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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.

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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.

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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.

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The New Normal for Universities

My Thoughts as a Tutor

The coronavirus is having a huge impact on the way in which universities operate across the country. Having negotiated the difficult task of makeshift reorganisation in the middle of the academic year just passed, universities now face the even greater challenge of reorganising the way in which they run their campuses and deliver their teaching in response to the impacts of the coronavirus for the upcoming academic year.

In addition to these administrational challenges, universities are also facing a significant drop in revenue due to the possibility of low admission rates for the coming year as it’s expected that many prospective students will elect to defer their university places due to perceived concerns over the impact of the coronavirus on their university experience. But what does all this mean for both new and returning students studying architecture?

Prospective students considering embarking on a course in Architecture face a difficult dilemma; whether to take a chance and enrol for the upcoming academic year without knowing exactly how the course will be run, what resources will be available to them or even whether the course they are enrolled to will end up meeting the requirements of the Architects Registration Board (the statutory body which provides academic accreditation), or whether to defer for a year or two.

Returning students face a similar conundrum, albeit, they have the advantage of already knowing the university and the expectations of the course and will have had experience of working and learning during the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year.

Giving objective advice here is difficult as there is a considerable amount still to be decided about how architecture courses will be run this year. However, universities will have learnt a lot during the final term of the academic year just passed and will have lots of strategies in place for the start of the new term to ensure that the courses on offer will be delivered to an equally high standard as in other years.

In-person vs. Blended learning

Architecture courses are traditionally reliant on teaching delivered in-person, both in groups in the form of lectures and seminars as well as one-to-one tutorials with design tutors. This is particularly important for an education in architecture as it involves an understanding of three-dimensional spaces which are easier to convey and examine in person rather than online. Architecture courses are also heavily reliant on indirect learning which involves the student body working as a group and sharing knowledge with each other between the structured lectures and tutorials.

These conventional in-person teaching practices may be under threat this year as university faculties are likely to be carefully controlled to manage the number of people allowed within them on a given day to manage the risks associated with the coronavirus. As a result, most universities are likely to replace their traditional teaching methods with a blended learning approach. Blended learning is essentially a combination of regular in-person teaching with digital learning techniques as well. So perhaps in a given week, you may have two lectures and a seminar online in addition to a one-to-one tutorial conducted in person.

This may have some negative effects as it is likely to reduce the amount of time students spend together at university and therefore the amount of indirect learning that is going on. It also may have an impact on how successfully architectural concepts are conveyed by the teachers and understood by students, as these are easier to convey and understand in person rather than online. However moving some aspects of the course online may also have some benefits. It is likely that the in-person student community may in part be replaced by an online community.

Whilst that may have certain social drawbacks, it does allow for greater connectivity with a larger student group which could provide a more inclusive, dependable and supportive environment for peer learning. Towards the end of last term, many university groups had built a strong online forum for themselves made up of students and tutors alike which provided a fantastic platform for sharing knowledge, providing inspiration and asking for help.

What to expect from online design tutorials and crits

Design tutorials and crits are perhaps two of the most important components of a course in architecture. Whilst the majority of these should remain in person with social distancing measures, it is likely some of them will also be conducted online. Tutorials and crits tend to be very personal where students are required to present their work and explain the decisions that they’ve made. In reply, the criticism offered by design tutors and guest critics will often be very detailed and specific.

Getting the most out of tutorials and crits relies on careful preparation and presentation by students followed by clear and critical examination and self-reflection. Whilst this may be easier in-person where models can be inspected from all angles and drawings can be examined up close and drawn over, there are also now techniques to ensure that the same freedom of inspection and communication can happen on a digital platform.

Many universities will be set up on communication and collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams which will be used for video tutorials and crits. Over the past 6 months, teachers have become more experienced at using software to conduct tutorials and crits online which will help to ensure a smooth transition for the next academic. Furthermore, there are now lots of additional features which can help to make online tutorials and crits more interactive. These include plug-ins to help create digital pinned-up presentations, the video and sound recording of tutorials and crits for future reference and tools to allow tutors to digitally annotate drawings, all of which can be extremely useful.

What about the human experience

Human interaction is a fundamental and irreplaceable part of the university experience. Both for the social value and wellbeing it brings in making students feel welcome and part of a vibrant collegiate community as well as for the observations and insights it brings to the study of architecture. Jan Gehl, a famous Danish Architect and pro-cycling advocate, once said:

“Only architecture that considers human scale and interaction is successful…” 

Jan Gehl

Thus understood, the study of architecture is in many ways the study of people and how to design buildings and cities which address their needs. In order to do this well it is important that students spend lots of time in the company of people as well as visiting buildings and spaces in person. Whilst in some ways these important facets of architectural education have been somewhat undermined by the impacts of the coronavirus, in other ways our new relationship to each other and to the buildings and cities in which we live and work has brought us closer together. And whilst this new social proximity may not be physical, it is certainly full of humanity and can become a great source of architectural inspiration for the architects of the future.

This article was written by a community member!

Ned Scott, architect and teacher at Greenwich University and University College London.

Learn more about Ned Scott on our Writers page.

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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
project)
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.

Construction

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
workshop.

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.

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What is Sustainable Architecture?

Sustainable Thinking within Design Methodology

Sustainability is the marker of our generation.  It cannot be categorised as a soulless slog towards carbon neutrality.  It cannot be reduced into our material pallets or obsession with solar panels.  Sustainability instead is an alternative approach in the design methodology; an offering of alternative thought which seeks to combine technology and philosophy under the guise of architecture. 

