of your work, get it on a platform and look at other student or university accounts.

But LinkedIn is far different than Instagram in terms of content. When you look at popularity though, it is growing and may even have the potential to overtake Instagram at some point. Recently, there has been growing concern regarding employment as a whole post-pandemic. There isn’t a fixed position or route that can be taken so many fresh graduates are in an unprecedented position.

Apart from letting recruiters know that you are on the job hunt, LinkedIn is useful for a number of things. Let’s start with your profile. You have the chance to include your experiences, skills and even link or upload your portfolio. Almost every architecture firm is on LinkedIn, so make sure you’re following them and engaging in their posts. Sometimes they may even post an opening which you can apply to directly through LinkedIn.

Other types of content include 📹videos and 📝articles which could also be a good way to get your work across and create an online presence. Maybe you could write a short article about something that interests or concerns you within architecture and post it directly on to LinkedIn. If your projects involved multimedia such as videos or animations, you could upload those on to LinkedIn as well. The best way to do this though is by carefully curating the work you are posting. It’s not like Instagram where you can be carefree and informal – make sure to use key hashtags that are relevant and be professional in your captions.

Even if you do upload your portfolio to LinkedIn, it might not be a good idea to link this everywhere since employers will most likely take a look at your profile near an interview stage. Make sure that your portfolio shines 🌟 through as a PDF file.

Networking is essentially the main goal of LinkedIn. This is the perfect time for you to connect with your peers, tutors, lecturers, and their connections, respectively. Don’t go overboard with this as there is a limit of 500 connections so make sure you choose carefully. It may be a good idea to connect with architectural recruiters as they often post about new opportunities which you can talk further about through an email or call. As you grow in your career, you might find individuals with similar interests who might prove to be useful in the future.

The way the LinkedIn algorithm works is quite simple. It take a look at your existing connections, cross checks it with professions and interests and recommends other profiles and individuals who work in the same industry. It’s probably best to make connections with Part II’s if you’re a Part I or Senior Architects if you’re a Part II. Think about why they should connect with you as well. If you have something in common, it could be a starting point. If you need specific portfolio advice, look for people who may be providing this for free – yes there are people doing this on LinkedIn.

Getting your name out there is so crucial. Please do not be one of those people who doesn’t have an image attached to your profile! It is so important to connect a name to a face. It can take 10 minutes to ask someone to take a nice headshot of you or even do it yourself. Make sure that the details on your profile are accurate, especially dates. The next thing to do is to have fun with it. Make it your own and start posting content so that employers see that you are active. You can engage with other peers, find about what’s going on in architecture these days and respond or have a healthy debate with someone.

The most useful part of LinkedIn is the 👔 job board. The best thing about it is that most if not all firms will most likely post a job opening on their LinkedIn page as well as their own website. The application part will depend firm to firm, but it might be possible to apply directly or be redirected to their application portal. The way to do this in the best way is to follow all the companies you think of and make use of the ‘similar pages’. Follow hashtags as well – specifically things like #architecture #architecturejobs #cvadvice etc. This will display a series of posts on your feed that can show you the top posts within these hashtags.

If you’re looking for specific career advice, we would recommend these 4 things:

  1. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is fully completed and you are regularly active (1 post a week)
  2. Follow people who are giving out advice or a chance to review your portfolio. Kirsty Bonner creates some amazingly helpful posts about optimising your profile as well as CV tips.
  3. Join Architecture Social – a network for students, graduates, and professionals where you can network and get specialised information, events and more.
  4. Join our 💬 Discord – we try to give some general advice for students on topics like designing your CV or where to find more useful information.

Overall, we can’t stress enough how important LinkedIn is. Make it a part of your social apps, move it over to the home screen and turn on notifications. LinkedIn is the place to post your achievements, career updates and network and it is the best steppingstone for many job opportunities. Remember, it’s not enough to create a profile and leave it at that. You need to be regularly updating and optimising your page so that you have maximum exposure.

Similarly, if you have your own business or blog, tell people about it on LinkedIn. Employers are very much interested in the things you do outside of designing buildings so that they can understand what kinds of hobbies you have, identify common talking points, and see how the skills you have in other areas can get transferred over.

We hope that you found this article useful, if you have any questions or suggestions, leave them in the comments below or say hello on Instagram and Discord. P.S obviously make sure to follow our LinkedIn page!

Dealing with Rejection as Architecture Students

Dealing with Rejection as Architecture Students

Rejection is not uncommon in all stages of life. But as an architecture student, it can be quite difficult to deal with at times. If you’re putting in a lot of effort, long hours, and hard work only to get rejected it can feel really frustrating and upsetting. Sometimes your drawings and designs could get rejected at a crucial stage or perhaps you might face rejection when applying for jobs. But there is a way to acknowledge and understand where the rejection is coming from and turn that into a positive action.

It’s no news that we are constantly working through iterations of our designs throughout the year. This is so that we can keep building and developing the projects until they reach an acceptable stage. Now, you need to understand that your tutors may have a different idea of acceptable than yourself. After all, it is your own work and you will have been working on it for months whereas your tutors will be seeing how the project evolves each week.

You could face some kind of rejection at any stage although the worst times by no doubt are closer to the deadline. This could take the form of your tutors not liking an aspect of the design rather than the entire thing. But remember when dealing with tutors that you need to take everything they say with a pinch of salt. They are there to help you via their own experience and advice, but it doesn’t mean they’re always right. Take other opinions, review the project yourself and come to a conclusion that can also act as a compromise between yourself and your tutors.

Doing repetitive revision is just a part of studying architecture, no matter which year you’re in. Think of it this way, by completing these iterations, you’re figuring out what worked or didn’t work in the first place as well as storing it in the back of your mind for next time so that you can design better in the future. When you have crits and presentations, it can be daunting and difficult to present your design to someone who’s never seen it before. If you don’t do this well, they might point out flaws that you’ve already solved.

