How to Make an Illustration Using ArchiCAD

There is a multitude of software to learn as an architecture student, graduate and professional. There’s no time like the present to build your skills and find a tool that works best for you. Although the usual software as Sketchup and AutoCAD, not to mention Revit as the professional standard, one software we don’t hear much of is ArchiCAD. This guest post is by Palash Trivedi who’s kindly shown us how to create an illustrative scene in ArchiCAD and post-produce it in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

❗ Note: I am not a pro in any of this software, I am sharing just what I have experienced while working in these. So, I may not be able to provide an in-depth review or analysis, but I have tried to explain what I know in the best possible manner.

What Is ArchiCAD and how did I come to use it?

ArchiCAD is a BIM Software of Graph iSOFT company made for Architects, to produce fast, accurate and complex architectural projects with ease. For those who aren’t aware of BIM, BIM means Building Information Module which basically treats your 3D models with real-time material properties and Information, unlike SketchUp which treats it just as an amalgamation of Surfaces and Fills. 

Plus, it has the basic CAD capabilities which can be used to draw in a 2D environment, but here the 3D model will be generated automatically with your 2D work or if you work in a 3D environment(Model Space) then your 2D works which contain the drawings will be created or will get updated automatically.

Do you prefer it over other modelling software like Sketchup, Revit, Rhino and if yes then why?

ArchiCAD vs SketchUp.

My preference is ArchiCAD 100%

SketchUp is easy to use, but so is ArchiCAD. ArchiCAD also contains a MORPH tool which simply works just as the SketchUp works viz. creating solids, push-pull, subtraction & intersection of solids. More than that, as I mentioned previously ArchiCAD works with materials and its information, so all your walls, slabs, roofs, beams etc. will be of actual materials like concrete, steel, bricks, stones etc. based on how you apply and use them in your project. Plus, you don’t have to use two different software such as AutoCAD for 2D work and Sketchup for 3D modelling. Both the process is done in ArchiCAD itself and they will be done simultaneously. 

Considering the OBJECTS, ArchiCAD 24 has included many new objects in its library, but if you want to use your own objects like some particular piece of furniture or doors or windows, then you can easily make them in ArchiCAD in a separate file and can use it anytime.

So, in the end, it depends on you on what to use, but if you want to spend more time in Designing instead of drafting and modelling, then I would strongly recommend you to use ArchiCAD.

ArchiCAD vs Revit

I will still go for ArchiCAD.  Here the comparison is not as contrasting as compared to SketchUp as both ArchiCAD and Revit are BIM software’s and both have their pros and cons when compared each other. 

Basic qualities

ArchiCAD is one of the oldest BIM or in other words one of the first BIM software’s which came into the AEC industry. Thus, they are more experienced in BIM and Revit which came very later. But in the past few years, Revit has become more famous and used thanks to its Parent company Autodesk which is more famous in the AEC industry than any other company. But it has some advantages also such as it has more plug-ins built-in than ArchiCAD and has a bigger Object library. But in the latest version of ArchiCAD, i.e. ArchiCAD 24, they have integrated the MEP plug-in which can do most of the things which a project needs. In addition to these, ArchiCAD also comes with the integration of LIVE SYNC with RHINO & GRASSHOPPER, hence creating parametric structures will also become more EFFICIENT in ArchiCAD rather than Revit which does have a plug-in called DYNAMO in it for parametric use but it crashes very often and is not that reliable.

Workflow & UI

When it comes to workflow and UX. ArchiCAD is again better than Revit as it is very easy to use as compared to Revit and has a more interesting user interface than Revit. ArchiCAD contains tools like PUSH & PULL, MAGIC WAND & MARQUEE, which can make it very easy and fast to edit and work on your project, but these tools or tools doing similar functions are missing in Revit, which makes it very tough to learn and work as well.

Integration with Structural Engineers and MEP Consultants

Revit has a slight edge here as it has a wide range of plug-ins that are built in it, and secondly due to the already established market of Autodesk due to which many Structural engineers are already working on Revit. But ArchiCAD 24 has been significantly improved in terms of interoperability and management, and it has a better IFC (Industry Foundation Class) export option through which any Structural or MEP consultant can easily work on it, also it as introduced a BIM cloud which can be used for the teamwork with different agencies in the same project. So, it’s just a matter of time for ArchiCAD to become better.


When it comes to Visualization, both are equal in terms of output which is definitely not as good as the rendering engines like Vray or Lumion. ArchiCAD comes with CINEMA 4D & has recently bought the rights for Twinmotion and UNREAL engine which can be a very good combination but it has just been started and there are many things to improve here. 

While Revit also has a decent rendering engine in itself but when compared to other Rendering Software they both fall way behind. But both of the software can be easily used with Lumion so it does not matter much on these aspects.


I have a personal preference for ArchiCAD over Revit due to the above-mentioned reasons, but for students, I would suggest learning both the software as both have their own place in the Industry and both will make your CV very strong.

ArchiCAD vs Rhino

These two cannot be compared directly as they both are used for very different and specific reasons and these can vary from person to person. Rhino is a parametric software that is used for making complex and organic forms while ArchiCAD is a BIM software that is specially made for Architects and can make some level of complex forms in it also. But as I mentioned earlier, ArchiCAD as a plug-in for Rhino & Grasshopper, so making parametric buildings is also very much possible in ArchiCAD also. So, using both of them together would be a much efficient way provided you want to make a parametric building, otherwise just for straight or curved surfaces, ArchiCAD is more than enough.

How to Create the Illustration

Step 1: Creating a View (ArchiCAD)

Arrange a Particular View in 3D model space which you wish to generate.

Step 2: Generating a 3D document (ArchiCAD)

Create a 3D Document of it by right-clicking on the 3D Documents panel on the right side and then select “NEW 3D DOCUMENT FROM 3D”.

It will just create a Separate file of that particular view which you can edit.

❗ Note: ArchiCAD also has different view modes in 3D model Space just like Sketchup,i.e, Hidden Lines, Shaded, Vectorial etc. So I have used a Simple View mode in the View space which shows the model in just black and white surfaces, but the model already has its material properties and surface finishes. So whenever you will make a 3D document, it will be shown in the actual surface finishes which you would be providing while making the model.

Step 3: Creating a Worksheet (ArchiCAD)

Once you have generated the 3D document, you now have to create a WORKSHEET of that Document. So as shown in the image, without making any changes in the 3D document, just go to that 3D document and click on the worksheet tool in the tool’s panels on the left. 

Create the worksheet by dragging down your mouse from top left corner to bottom right corner around the area which you want to export.

It will show a small circle with the name of the worksheet written inside it on the right side as shown in image. Right click on that circle and then click “OPEN VIEW WITH CURRENT SETTINGS”

Now you have entered the Worksheet which will look like this:

Step 4; Editing the view in Worksheet (ArchiCAD)

Now click on the “Suspend Groups” as shown in image. This will allow you to edit each line and surfaces individually. You can change the color, line type, linewidth of the lines and color, its transparency or any material hatch to the surfaces.

This is how you can edit the SURFACES; just click on the surface you want to edit and all the options will be visible in the toolbar.

This is how you can edit the LINES

STEP 5; Using Marquee tool (ArchiCAD)

After completing the editing of lines and surfaces, you have to export it as a PDF. 

In order to do that, select the MARQUEE TOOL from the tools panel from the left side as shown in the image. Select the whole area as shown.

STEP 6: Exporting as PDF (ArchiCAD)

Now select SAVE AS (Shift+Ctrl+S) and Select PDF. 

Click on use MARQUEE AREA and FIT TO PAGE as shown in the image and select the page size according to your choice, Finally click OK to save it and it will be exported as a PDF.

STEP 7; Editing the pdf (Illustrator)

Now open that PDF file in Illustrator and you can edit anything on It by using the Select Same tool by going to the Select Tab respectively as shown in the images. Try to use layers to keep everything separate as it will provide better control over the view for the editing.

STEP 8: Save as Ai file (Illustrator)

STEP 9: Importing the Ai file into Photoshop 

Create a NEW file in the Photoshop and Click on PLACE LINK Option from the Files menu and select the Ai file.

If you want the canvas to be of the same size, then first make the Photoshop panel of the same size as of the Ai file and when importing the Ai file, select on “CROP TO MEDIA BOX”, it will keep the size of the view the same.

STEP 10: Editing & Exporting the final work (Photoshop)

Now you can add various things like, humans, trees, vehicles birds etc. in the view by using either brush tool or clone stamp tool as shown in the images

After finishing, save the .psd file and Export it as a JPEG or PDF file according to your need.

The final output will look like this:

Hope this tutorial opened a different kind of workflow for you and if you ever want to experiment with ArchiCAD, this can be a great first exercise to try.


How to Create Iterative Massing Diagrams in Sketchup

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

Establishing your Programme

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

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

  • Bubble Diagrams
  • Hierarchy diagrams
  • Spider Diagrams.

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

Using CAD Modelling Software as a Tool for Thinking

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

Learning the Basic Tools 

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

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

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

Dividing the Form into Programme Zones

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

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

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

Exporting your Final Massing Models

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

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

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

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

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

Doing Post Production in Adobe IIllustrator 

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

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

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

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

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

For the Wireframe images:

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

 Bringing the Image Together

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

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


How You Can Get More Done in a Week

No this isn’t an ancient secret, there are no acronyms, no kind of formula or set of steps to follow to get more done. This article isn’t about me telling you some complicated way of getting more things done throughout your day or week. There are aspects of your life which will be different to mine; you might have more responsibilities or a different schedule altogether which means there is no right or wrong way of being more productive and getting what some people would consider as a lot throughout the week.

Let’s skip back to the beginning of last year (2020), I’ll set the scene.

Essentially, I was on ‘holiday’ mode. My job search was actively taking place but there weren’t any imminent responsibilities or schedules I had to stick to. The pandemic hadn’t even begun so I was taking life one step at a time, knowing that at any point it could change. That’s the key here, Tomorrow could be vastly different from today, and I’m not trying to scare you, but the idea to keep in the back of your mind is that no one is productive 365/365 days. We all have periods of intense productivity or work or commitments that take up a lot of our time. If there is one thing I’ve learnt from this pandemic, not just from my personal experiences but those of others’, it’s that life is unpredictable.

I also didn’t really have a strict routine during the week and apart from the blog, there weren’t any other projects taking up a lot of my time. I did work a portfolio update and helped out with family business things. But I didn’t feel the need to write down what I had to do for the week. Now, in university, this was totally different. Obviously, deadlines are pretty serious and at that time my sketchbook was the place where I would write down all the things I had to do from this week’s tutorial to next week’s tutorial. But it was never on my mind to try and get more done.