Architecture has long been regarded as a physical marker of our existence, a marker which proclaims our philosophical motives, current belief and aspirations for the future.  This has been observed throughout various movements long before the emergence of sustainable design: from Classicism’s representation of a new way of ordered thinking to the Russian Constructivist’s architectural representation of Soviet societal ideals.  Sustainable architecture is not an anomaly to these either, proving that our generation too, has its own alternative approach to design with its set of own unique core values and aspirations.

Those who choose to design sustainably choose to address the needs and aspirations of the people today while facilitating the makers of tomorrow with the same opportunity to use resources as we do.  There is a philosophy to sustainable design which can be reduced into the three elements; time, place and person.  This philosophy aims to provide a thought structure which is simple and accessible to everyone designing with sustainability in mind.   

Time

Buildings are living structures with varying lifetimes. Buildings takes on many different purposes than the one we design for.  Many of these iterations will occur once we have left the design world and therefore, we should anticipate and help facilitate these changes that others will make.  This forces us to acknowledge from the beginning of the design process the prospect of disassembly, reuse of material and ground.  Interrobang’s Ilford Community Market is an outstanding example of designing with time and disassembly in mind; its avoidance of below the ground foundations means that when its tenure is finished it can be removed without damaging the original site.

Interrobang’s Ilford Community Market

Sustainable architecture recognises that the privilege of designing is transient.  This means that sustainable design has an embodied consciousness of the next generation. 

Place

Buildings do not exist in isolation.  They sit within a sensitive ecosystem that sustainable designers recognise.  Most designers recognise the importance of the visible context: addressing a designs sensitivity to immediate landscape, response to the overall local environment or recognition of a place’s culture or heritage.  However, sustainable architecture seeks to address not just the visible but also the invisible context of a building.  Invisible context relates to the choice of materials and technologies used to construct the building.  Choosing local material over imported material and utilising local skills and contractors over outsourcing labour and technologies fosters a sense of ownership over the structure whilst supporting a local economy. 

This is integral to the sustainable design process as sustainable structures can also create sustainable communities.  Every design requires careful maintenance over its lifetime and if integrated into the local community and economy the maintenance is easier to carry out and thus, more likely to occur.  The relationship between architecture, place and community is exhibited in Brown + Brown Architects Portsoy Boatbuilding Centre in Aberdeenshire; the retention of existing structure and a large amount of the construction carried out by local volunteers. 

Brown + Brown Architects Portsoy Boatbuilding Centre in Aberdeenshire

The purpose of this building is to construct traditional boats while teaching others the skill therefore, teaching volunteers the skills from the beginning of the construction process already cements the purpose of the building.

Buildings are part of our everyday existence.  Considering our interaction with them from the beginning allows strong relationships to be built preventing them from feeling like strangers when they are integrated into communities.  Buildings also serve a purpose past facilitating space, when we design sustainable structures, we understand that they serve not just the immediate user but can be integrated into benefitting wider communities and economies. 

People

Sustainable buildings are healthy buildings.  There are positive physiological effects (better indoor air quality, lower toxicity of materials, higher levels of ventilation) for occupants in sustainable structures.  This is important as how a building feels to someone and its impact on their health is as important, if not more, than its aesthetic or functionality.  Sustainable architecture highlights that as architects we have the grave responsibility of the health of our buildings and occupants. 

Sustainable structures understand that life is never static.  At different stages of life, we have different requirements of our space; caring for relatives, expanding families, condensing families or space for a new revenue flow are all common examples of changes that arise during a lifetime.  Therefore, sustainable designs can adapt to create flexible solutions that are easily carried out by occupants at a relatively low cost.  Studio Bark’s flat-pack U-Build System embodies the idea of self-building which is integral to sustainable architecture.  Self-building provides occupants with a greater sense of ownership of their space while encouraging the ethos of ‘improve don’t move’.

Sustainable architecture places the person at the fore of the design.  We are on the cusp of an alternative way of not just design but also how we choose to live.  When you choose to design sustainably you are also choosing to live with the greatest sensitivity towards individuals, place, community and future makers.  Sustainable design is not about superstructures or egotistical spectacles.  It is about designing architecture that represents a higher quality of life for normal people like you and me.      

Key Resources

SEDA Design Guides

RIBA Sustainable Outcome Guide

Passivhaus Trust Guidance

Passive House Plus Publication

*Images are not related with :scale.

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What we can learn from Historical Books?

Reading books has become more of a ritual for turning in assignments, or serving as a source of reference while working on our design projects. As students of architecture, we find ourselves being forced to pick up certain books that have become a staple for the student body, like D.K. Ching for basic planning or graphics in our first year, Neufert’s Architect’s Data or Time-saver is always with us in the book or e-book form to make sure we follow standards of dimensions in the spaces we create.

When it comes to history and theory classes, we largely ignore the ‘old’ books for reading purposes and stick to finding some lines that we could cite in our assignments and papers and hope that this much would do. We treat them as mere textbooks rather than taking out the time to spend time with one such book that could possibly give us a different kind of insight that cannot be delivered from elsewhere.  

We students stand to benefit tremendously through reading historical books on architecture. Books which are old enough to be considered historical in nature, especially the earliest records of and comments on architecture as a profession. These books have a certain quality to them, a quality that suggests the ideas that were put down in writing were revolutionary at the time. It could inspire us or give us the courage that we have been looking for to work on our own revolutionary ideas. These books possess the initial and most original chain of thoughts about architecture, they can help us understand this field right from its roots, including the kind of skills we require, which cannot be taught at university, only learnt.