However, if you do this correctly, their insight could come shaped as rejection, but after a while you might even understand why they picked up on something. Give things time and don’t face rejection with a negative reaction. Remember that there is a difference between criticism and rejection and unless there is an extremely good reason for something rejecting your work, you should definitely question it to understand better. There can also be different kinds of criticisms, harsh or constructive. If you get faced with a tutor who may not like your work out of personal preferences, try not to pay them any attention. But do write everything down so that you can go back to it at a later time and possibly try and understand or identify with the things they said.

Cooling off after being rejected is important. It can sometimes make us angry and annoyed causing us to do things in retaliation which isn’t great for the long run. If you write down your tutor’s comments then come back to it the next day, you could begin to understand why they said what they did. Don’t stop there either, take the time out to talk to them about it and ask what you can do to better. If the notes still don’t agree with you, perhaps they can spark off something new that you can work on instead.

Channelling something negative into a positive action is one of the best things you can do if faced with rejection. Try a new approach, an alternative method or even a different means of presenting your design. But this doesn’t always work in every case, especially if you don’t get an adequate reason for being rejected. For example, some firms may be too busy to reply back to you on why your application is unsuccessful. Don’t take this to heart, it happens to everyone. If you were really determined to work at this specific firm, try emailing them again asking politely if they could provide some feedback. Do the same if you gave an interview or got through to a second round of sorts but were still unsuccessful.

Have a look at this article by Gary Vee, who says rejection is the best thing that happened to him. If you treat it as a momentum force that will just drive you to grow and do better, you can achieve anything.

Rejection is unavoidable and inevitable, in architecture and in life. But it helps us grow and be tougher for the future. If you’re struggling with anything, be sure to know that :scale is here to help you out. We’ve given our Discord server a major update, introducing new channels catered for you. From advice about employment to virtual crits, there’s everything you might need. And be sure to look out for new resources in the coming weeks. Good luck!

Beginner’s Guide to Model Making

Beginner’s Guide to Model Making

Concept model for the Sir John Soane’s Institute of the
Picturesque (3rd year’s project).
Materials: White thin card paper, PVA
All details cut by laser cut.

There have been a lot of discussions going on in terms of architectural drawing as a primarily media for architectural education. While model making seems undertaught in architectural education, it is a brilliant skill to have for your further career in architecture. Model making is one of the most effective ways to present the proposal in competition layout and is used heavily to ‘win over’ the client. As I have been working in model making previously, I would like to share some knowledge and some tips to boost your skill in model making.

Where to start?

Model making can be intimidating to a lot of students who prefer to work through drawing or 3D modelling software. It can take a lot of time and materials do cost money. I like to remember the saying, ‘think seven times before you cut’, which is one of the good principles to set your mind to in model making. 

Don’t try to fit all in one.

Similar to architectural drawing, models also serve different purposes. It can be a concept model to convey your idea, it can be a technical model, it can be a proposal model for a competition etc. It is important to understand what purpose your model will serve before you start making it. Don’t try to fit the massing model within a final proposal model.

Where to begin?

Concept model for the Royal Doulton Pottery centre.
Inspired by the geometry of Art Deco. (2nd year’s
Materials: Gray carboard, tracing paper, PVA glue.
All details cut by hand.

When you have decided what your model is for, test your idea in a sketch. I prefer to use gray cardboard for this exercise. The reason you should make test models is similar to drawing – before you make the actual model, it is important to consider if it will work. There is nothing more disappointing than starting a final model and running into unsolved issues. For instance, material thickness, joinery of the materials or change in design. As I previously mentioned, materials cost a lot of money and by making sketch models from cheap materials, it can prevent you from unnecessary expenses in architecture school.

Another reason why it is important to test ideas in sketch models is because it is a good medium to create conversation about your design. It also helps the staff of the university’s workshop to guide you if you are in doubt.


Do not underestimate the skill of constructing a model. Working in professional model making practice I have understood that model making is essentially constructing your proposal. I can agree that those students who tried to make their model for the first time without testing the idea first usually fail in this attempt as the construction part of the model was not thought through. Like building construction, you need to find the technique as well as the style of model that suits your proposal the most.

It also does not necessarily mean that you should start with the foundation. There are occasions when it is preferred to start building a model ‘inside – out’ starting with the most detailed part and moving towards peripheral details. Thisway you ensure that you can construct the parts that will be much more difficult to make after smaller parts are done. 

Come up with a good plan

Make a good, realistic plan for your model and leave some spare time daily. Constructing a model requires a lot of concentration and steady hands. Also, it is easier to make less mistakes when you are not rushing the process. Another reason to leave spare time and set realistic targets is inevitable mistakes that happen even to professional model makers. It is also less hard on your mental health if you have extra time to fix these mistakes.

How to choose the right materials? It is important to understand what materials would be suitable to your final model as well as the qualities of those materials and what you can do with it or represent.

For instance, if you would like to use concrete mix for your proposal model, you should research the ratio of mix to make sure it is structurally sound for your model. It also will need reinforcement bars as elasticity for concrete is very limited. 

Be resourceful with your materials! Being resourceful in terms of materials is very important. It becomes very important if you are assigned to make a model in your career path. If you are using laser-cut technology, which most architecture students do (to some extent), try to place your files (if not using full sheet) in a way that you can re-use the material. Talking from personal experience, it is upsetting to see students cut one small detail in the middle of a material sheet. It makes it much harder to arrange new details on the sheet if a student decides to re-use the material. 

This does not apply only to materials that students use for laser cut parts. Being resourceful of the materials will become very important if you will be assigned to make a model in your practice. 

Using technology in model making. It is common to use different technologies to speed up the process of model making. It is widely used in professional model making practices as well. Skill to know how to use this technology will become quite an important asset in your CV. Before using laser cutting machines, 3D printers or CNC, make sure you have enough knowledge in theory. Also it is a good thing to discuss your intended use of technology with workshop staff or manager. It will help you to understand the right way to model your details in software as well as what kind of 3D printing would be the most suitable to your intended outcome.