So sometime between January and March, I found Notion. Now, I’m not saying Notion specifically changed the way I work but instead, it’s the concept of capturing ideas or tasks. If you’re specifically looking for guidance on productivity, then I’d recommend watching the video below by Ali Abdaal, then reading Getting Things Done by David Allen. The first core principle in this book is to Capture.

So, this specific concept is what many people don’t really realise is key to getting loads of things done. If you look back on some of our posts throughout the year, I always mention creating lists and staying organised. The method is essentially the same. At the moment, I have so many things and projects to concentrate on that if there was no capturing method, I’m sure at least 70% of those would be forgotten about. That’s not great when you’re trying to get a lot done. So how am I able to even balance so many projects? Because I’ve got a system sorted.

In university, this system was good enough to get me by, but looking back now I cannot believe I didn’t even have something as simple as a digital checklist. The reason for it being digital is so that I don’t have to wait to get home to write it in my sketchbook. Let’s be honest, inspiration can hit you anytime, anywhere. Offline tools have their advantages, but there is an undeniable satisfaction in an analogue method – either apply here!

Strategy to Get More Done

The key here is the level of priority and urgency for your tasks in one week. The priority can depend on deadlines, time constraints and your involvement in these projects. But there is also a level of priority you usually have in your head on a day-to-day basis. For example, today was the best day for me to work on the next few blog posts and wrap up most of the tasks I usually have for this blog because tomorrow I’m planning on dedicating all my time towards a secret project 😉.

Every single morning, I sit down and think about what I have to do for today and sometimes tomorrow. Without fail, every single day.

Once you do capture all the information in your head, it can be a little difficult or overwhelming trying to organise everything. In Notion, I assign a priority that ranges from 1st – 3rd. Some apps like Todoist even do this automatically for you. Honestly, if any task takes the 3rd priority, I don’t even bother adding it. Do I really need to do that task? Chances are that I’ve either worded it wrong or the task I’m writing down isn’t so urgent as I think. The way you write down your tasks is super important. If you add something like ‘Complete plans, elevations and section’ you’re having a laugh!

But instead, if you break down these tasks, even into smaller tasks that might take you half an hour, you’ll not only feel a sense of satisfaction after completing it, you will also be able to see and understand how long the entire project might take you so you can get a feeling of what your personal pace is – which will also help you in the future. I usually give myself a limit of an hour. If it’s going to take me more than an hour then I need to split it into two tasks.

The other and very truthful thing about getting a lot done in a week is that you have to have a passion for whatever you’re doing because if you’re not, you will procrastinate for as long as you can to avoid it, and that’s not getting it done. Now, I don’t see working on the blog as a chore or ‘job’, in fact, I’m writing this on the couch, whilst watching Masterchef – this is my relaxing time (and when I write best)!. Once you eliminate the notion that your projects are detached from you and are just things you have to do, you start feeling a sense of pride and excitement. I’d always recommend re-evaluating what you’re doing at the moment and whether you’re enjoying it.

5, 5, 5

So how can you get more done in a week? Next week, for 5 days, try to start your day by adding 5 tasks that you want to accomplish each day. You could block this out in a calendar, you could even plan for the entire week if you’re confident enough. Then, at the end of the week write down 5 things that worked. Did you work better during the day or at night? Did you find yourself completing writing tasks quicker – and if so, could you go one step further by making it a filler task?

A filler task is something that you can do whenever, wherever without thinking about it. This means that if you are avoiding or procrastinating you can lean on your filler task and that way you’re still doing something enjoyable and completing something that is important!

To sum it up, what you may think of as ‘a lot’ could be different from the person next to you. But what is important here, especially for students, is that you need to be able to capture and prioritise what you want to be achieving. By creating systems for ourselves that we know work, it will be much easier to work through tasks and deadlines and still be able to make time for the things that matter.

So, that’s it. That’s how I get a lot of things done in a week. I make sure my system works for me and try not to overload myself and I make sure that anything I invest my time into, I enjoy doing. Make sure you’re asking yourself, is this worth it? In 5 years time, will what I am doing today be of any relevance to me? The answer in your head will immediately decide whether it is worth your time in the present. Remember that you don’t need to work as a drone either; switch up your routine, put things on the back-burner for the moment and do something new, fun and exciting. Strict routines could work for some people, whereas for others you just have to keep trying new things. You really never know where it can lead you.


Teamwork and Detailing

Welcome back to my little column of unsolicited studying advice. Today is Act 3 and we are looking at two more topics, this time a little more outside the basic university requirements: how to work in a team and detailing a building.

How to work in a team

In 8 years of studying to become an architect, I cannot recall a single time I heard someone get excited by the prospect of group work. Instead, most people tended to sigh and moan and generally have a good old gripe. In my opinion, this is silly. Working in a team means, theoretically, that you get to do less work! Ok, maybe not in terms of hours spent, but in terms of topics covered this ‘should’ be the case. A group project gives you the opportunity to make the most of everyone’s individual skill sets to create a piece of work that is far better than something you could produce by yourself.

Unfortunately, this does not always happen. I am going to break down the way I have seen team projects tend to go in the past, and then point out a more idealised alternative. Hopefully, this will all make sense and seem worthwhile to you.

The Typical Process

Step 1: the tutor announces that the next project will be group work. This could be a group research project, a full semester-long project to design a building, a short hackathon type design challenge over a few days, or anything in between. Queue groans.

Step 2: everyone separates off into groups or, occasionally, are assigned groups by staff. This tends to result in friends grouping with friends (understandably) and often has a knock-on effect of pairing together like-minded teammates.

Step 3: the newly formed groups sit around discussing what they need to do until they hit on an idea nobody hates. This can take minutes or days.

Step 4: the group separates out work largely based on who volunteers to do what. In this instance, volunteering can often mean you ‘demand to do the one single thing they like and refuses to entertain the notion of anybody else doing it’.

Step 4a: Someone ends up with all the bit-pieces nobody else wanted to do. Depending on who ends up in this position, this can lead to resentment.

Step 5: everyone splits up, whether in the studio or not, and works on their own little part of the project. Communication at this stage varies drastically between teams.

Step 6: the group meets up again to discuss what everyone has done. At least one person has gone off on a tangent and done something else/not done what they agreed to do/done the exact same thing as another person because that person was assigned the task this person secretly wanted. Everyone talks about what has been produced and what needs to be produced, and who is going to start collating things together (if that is required). 

Step 7: Repeat steps 5 and 6 until either the project is deemed finished by all team members or the deadline arrives.

Step 8: if everyone finishes on time, do a final once-over of everything to check what can be tweaked/improved upon. More likely, as the deadline is tomorrow, everyone panic and rush to finish individual bits and send them to the poor sod given responsibility for making sure everything fits together.

Do you see any issues in the above? I do. I’m sure there are some lucky people reading this thinking “that sounds terrible, my group work never went like that”. Unfortunately in my experience (and clearly in the experience of many others, else Step 1 would not exist) a lot of teamwork seems to end up going this way. I think this is likely due to the fact that as a rule we architects tend to have something of an ego. We have to have some self-worth, else we wouldn’t believe that what we are doing is something anybody else would be interested in. 

This is further exacerbated by the propensity of our architecture courses to focus on the design studio as a solitary endeavour. Most of our work over 5 years of study is done on our own, yet very few buildings are designed by a single person. Even a sole-practitioner creating a house extension will have to work with a builder and an engineer at some point in the process. Yet at university we are trained to have unfettered dreams, creating fantastical structures entirely by ourselves. This obviously has merit in some areas, but in training us to work in practice it is wholly flawed. As such, the above process should ideally work somewhat differently.

The Ideal Process

Step 1: the group project is announced. 

Step 2: ideally, groups would be assigned by tutors and contain a range of interests and abilities. Instead of everyone who regularly gets high marks working together, encourage them to share their knowledge with those who may have to work harder to achieve high marks. Since this is not something we students can necessarily decide, short of insisting our tutors do this, try and form groups with people you wouldn’t normally spend time with different skills and ideas. This more accurately reflects the work environment. You don’t always get to work with your buddies.

Step 2a: if one is not appointed by your tutor (though if I’m being honest they should be) appoint a team leader. In practice, this would be the project architect or a partner/director, but in university team projects there is rarely a leader. Having a leader is vital to successful teamwork. They can make executive decisions if everyone is refusing to agree on something, and they can act as a central point to make sure everyone is carrying out the tasks they get assigned. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, whether by voting, volunteering, drawing names out of a hat, or any other way that makes sense. What is most important is that everyone agrees to the principle that one team member is ostensibly “in charge”, even if their main role is to simply speed things up and reduce disagreements.

Step 3: unfortunately this step is largely the same. Coming up with a great creative idea simply can take a long time. However, to try and be more efficient, everyone can be sent away for a few hours to do some preliminary research and ideas, then come back and present to the group. This will avoid lots of unnecessary “I have this idea” followed by everyone vaguely agreeing before someone says something everyone likes better. This can then be followed up by a group session, perhaps with a big piece of paper for everyone to scribble on so that everyone can begin making connections between ideas. Ultimately this is a key place where a team leader is essential: if time is of the essence they need to be able to make a decision about what design/subject/idea to focus on.

Step 4: work is distributed as fairly as possible, based on each individual’s interests and skills. Again, having a team leader helps as they can assign roles to reduce squabbling. If everyone is given a task, it is much more difficult for someone to claim that another person “stole” their bit of the project. This is particularly useful if any team members refuse to volunteer for anything until the end, only to request doing something completely made up or that has already been assigned to someone else. When doing this, it is essential that each member’s task is a SMART goal (I.e. specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-specific). This makes it very clear what everyone will be doing, rather than one person doing research and another doing renders.

Step 4A: as part of allocating work, a house style should be agreed upon. Teamwork should look coherent and consistent, which is difficult to achieve if everyone simply works in their own way. This is the perfect opportunity for everyone to share their graphical and design tips and tricks with one another to build each other up and improve everyone’s work. It would also be a good idea to assign one person who has a particularly good eye, to check everyone’s work and make any tweaks to ensure consistency.

Step 5: everyone goes and works on their tasks, with clearly defined roles and soft deadlines.

Step 6: work is reviewed regularly as a team in a structured manner, assessing how everyone is getting on with their individual tasks and how they are approaching the ultimate goal. Work is re-allocated as and when it becomes necessary. 