Most books written that long ago tend to lay great emphasis on the human condition that we must subject ourselves to in order to become an architect. Rather than just talking about architecture, they also talk about the lifestyle and culture followed during that time. Understanding this approach, we can develop on our approach while dealing with similar problems in our projects. This gives us a holistic learning.  

Historic books in general are considered repositories of solutions already found for problems generally faced in architecture and design. Instead of trying to solve problems we face while designing, we should find answers to them. The books come in handy here. We can either build on the solutions suggested in the books or directly apply them. These books have a scope to be used for general enlightenment instead of being deemed mere textbooks. 

Ten Books on Architecture 

Marcus Vitruvius Pollio  

1st Century BC 

Written by a flourishing architect and engineer in Ancient Rome, these books tell us everything from the understanding of the architect to the skills required and applied in the profession.  

The first book is the most interesting of the lot. It tells us a little and in general about engineering and city planning, the majority is about the education of the architect. From soft to hard skills required to make a project work, as an architect. It establishes the architect as an intellectual person and the profession that requires great respect. 

The Four Books of Architecture  

Andrea Palladio 

1540 AD 

The Four Books of Architecture is a treatise by Palladio, an influential figure in the development of Renaissance architecture, centered around Venice. They are considered the earliest record of illustrated books on classical architecture.  

What one can possibly hope to learn from the book is how to achieve the epitome of aesthetics with just the use of proportions. We all know that the Ancient Greeks used the golden ratio everywhere but we can learn how to use it in our own projects after a little analysis on the illustrations by Palladio and the analysis just needs to be abstracted in ways it suits contemporary architecture. 

On the Art of Building in Ten Books  

Leon Battista Alberti 

1556 AD 

On the Art of Building in Ten Books is by another great architect of the Renaissance, Alberti. Through these books Alberti tries to explain what ‘art of building’ means according to him by categorising the elements of space and architecture into six parts.  

Apart from being an outstanding architect he was a naturalist too. He gives a lot of importance to earth, water and air. He even refers to these natural elements in proper nouns. He gives us pointers on site selection and orientation of the building keeping in mind the climate. He basically outlines a new approach for designing, keeping climate as top priority. This book is more relevant to our times that we realise.  

Seven Lamps of Architecture  

John Ruskin 

1849 AD 

John Ruskin was an art critic and theorist based in the UK. His extended essay called Seven Lamps of Architecture is known for leading the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain and Ireland. He was also considered by many preservationists as the precursor to modern ideas of preservation of buildings. The book discusses seven moral virtues that imbued architecture and craft with meaning and goodness, according to Ruskin. The book was considered rather revolutionary at the time of writing.  

The book is a philosophical take on architecture that can help us produce humanist work by instilling the said moral virtues in us. The writer paints such life in architecture that it would be hard not to consider those values while designing after having read this book. 

The Four Elements of Architecture

Gottfried Semper 

1851 AD 

Semper was a German architect, art critic and professor of architecture. In his book The Four Elements of Architecture, he diagnoses architecture’s origins and tells us that it comes down to four elements namely hearth, platform, roof and its supports. He further talks about how each of these have transformed and how they have come to be adapted to the industrial age. 

This can get us thinking about the absolute origins of architecture, which helps us understand the subject better. Knowing the roots of anything can make sure our progress in the field is based on a strong foothold. 

A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method

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Sir Banister Fletcher 

1896 AD 

Sir Banister Fletcher was an English architect and architectural historian known best for his work with his father, also an architect, called A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method. The book has been updated to adapt to the various changes faced by society throughout the 20th century.  

This book serves as the first ever record on the topic of the history of architecture. It essentially made the field into whatever it has become today. The categorisation of styles that we are so familiar with today all comes from this book. It contains a lot of schematic diagrams to illustrate concepts. We can hope to understand the basis for such a field by reading this particular book. 

The biggest takeaway from this article and collection of books would be to see all things old in a new light. Our current circumstances are a great opportunity for this since some of us may have more time on our hands than anticipated. By finding a new perspective on texts, we can learn a lot about architecture and a range of other topics.

*Images are not related to :scale. They have been taken from various sources.

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How to Make the Most out of Zoom

This is a guest post by Issy Spence.

Things have changed over the past few weeks and it is likely your final presentations and crits will now take place on Zoom (or whichever similar software applies to you) and this might be daunting for some people. Yes, we know that presenting your project and being a part of crits is completely normal and expected as an architecture student, but if you’re being asked to send in a video presentation or be able to explain your ideas over a webcam, it’s definitely not the same. There is definitely a lack of familiarity and physical presence that comes with these virtual meetings over Zoom.

On one hand it is harder to give an overview of the project, as you don’t get the whole wall pin-up. On the other hand, you are really in control of what the critic panel are seeing. You are the director and can control where the critic is looking, instead of them glazing over or getting focused on one particular part of your project. We would encourage you to see this as a positive opportunity where you can not only work on your presentation skills (which will come in handy for when you get some work experience) but it will also let you experiment with some digital skills that you might not have explored beforehand.

Let’s be real. You don’t have access to the workshop to make high-end models, but you could try to replicate the same with  a render. This tutorial by Archi Hacks shows you how to create a realistic looking model with a stunning result. 

You also will not be able to get the same level of interaction with your tutors. If possible, have open a drawing you’re working on set up on Photoshop which you can then screen-share with your tutors and in some cases hand over the controls to your desktop so that they can draw in notes and sketches. This idea was from the brilliant Thomas Rowntree also on YouTube – go check his videos out!