Technical model for the Royal Doulton Pottery Centre. (2nd
year’s project)
Used materials: MDF, Perspex, stainles steel tubes, brass rods,
spray paint.
All model made out of re-used MDF found University’s

Make your files ready for the workshop staff! And double check them if they are in the correct scale beforehand.If you are using the University’s workshop, make sure your files are ready if you are going to use some type of technology in your model making process. There is nothing more frustrating for workshop staff than students who come unprepared or may not have a plan or any create the model that is intended. 

For laser cut – make sure your file is “clean” – make sure there are no double lines, lines are not overlapping, file is the right scale.

Material thicknesses and tolerances. Model making and modelling your proposal in 3D software are two very different things. Even if you have modelled a ‘perfect’ 3D model it might not fit together that easily when making it. It is better to test it beforehand as different machinery is set differently as well as different material tolerances can lead you to not so ‘perfect’ outcome as you see on your screen.

Joinery and adhesion methods. One of the most important aspects of constructing a model is to work out how materials will be joined. There are different ways of the joinery and adhesion methods. 

  • MDF + MDF = Gorilla glue/ super glue
  • MDF + Perspex = super glue
  • Plywood + Plywood = PVA/ Gorilla glue
  • Plywood + MDF = PVA/ Gorilla glue
  • Plywood + Perspex – super glue
  • Perspex + Perspex = plastic weld

Thank you to Elina for giving us some awesome tips on creating amazing models. We hope current and future students can benefit from some of this insight. If you have any questions or have made models using these tips, be sure to let us know over on Instagram.

Productivity 101

Productivity 101 for Architecture Students

It’s no secret that architecture students have a serious work ethic which involves a lot of long hours, late nights, and a constant cycle of submissions. This is where productivity comes in. What exactly is being productive? It’s basically doing more with less. Getting things done and making the most of each day let’s you achieve goals faster and effectively. It can take multiple forms but the most important part of it is finding a solution that works for you. This is just an introduction to productivity and it’s many benefits.

As an architecture student, it can get pretty stressful and difficult by the time end of year submissions come around and by this point you may have had to juggle more than one project. Productivity means that even something as simple as a timetable or a daily planner can help you map out your thoughts and make sure you’re spending time effectively to achieve your goals. We’re all about lists and organisation at :scale.

However, the biggest problem most of us face is that we often don’t stick to whatever plan we set out. Don’t worry, we’re all guilty of this and sometimes it can be alright to not stick to a schedule perfectly for a day or two. The purpose of this article is to introduce you to the idea of productive habits and how you can apply these yourself as an architecture student. Some of you may have finished university for the year or might have extended deadlines in which case you may not have the time to implement habits in your routine. However, there’s no perfect time to start learning new techniques and methods. This could be really helpful if you’re going to start university later this year or even if you just want to make some new habits.

Finding the Source of Stress

For a fair few years, I was relying on hand-written lists and notes and I actually made use of my sketchbook only after I started studying architecture. This evolved into other diaries and physical note-taking systems however recently, I’ve started using Notion, a brilliant and life-changing productivity tool. The best thing about Notion is that there are a range of possibilities and uses but the templates and other tutorials help you get started so you don’t feel overwhelmed.


First you need to figure out where you’re being least effective. Are you finding it hard to find inspiration and come up with ideas quickly? Or do you tend to get distracted easily? It could be any number of things in which case you need to figure out a way to come up with a solution. Questioning what is stressing you out and writing these things down can help you better understand what you need to do or fix. This doesn’t need to be specifically for university, it can apply to your daily life and give you a chance to keep track of hobbies or goals you want to achieve yearly.

For example, if you struggle with time-management, try out different methods like a simple timetable or a Pomodoro Timer and see which works for you. There’s no right or wrong way and you might feel like giving up if it doesn’t work. But once you find something that works, you’ll want to make it a part of your life. A good way to find new ways of working is through learning from others in which case YouTube comes in very handy. There’s a whole community of productivity nerds who put together their knowledge and ideas to provide meaningful content. Check out this video by productivity guru’s Matt D’Avella and Thomas Frank.

Building a productivity system will take some time and once it starts working for you, there’s no guarantee that you won’t have moments of burnout. Really, there’s only so much we can do in an hour, a week or a month and there’s no point setting up an organised system just to overwork yourself. Everyone has moments of feeling like their work is taking over so to avoid that you need to remember that you have a whole life other than architecture school which you can also incorporate into a productivity hub to make sure you’re still prioritising other important events and taking some time for yourself.

Avoiding Procrastination

If you’re struggling with keeping on task and often end up procrastinating, you might need to change things up in the way you work. This could be re-organising your desk and keeping some snacks and water on hand so you’re not always getting up to eat. Or, if you end up scrolling on Instagram to keep up with our stories and posts, you might want to download some apps that limit your screen time.

During the early phases of a project, students usually struggle with coming up with new ideas in which case you may need to find some inspiration or sit down and draw out all your thoughts. Allocate a specific time for this and turn off all other distractions. Currently, you might be finishing off your projects and getting your portfolio together in which case a ready-made checklist could be helpful. I like to storyboard my portfolio weeks in advance and set up a checklist in my spare time when there’s still a bit of clarity. Once you’re in deadline mode, it can be frustrating to think of the exact things you need to include, but having one set up will make your life much easier.

Introducing a work-flow and mapping out your day can help your mind feel less cluttered because all your ideas should be written out somewhere, in a diary or online application. The repetitive nature of being an architecture student and dealing with weekly tutorials or monthly crits can leave you feeling like it’s a never-ending process. If you think about it in terms of a simple day, usually it may start at 10am and finish anytime in the evening. Including other commitments like a lunch date or a weekly shop, you want to find the best use for your time. For example, I found that printing drawings or draft pages on a Friday night worked great for me. I wasn’t wasting time waiting for the printers to be free and didn’t have to spend the time in studio plus it meant I was prepared early enough to not stress out on the day of a tutorial or crit.

