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.
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.
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:
- 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
- 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.
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.
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!