Here are some achievable tips that we would suggest for you to try and implement:

  1. Basic set-up

We’ve previously mentioned the importance of having a dedicated space for you to do work in and how this will keep you in the ‘work’ frame of mind and avoid procrastination. As well as this, you need to remember that you are still talking to your tutors and so finding a quiet space for about half an hour is key. Make sure your household members know when you will be having a call or just close your door, so you mean business.

  1. Draw a storyboard

If you’re struggling to keep your work organised or only have limited time with your tutors, try and draw out a storyboard of what you want to present. Keep it concise and think about any questions you want to ask. You can do this in your sketchbook pretty easily.

  1. Write your script. 

As you are not there in person, the words you are saying have more resonance. Plan what you want to say and practice it out loud. Time yourself. Avoid saying ‘and then’ ‘and then’… Avoid saying ‘This is the plan’. Instead, think about what you’re talking about results in, what are the consequences of it, why is it important? Keep questioning yourself so that your tutors don’t waste time trying to understand the gist of it and not get down to the actual details.

  1. Scale

Consider the scale of your drawings and how much detail will be visible. Of course, you want your drawings for your portfolios too but think about how easy it is to read your screen. Ensure you cover the Macro to the Micro. Again, by setting up a mock-up of this, you might be able to understand this better yourself.

  1. Keep it simple

Think about the design of your slides. Don’t do dissolving transitions and include extra faff that doesn’t add anything meaningful. Don’t try and cram in too much information at once either. Use your cursor to ‘point’ to things, but be careful you don’t use it as a nervous thing and move your mouse frantically all over.

  1. Practice

Call up a friend and rehearse it through with your friends over Zoom. Record yourself on your phone if necessary and just practice talking to the camera. The more you practice, it will not only make your presenting skills sharper, but it will give you more confidence too.

  1. Timing

Think about transition times. What effect do you want to create? Perhaps you are conveying research and want to show statistics to build up an image of the issue whilst you talk over. Or is it that you want to focus on a particular moment and would like to spend some time describing the image?

  1. Experiment

With a digital format, there is now an opportunity to use mixed media, inserting video clips, animated sections, GIFs. The possibilities are open to some new methods. Think about this but don’t get too fixated on adding more to your workload and trying to become an after-effects wizard on top of your degree project. Perhaps you could click through a sequence of diagrams in a simple way.

  1. Repeat your drawings. 

Utilise the digital format and repeat drawings to orientate your viewers to where you are talking about in the project. You will know your project quite well, but for fresh eyes without an overall image they may get lost. Feel free to repeat it several times. Also you can zoom into different scales.

Pro Tip* 

Your (re)viewers may have different screen proportions. Anything above 1080 pixels on the short side (screen height) will probably get chopped off. Consider and decide on the Aspect Ratio. Decide if you’re going DIN (A4, A3) or 4:3, 16:9. (Diagram) 

Hopefully, that helps you or gives you some ideas on ways to use virtual meeting methods such as Zoom to your advantage. Video presentations don’t need to be scary or seem like a chore. Try and stay proactive between tutorials. Some people tend to make a lot of effort and put in the work and once the tutorial is over, they go back to procrastinating. Use this momentum to write down a list of tasks for you to work on and get some ideas going. If you have any questions for your tutors in the meantime, write these down and after a few days, send over a quick email. It will keep the project fresh in their mind during your next call and you instantly have something to work on and talk about next time.

You might also want to ask for feedback after your presentation. It doesn’t matter if it is pre-recorded or live, finding things you can improve on will only make for a better outcome. We hope these tips might be of use to you. Do let us know what kinds of thing you’re implementing in your Zoom meetings. Stay safe.

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Q&A with a Landscape Architecture Student

Today we sit down with a 2nd year Landscape Architecture student, Mohammed Salmaan who is studying at The University of Greenwich. For those who might not have an idea about this interesting course and might want to learn more, then keep reading below.

1. How is Landscape Architecture different than Architecture? (in your opinion)

I get this question asked to me almost everyday by my mates in architecture and even by members of my own family. The simplest way I can explain the difference is by saying that architecture is the design of buildings and landscape architecture is the design of everything around those buildings. This includes the planting, water features, paving lighting , etc. I always like to think that architecture and landscape architecture work together. Architects design buildings and structures while landscape architects design the setting of these structures. In my opinion, landscape architects help enhance the beauty of buildings designed by architects.

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Garden of Giants by Mutabilis Landscape Architecture

2. What would you say you enjoy the most about studying Landscape Architecture?

I love expressing myself through the landscapes I designed. When you’re a student, you don’t have any restrictions from clients or funding. You get a brief and a site and you are allowed to design in anyway you like. I really enjoy sitting with a role of tracing paper on top of a map of the site and sketching, shading, colouring and creating this beautiful artwork. When you graduate and start to work in a firm you don’t always have the time and freedom to design as you please.

3. Did you always know you wanted to study this course?

No, not really. I’ve always had an interest in design and horticulture. But I never thought that I should choose a career which involves design and horticulture. I wanted to do something conventional like dentistry or optometry. To make up my mind I took a year off and I did a Level 3 course in horticulture at Capel Manor College in Enfield. I thought that I would study this course for a year and then apply for optometry. But after a year of being involved with nature and design, I knew I had to study something that I enjoyed and loved and also a course which is growing in popularity. That’s why I chose landscape architecture.

4. Which university do you attend and what do you think about the facilities, course structure and workload?

I attend the University of Greenwich. In my opinion my experience at the university so far has been very positive. The architecture and landscape architecture facilities are great, the staff are very helpful and always more than willing to help. The university has good studio space, enough computers, keep up to date with all the software used by architects and landscape architects and have a well equipped workshop.