Step 7: Repeat steps 5 and 6 until a self-imposed hard deadline, ideally a few days before the final submission date.

Step 8: the entire team goes over the final product and carries out any last-minute amendments.

I have a feeling that this topic has turned into my longest subject to date, but it is also one of the more complicated ones. Teamwork is something we are rarely specifically taught, and as such, it is difficult to summarise briefly. It also requires knowledge in many of the other areas I have and will cover, in particular the ability to use your tools correctly and manage your time well. This is an area where utilising some sort of shared calendar system could be particularly beneficial. In general, from my experience, the key stumbling blocks in teamwork has always been the lack of a clear leader, the insistence of some members in doing their own thing, and the lack of self-imposed deadlines. With these three things sorted, the rest should (I would hope) be easier to achieve.

Detailing buildings 

The second half of Act 3 is quite different from my previous topics, being far more prescriptive. It is also a particularly detailed topic (no pun intended) and as such I will try to refer more to other sources and keep things brief. This should suffice for most purposes, especially at university.

The first point to make about detailing buildings while at university is that usually, tutors are more interested in seeing that you have made your best effort than that everything is completely correct. Given the general preference for bespoke solutions in architecture (though Modern Methods of Construction are slowly becoming more commonplace) it is unlikely that you will know how to detail everything off the bat. As such, it is best to focus on learning some basic principles and knowing where to go for advice when you get stuck.

  • First things first: think about how you would build it. Most of the time when detailing something you can figure out what to draw by stepping through in your mind how someone might actually go about building it on site. For example, roof tiles get laid last. They are laid on top of the roof structure (whether rafters or joists), which sit on a wall plate that sits on the structure of the walls. This is a particularly simplified description (for example, the insulation has to go somewhere) but should serve to illustrate my point. Thinking about your building in this way will give you the basics for your details.
  • Follow the water. At some point, you will want to stop water from getting into your building. This is usually achieved with a vapour barrier. To figure out where this goes, think about which parts of your building need to stay dry. In the example above, you could theoretically put your vapour barrier under the roof structure, but since this is usually constructed of wood this would not be particularly useful. A similar and equally important consideration is:
  • What needs to be warm? Somewhere your building needs insulating. Usually, this goes within the structure, such as between the leaves of a cavity wall or within the structure of a roof. This is a particularly key thing to consider when detailing junctions, such as a wall to floor joint, as you need to come up with a way to avoid cold-bridging. This usually comes down to figuring out how to wrap insulation around the junction in some way.
  • Know which resources are available. The first 3 points are rough rules of thumb to get you 90% of the way there. To make your detail as perfect as can be you will need to look elsewhere. Some particularly useful resources are:


This website has lots of useful information, but its founder Emma Walshaw has also produced a series of books filled with technical details. She is also working on a virtual detail library. These provide excellent examples to work from.

While this one is quite dense and finding what you need may take some time, it goes through everything from the substructure up to building services and how they all link together. It is filled with example details and even provides information on calculating U-Values and things such as CDM regulations. These may not be relevant at every stage in your education, but will definitely be useful at some point.

Manufacturers’ websites and representatives. Many manufacturers have example details of their product in-situ which can be altered and tweaked slightly to meet your needs. Velux have dwg files of their roof lights in a variety of roof types, and Kingspan provide descriptions of wall and roof buildups to achieve certain U-values with their products. This can save you a lot of time and effort, and if the manufacturer’s website does not have what you need, they tend to have very helpful employees who will happily assist you in figuring out how to detail something if you ask nicely.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask your tutors, peers, or any practicing architects you know. In the summer a 3rd year I had met during my Part 2 asked me to look at his details for his Technology submission as he was not sure if his junctions were correct. While I did not necessarily know exactly how to achieve what he was after, by this point I obviously had more detailing experience than he did and was happy to help. His details were 90% of the way there, I simply helped tidy them up and make them more realistic. Most of being able to do detailing is common sense, the rest just requires you to find out how different materials tend to be connected together which you will slowly pick up with practice.


Presenting & Time Management

Hey guys, it’s me again. I’m back to offer my utterly unsolicited advice about some key areas in which our architecture education often seems to be found lacking. I introduced myself last time, so read my previous article if you want to learn about me. I also spoke about arguably the most immediately important things we need to learn but aren’t necessarily taught, and how to deal with that. The topics were drawing and using computers, if you still haven’t read it yet (go read it).

This time around I am going to jump straight into the next two skills which both rely on and aid the previous two: how to present, and how to manage your time.

How to present your work

Thesis Presentations – Spring 2017 | School of Architecture & Urban Planning

Presenting anything is tough. You have to stand up in front of a bunch of people, sometimes people you’ve only just met, and convince them that your ideas are good. It is also an incredibly useful skill, not just in architecture but in life. If you can convincingly, calmly, and concisely get across your ideas many things will be easier for you. Public speaking of any kind will feel more natural, pitching potential ideas to your boss or clients will be less intimidating, and if you have a more entrepreneurial spirit like Sana and many other recent graduates it can even help you on the road to setting up your own business. Unfortunately, it is also terrifying and a lot of schools seem to have no interest in mitigating this aspect of our education.

The architectural crit/review/presentation/insert-school-specific-jargon-here is seen by many as a somewhat antiquated system of assessing work, while others defend it as setting us up for the real world when we have to deal with difficult clients. Personally, I think this normalises the idea that it is ok for a client to be abusive and dismissive to their architect, which is hardly helpful to a profession that already has something of an image problem.

The crit developed in early architecture schools as a natural expression of the master/apprentice teaching system and has continued through to the present day. Traditionally seen as somewhat adversarial, everybody at least knows a story of a student’s work being ripped up by a passionate tutor or critic. Despite this, we tend to be thrown to the wolves and expected to figure out how to present by ourselves. While everyone ultimately discovers their preferred method of presenting, here are a few tips I found useful or know were beneficial to my peers:

As much as possible, let your work speak for itself.

Despite the multitude of writing around architecture, it is ultimately a visual profession and we love a good picture. If your work is well thought out and well presented (from a visual standpoint) you have already won half the battle. While I can’t help with what exactly constitutes this as architecture is very subjective and every project is different, I can say with certainty that the more impressive and solid your idea is, the easier your presentation will be.

During my Part 2 course, one of my peers actually did not present at all, literally leaving his work to speak for him while he headed home. Admittedly he was a particularly strong student, but according to his friends, he managed to do the same thing during his Part 1. From what I could see, the trick was a strong, innovative visual set up (he almost never stuck with straightforward A1 boards) and confidence in his work, which leads me neatly onto…

Be confident in your work

If you cannot back up design decisions or sound as though you are not happy with your design, your tutors and any visiting critics will be able to tell and will call you out on it.

This is particularly important: in an early interim crit in my final year, a tutor from another unit felt I was being particularly negative about the existing situation of the site I had chosen. Despite my best efforts in later crits, this viewpoint remained with the tutor and was brought up again in my final presentation. A momentary weakness resulted in a lasting flaw in my project. Being confident shows that you believe in your design and that others should too – confidence is infectious, but so is negativity.

Prepare as much as you can before the actual presentation.

This will vary from person to person – some people write a speech and practice it to make sure they fit exactly into the time allotted, some make lists of key points they want to hit, others just try to memorise as much as they can about their project and any queries brought up previously. What matters is that you take the time after finishing your work to go over it with fresh eyes and make sure that when you speak you are covering everything important in as concise a way as possible.

In order to prepare properly, you need time to do so, which leads to my final point: don’t leave everything to the last minute. I have noticed over the last 8 years that as a species architects are absolutely awful at keeping track of their time, whether they be a student or a practice director. The majority of students still have work to finish on the morning of/evening before their pin-up, which leaves precious little time to sleep and approach the presentation with plenty of energy and a sunny disposition. While it can be tempting to work up to the wire, and we love an all-nighter, resting before your crit will definitely make you feel less stressed before and during your presentation.

How to manage your time

MacBook Air near brown wooden desktop organizer

If there is one thing architects are notorious for, it’s poor time management. More specifically, architects are famous for working crazy hours to get a project finished by the deadline, but this is ultimately a product of poor time management. This is something that tends to start at university and can often carry through into practice. While many universities try to limit this attitude by closing studios and advocating rest, and lots of practices now are beginning to take a zero overtime approach, it is still a persistent mindset. 

I am hardly qualified to analyse why all-nighters are still so common, but it is clear that it leads to poor health (mental and physical) and can often not even result in a higher mark. Many studies now claim that we can only work for a set amount of hours before our productivity begins to decline rapidly. It is also clear that all-nighters are not mandatory to succeed – I have never worked through the night and I managed to qualify just fine.

As a result, I tended to keep an eye on what my peers were doing which seemed to result in them working all hours and rushing to finish their submissions in the final hours before the crit. Once again this is an area we are expected to figure out for ourselves with little guidance from tutors, and the key is to find what works for you. However, I feel I can offer a few words of advice in this area:

Plan your time up to the deadline.

Plan your time up to the deadline. The way you do this is largely up to you, whether you prefer a meticulous gant-chart, an itemised list, or copious post-its strewn around your room. What matters is that as early in a project as possible you find out when you need to finish and what you need to produce, and work backwards from there.

If your brief stipulates what sort of outputs you need to provide, figure out how long each thing will take. For example, I am god-awful at creating models and honestly hate it, but during my Part II my tutor loved them and convinced me to create relatively large models of my final projects. As I knew I did not like making models and definitely did not like having to change them, I made sure to get my design as finalised as possible before leaving myself a healthy chunk of time to complete the models themselves.

A sub-set of planning your time to the deadline is to set your own mini-deadlines. These can break up the mammoth task of “design a building” into more manageable chunks, and will also mean that you can check off completed segments as you go along. Instead of aiming to finish all your work at the end of the project, aim to get the broad strokes of the design finished and then work your way through each element, for example completing a set of design development diagrams and then moving onto site analysis.

A great way to do this (which I admittedly was actually taught by my tutor) is to set up your final portfolio at the very beginning of the project. You can then slowly add to it and develop the layout and content as you go so that by the end of the project everything is neatly finished, rather than working in a huge chunk on “the design” and then figuring out how you are going to represent everything you have done. (edit: Sana here. I cannot agree more, if I could I’d shout this advice to every single architecture student cos this is gold folks)

Use the right method for the job.