Productivity Habits for Architecture Students

There isn’t a need for huge steps or changes in your life but instead, if you improve upon something by a small amount, it adds up later on and you won’t even realise it, but you’ll be working much more efficiently. Set yourself achievable and desirable targets or personal deadlines that you can work to without any external pressure. When you do sit down to work or organise something, make sure the task has your full attention and cut out the smaller, non-essential stuff. By prioritising what you need to get done immediately you can direct your focus towards it but still have the benefit of keeping the less urgent tasks still in front of you.

Introducing a productive mindset over the past year has really allowed me to do the things I want to be doing and opened up doors that wouldn’t have even been in my sights if I hadn’t had organised my mind and used the technology available to me to my advantage. You may already be using some kind of productivity technique just by having a sketchbook to fill your thoughts with. Your time at university tends to go by pretty quickly since everything happens at such a fast pace. If you start introducing certain habits such as a daily schedule or take up a project to improve your skills, it can set you up very nicely for the year to come. We would recommend you take this summer to relax and get back to the other things you enjoy but also sharpen yourself for the year ahead if you’re starting work or university.

We’ve put together a list of resources that can help you take a step into productivity without it being overtly complicated.

🔵 Notion

🔵 Todoist

🔵 Skillshare

🔵 Roam

🔵 Google Calendar

🔵 Thomas Frank

🔵 Ali Abdaal

🔵 Keep Productive

🔵 Focus Keeper

🔵 Forest

Why Are Mega-Drawings so Interesting_

Why are Mega-Drawings so Interesting?

Architectural representation is a visual method that architects use heavily to put forward their ideas and designs. It can range from something as simple as a paper model to a detailed mega-drawing. The purpose of these mediums is to create a design that can be realised for the future. You’re basically selling the idea, whether it’s to your tutors and peers or to a client. It’s all about taking the ideas in your head and putting them on paper. In university you’re given a lot of freedom to experiment with various representation styles and methods to increase your skills.

You might be asking; how do I start? Architectural representations don’t just have to be mega-drawings like we said earlier. These eye-catching visuals have been a part of architecture for a very long time which means it might be difficult to stand out and create something intriguing and new. They also rely heavily on your project and the outcome itself can be influenced by drivers in your design or certain themes. It’s essentially a work of art if you think about it. Plans, sections and even models can also transform into meticulous works of art.

Mega-drawings is the term coined for incredibly detailed images that are usually the culmination of a design project. They offer a visual look into a building without the technical detail that is found in regular drawings such as plans and sections. Many have linked this style of drawings to the likes of certain Bartlett or AA units however it is an increasingly popular style that is somehow mysterious and unachievable for most. We often find ourselves and other students asking, ‘how did they do that?’.

But these aren’t exclusive to certain schools and studios and the most important thing students need to understand is that we will eventually develop our own styles and ways of working which will be individual to each of us as a designer. Renderings or large-scale hand drawings also offer the same details and this particular graphical style normally found in mega-drawings is just a common style.

Eric Wong – Cohesion

But understanding what mega-drawings represent is crucial to being able to create your own. They don’t have to take a common form of coloured line drawings with texture and detail and can often be a series of renders, hand-drawn sketches or even a mixture of them all. We’ve got a pretty interesting Mega-Drawings board on our Pinterest that you can follow and pin. The purpose of such a drawing is to be able to gather the core values and design drivers in the project and be able to compose them in a visual way. In most cases, details such as colour, composition and even line-weights can be an important element of a drawing and there is definitely a lot of thought behind these features.

One thing we have discovered is that there is an overall lack of understanding behind these kinds of drawings and the methods or techniques used to achieve them. Bear in mind that they aren’t the only thing in your portfolio but simply a representation of the project. But really, these aren’t overly complicated to achieve, nor do they have some kind of secret formula. Creating final representations as a whole requires a lot of work, creativity, and patience. Usually we would start planning these a month or so before the final deadline and often work alongside other tasks for our portfolios. Sharing simple things such as software tips can actually lead to even more creativity and can help those who feel lost or uncertain on how to go about creating mega-drawings.

The same goes for other methods of representation. On one hand, they need solid groundwork put in beforehand as well as a high level of creativity. But they also require organisation and clarity within several ideas. Over the last few years, technology has opened up the way we represent our ideas and designs. Parametric design or virtual reality can create a different kind of response and have a spatial quality that might not be achieved through drawings. Adding in the current situation, it might be more difficult to create detailed models without access to specialist equipment and machinery or have enough space to create a huge drawing by hand. Now, we’re seeing architectural diagrams being represented through GIFs or short animations which can be an interesting way to go forward.

It’s no secret that techniques have evolved and branched off and will most likely continue to do so. However, one thing that remains is the way we approach these projects and how as a community, we can share our resources, tips, and advice to be able to give everyone the chance to try out a particular style or way of working. Mega-drawings have a wide appeal because of the level of detail, the immense thoughtfulness and perhaps the mysterious way of how it all comes together.

Personally, I have viewed these drawings as unachievable in the past and something that I might attempt during Masters, provided I have tutors who are able to guide me towards something like it. However, by taking on the task of updating my portfolio, I have realised that you don’t need to wait for action A to take place for you to be able to do action B. For me, the process of creating a relatively simple mega-drawing can be broken down into stages. If I were in university and had to work on this within 6 weeks, I would first identify each stage and estimate how long it would take and then get started on tackling each task one step at a time.

  1. Concept

By the time you get closer to deadlines, you need solid groundwork as we said before, but you also need to figure out and stick to a method of representation. Think about your project and it’s core drivers and then think which kind of representation would best suit it. For example, if materiality is an integral part of the project, you might choose to create a model that explores this. If the atmosphere or spatial qualities are of interest, you could try to replicate this through VR or a large scale composite drawing.

2. 3D Model

For mega-drawings, you will ideally need a 3D representation of the project which can act as a framework for a perspective view on the canvas. This is so that it can correspond with the other drawings and give you a place to begin. You can choose to model to a level of detail which suits you. If you just require the framework to act as a base for your hand-drawing, that’s fine. But if you’re aiming to create a realistic rendering, you will need to spend a lot of time working out the correct materials and environment settings.