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Stockwell Street – University of Greenwich

Personally, I have been satisfied with the course structure and the workload. The workload is a lot but it’s not overbearing. The structure of the course includes two studio days and one lecture day. I’m really happy with that as I enjoy studio days but struggle to stay awake on lecture days.

5. Would you recommend Landscape to those who are unsure about Architecture and may want to take a different route. If yes, why?

Yes, I definitely would. Landscape architecture is a profession which is really growing in demand all over the world. I believe that landscape architects will play a huge part in designing cities in the future. In a world which is trying to combat climate change and its effects, landscape architects can help by designing green spaces in cities or by working alongside architects to design modern sustainable and green buildings.

In my opinion, the best example that I can give off a project which a landscape architect has designed is Gardens By The Bay in Singapore which was designed by the Landscape Architect Andrew Grant. Designing spaces where nature can thrive in an urban city will be a huge part of landscape architects jobs in the future. I would definitely recommend landscape as a profession.

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Gardens by the Bay – Andrew Grant

6. What kinds of job routes can Landscape lead to?

Landscape Architecture is a wonderful profession in its self. However, there are other job routes that landscape can lead to such as urban design, horticulture and garden design. After I graduate, I intend to master in Urban Design.

7. How much time would you say you spend in the studio / working on your project in one week?

I spend between 20-25 hrs in a week working on my project. This involves making models, drawing plans and sections and laying out my portfolio. I get busier when I have my mid or end of term ‘crits’ or reviews. During this time, I sometimes pull all nighters at university.

8. What project / year in university did you enjoy the most?

I am currently towards the end of my second year. Between the two years, I would definitely say my second year has been the most enjoyable. I’ve developed more thorough proposals, learnt new techniques and made more detailed designs. I am definitely looking forward to and very optimistic about my third year.

9. And finally, do you have a comment on stereotypes for landscape architects or architects in general?

Well, I’ve found that when people often ask me what I’m studying and they hear the word ‘landscape’ they just dismiss the profession by saying that I’m just a gardener. Of course there is nothing wrong with being a gardener but landscape architecture is much more than that. Ive found that explaining what a landscape architect is, and how important landscape architects are to society, and also by mentioning famous landmarks designed by landscape architects such as Central Park and my personal favourite, Gardens By The Bay, helps combat the stereotype that landscape architects are just gardeners.

A big thank you to Salmaan for answering our questions. We hope you have some kind of insight into the work of landscape architects. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below. Also, go check out Salmaan’s profile on our website!

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Dissertation Advice Series – Part 1 Rebeka Zacková

If you are currently in the midst of planning or preparing for your dissertation, I am sure you have already read many “how to” articles online, or maybe even checked out some books on dissertation writing from the library.

There is a lot of great information out there and when writing my dissertation, I have also tried to follow all kinds of suggestions. However, there is one piece of advice that I didn’t come across, that would have possibly prevented me from getting into trouble very close to the deadline. My aim with this article is to recount my experience and explain how not to make the same mistake.

When we started the dissertation module in third year I was really excited. I knew that I wanted to write about architecture in virtual reality for quite some time and had read a number of books on the topic already.

The module started with a couple of lectures regarding writing the synopsis and it was very well structured and useful. I went through the whole suggested process and, alongside with the guidance from my advisor, I wrote my synopsis and received a high mark for it.

My dissertation was named “The Chair You Can’t Sit On” and it was discussing the current trend of translating real world architecture into the virtual environment. The “Chair” or furniture in general was supposed to illustrate how redundant some objects from real life are in the virtual world. What is the point of a chair you can’t sit on?

The very first time I came across Virtual reality was in the book Ready Player One by Ernst Cline, then later, fairly close to deciding on the topic for the dissertation I read an article in AEC Magazine- “Virtual Reality for architecture: a beginner’s guide. This article , as well as many others I read afterwards, explained the possibilities of implementing this new technology in the architecture field. It was mostly presented as a tool for architects to better understand the spaces they are designing, or as a more efficient means of communication between the architect and the client (as opposed to two-dimensional drawings and renderings).

Even though I agreed that this could have a positive impact on the design and communication process, I was wondering, how much further could we take it? This was so much different from what Ernst Cline was envisioning already in the 90s. I decided to explore this topic in my dissertation.

By posing the symbolic question “What does a chair mean in the virtual environment?” I started to examine the relationship between the real and the virtual. I was wondering what impact could the exploration of this relationship have on our understanding and future evolution of virtual architecture.

As the weeks went by everything seemed to be going well, I was spending loads of time in the library, (as my dissertation was mainly theoretical) reading and writing. However, as I became really invested in the virtual reality as a whole I started “playing” Second Life or rather visiting this 3D virtual world.

Second Life as described by its creator: San Francisco -based firm Linden Lab is The Largest User-Created 3D Universe where you can Build Your Dream Reality & Live extravagantly and have Complete Creative freedom. The media sometimes defines it as a multiplayer video game, sometimes even as a social network. However, the truth lies somewhere in between – combining all the different aspects of these into a completely unique experience. You’ll find people there who treat it as a game as well as people living their next life; there are people starting businesses and making money, but also people just trying to push the limits of its design laws.

One night, my avatar was walking around the Second Life’s universe. I was hoping to strike a conversation with someone, hopefully one that would lead me to getting a quote or any other interesting material for my dissertation.