As I discussed previously, computers are great but not every piece of software is suited for every task. In the early stage of your project it can be tempting to jump straight into your favourite modelling software (I was definitely guilty of this once I started to enjoy using Revit), but this can really restrain your idea development and eat into valuable time, especially if you have an idea for how you want your project to look but don’t know how to achieve it in the software you are using. This also applies to later stages in your project when you start looking at outputs.

Many of my peers produced amazingly detailed models in Rhino for their final projects, but to get their final renders they had to use up every available PC in the studio overnight and hope that it turned out as they wanted. In contrast, by that stage, I was able to leverage Autodesk’s cloud rendering provision with my student license of Revit and churn out potential renders while still being able to work. This gave me far greater freedom in establishing my views, at the sacrifice of the granularity of a strong render plugin like V-Ray. However, it meant I was not reliant on spare computers to render on, and my ability to keep working was never compromised.

Reassess your plan regularly.

Once you have set out your plan and begun working on your project, things will constantly come up to throw things off-course. Your dissertation may take longer than you expected, you may get ill, your tutor may get exasperated and tell you to start from scratch. All these (and many more) events will throw a spanner in the works and mess up your timeline. It is therefore vital that you regularly check where you stand and compare it with where you expected to be by this point. If you do this it is much less likely that you will wake up to find you have one week before your submission in which you have to produce a complete set of plans, elevations, sections, and renders.

Finally and possibly most importantly, establish some boundaries and priorities with yourself. It is entirely possible to accurately plan out your entire work schedule and still end up working through the night because you haven’t kept track of the time, or you enjoy it, or you haven’t accurately followed your plan. If you really love working for 48 hours straight and never see any negative side effects, great. You might be superman, but great.

However, given the rise in (or at least perceived rise in) reports of poor mental health among architecture students, and the continuation of new graduates being expected to work 60-80 hour weeks with no extra pay, the only way to change things is to decide if working in this manner is actually worth it. Personally, I would far rather get a decent night’s sleep and tackle things fresh and revitalised nice and early than work solidly for 50 hours and then pass into a coma for a day or two. 

Catch you all next week for some more lessons in architecture!

Connect with Benjamin on LinkedIn


Drawing and Tech

Hi everyone! My name is Ben, I am a (very) recently registered architect. I can finally call myself an architect after years of study. And yet, after all that time, three universities, multiple jobs, and chats with other students from various places, I still feel there are some things (in this case, drawing and computers) that we just aren’t taught at architecture school. Sure, a few things finally got covered during my Part 3 course, but on average that’s usually 6 or 7 years after we first start our architectural journey.

Originally my intention was to write a book about some key things I (and others I’ve spoken to) didn’t get taught at university but wish we were. The book never happened since my Part 3 took priority. However, I reached out to Sana about discussing some key things lots of us seem to not be taught, or not taught in the amount of depth we would like, and provide some pointers (mostly involving other people better at these things than me) in the hopes of sparing some poor souls the same bafflement experienced by many of us.

The following topics were chosen based on my own experience as well as those of my colleagues and fellow students, since if there’s one thing we architects like to do, it seems to be to complain about our education! The first two cover two key skills for us architects: how to draw and how to use a computer to design.

Drawing Skills

I am fairly certain I am not alone in saying that despite studying architecture I am not particularly good at drawing. I can communicate a design concept with a very rough sketch, I can do a half decent diagram and maybe on a good day I can even parti with the best of them. In comparison, I know of other architects capable of putting together beautiful hand-drawn renderings. I had a friend in undergrad who could draw photorealistic portraits with ease, while I ultimately had to be happy with depicting humans as slightly tapering upside down exclamation marks.

When I began my studies, we were forbidden to use computers to produce our work for the entirety of 1st year. From conversations I have gathered this is not particularly unusual – it prevents us from becoming overly reliant on computers and encourages more relaxed, artistic expression. Sketching allows for ideas to flow naturally from brain to paper, without restricting them due to the constraints of a computer program.

While this seems reasonable, in my experience the architects who can create fantastic hand-drawn sketches are in the minority. Despite being forbidden, it seems in general, we are not taught to draw properly. I know that in some schools outside the UK students are still required to be able to create drawings that would not look out of place in Palladio’s 4 Books. Admittedly this rigid rote learning is rarely seen as the modern way, but there must be a middle ground. 

Many employers still request strong sketching skills from applicants, in fact :scale posted an article recently reflecting on its importance. Everyone clearly knows this, yet it is not taught in a structured manner in most (all?) schools. My drawing education at university consisted of a few sessions demonstrating how to convert an elevation into a 1-point perspective drawing, while I received no formal education in drawing prior to university, even in art class. To this end, I have over the years developed some tips to deal with my own shortcomings in this area, as well as some excellent resources that give far better advice than I am qualified to give. So, in no particular order:

Don’t worry about it. Despite my miniature tirade above and the inevitable envy of seeing a colleague drafting a beautiful perspective of a project, it’s not the end of the world if you can’t do it too. We architects wear far too many hats, it’s ok if one is a little wonky. As long as you can draw legibly and with confidence to communicate with colleagues and, importantly, clients, the quality of the drawing is not massively important. Everyone loves that Renzo Piano sketched the Shard on a napkin but ultimately that’s all it is – a sketch on a napkin to communicate an idea.

Practice. Like everything, drawing takes practice. More specifically, pick a type of drawing and practice it. The only times in my life I have seen a marked improvement in my drawing is when I chose a specific subject (in my case, people) and drew them repeatedly. I followed YouTube tutorials once a week but what matters is reducing things down to sensible sizes and focusing on honing that skill.

If you wish your ‘people’ looked more proportional, try practicing poses in quick succession (I found Quick Poses particularly useful for this). If you wish your perspective was better, draw a street over and over. If you feel you take too long on a diagram, try sitting in a cafe and drawing people as they walk past. Nothing prompts action like a limited window of time you have no control over!

Listen to the experts (I.e not me). The beautiful thing about the internet is how many people on it want to teach you things. There are many architects and architecture adjacent people with guides and tips on how to draw better, and if paper is more your thing, there are hundreds of books too!

Some of my personal favourites are the book 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School (the series of tips on overlapping lines, drawing them confidently without fuzzing, and basic shading technique, helped sharpen up my sketches immediately) and David Drazil’s website. He makes architectural drawings full time and his tips on composition, perspective types, and using construction lines to make sure your drawing looks just right are simple and effective.

Sketch Like an Architect

Using Digital Software

While drawing is a very useful tool for communicating, and there is an undeniable sense of achievement in creating a beautiful drawing, in practice these days most of our work is done on a PC. Some practices like the one I work in still have drawing boards, but they tend to be used for early concepts by directors, and by the time we young blood are in their place it is likely drawing boards will be firmly lodged in the past. Unfortunately, if drawing is ignored at university, proper use of computers is downright shunned. From what I’ve seen this seems to be improving, likely because students keep griping that nobody shows us how to use Revit and practices complain that we don’t know how to. 

However, since change in this profession seems to be very slow then all at once, it still seems necessary to cover this.

From my experience, keeping us away from computers in 1st year had the knock-on effect of making them seem magic once we were able to use them. In 2nd year most of my peers used computers for almost everything, despite not knowing the strengths of different programs. With the proliferation of 3D printers and the like in university fablabs, this has spread even to those of us who love making models. This means we often have to start learning multiple programs from scratch while also learning to design buildings.

It is also very easy to hamper our designs by insisting on working on them in a particular program because it’s what we know or we are determined to learn to use it. Something designed by hand will look very different to something designed entirely in Revit. Which leads me to my first point about computers:

Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to use it. Many of my peers chose not to use computers much, or even not at all, and chose to focus on hand drawing or models. This can really make your work stand out if everyone else is using CAD for everything. 

Chat with other students and share tips and knowledge about software. Over the course of my studies I was taught very useful things about Photoshop, Illustrator, and Rhino by other students, and I taught similar tips in return. Architecture is very competitive and it is easy to fall into the mentality of “everyone for themselves”, but in practice teamwork is very important – helping each other out at university (and with things like this blog) makes us all better. 

If your university does not teach you much about software, make full use of the internet. Lots of universities have subscriptions to online teaching resources like Lynda/LinkedIn Learning, which is full of excellent tutorials by experienced professionals. I learned to use Revit almost entirely from a Lynda tutorial. 

Finally, try to focus on a few programs at any given time. There are a plethora of programs architects use, and lots of job listings seem to expect us to know how to use every single one. In practice this is not feasible – each program does many things, often the same things in different ways. Learning how to use a program properly, effectively, and to its full potential can take a long time, especially with the more complex ones.

It can be tempting to try to use every program for one project, but this wastes precious time and energy on learning the program when you could be designing. There will always be more time to learn other software, and university is arguably the best time, but it is better to be particularly skilled at two or three than barely proficient at ten. 

Catch me next week for even more tips, can you guess what they will be?

Connect with Benjamin on LinkedIn


How to Expand your Social Media Skills

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

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

person holding black samsung android smartphone

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

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

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

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


The Art of Moodboards

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

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

‘Good artists copy, great artists steal’

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

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



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

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

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

Other Methods for Moodboards

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

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

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

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

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


3D Sun Path Diagram

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

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

Software tools you will need for this diagram include:

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

The Steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Notes

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

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

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


How To Present Better as an Architecture Student

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what can you do? Structure your ideas. 

How to structure and organise your ideas 

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

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

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

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

What is it? 

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


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

Why is it like that?

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


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

How does it work?

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

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

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


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

Practice Practice Practice 

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

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

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

Examples of signposting language:  

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

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

Part III The Basics

Part III – The Basics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The documentary submission is comprised of the following:

  1. CV [2 pages max]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Practice Problems 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

woman reading book while sitting on chair

Some other tips for Part III:

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

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

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

This article was written by a community member!

Learn more about Samya Kako on our Writers page.

A First Years’ Experience in Architecture

A First Year Student Experience in Architecture

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

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

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

  1. Prepare for Tutorials & Reviews/Crits 

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

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

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

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

  1. Get to know studio mates 

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

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

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

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

  1. Start early – Wake up early 

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

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

  1. Take breaks 

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

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

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

This article was written by a community member!

Learn more about Elyza Yunus on our Writers page.

Workflow Tips You Need to Implement Right Now

Workflow Tips You Need to Implement Right Now

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

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

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

🟢 Keep a sketchbook

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

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

🟢 Organise your tasks

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

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

🟢 Work in small chunks

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

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

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

🟢 Finish your current task before starting a new one

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

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

🟢 Keep goals in front of you

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

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

🟢 Switch up your workspace

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

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

🟢 Plan in detail

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

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

6 Tips For Your Year Out

6 Tips For Your Year Out

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

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

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

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

2. Try to find what you enjoy doing

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Make your voice heard, you are important

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

6. Attitude!

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

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

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

This article was written by a community member!