3. Composition and colour

Factors such as colour and composition can play a huge role in what the final representation ends up like. For example, if your representation is influenced by illustrators or cinematographers, you could look at their colour palettes to achieve a similar result. These details need to be well thought-out and have some kind of meaning to it that adds to the overall experience of your mega-drawing.

4. Details!

Adding details to any form of representation is crucial. This might also be the stage that takes the longest but once it’s done it will give you a great satisfaction. In a mega-drawing, you might want to digitally draw in some details to give it a life-like quality.

These stages add up to make something that represents your ideas and project in a meaningful way. They will undoubtedly take a lot of time and hard-work, but the results can be so amazing. Architectural representation doesn’t need to be difficult or even set aside for later on in the project. Test out the ideas throughout and build your skills in other areas such as animation or graphical illustration.

A couple of months ago we had the delightful opportunity to work with Hamza Shaikh of Two Worlds Design in which he discussed his own series of drawings. This process was incredibly useful and so we are happy to announce that we will be curating a series called ‘Drawings Explained’ where we invite a series of emerging architects and students to take a further look into their architectural style and representation.

Hamza Shaikh – Ad Hoc Autonomy

If you’re interested in checking out how I created my own mega-drawing you can have a look on our Instagram Highlights or wait for the mega-tutorial where I take you through the exact process while explaining what worked and what didn’t. Leave a comment below if you will be attempting your own mega-drawing soon!

Why Googling is the Answer to Learning Better

Why Googling is the Answer to Learning Better

Learning a new software is never easy or quick. In fact, I’m still learning how to use Adobe programs even though I consider myself quite familiar with the array of tools and workflow. But Googling things has saved me a ton of time. 3D modelling programs can seem quite intimidating especially if you’re pressed for time and balancing other tasks. There’s a common question that comes with wanting to learn a new software, what tutorials did you follow? Or which course did you buy? I’ve found that tutorials and courses can be helpful in some cases but the best way to learn is to get hands-on with something and go through a trial and error stage to make yourself comfortable with the program. In this situation, being an expert Googler can be extremely useful.

You might be wondering; how could Google possibly help with learning a new software? If you know the correct questions and have the ability to skim read quick enough, chances are you will find the answer to the small problem you face and be able to repeat the process until you’ve gained a considerable amount of knowledge about particular commands or methods of completing an action.

My Experience

Over the past year, I’ve been wanting to learn all the software I was not previously familiar with. This included Rhino, Revit, Vectorworks and building on skills in AutoCAD. I had previously searched for Rhino tutorials myself, accessed some LinkedIn courses but none of them ‘stuck’ with me. Of course, if you’re provided with all the files, it would give you a hands-on experience, but you’d only be learning according to the teacher’s methods. Fortunately, I know 3DS Max quite well so already had an idea of the kinds of commands and tools I regularly use and had knowledge of what I can do with Rhino. However, those of you in first or second year might not have that same experience and whichever software you want to tackle first will surely be unknown to you.

Once I decided to update my portfolio (which meant re-creating the 3D model of my 2nd year project) I wanted to do it in Rhino so that I could properly learn the software and use it in a familiar setting. Usually you will be starting with various windows and taskbars of which some might be of use and some will not. Over time you can figure out which ones you need and don’t based on how often they get used. But the main point of this article is to explain that by Googling ‘how to close a polyline’ or ‘how to create a cylinder’ you can learn things quicker and retain them.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that I am an expert in Rhino or that I didn’t look at any kind of tutorials at all. However, by re-creating a project that I am well acquainted with, I found it easy to search for the things I wanted to do.

Method and Logic

The term ‘Googling’ is just a fun way of saying ‘Researching’. But you need to be able to do this quickly and efficiently. If you don’t know what you’re looking for or which problem you want to solve, it’ll be quite difficult for you. You basically need to simplify the question you’re putting into the search engine. Then, you need to spend less than half a minute looking at the first few results and going back and forth on each page till you start recognizing a similar problem or an answer of sorts.

Doing research in a very smart way will let you work at your own pace without having to sit there and learn something for an hour. Once the problem is solved, you can carry on with what you’re doing and repeat the cycle if needed. This is why I always keep open a new tab on Chrome which I can switch to and search my question and get Googling. Let’s go through a few examples.

I’ve been modelling in Rhino for a couple of hours and can figure out how to create 3D shapes, but I want to punch a cylindrical hole through a cuboid. First, I’d look for tools on the relevant task bars since it might just be in front of me. If I can’t find anything, I’ll open up Google and type in ‘how to punch shapes rhino’. Your vocabulary is also important here because if ‘punch’ doesn’t work you can try alternatives like cut, ‘make holes’. Then obviously you want to add the corresponding software which is Rhino in this case.

If you look at the first 3 results, any could work for what I’m searching for. Let’s say I click on the third result which coincidentally is the McNeel forum – from the people who created Rhino. Now I find that someone has posted this question already.

Now, scrolling down, I can see that two of the answers include the command BooleanSplit. If you understand the Boolean commands which are present in other 3D modelling software too, then this might just be the aha! Moment.

If you’re not familiar with the command, you can either mess around on Rhino if you’re not on a deadline or you could go back and Google ‘Boolean Rhino’. It doesn’t need to be a long-winded question like ‘what is the Boolean command in Rhino 6’. This waste seconds of time which surprisingly adds up over the course of years. So, making it efficient and clear is key.

This method doesn’t need to just apply learning a new software. It can be a great way to expanding your knowledge on all sorts of things or just to clarify something. If you struggle with writing you could search up ‘good writing techniques’. The format you choose to consume this knowledge is up to you. It could be a short YouTube video or a simple article or you might stumble upon a website that is all about writing techniques. Skim reading and matching the keywords in the Google results page is also important so that you don’t end up clicking on things that don’t relate to your problem or issue.