It was very busy in the “house” my avatar was in, there was a party going on. Other avatars were dancing around in crazy costumes with some techno music in the background. I tried to strike a conversation with some of them but wasn’t having any luck. Then, I noticed someone sitting on a bar chair sipping on a virtual drink. My avatar sat down next to them and we got to talking. After a while I realized why I was able to approach that avatar sitting rather people dancing or walking and at that very moment my dissertation was condemned to take a radical turn.

I excused myself and was looking around the room seeing how different avatars were interacting and started to realize that furniture did have an actual purpose in the virtual space after all. “Sitting down” was not an act to rest your legs or get comfortable as it would be in the real world.  The action was performed as a non-verbal communication. It indicated people were committed to a longer or deeper conversation or it could signal that you were open to have a conversation.

Now, this discovery led me down a path of a whole other dimension of social interactions in a virtual environment and I felt that I could no longer argue against the use of furniture as such in avatar inhabited worlds. I felt like when planning my dissertation, I completely omitted this whole layer or angle. My whole dissertation at this point was supposed to prompt people to stop designing or get rid of their virtual furniture altogether. Re-reading all the text I have written thus far I could see the narrative setting the scene for that moment. I was in trouble.

All this happened during a break so I couldn’t ask my advisor for advice. It seemed dishonest to omit the information I learned just to “stay on track with my plan”. I decided to integrate the new knowledge into my dissertation as well as I could. Unfortunately, these new findings were from a completely different field of study – my dissertation started with semiotics and then in the middle a new layer of social interactions got added it became unclear what I was trying to say.

The whole work ended up being messy and seemed obvious I didn’t spend as much time on it as the rest of my research which at the end influenced my final mark. Thinking about it now I believe this could’ve been prevented if I planned my synopsis smarter and that is the reason I am writing this article.

So, what could I have done differently to not get into this trouble?

I believe the biggest mistake I made was to perceive the conclusion I wished to get to as an actual conclusion.  Looking back now, I can see that I didn’t allow for the research to unfold naturally, rather I was searching the books for arguments to support the point I wanted to make. It would have definitely helped me to call the “conclusion” in the early process a “hypothesis” and maybe it would have been useful to come up with at least a few. This would have reminded me that I am researching a dissertation question not simply putting together a compelling set of arguments supporting my claim.

To take from my experience when preparing for your dissertation:

1 Read all the books and consider all the sources you possibly can before planning the synopsis. Even though I did read 80-90% of the material, I didn’t consider Second Life as such a valuable resource. I underestimated its value.

2 Write the conclusion as a theory rather than as a set destination.

Make sure to stop and consider all the possibilities. You could even try to ask your tutor or classmates whether they can see different outcomes.

3 Don’t try to achieve too much.

At the end of the day it’s only 10,000 words. When I found out this new layer of information I should’ve been more critical. It would’ve been good to just have a sit down with myself and take a hard-uninvested look into the matter. See that there is not enough space to explore both of these topics in depth and just leave the other one for next project.

4 Try to see the whole project.

Try to read the text in different progress stages with fresh eyes. As if it was not your work, as if you had no background in the topic you were writing about. This should help you see it there is a good flow throughout your dissertation and also that all the sections are development in a more or less same depth. If you do this correctly, the thought process supporting your research question will be clearly understood through the whole text and your dissertation more successful.

Maybe it seems pretty obvious to you where the mistake occurred. I can see it now too, but 2 years ago when I was so deeply invested in researching this topic, trying to stick to the plan and deadlines I failed to see the bigger picture. I am hoping my experience can be of use to you and good luck with your dissertation!

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Best Things To Do After a Tutorial or Crit

A tutorial or crit is essential for a cycle of feedback and improvement. While you’re in architecture school, you’ll soon realise that a big part of sharing your ideas and parts of your projects involve a lot of presenting. Without a doubt, it is a necessary skill to have when you get into the workplace.

To explain it simply, a tutorial usually happens once a week, with your tutor or tutors, to go over how the project is going and have a general chat. Usually, they give you feedback or help you with certain aspects of your design, giving you references and making sure you’re on the right track.

A crit, or critique, is more of a presentation / open conversation that happens with other colleagues or outside guests. This is helpful as it provides an outside eye to have a look at your work and give you their feedback with regards to their expertise. This can also involve other tutors or people from the university. So, the way to handle tutorials and crits, and actually learn from them, involves some key things that you need to practice regularly.

We’ll also be including an excerpt written by Dimitra Peppa on how she dealt with a series of bad tutorials and the way in which it affected her work.

The first thing you can do, even before starting a tutorial is to be prepared to go over your work. If you’re worried about public speaking, look at our article on ‘Top Tips to Presenting your Work’. Preparation ensures you don’t look like you don’t care about your work. Being punctual for example, can show others that you want to share your work and you’re ready to receive feedback.

The presentation of your work is also important. Since tutorials can be a bit more informal, it’s fine to show ideas through your sketchbook or present developmental work and stuff that is not finished yet. Crits however, usually require you to pin up your work so the tutors can see your work in its entirety. The first thing to do is to get your work together and figure out what you want to say about it. For example, why you think some things work or which parts you’re working on at the moment. Then, tell them about the things you want to achieve by next week, next month or by the end of the project.

Before a tutorial or crit, you can also record a voice note of the conversation. Make sure you have permission to do this for the sole purpose of going over it. It can be easy to miss a lot of information while you are presenting or talking and catching up on note taking during the tutorial or crit can be difficult. If possible, during a crit, it can be good to ask a friend to take notes for you. It means you can present without dividing your attention and making your presentation great.

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If you don’t understand something or feel like you missed it, take a second and just ask them to repeat it or explain it further. Some tutors will give you references of projects to look at or ways in which you can better your drawings and if you’re lucky they will even draw some things out for you on tracing. The questions you ask depend on where you are in your project or what kinds of things you could be having difficulty with or even if you have some unique ideas you want to discuss. 