Learn more about Nathalie Harris on our Writers page.

The Importance of Sketching

The Importance Of Sketching

What are the benefits of sketching?

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

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

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

My experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips on sketching well 

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

Some of my personal tips for sketching:

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

Get sketching

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

This article was written by a community member!

Learn more about Tamanna Tahera on our Writers page.

Actual Interview Questions You Should be Prepared for

Actual Interview Questions You Should be Prepared For

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

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

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

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

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

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

Popular Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

🔴 How do you handle multi-tasking and deadlines?

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

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

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

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

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

🔴 What is your strongest skill?

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

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

🔴 What kinds of software have you learnt?

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

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

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

🔴 What did you enjoy about university?

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

🔴 Do you have any questions for us?

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

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

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

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

Dealing with Rejection as Architecture Students

Dealing with Rejection as Architecture Students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beginner’s Guide to Model Making

Beginner’s Guide to Model Making

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

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

Where to start?

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

Don’t try to fit all in one.

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

Where to begin?

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

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

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


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

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

Come up with a good plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Productivity 101

Productivity 101 for Architecture Students

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

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

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

Finding the Source of Stress

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


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

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

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

Avoiding Procrastination

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

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

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

Productivity Habits for Architecture Students

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

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

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

🔵 Notion

🔵 Todoist

🔵 Skillshare

🔵 Roam

🔵 Google Calendar

🔵 Thomas Frank

🔵 Ali Abdaal

🔵 Keep Productive

🔵 Focus Keeper

🔵 Forest

Why Are Mega-Drawings so Interesting_

Why are Mega-Drawings so Interesting?

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

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

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

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

Eric Wong – Cohesion

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Concept

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

2. 3D Model

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

3. Composition and colour

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

4. Details!

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

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

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

Hamza Shaikh – Ad Hoc Autonomy

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

Why Googling is the Answer to Learning Better

Why Googling is the Answer to Learning Better

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

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

My Experience

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

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

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

Method and Logic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instagram Accounts to Follow for Architecture

Instagram Accounts to Follow for Architecture

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

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

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

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



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



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


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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Make the Easiest Architectural Collage

How to Make the Easiest Architectural Collage

What is an architectural collage?

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

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

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

Prep / Things you need

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some we love:

Lost and Taken


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

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

The Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final thoughts

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

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

How to Make the Most out of Zoom

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.

How to Add Colour to a Line Drawing in Adobe Illustrator

How to Add Colour to a Line Drawing in Adobe Illustrator

Types of Architectural Images

We’ve all seen realistic renders and imaginative illustrations, but do you really know how it all comes together? Most people really underestimate the process of such images and often, first or second year students might not even have an idea how to go about doing this. This tutorial is for creative simplistic, minimal yet sometimes stunning illustrations. Of course, we explain adding colour in detail, but you still have to understand that there are two major processes before and after this stage. You may need to have a decent model to begin with in a 3D modelling program like Rhino or Sketchup. After adding colour, there’s still a lot of post-production that you can work on.

If you’re really stuck, look for some inspirational images online. You can look at Pinterest or even Instagram. We’d suggest starting in your own university, look at works of those studying masters to understand the processes behind these types of images. You could even look at units who have websites or blogs and look through the archives and find one that appeals to you and your project. It can be the colour palette, composition or small details. Personally, I like printing them out and keeping it in front of me so it’s always in my mind. Best if you have a noticeboard or plain wall in front of your desk.

Bartlett Living Laboratory – Eleni Pourdala

We’re using a 3D model as a base for this image and any other illustrations. This isn’t compulsory, but if you’re already modelling your building and are planning on using it for other purposes, it can be easier to do it this way. The other alternative is to come up with illustrations based simply off a sketch or your imagination. Usually these aren’t to scale so there aren’t any restrictions, but a model can help with overall measurements and figuring out the scales of walls or objects. If you’re here for just the adding colour part of the tutorial, skip ahead here.

The Importance of a Base Model for Line Work

At this point in the year, you should have a really solid 3D model or at least a part of your project that is decently and properly modelled. It can be a good idea to create a separate model just for your perspectives. We’ll tell you why. You don’t want to constantly be having to model things for no reason when it’s not going to be in view. So, your first step needs to be to clean up your model, save a new copy and then delete the parts you’re definitely not going to be working on.

We think this is most helpful if you have custom structures or cladding that goes around the entire building. Try and not make the mistake of overloading the model with imported objects. If you’re going for an illustrated look, you don’t actually need 3D modelled furniture, you can just add it in post-production. Remember your image is about the architecture first and the details just enhance the architecture and the project.

Keep things as simple as you can. If you have a scene or view in mind use a camera to play around till you get a good view. At this point we’d recommend you think about composition as well. Have a look at general architecture photography for real projects. You can even sketch out or clay-render different options. We often make the mistake of trying to fit as much in as possible and while this may be fine for an overhead view or axonometric projection, these kinds of images are giving a glimpse into your project and you will only have 3-4 of these in total so choose your scenes carefully.

Another thing to consider is the presentation of the image. Is your projection portrait or landscape and if either, think about why? Try and have a focal point of the image and show some kind of depth if possible. Usually during painting or photography, you think about a foreground, middle-ground and background so try and sketch this out and try a couple of different compositions. You might be able to change the composition later on, but it depends on your model.

After you’ve set a scene for your image, we would suggest doing a couple of test renders using the basic rendering engine on your software and then exporting line drawings to see what needs to be fixed or changed. This process can be the toughest bit for those starting out so don’t worry, just plan ahead of time! If you’re going to be creating 3-4 final images and they’re all illustrations, set out 2-3 weeks of time, leaving an extra week for portfolio final touches.

Test Render

Exporting Options

The line drawing is probably the most important part of this tutorial, it needs to be immaculate, trust us. If you have any gaps, awkward or missing lines, it’s just going to make the process 10 times longer later on – we’re talking from experience and frustration. Depending on your software, you need to work out whether the line drawings are clear and easy to work with. Our recommendation is to use the version of Sketchup that lets you export a line drawing as a pdf or DWG file. Sketchup is also easy to use for shadows and depth of field. The type of file to export is up to you but we’d suggest either AutoCAD or Illustrator, whichever one you’re more comfortable with, but we’ll tell you the differences later. You could also sketch in parts in Photoshop if you have access to a drawing tablet.

If you haven’t already exported or imported your model into a software where you can then export a line drawing from, do it. Then, think about the shadows. In Sketchup you can play around with this quite easily. It might be a good idea to note down the type of day or consider the location of the project to get a better understanding of this. If your project comes alive during the night, you don’t need to think about every single shadow, maybe just ones that are obvious. On the other hand, if your final image is during the day, think about the orientation of your building and where the sunlight will be coming from. Lastly, export just a shadow layer as a png. If you don’t know how to do this, we’d suggest this video that explains it perfectly.

OU Graphics

An organisation tip at this point is to create a folder specific to this one image. You’ll find you’ll end up with not just the model, but several iterations of exports that you’ve tried, and then other things so just keep it all in one place for easy access.

Folder for each image

Editing the line drawing

After exporting the saved scene as a line drawing, you need to go over and check it for any missing or extra lines. The hidden line feature in Sketchup sometimes misses over objects that haven’t been classified as a 3D object such as lines. From experience, AutoCAD is much easier and quicker than Illustrator, but both do the job in the end. The reason for this is that the ‘trim’ tool in AutoCAD makes life so much easier because you can get rid of lines efficiently. Here, you can also set up the page view. For example, in the image below, there were some elements that stuck out of the ‘border’ which made it seem a bit more 3D and gave it an edge.

Essentially, just go over every area of the line drawing. Highlighting the lines in AutoCAD works great. This is because when you try using the live paint function, you need closed shapes so that the colours aren’t spreading everywhere. It’s also good to mention, if you prefer using Photoshop directly to add colour and want to see a tutorial, tell us in the comments below. Once you’re happy, you can keep it as a dwg and import to Adobe Illustrator or save the line drawing as a pdf. Save an extra copy just in case. You can use this later on for other purposes.

Adding colour using Live Paint

Before you get started, open up the line drawing in Adobe Illustrator and check your page sizes and set the document colour mode to CMYK. Then, bring out that inspiration image and have a look at the colours used. Are they warm or cool tones? It is extremely bright or muted down? Then, think about the colours you want to use. You might already be imagining something already, but it can be a good idea to take a break and look through a few more pictures. The colours aren’t set in stone, you can change them in Illustrator and also using adjustment layers in Photoshop.

If you need some ideas, have a look at our Pinterest board for Perspective References. There’s no right or wrong way of doing things, it’s just a means of helping you start. If you have your own idea, go for it.

First, set out your core colours off to one side. Draw out small squares with the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a palette that’s visible on your workspace. You can also create swatches and palettes from this if you want to re-use it for something else. This will make your life so much easier when you’re live painting in each section. The best method would be to start with one colour and go and fill it throughout the entire image. Yes, you may miss spots or have to go back and change a few things, but it creates a workflow that is way better than having to go back and change colours each time.

Then, select your linework, and head to Object > Live Paint > Make. Click on one of your swatch squares using the Eyedropper Tool (I) and then the Live Paint Bucket Tool (K) and start painting.

Your hard work of checking the line drawing comes into play right now. The areas highlighted with a red border are the paintable areas. If you don’t see the border or if it groups together two shapes this means there is something wrong with the line work. In Adobe Illustrator, you can fix this by closing the line using the Direct Selection Tool (A). You don’t necessarily need to ‘add’ or draw in a new line, just extend the line or make it smaller so that it connects with another line and creates a closed shape.

This process can take a long time depending on how much detail there is in your drawing and the amount of colours you’re going to be using. Remember to SAVE your work every now and then. I like to set reminders every half hour on my phone so that in case of errors, I don’t lose the entire colouring process. Illustrator may act up or lag in these cases so try and not have any other big programs running in the background. Once you’re done, you will reach a fully coloured stage. In this example, I’ve left out the background where the sky would be and the insides of the apartments because this is part of my post-production.

If you’re not happy with the colours and want to drastically change it in the entire image, you can select one area with that colour, then go to Select > Same > Fill Colour. This will select all the areas with that colour and then you can change it using your colour picker. If you would prefer to lighten or darken the image, we would suggest leaving it to Photoshop where you can tweak these easier.