Googling, and being good at it is definitely a good skill to have in my opinion. It can make you learn better, faster, and more efficiently and you don’t need to rely on paid sources just to learn something. The Internet is full of information, no doubt so you need to start taking advantage of this and use it to your advantage. There are multiple communities and resources online that are made to be used by people to learn new things. Forums like Quora can also be a good place to find people who have similar questions as you and it’s just a matter of hoping someone has already found the answer.

Recently, I realised that Googling / researching is essentially a way of active learning. We only take in about 15% of the content consumed through media such as videos, lectures and webinars and even less if you’re not taking notes. So by Googling, you’re actively searching for the answer to your problem and having a hands-on experience with a software. Give it a try, a new kind of approach or alternative to those courses you’ve been wanting to do instead.

Instagram Accounts to Follow for Architecture

Instagram Accounts to Follow for Architecture

Just like Pinterest, Instagram is a great resource for inspiration and is actually much more useful because you get to see exactly where the image is from. Over the years, architects, universities and architecture students have increasingly jumped on to Instagram to showcase their work. Often it becomes an online portfolio of sorts and can be a great way to share your work in progress or create an aesthetic feed for potential employers to be impressed by.

The way it is different to Pinterest is that you can trace back images to the people posting it and creating the work. You can’t forget the number of architecture firms that are also on Instagram so if you hear of one and want to see what their work is like; you can easily hop on to Instagram and find out. This is great for those wanting to potentially apply to work at these places too, and by showing a bit of enthusiasm, they might even consider you. Sometimes, these firms also post job openings on their social media first, so you don’t even have to look elsewhere. Apart from following the typical, mega-firms, it can be a good idea to follow the ones in or near your area to keep up with projects they work on.

If you’re living in a city like London, you probably know of the popular architecture schools around. But instead of just seeing their work at the end of year exhibitions, their Instagram accounts give you the chance to see work during the year. It’s also common for university accounts to feature your work, giving you more exposure. If you’re unsure of applying to architecture at university, it can be very helpful to check out a day in the life or see what kind of work students do.

Over a few months, we’ve managed to create and interact with a brilliant audience which has become a community of sorts, bringing students together from all over the world. Sign up to our Discord chat to share work, get feedback and more! In this article, we’ve put together a list of some of the architecture accounts we know and love. Of course, there’s many more, so if you want to stay in the know, then follow us on Instagram to be regularly updated or even featured.



If you’re not already following the bajillion Bartlett unit accounts out there, give this account a go. Bartlett Kiosk brings together all kinds of students works whether it’s drawings, models or installations. Run by a MArch Unit 13 student, it’s an authentic representation of works created by real students that are most often tagged. If you like a person’s work and they have a public architecture account, feel free to follow them or even give them a message if you have questions. Two of our favourites are @atelier_lai and @arinjoy.sen



Chris Precht of Studio Precht is an Instagram savvy, brilliant architect whose creations can make your mouth drop. We don’t need to say much about this individual, his works speaks in volumes! Have a look below.


We love The Architecture Student Blog (big fan) and they love to feature student work. If you want to be in the chance to get featured use their hashtag. Their account provides not only inspiration, but they have also recently come up with helpful tutorials for architecture students.



Re-Thinking the Future is a mind-blowing and informative account. Their style of posts is admirable, fast and efficient. If you need quick tips or motivational quotes to boost your day, this is the account.


Sarah Lebner, author of ‘101 Things I Didn’t Learn in Architecture School’ has been a breath of fresh air on Instagram. Her ‘Sketch Saturdays’ and ‘Follow Fridays’ are fun, unique and informative. She keeps things real about architecture.

Those were our 5 favourite architecture Instagram accounts. Which accounts would you recommend us to follow? When following accounts, think about the quality of the posts and how it might help you. It’s fine to follow Starchitects but we find it extremely useful following niche-related pages that are so easily accessible. Next time you’re on Instagram you can say it’s for work instead of endlessly scrolling! Also, a top tip is to save the ones you absolutely love, want to come back to or recreate somehow. If you have any such images, feel free to send them to us on Instagram and we can reach out to the person creating it or show you a tutorial on it ourselves.

If you’ve been thinking about creating an architecture account for yourself, go for it! Better to start now than later, and who knows, one day you might even be featured somewhere! There are many benefits to starting an architecture account apart from being open for employers to see. Some students often get featured in architecture magazines or can be inspired to enter competitions via their work. Instagram is a visual-based app and we have the upper hand with our eye-catching work and images. Whether your forte is photography or illustrations, any kind of work that goes up on Instagram gets seen by someone, somewhere.

If you haven’t read our other articles head over to our Blog page and make sure you check out our amazing Guest Articles while you’re there. We are very happy to support the accounts above, after all, we believe that expanding the architecture community is the way to go forward. Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram.

Why It’s Okay to Not Spend All Your Time in the Studio

Why It’s Okay to Not Spend All Your Time in the Studio

There are plenty of stereotypes about the life of an architect or the hours we spend working away in the studio. But there is no real rule that all work should take place in the studio for hours on end or overnight. The purpose of the studio is to have an allocated place to work, whether that’s at a computer or simply spread out on a large desk for drawing or working on models. As an architecture student, undoubtedly you will find your comfort zone and stick to it through the course of your studies. Working in the studio makes printing more accessible, let’s you bounce ideas off of peers and can be a nice change in atmosphere.

But sometimes it’s okay not to be spending all your time in the studio. For some people, it can be counterproductive to work in the midst of others where short breaks can become hour long sessions doing no work. The temptation to end up watching a movie or go outside for a walk is fine within limits but can be distracting and unproductive. Introverts especially might not want to be completing their work around their peers where they feel they could be judged. In a time like this, where most people are working from home, we can often miss being in a studio surrounded by equipment and other resources.

Apart from working on your project there are other activities and responsibilities you may have. If it’s exercising for an hour, a part time job or even site research, there is no real need for limiting yourself to the confinements of a desk in the studio space. For students not living on campus, it can be even more challenging when thinking about the journey home and sometimes you might not be able to work in university for long hours. We want you to read the next sentence out loud.