After your tutorial, it can be easy to forget your notes and carry on with how you’re working. If you disagree with the kind of feedback you got, you can either speak to another tutor or peer, or try and contact your tutor later on. If you feel you’ve had a really terrible tutorial or crit, and all the feedback suggested to you was negative, try not to get yourself down. Dimitra tells us about her experience.

In my opinion, the truth is that you usually end up turning a bad crit into something more personal. You think that they judge you as a person and not actually your work. Think about it. Is it possible to satisfy every single person? I mean, in general. But in the architectural world more specifically, each professor has his/her own taste, their own personal experiences and so it’s pretty normal for them to like or focus on different things at your project.

Just try to be nice when you hear things you may not like at all, and later on when you’re at home, resting from that overnight preparation, think about the points they may be right, or what you may have done better to be more content with your outcome.

If I had the chance to give myself some tips when I first started architecture school, they would sound like this: 

  • Try not to concentrate on your grades or how much your project has developed, but the learning process of the crit. The bigger picture. 
  • Not everyone’s right. Not you, sometimes not even your tutors.
  • Maybe they are not in a good mood today, it’s not your fault.
  • Try and be prepared. While working on the project, try and give a presentation to yourself to listen out loud and see if there are any missing points or errors.
  • Last but not least, a bad crit is not the end of the world. You probably won’t remember a word of it in a month, a year and so on.

As I said, you should be able to turn bad criticism into productive knowledge during your architectural journey. But I happen to know that’s not always something very easy to do. I reflect on a series of tutorials where me and my colleague always got very sad about out tutor’s words and didn’t defend our project at all.

In fact, we tried to re-design our project based solely on our tutor’s words. So, the night before our final crit we couldn’t even find the words to explain our project or present our work properly. Because it wasn’t actually our project. In the end, we decided not to present our project and to not pass the design module. 

That was my experience of how bad tutorial after bad tutorial after bad tutorial actually ruined our project. Or to be honest, our perspective of the ‘bad’ tutorial ruined our project and our semester. And I hope it can be a good example for all of you, as it was for us to not let feedback get you down or diminish your own creative process.

Taking in the feedback is very important. It’s all good and well to keep progressing with your work but if you don’t listen to any feedback, chances are you will be getting the same feedback every time. Sometimes, your tutors will want you to work on that one thing they mentioned last time even if you have new work to show them.

Then, you won’t really be doing any progress and any you do might go to waste. Then, the best thing to do is go over your notes and read over them one or twice more. Even if you barely have any notes, it’s still worth looking over your notes. Then, either re-write them or make a list. Here at :scale we love lists.

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A list of tasks to do before your next tutorial or crit is great for managing your time, for getting a clear perspective on exactly what you need to do to further your work. It’s very easy to get ‘stuck’ almost like having a writer’s block but for architecture. You can do this in your sketchbook, or on a separate piece of paper to stick up in front of you, or you could use online note-taking tools such as Evernote or Google Keep. Whichever works for you is best.

After going over your notes, writing a list, and taking in the feedback, there could be a chance you are still confused or unsure of what to do next. In this case, you can ask peers for help or try and work on one part of your work and ask for feedback via e-mail or in person. You could also e-mail them to share your next steps. This keeps it fresh in your mind as well as theirs. You also have to remember they have more than one person to oversee so it can be tricky to keep track of.

Eventually, you will also realise that this entire process is repeated all over again after your next tutorial or crit. Being organised just means you can keep on track with your work and not worry about meeting small deadlines and actually work on your project and the things you are passionate about.

To summarise, the best things you can do for a tutorial or crit is:

  1. Prepare before your crit
  2. Take notes, or have someone take them for you
  3. Take in the feedback you receive
  4. Go over your notes, and rewrite them
  5. Write a list to manage your time
  6. Ask for more feedback later on

We hope this post helps you figure out what to do after a tutorial or crit, and helps you be more organised. If you have any tips yourself feel free to share them in the comments below, or just share some of the things you do to help.

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Why Taking Care of Yourself in the Design World is Essential

Disclaimer: This is a guest post written by Bianca Brinner, a freelance interior designer. She speaks about her journey in this industry and dealing with mental health and finding her way back. This post in no way means to offer any medical advice. It is simply the point of view of an individual.

My general dream in life was to live the life of a creative individual. I admired movie characters like Don Draper or Andy Warhol. Then, I found my passion for designing interior spaces – more specifically – I wanted to design exhibitions. That was my dream and the journey ended up being something completely unexpected. 

I started studying interior design at a very normal university in Germany. The first skill I had to learn was how to work all day long. But this wasn’t studying in the traditional method with books, it was learning how to design and construct projects. What I didn’t expect to find in this whole process was the huge amount of pressure. In university, I was competing with the other students around me, some who were 10 years older, or had studied other courses previously. I didn’t have great experience in design software either. Eventually, none of my projects gave me any satisfaction.

And with all that came the time pressure. Sometimes, I was working through the night and sometimes, I didn’t sleep for two days. I thought it might get better in the real world. At my work experience I was working in a high-pressure environment, being the youngest and the most unexperienced person in the team.

Don’t get me wrong, the project was incredible, and I am proud to have been a part of it. But the pressure in the team as well as my anxiety just wasn’t good for my health. The worst time I can remember was when I had to work over 80 hours a week for almost no money which is somehow normal in this industry being a novice. No one even cares about the fact that this is exploitation.