To import your work into Photoshop, you can easily do this as an Illustrator file so there is no need to export into different formats. To finish this drawing, it needs a sky, shadows, textures and people. At the end of this tutorial, you’ll find the final image.

Post-production in Photoshop

Now the long bit is over, relax and take a breather. Then come back and keep going! The post-production part of this tutorial is up to you as a designer and the style you’re actually going for. You’ve got the hard part done by adding colour. In Photoshop, if you’re using the coloured image as your base layer, you can very easily create masks and select different areas which is exactly what you want. Now, your options are to add some texture or overlay effects and even add people. We’ll explain briefly how to do it below, but we will be creating tutorials on this later so don’t worry.

If you’re raring to go or just want to get an idea of what post-production is, have a look at the tutorials below. We love tutorials by OU Graphics and Show it Better, they’re explained well and aren’t hours long. Once you understand how it’s done, you can repeat the steps yourself – don’t fret if it takes longer on the first try.

Show it Better
OU Graphics

Also remember, the level of realism is up to you. If you’re focused on presenting something abstract and extremely minimal, you can stop at the previous step and move on to your next task. Obviously, the amount of work you put in will give different kinds of results so take this into account. The time spent on each image also should be taken into consideration so that you’re not spending too much time on one image. Usually, after you do the first one, you’ve understood the method and then as you progress, it’ll be faster.

At this point, add in your shadows and remember to use a layer mask to get rid of or add in shadows. You can use a soft Brush to paint in the shadows if you’re going for a softer look. Decrease the Opacity and make use of the different blending modes like ‘multiply’ or ‘soft light’ and see which works best in this case. Sometimes, you might have to re-size the shadow because it’s been through a couple of programs so our tip would be to find a straight edge of something you can clearly see in both your line drawing and your shadow image and match it via that.

Adding even one simple overlay texture can make all the difference to your image. It just gives a natural looking element that isn’t there when you’re just adding colour to something. To get rid of the flat look, just add in a paper texture. You can do this by finding a high-quality image of a paper such as watercolour paper, then add it in to your image as a new layer. After that, you want to go and set the layer to ‘multiply’ and then play around with the opacity so that it looks natural. Then, you can see the difference it makes. For images with a softer and lighter colour palette, this one step makes it even more beautiful.

To add areas to specific areas, we would definitely tell you to use Layer Masks. If you’re not familiar, have a look at this tutorial below by PHLEARN. He explains layer masks very simple and you can play around with the feature to get comfortable using it in your own work. This is important because it means you’re working in a non-destructive way. You don’t want to be accidentally erasing or painting over your base layer and then having to replace it. Plus, working with multiple layers can get confusing if you don’t label or group them properly. It’s better to get in the habit now, than being confused while you’re almost done but become stuck.

Other textures might include wood, metal, leather, anything that is present in your line drawing that could use a texture. Again, make sure you’re using high-quality images. Plants and grass might be easier to add at this stage. If you don’t want to use a realistic plant – which some people do – you can open it in Illustrator and use the Image Trace function to create a vector out of it. This keeps the plant proportions and colours and you can get an illustrated effect instantly. If you want to learn how to do this, check out our ‘Adding People’ tutorial.

For post-production, lighting is a core part of the process. You don’t need to go crazy with this. Below is an example of a tutorial by OU Graphics on adding light in your images. Some soft light can be quickly added using the brush but if you have a night-time scene you might want to go for a neon light situation, in which case you can have a look at the tutorial below.

Don’t forget to add some life to your drawing! Whether it’s interior or exterior images, adding people doesn’t have to be difficult or a chore. If you struggle way too much or don’t have any time, maybe consider leaving it out.

Adding colour to your architectural drawings and perspectives doesn’t need to be overly complicated. It requires a lot of time, effort and patience. If you’re willing to give your best in order to achieve the results you want, you will surely be able to do it. Just remember that the ‘adding colour’ bit is part of a larger process overall that we’ll be breaking down in the coming weeks. Have a look at the final result below. If there is anything specific you want to learn how to do or have questions, let us know on Instagram or join our Discord chat where we encourage members of our community to share tips and ask for help.

Boosting Your Skills as an Architecture Student

Boosting Your Skills as an Architecture Student

Skills You Learn in Architecture School

Once graduating, you will soon realise how valuable having a range of skills is. It doesn’t have to be specifically software or even architecture-related but something that may be valuable in any kind of workplace. Now, the type of skills you learn whilst at university will depend on your teachers, workload and other resources available to you so we can’t speak for every university. Overall, there does seem to be a lack of opportunities and just a general knowledge of skills employers will be looking for.

It may not be obvious to you which kind of skills you have while you’re studying so it might be a good idea to sit down and have a think. First, think about computer skills you have such as Adobe programs, 3D modelling software and anything else. If you don’t know where to start, take some advice from your tutors or those in the year above on what to start learning. Usually, Sketchup is well recognised by many people. There are no difficult commands to memorise or lack of tutorials, you can find almost everything online on YouTube. If you’re struggling with Adobe programs, have a look at our ‘Getting Started’ Series. These programs are essential to learn if you want your work to stand out.

What you need to learn, depends on the kind of role you want after you graduate. Currently, by personal experience, there is a large amount of roles that require knowledge of Vectorworks, Rhino or Revit. These aren’t extremely hard software to learn and you might already be using it in your work anyway. In that case, you might be good to go.

Other skills like hand-drawing, model making, and architectural photography can also prove to be valuable. It might allow you to lean towards a skill that you can work on and showcase in your portfolio as a strong area of your work. But not all your skills have to be architecture related. There are many more routes and skills you can work on in your spare time that won’t take too long and will open up new possibilities for you.

Some skills might include organisation, time-management or other attributes like punctuality and professionalism. You would be surprised how many students don’t take this as seriously as they should. Leaving things to the last minute is pretty much a standard for architects because of the workload, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you plan your time carefully and prioritise your tasks, it should all work out.

Work Experience

The architecture work experience scene is rather timid, unless you have connections and you know people, or you just manage to get lucky really. If you do end up working or interning somewhere even if it’s just for a week, it can be extremely helpful when you graduate. If you’re struggling to get architecture-related experience, try and get some kind of work experience that can relate to some of the skills you learn in architecture. Usually students go for retail jobs because they are easier to apply and get hired for. The best place to look would be on job boards like Indeed and search for something like ‘Graphic Design Assistant’ or something along the lines of whichever skill you want to build.

Ask around for work experience and network. Ask your tutors who might know of firms or work in firms where they may be able to help you get some experience. A good thing to do before you start will be to ask the employer if there is anything you can work on or get familiar with before starting. This shows you’re taking initiative and you know what to work on so when you start and therefore you’ll be less nervous or panicky because you don’t know something. Of course, you will also have to be prepared to devote time towards whichever work you decide to take up so frankly, the easiest part is applying, the hardest bit will be being able to manage your time well.

Skills to Build

Now you must be wondering, what kind of part-time jobs or hobbies can I take up to boost my skillset? We’ve got a small list below, but it’s not limited in any way. Each of these skills can lead to a job or even a business of your own. Remember, the knowledge you get from learning things whilst studying architecture is just the first step. Applying these to jobs, work experience or just as a hobby can turn into something requiring a lot of hard work that could pay off in some way in the future.

3D Modelling – product design, Lasercut products, animation, architectural rendering

Adobe Illustrator – graphic design, social media content, illustrator, typography, marketing materials, logo designing, architectural illustration work

Adobe Photoshop – retouching, photography editing, architectural images / collages, social media content, branding design, marketing materials, digital art

Adobe InDesign – Branding design, marketing materials, booklets, document creation

Architectural photography – prints of your work, freelance photography, videography

Hand-drawing – art and design, handmade art / products

Some other skills that are easy to learn include social media management, basic website design, portfolio critiques, professional photography and blogging (plus more that we can’t think of, so let us know of your ideas in the comments).


If you think about it, some skill relates to another skill which relates to another skill, and yes, you might end up being a bit further away than architecture but the skills you develop will be beneficial for you. For example, having a passion for architecture and blogging resulted in the creation of this website. We’re able to provide you with tutorials, a decent-looking and working website, archives, aesthetic feed and community reach because along the way, I’ve learnt these skills and used my existing knowledge to help me. The few years I spent studying Computing allowed me to understand basic CSS code while creating our website. So, think about the valuable skills you already possess and try build on those.

YouTube videos are definitely the way to go. If you don’t know how to do something, chances are you’ll find it on Google or through a video. Personally, it’s helped me create my own side business with ease because I have an idea of how to create websites now. It also helped me get a part time role as social media manager which benefitted the company I was working for as well as giving myself tips on how to reach more people with our blog.

Our generation is great for these things because we know exactly what kind of topics are trending and as architects we have an eye for design.  When you think about it, almost every company in this day and age will need some kind of social media branding and start-ups or small businesses don’t have the budget to be hiring experts so instead they go with the people who know it best. With a few tips from people in the same industry, you’ll understand in no time what you need to work on, and this can apply for almost anything. If you don’t really get how to capture architecture in photography, watch some videos on composition or camera management and boom, you’re improving your skills with ease.

Why Building Skills is Important

The reason for this article isn’t to persuade you into other career options. By all means, architecture is fantastic and there is a sense of satisfaction when creating and designing a space that brings joy to people. Only we can really understand the amount of hard work put into the projects we work on. Having these extra skills on the side might be the thing that sets you aside from others. For example, when applying for jobs after you graduate or even much later on, you can tell firms that you are able to go above and beyond into helping the company as a whole rather than just attending and doing your job. Being proactive and offering suggestions or improvements will only help you in the long run.

Sure, it doesn’t make you a perfect all-rounder, but if you have an interest in other things, think about how you can work on your skills to achieve results through it. We all know, students are usually tight on money, so if you offer your services on creating a few branding materials for local brands around you, you can work on using software and learning about design whilst also making a bit of money on the side.

You could most definitely add these skills to your CV. Just don’t go overboard and try keep it professional and relate back to why this has helped you overall. For example, working with a start-up usually means you’re much more involved in core projects or campaigns and you need to be able to manage your time well and do the work you’ve been assigned. Architecture (or any other course) and its prospective jobs require the same things. If an employer can see you’ve worked well in the past, managed your time and multiple projects, they will definitely see a place for you in their company.

We hope this gave you the inspiration and motivation to try do something in your spare time (if you have any!) and expand your list of skills. If you have any suggestions or recommendations of other kinds of skills, or if you have your own story to share, let us know in the comments below or DM us on Instagram.