It’s completely okay not to be making the studio my second home.

This idea can also be supported by the environment of your studio. A state-of-the-art building might have temperature issues or during deadlines there may not even be enough spaces to work. In these cases, you might want to be in the studio, but you just don’t have the means. We would suggest getting there early if you’re really desparate – not staying overnight just because you want a space to work on deadline day. You might feel like if you’re not in the studio, you’re not getting as much work done as the people who are however this is a toxic misconception that needs to be forgotten about.

On the other hand, the atmosphere in your halls or house-share might not be great either, in which case you will tend to work out of the studio but don’t let it take over your whole life. You need to move around and do other things apart from work. Re-evaluate whether it is even necessary to be in the studio. If whatever you’re doing is going to take half an hour, but you’d travel 1 hour in total to and back, you’re wasting your time. Think about the spaces in university you can use such as the workshop or the photography suite and plan your time around this so at least you can kill two birds with one stone.

While we mentioned the amount of work actually taking place and the surroundings, another thought should be given to alternatives other than your small room. For essay writing, take full use of the library and actually look around for books that you could even reference for your design project. The library can be a wonderful space to get your work done. If you prefer a quieter space or group study, the library accommodates for that. Whilst writing essays, small groups are often encouraged so that you can bounce ideas off one another. Smaller tasks such as photo editing or annotation can be done in your spare time in the kitchen whilst making food or in a quiet café just to change up the surroundings once in a while.

Think about maximising your time and still prioritising them. If you have laundry that you want to keep an eye on, take your sketchbook with you and draw out some ideas. Better than sitting there on your phone scrolling for the next 45 mins. There really isn’t any compulsion for students to spend most of their time at university bound to the studio space. But make sure you take advantage of the space too and really evaluate where you work best. Bear in mind, we’re talking about free time other than your studio days and any lectures you might have. On studio days, we definitely suggest sticking around. The way you can go about this best is to try and see your tutors first thing in the morning. Their brains are fresh and ready to provide ideas and you don’t have to wait around for others to finish. Then, take your feedback and notes and start preparing for your next tasks. For advice on what to do after a tutorial, check out our article here.

Obviously, now that you’re at home you won’t really have access to the studio and everything has moved online. Have a read of our article on ‘How to make the most out of Zoom’ if you’re not very tech-savvy. Now, you might be given certain ‘studio’ time where lectures and tutorials take place and who knows whether this will also be the case come September. You will most likely need to find a balance between sitting at the computer for hours on end and doing other things too.

Try and aim to do one of the smaller tasks you have been assigned and might seem difficult but doable. Complete it, and after lunch, ask your tutors if they can spare five minutes to look over it. This shows them you have an enthusiastic attitude but also puts you in a great momentum. The added boost can actually make you more focused and wanting to complete the rest of the tasks ASAP. We usually take the time to plan out the rest of the week up until the next tutorial so that you’re doing the work that has been given to you plus more. If you have multiple projects, this may be hard, but once you plan out your time carefully, it can be easily manageable.

Similarly, on the days you have an early morning lecture, stick around in the studio or get your printing done. The best days to print is when you know there is no one around. We’ll be covering this topic soon so keep an eye out. If you have an odd afternoon lecture that might be during lunch, get to university early, do some work in the studio, have an early lunch and attend your lecture. Productive day? Check.

Don’t be scared of the studio either. Most first years might get intimidated by the space or the people but it’s not scary at all. In fact, you’re encouraged to ask for help from other students in other years (just try not to when deadlines are near). If your unit has been allocated a space, you might find your friends there too and most of the time it can work in your favour. All we’re saying is, try and change it up and see what suits you best. Don’t think you have to be there because you’re an architecture student, no one is looking to check on you.

Hope that helped some of you guys or even potential architecture students who might be worried about the workload. As long as you plan your time well, are passionate about the subject and can give your best, there’s nothing that can stop you. This doesn’t need to rely on the environment you’re in whether it’s the studio, home office or your bedroom.

How to Make the Easiest Architectural Collage

How to Make the Easiest Architectural Collage

What is an architectural collage?

An architectural collage is a no-render method of creating an image that conveys your ideas. The best thing about collages is that they are often much easier to do than final, detailed renders and illustrations and can be done in the space of a few hours (provided you have the work thought out beforehand). These can be as abstract or as detailed as you want which means they are great for when you’re in the middle stages of a project and just want to experiment with the ideas you have. Most firms are also turning to these kinds of images for ease and better understanding. A render can take hours to make and actually render, plus post-production will increase the time it takes for you to finish just one.

Essentially, it’s a bunch of shapes, images and textures carefully put together to create a seemingly coherent collage that conveys ideas of space, materiality and much more. There’s no real method to creating a collage since everyone will have a different approach, method, and style. We would suggest for you to have a look at existing collages out there like on our Pinterest board. There is so much inspiration out there and it doesn’t even need to be a collage. Look to Architectural Digest or other magazines that have stunning images. Usually you can get a sense of the composition, materials and lighting this way.

So obviously creating a collage is great for time constraints but also informal crits or presentations where you don’t want to keep rendering an image to show you tutors every week. To get your ideas across it can sometimes be better to do so in a minimal way. There’s also an increasing number of tutorials online on YouTube and other course websites. But we truly believe, once you practice a couple of times, it’s only a matter of building on the skills you already have. Another great thing about collages is that with the right resources and preparation you can get creating in a matter of minutes.

Prep / Things you need

In terms of the way to go about making a collage, you could absolutely do one by hand (usually this is done during the start of a project to get ideas flowing) but this could take some time. We like using Adobe Photoshop for this. If you’re not familiar, check out our ‘Getting Started’ series. You could also use Adobe Illustrator if you’re going for a very simple and graphical look but if you wanted to add textures and shadows, you will end up in Photoshop eventually so you might as well use that in the first place.