The next year, I was working on my thesis which is the most important project of the whole program. I can’t even remember what was worse; having no idea what to present or the pressure of wanting to deliver it perfectly. Let’s just say I somehow survived my own mess. At that point I should’ve stopped and thought ‘Where do I really want to go?’ But as my time finished in university, I was offered an opportunity I couldn’t say no to. I was hired right at my bachelor’s celebration and two months later, I was designing like crazy. I had to do things I didn’t even know existed because I didn’t learn about it in university.

You could say I was thrown into the deep end with no warning whatsoever. So, after 18 months of being in a totally stressed out team, I reached my breaking point, broke down and had to leave. I couldn’t handle the pressure, or even myself in this state. I moved back to live my parents and started going to therapy. If your parents tell you to stay home, just do it. It saved me from drowning in that cold-hearted city. 

Being in therapy is hard. You can only help yourself and in my case I opened up after a huge fight with my parents. This fight was my breaking point, because for the first time ever I was honest. I was honest about hating my life and about wanting to do something totally different with it. For the first time ever, I told people about being bullied and depressed at school. I never really told anyone about this, partly because I was too afraid of myself and the bullies. 

You must be thinking, what’s the point of reading this? Well, I want to help people in a similar situation of my own by sharing my story and even providing some advice on a small level. 

The first major tip I can offer is to listen to your heart. If it isn’t right, think about changing it. You don’t have to be in a job you secretly despise. This is the most important part for your health. If your mental health is starting to get hurt, stop immediately. If your head tells you every morning to stop working, listen to it. Listen to your gut. Most of the time, he is right. Yes, there will be certain responsibilities and limitations you need to uphold but if you look at the bigger picture, if you’re not happy doing the work you’re doing, eventually the amount of money you get won’t even matter.

Secondly, stop romanticising working in the design industry. It’s f****** hard to survive in – excuse the language. It’s not always going to be about designing pretty things or furniture, it’s hard work with as much overtime as you allow yourself. But that is something nobody will tell you. Realistically, it should be a very conscious decision. If you are struggling, stop for a moment and think. This industry is very demanding. Do you really want to invest that much time in a job you are not passionate about? I had to learn that the hard way.

I found my way through all that, so it is possible. Yes, I am still struggling to stop myself from running all day long ridiculously however you can’t get anywhere without any pain, but it shouldn’t reach a point where there is too much pain. This industry has a problem with too much workload and the lack of talking about mental health in the offices, but it also has a lot of very passionate people who love their jobs. There are so many great ways of working in your own conditions. 

I know I’ve been focused on the negatives, but I do love my job and being creative/using my creativity in every way is just what I wanted to do for so long. But it can be dangerous. I want to encourage people to stop for a minute and think; Am I in the right situation? And if not, how can I change it?

We are our own bosses in life.

You can easily get caught in someone else’s shadow but stepping out of that just for a bit, is breath-taking and helps you to focus. In my journey it was the decision to change what I wanted to do. I know there is a huge responsibility in this field, but I enjoyed that. There is also a high demand of thinking and new ideas that can overwhelm you. But to change all that, I decided to be self-employed and to have control over my invested time in projects. I know, that can be hard as well, it comes with it’s own advantages and disadvantages and you have to stand up for your own opinions and be in charge of making your own money. The constant worry can eat you up, if you are not conscious about it. 

Coming out of university and being exposed to that high demand and the pressure can seem like there is no room for development and mistakes. I‘ve learnt to embrace mistakes because of the fact that I was called out for so many mistakes I made previously. It just gave me the feeling of being worthless. But I learned to embrace them because that means you can learn from them. I am still trying to embrace my own mistakes, but I try to be open about where I come from and why I do certain things. I like to ask a lot of questions, because I want to know the smallest detail of a project. Initially, I thought this was bad, but I learnt that this is my way of learning.

Nowadays, people get annoyed by this, but don‘t be afraid! You can‘t know everything and you can‘t be everywhere. The best tip is to take notes each time there is something you are unclear on. If you ask a bunch of questions and take down the answers you have something to look at if it comes up again. Try to educate yourself as best as you can. If you know what you are talking about, it’s easier to find the way you want to go and communicate that to your boss. He/she will realize your strengths and maybe rethink your position.

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That can help if you want to change yourself. Before studying for interior design, I had brief training in Economics. I am still afraid of doing certain tasks like calculation, price points, organisation of projects and being a leader. But I knew how to handle buying furniture or how to negotiate prices, dates and other stuff. Try to find a way to educate or ask colleges who can help.

To conclude, I decided to stay an interior designer, but I also focused on my mental health. I can’t even express how thankful I am for the help I’ve gotten from all my friends and family. I found my passion in drawing. To me, taking the time to draw every day is essential. It’s my way of coping with the anxiety and expressing my feelings. Anxiety is a serious problem and I have suffered from this my whole life. So be aware of the decisions you make in this kind of job. Never lose yourself. Ask yourself every day: Is this the right decision? Is that my life or someone else?

The last and most important thing I’ve learned from this experience is to be open about your struggles and problems. Because face it, life isn’t always good. There are so many bad days, break ups, job cancellations and maybe even illnesses. But if you are open with people, you will be surprised how many others will tell you their true stories and struggles. It happens to me all the time. And I really enjoy these moments, because they make us human.

At the moment I am looking to find my own way in the business, but with a more healthy and sustainable work ethic. I don’t know what the future will bring for me and if I will be able to hold up my principles. I don’t know if I will be a freelancer forever, but at the moment I really enjoy being my own boss.

Read more about Bianca on our Guest Authors page.