Quarantine Tips for Designers

Lockdown / Quarantine Tips for Designers

First things first, we know you’re struggling with the current circumstances whilst in lockdown or quarantine. With universities being shut and finding yourself in this grey area of uncertainty, you might feel like you have no idea how to proceed. If your unit hasn’t already set up a Whatsapp group, weekly Zoom meeting or at least an email conversation, we get why you may be worried. Don’t be afraid to initiate things. If your tutors understand your situation in any way, they may try to put in a bit more effort to help you. If not, you will need to take matters into your own hands, and don’t be afraid to email them and stay in the know about what’s going on with deadlines and submissions.

We know nothing will compare to the atmosphere and size of a studio and the lack of resources you get presented with might not help. At this point, lockdown will mean you don’t have access to the workshop, materials or even software in some cases. Don’t fret, there’s things you can do to get around this. It won’t solve your problems 100% but we all need to learn to make do and compromise during these times. Many of you who have already got some kind of set-up, whether that’s a space in your room, a make-shift desk, it might not be fully optimised for your needs.

This period might even spark some unexpected ideas and creativity (look at our WfH design challenge for example). It’s not a bad idea to envision architecture of the future or even the impacts of this situation on the projects you are designing. Although it may be a little later in the year with final deadlines creeping up, you can always add minor additions or changes that show you are actually aware of what’s going on around you. These tips aren’t just for lockdown, they can help whenever you feel stuck, isolated and out of ideas. You could also check out some of our other similar articles like ‘Why Taking Care of Yourself in the Design World is Essential’ or ‘Guaranteed Ways to Gain Inspiration Online’.

It’s okay to be stuck

In terms of coming up with ideas or staying on top of your design work, it can be extremely difficult with the current news or your current living situation. We hope you’re all safe and have necessities. If you have little to no guidance or inspiration, it’s okay. Maybe you need to take a break for a few days and take the time to clear your mind. If you have deadlines coming up, this can be very hard, but it could be better than sitting at your desk with no ideas. You need to try give it time to get adjusted to the surroundings. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re stuck, it happens to the best of us.

Having a blank mind, no ideas or motivation can be frustrating yet common for architecture students so it’s not that different in lockdown. If you feel like you don’t know how to proceed with a project or have zero ideas, try and call up a friend, read a book or watch a movie. Anything and everything can spark the smallest idea. Try and have a specific place to keep all your weird and wonderful ideas together. Personally, I like using the Notes app on my phone or the back page of my sketchbook if it is directly related to my design. Try not to feel the pressure of constantly being productive because it doesn’t work that way in reality. If you think about it, being stuck is completely normal and happens even when we aren’t working from home.

On the other hand, if you find this change in atmosphere actually working out for you then by all means keep going! Ride the wave and get your creative juices flowing. For some people, a change in surroundings can be just what they needed to take their projects further ahead. Keep thinking about what more you can do and add because there isn’t a limit to your creativity.

Find yourself a dedicated space

If you haven’t already worked out a make-shift home office, think about this carefully before you pile on every piece of equipment you think you might need. If you happen to have an extra monitor, set that up and take a seat on a comfortable (but not too comfortable) chair. There’s also ways you can use an iPad as a second screen! Try and keep your desk uncluttered (we know it’s hard for us too) as this will generally make it easier to find things and prevent you from continuously cleaning up. We would suggest taking up a corner of a room that’s away from where your family might be. If you’re living alone and have no other option, try and make sure you don’t get constantly distracted i.e. right next to the bed or the kitchen.

If you find it hard to sit at the desk for long periods, make yourself a timetable, or even stick to your existing university schedule and do the things you would normally do but inside. For example, fit in other hobbies and activities alongside your work – this will make lockdown much more bearable for those of us who may be more extroverted. Currently, the weather has been so great in England, so you could most definitely take your desk into the garden and work there for an hour or so as long as there’s no obvious distractions. A change in space, even around the home might want to make you do work that you’ve been putting off. So along with a dedicated space, plan out timings keeping in mind an hour for lunch, some exercise, a quick phone call to give yourself a break. Try your best not to work on your bed since it’ll most likely make you tired and lazy.

At your desk, make sure you have everything but don’t keep unnecessary items. For example, a monitor, keyboard and mouse are valid options, but your handheld gaming console might not be a good idea for when you’re working. A clock, some easy to eat snacks and water can be a great idea and it means you’re not constantly getting up. Have a roll of tracing, your sketchbook and a pencil case too. We would also suggest keeping a box of modelling equipment. This can include tools as well as materials and it keeps them all in one place. Then, when you feel like making a model you can do so. Also, it’s good to mention that although you don’t have access to the workshop or materials, a model doesn’t need to be overly complication and you can do so with paper, card or cardboard lying around at home. Think basic and simple for the time being.

Another great tip to make yourself keep working during lockdown is to promise to do 20% of whatever task and you can stop after that. The trick here is, once you start doing something (like 3D modelling or portfolio work) and you complete roughly 20% of it, you might just feel like you can keep going. The key is to actually start, and this eliminates the majority of the problem. You might even realise that it really isn’t that bad. If you can, keep a timer at your desk. You might be thinking, why would I need a timer? The point of this is to emulate something similar to school lessons.

Every hour change up whatever task you’re doing and stick to it. For example, this could be editing some photos, planning out a part of your building or writing an essay. Over the course of a few days you’ll be able to gauge how much you can actually do in an hour and then plan accordingly. Plan a couple of hours, spread over the week to get a big task done. You basically need to treat every day professionally, as if you were working in the studio or as if it’s just a normal day. You also don’t need to slave all day long, work for certain periods of times, stop at around 5 or 6pm and take a break for a few hours then get back to it.

Try new things

The most beneficial thing you can do during this time is to try new things or do your mundane tasks a little differently. For example, I find it useful to list 5 things I plan to do the next day, right before I go to bed. This not only makes me think about it for a while, but I don’t wake up the next day not knowing how to progress. If you’re an avid model maker but find yourself with limited tools and materials, take this as a challenge. You could use recycled cardboard or plastic, use common tools like hairdryers, blue tac, wire to make small prototype models. Yes, this might not be advantageous for those wanting a really finished and clean model, but we’re sure the examiners will understand.

Another thing you could do differently, is to try out things you haven’t been able to explore yet. We love using Pinterest here at :scale, but I’ve never tried other visual organisation methods, so I signed up for Milanote (which allows you to save pins from Pinterest too) but mixes visuals with tasks lists and other texts or links. It’s basically a large mood board and you can use this for any kind of project. Trying out something new can’t hurt right now. It doesn’t need to be something huge either, try use a different note-taking method, change up the wallpaper of your computer or phone or get yourself a new set of pencils.

If you’re finding yourself with loads of extra time to spare or just want to do something different, why not check out our design challenge? It doesn’t have to take long to do and it lets you explore your skills in a new way. If not, just take the time to check out some of the entries instead. Here’s another competition we love at the moment.

Ask for help

There may be times where you feel absolutely stuck and if you don’t have regular access to your tutors, try getting advice from your fellow students. I’ve even found that asking help from non-architects proves to be quite eye-opening if it’s something quite simple. Often, other people’s experiences can prove to be a source of inspiration too. Not to mention, we’re here to help with any kind of advice you might need. If you wanted someone to take a look at your portfolio with a new set of eyes or are struggling with presentations, layouts, general ideas, feel free to message us on social media or email us with some of your work. There are also some independent architects and universities offering this sort of thing (check LinkedIn).

Links to other articles

‘Foolproof Tips to Staying Motivated’

‘Best Things to Do After a Tutorial or Crit’

Hope you’re all managing somehow and staying safe in indoors!

The Process Behind a Successful Architecture Portfolio

The Process Behind a Successful Architecture Portfolio

Types of Portfolios

Depending on the year you are studying in, you will see different kinds of portfolios and you may not be able to judge for yourself which are successful, and which aren’t. We don’t want to focus on a specific style or type of portfolio, the possibilities are dependent on your project and the amount of work you put in.

In this article, we want to guide you on some of the necessary things you need in your portfolio as well as the extra details that can make it stand out to the examiners. By putting in a bit of extra effort, you can take your portfolio to a much higher level. First, we would suggest for you to look at as many portfolios and projects as possible. This might be in your own university or in other ones which you can usually find online through specific unit websites or at the end of year exhibitions. Ask the other students around university or even someone in your year who’s work you admire or seems to be popular with the tutors.

When you think about it, regardless of which year you’re in, putting a portfolio takes up the entire year and most students will work on it till the last second. We definitely don’t advise doing this, it not only puts pressure on you as a person but can give you a lot of stress that you could avoid by doing work in advance. If you’re in first year, you might not know where to start – this is why we’ve put together this article. But whatever the case, if you want to improve your portfolio then keep reading.

We’re going to divide this into two parts: the layout and presentation of your portfolio and the actual work you’ll be putting into your portfolio. We’ve covered some of the design part in our article ‘How to Maintain a Theme in Your Portfolio’ and we’ll be referring to it often, so if you haven’t read it yet, definitely give it a read.

What to Include in Your Portfolio

There are no real guidelines or a handbook on what you exactly need in your portfolio. This is because every university is different, the way they handle things or teach or examine your work. The following ‘pages’ or work to include are just a general idea. If, for example, you’re designing a pottery factory or workshop, you might want to experiment with various shapes in the form of physical models. This can go as in-depth as you want and is a great way to show your tutors and examiners that you’ve really thought about the materials in your project. This whole idea would require a few pages to explain what you’re going to do, images of the models you make etc.

Some units may also have smaller projects they do before the main design project. This is usually to give you an anchor point to get you inspired for your project. It has to link to the design project in some way and may even be a section of your portfolio at the beginning. Make sure that if you do have a project at the beginning that is supposed to link to your design, by the end of the project there should be a clear path of how you got there from the start. There may also be a section at the end for the final part of the design which includes plans, sections, model photographs and final perspective images or illustrations. This could be submitted separately if the university requires in which case you might want to change the size of the pages, orientation or paper quality to make it stand out as it’s the final design.

Having sections in your portfolio isn’t necessary but can break down your project into groups of work that each have some kind of purpose. For example a generic order would consist of a site study, then development, then any technical focuses followed by design experiments and finally a series of images to complete the project. This is a natural order that is simply organised well so that the examiner understands the entire process. Having 30+ pages means there is a lot to look at and remember about the project within just a couple of minutes. But if you have sections, it makes it easier for you, your tutors and the examiner to understand. The best bit is that once you finish with the first couple of sections, you can present these in crits to get feedback and improve it until it doesn’t need to be improved anymore. By the end of the year, you won’t have to work on your entire portfolio, just the areas you’re currently working on.