If you have no idea where to start, a good thing to do is to find collages out there that appeal to you. They might have the same kind of colour palette, use of textures or an interesting composition. Check out help-me-draw on Tumblr who explains composition techniques in much more detail. In this case, and for more detailed drawings, composition is quite important. Looking at photography tutorials online might help since a lot of the preparation beforehand includes composition and lighting.

After a few goes, you will see a major difference in your images and how a little bit of extra space can make an image look completely different. Next, you can come up with a quick sketch of what you want your collage to look like. Remember that this needs to be your work, relating to a brief or set of key drivers. Think about what you want the image to convey to the person looking at it and why it encompasses an element of your design.

If this is your first time practicing, find and use a photograph with bold features as a starting point. Try and recreate it as a collage but use elements that suit you or ones you might want to use in your own drawings later on. After some practice, you’ll find it much easier to come up with scenes on your own. As well as having a reference image, you may need to consider some other components that will accompany the architecture. Textures, furniture and even people can be sourced online. In the long run, if you want to have details that make sense and for your accessories to fit your drawing, you may want to model them first or create your own which is great.

But realistically you can’t do that for every single sketch, collage or render which is why people usually turn to pre-made packs that you can download and use. A great example is our own Indoor Plant Pack that has 100 cut out plant images that are ready to add into your drawings. With a bit of image manipulation in Photoshop, you can edit the sizes, perspective and even colours to suit your collage. There are also some great free texture packs that you can find online, but even a good high-quality image of a surface can work well.

Here are some we love:

Lost and Taken


We would also suggest you have a folder of the stock images or textures you use because they will come in handy over the years. You could sort these into folders and create your own organisation method. Then you can add them in whenever so you’re not always creating the same ones over and over. Remember, being organised is key when it comes to working efficiently. Really, there’s not a lot you need to get going. A collage is all about experimenting and coming up with something that has enough to give you more ideas going forward. If your first try doesn’t work, try a different combination, or just go crazy with it. Sometimes, the weirdest of things you might come up with on the fly can become the one thing your tutors end up loving.

Another key component you may or may not need is a 3D model of your design. There is no specific modelling software needed, use what you know and are comfortable with. In this case, Sketchup Pro / Rhino work great because you can export lines and use them as a base for your collage. But you don’t even need a 3D model. If this collage is about exploring ideas in the early stages, you probably won’t even have one and so the alternative might be to use a sketch or compiled sketches to understand the scene. If you’ve got a complicated scene, you could simply export the rough baseline of your building and sketch on top and scan it in.

The Process

Once you have imported your sketch, line drawing or reference image, set it on a white background and either lower the Opacity or use the Multiply blending mode. Don’t forget to lock the layer if it is an image so that you don’t accidentally select it. Now you’re ready to add in elements and start rendering the collage. Start with the actual architecture, think about what kind of materiality you want to showcase as well as the overall design. At this stage, don’t worry too much about colours or extra elements like furniture – those are simply accessories to your design. You can do this by drawing out shapes using the Pen Tool (P) or the Wand Tool (P) and fill it in. If you’re going off a sketch with no real line work, try and map out the different areas in transparent coloured layers which you can then add texture on top of and mask.

You can also edit photographs; add in models you’ve made and use parts of reference images since this is a collage of different works. Think about a main driver for this collage and stick to it. Every now and then, step back (take a break) and think about whether it is conveying that message or not. This is really the time to experiment with different textures, perspectives and basically the way in which certain components work together. Ideally, you should have a set composition, but if you’re not happy with it and need to make your canvas bigger or smaller, use the Crop (C) tool to adjust your artboard.

Make sure that as you add more elements, you’re constantly editing layer names and sorting into groups. It’ll make the way you work much more efficient if you try and stay organised. Remember to also work in a non-destructive way. This basically means that you don’t directly edit an image or paint on top of it in the same layer, thus destroying the original image. Similar to how you would separate out your line layer and your colour layer. Later on, if you make a mistake or decide to change things completely, you don’t have to start from the beginning, and it will allow you to experiment more.

Then, when you have all your elements together, you can start thinking about adding textures to certain areas or putting in detail with the Brush (B) tool. It’s completely up to you how detailed you want to make this. If you’re adding in realistic elements that you’re editing out and pasting in, it will be a good idea to transform the image to suit the perspective and scale. You don’t necessarily need to worry about colours yet. Sometimes, if there are details in the background that won’t be immediately visible to the viewer, you could paint these in yourself and add textures, highlights, and shadows. This can either save you the time of trying to find it online and editing it or take you longer if you decide to be extra detailed about it.

Try and remember that this is a collage and not a finally perspective illustration or render. The whole point of this is to get across ideas so if you make little mistakes to begin with it will only help you later on when you try tackle the big drawings. If your collage is specifically about creating the atmosphere of the space then think about extra details like sun-rays, fog, smoke to add a bit of liveliness to the image. Adding in people always helps too.

Usually adding in people is done towards the end to add life and show how the design will interact with people. If the main focus of your design involves a person doing an action then you might want to think about this much earlier on. There is no rule on what kind of materials, textures, or people you want to use. Think about the context of the drawing. For example, if your collage shows a nursery, you will obviously want to include children and think about soft, light colours.

Lastly, a good idea might be to edit the image as a whole. We like colour grading – which means adding a sort of filter on top so that the collage feels a lot more cohesive and the colours merge well together. This can be done really easily, and we suggest you watch this tutorial by PixImperfect (all of the tutorials on that channel are brilliant!).

Final thoughts

Inspiring images can be a very powerful tool when it comes to creating collages. Often, we don’t know where to start and how explorative to be but if you have a reference image or just something that you think you would like to try and emulate, it will give you a direction. We would definitely encourage students of all years to give collaging a go or even build upon previous projects in this way. If you’re regularly creating and practicing it will set some key habits that can be useful later on in your projects. For first and second years who might be a bit intimidated by large-scale, detailed drawings and illustrations, think of collage as a stepping stone and once you’ve accomplished one, there will be no stopping you.

We’d love to know your favourite collages so be sure to send them in to our Instagram and we might just feature your work!