Let’s get down to the basics:

Title Page



Design Drivers

Mini Project (if any)

Section 1 – Brief / Site Analysis

  • Breakdown of the brief
  • Initial ideas
  • Site map 1:1000
  • Site map and route 1:500
  • Interesting areas within the site, analysing a site (can take the form of a map, collage, photographs or illustrations)
  • Site study (3D modelled, fragment, image)
  • Sun path diagram
  • Opportunities and constraints

Section 2 – Design Development

  • Initial sketches / ideas
  • Research (desktop research; articles, interviews etc. or physical research)
  • Design drivers
  • Massing studies / massing diagram (tutorial coming soon)
  • Breakdown of the building function via sketches, initial models, 3D models
  • Case studies
  • Initial plan / section

Section 3 – Initial Iteration

  • Site map with building overlay 1:200
  • Building development (depends on what you’re looking at in your project. Could be to do with the layout of the building, materials, structure, technical aspects etc)
  • Models + photographs
  • Plans and sections (these are your first iteration, so it doesn’t need to be perfect, but some annotation or sketches might help the examiner understand what you need to work on)
  • 3D model renders / physical model prototypes

Section 4 – (Optional – if you have more development to do / another iteration of drawings that are important to include. Essentially the same as section 3)

Section 5 – Resolution

  • Building Summary
  • Site plan 1:500
  • Plans (well annotated, proper line weights)
  • OPTIONAL – perspective plans, sections or axonometric views
  • Sectional drawings (showing where the section has been taken from)
  • Elevations (North, east, south, west)
  • Collages
  • Renders (if any)
  • Illustrations / perspective images (if any)
  • Hand-drawings (if any)

As we said, some of the things listed might not apply to your project depending on what kind of building you’re designing or the sort of style your prefer. There is also scope to add much more and work on certain parts in much more detail if it applies  to your project. For example, if you’re looking into a public building that is catered towards a certain community, you might want to do more research in that area or interview people. If your building revolves around a trade or craft that you don’t know about, you can explore this as models or further research.

You will also need to remember to cut down as you go. Yes, your portfolio pages need space and clarity and you really shouldn’t bombard the pages with too much text or images but at the same time, having an entire page for each of the 10 sketches you have drawn might be too much. Remember, the examiner will spend less than a few seconds on each page and will eventually focus more on the last section. If your tutors can help you to go through portfolios (extremely helpful before and after a portfolio review or crit) and go through each page, add on sticky notes or remove pages entirely so that you’re constantly editing and improving the flow of work. You can absolutely do this yourself but just make sure you’re not printing the ‘final’ version each time until you’re absolutely sure that a page is fully complete, fits well and is understood better with the pages before and after it.

Portfolio Design

We’ve covered a bit of portfolio design and the importance of having a theme or structure in your portfolio in the article ‘How to Maintain a Theme in Your Portfolio’ which I’m sure you’ve read by now. The things we covered there included a colour scheme, setting out your pages in advance and planning your pages. We’ve already given you the basic structure, so at the start of your project all you have to do is set up your portfolio on Adobe InDesign.

Usually, at the beginning of the year it takes a couple of weeks before you actually get the brief for your project or even speak to your tutors. Add in the generic introductory lectures and ‘site walks’ and you’ve pretty much wasted 3 weeks. After my first year, I realised we need to get ahead of the game. Students were often surprised to hear how my portfolio was done a couple of days before the deadline, giving me time to finalise the last few images or make sure everything works in a cohesive manner.

Setting aside an hour a day during that weird start of the year period could help you plan out your portfolio. Think about it aesthetically or practically. If you want inspiration on different layouts or themes, you can have a look at our Pinterest board. If you’re thinking budget wise, maybe moving from an A1 portfolio to an A2 portfolio seems like a wiser and lighter option. Make all these decisions now instead of getting frazzled later on when the work really begins.

If you’ve been given the brief ahead of time, definitely research the hell out of it. Make a mood board, sketches, a Pinterest board and brainstorm the different routes you could take with the brief. Look at past projects or some of the reading material you might have been recommended. Ask students in other units to see what their brief is like – anything can create a boost of inspiration as long as you’re not waiting for your tutors to tell you what to do next. Take control and stay ahead as much as possible.

Portfolio Organisation Methods

We don’t have to tell you repeatedly. Organisation is KEY. Organising your portfolio can get a bit hectic once there are other projects or essays or crits to prepare for. We would suggest keeping an online version and obviously a physical copy. For the pages you’re currently working on, it could be a good idea to print them out unfinished at a smaller scale like A3. Then, whenever you have a tutorial or crit, you can hand your tutors the page and explain what you’re doing and why. This is way better than showing them something on a computer screen because they can physically write or draw on it and give you advice that helps.

Similarly, if you’re completing your portfolio by hand, you’ll realise just how much time it’s taking up. If you’re thinking about saving money for title pages or pages with just images on them, that’s reasonable. Whenever you finish a page though, scan it in and add it to your InDesign file so you can re-order if needed or edit and actually be able to see the pages without having to take out your huge portfolio and search for the page.

Lastly, every couple of months, or even every month, sit down and go through your portfolio and see if anything can be improved. We get too stuck in the work we are presently doing that we might forget about the work we’ve already done. The entire project needs to make sense and be successful. Look for any ideas that didn’t work out and go back and edit this or comment on it at a later stage. I like to plan the pages I’ll be putting up for my crits the night before by drawing them out in my sketchbook. It saves some time because you can have a think and re-order on your sketchbook, then actually go and pick out those pages and keep them ready for the next day. Your portfolio order won’t be messed up either because you have a digital copy that reflects the physical one.

Knowing Your Portfolio

Lastly, we want to emphasise on the importance of actually knowing your portfolio, it’s something to take pride in but it also needs to be memorable in some way. At the end of the day, you know your project best, and by the time the year is over you’d have presented or explained your ideas so many times that it’s stuck in your head – which is a great thing! Write an awesome summary that is short yet descriptive and intrigues the other person to know more about it.

The decisions you made regarding the look or contents are definitely your own, but a bit of guidance never hurts and could actually lead you to better results. Studying architecture is all about getting better as you progress till you’re happy with your work and designs. If you want to see more tutorials catered towards specific portfolio pages, leave your suggestions below in the comments. Have a look at our other related topics as well. Good luck!

How to Prepare for Architectural Technology Modules

How to Prepare for Architectural Technology Modules

When explaining architecture to a person who knows nothing about it, usually the words ‘designing’ ‘buildings’ or ‘drawings’ come about. But not many people talk about the technological aspects of the course. This may be because if you don’t already have experience working with real projects in a firm, your main focus is on hypothetical projects that don’t need a technology viewpoint.

But to prepare architecture students for the real world, it’s important to touch on architectural technology including basic construction ideas and the knowledge of how exactly a building is made and then in turn, how that combines with the design.

This article is aimed at the undergraduate students, especially second and third years who may have no idea how to prepare for the technology modules. Usually, this comes in the second term while you’re in between design work and maybe finished with dissertation so it’s really important to be able to multi-task as best as possible.

What is the technology module / dissertation / submission?

The actual technology ‘module’ or dissertation in some universities can vary because each place will have their own education method and requirements so unfortunately, without looking directly at the brief, we can’t give guidance on each and every aspect. The deadlines, type of submission and other requirements completely depend on the university and can be better that way if you have a lot of guidance. Here, we’re going to be speaking from personal experience, so if something isn’t the same for you, just ignore it.

Now you might be thinking, I already have so many different projects and deadlines and now technology has been added to that. We’ve already explained the purpose of the submission, but the overall idea is to enhance your design project. This adds a level of detail and actually shows the examiner how the project moves from being hypothetical to reasonably realistic. By doing research about various things like case studies, detail drawings and other tests or experiments, you’re learning key skills.

From experience, the technology module or dissertation is a booklet of information that includes the project and its context as well as some tests, case studies and development of the project’s technological focus. It also includes drawings such as plans, sections and detailed construction drawings on a large scale. Check out this example on Issuu.

What are the aims and objectives?

The purpose of a technology module is for students to understand the technical aspects involved in any kind of building project, no matter how big or small. This has to integrate with your design project but focusing more on an element rather than the entire building. Often, the aims and objectives will be provided to you in the form of a brief or marking guide so make sure you read it properly and understand what it wants you to do.

Thinking from a submission and marking perspective, the examiners are just looking for an understanding of technical elements. They basically want to see that you can create and draw out basic concepts that have derived from your project. For example, when testing out an element, you don’t have to have successful outcomes. They want you to fail and learn how you failed and then what you did to correct the situation. This shows growth in your projects.

As well as this, the examiners are looking for high quality work with innovative ideas. Of course, working on a ‘simple’ technical element is difficult enough, but if you broaden your creativity and come up with unusual ideas that may very well not work, it shows that you like to experiment and think outside of the box.

How does this help you later down the line? Architects don’t work alone on a building from start the finish. There are many other professional people involved who will need to understand your thinking and ideas through your drawings. If you ever sit down with a constructional engineer you will realise the jargon and overall concepts are much more different to architecture. You will also need to make others understand how exactly your vision comes to life. It’s all good and well designing a beautiful roof structure but if you don’t have the technology behind it sorted it, no one will have an idea on how to actually construct it.

In addition, the technology module is great for prospective employers. Whilst working in a firm, you will be tasked on various things that you didn’t necessary learn in university because you were working on hypothetical projects. This is where having a technological understanding comes in handy. Although you might not be an expert in it, you have a solid base where it makes it easier for you to learn as you go rather than learning from scratch whilst on the job.

Breakdown of content

The following ‘chapters’ may not be required or could be slightly different depending on your course and university. This example is from the 3rd year technology dissertation at the University of Greenwich.

Project Context – This is all the information you have already gathered so far for your project. You have to basically think about how you would introduce the project to someone who may have not looked at your design work. This includes analysis of the site, the brief, your key drivers for the project and even where it is located. It’s basically background information.

RMS – This is a research methods statement. This is where you explain your technology focus, again with the context of the design project. The RMS is also a standalone document that gives an outline of the technology submission.

Dissertation – The dissertation is the main element of the submission. It has two parts, first the aims and technical questions that need to be answered, the case studies and the actual investigations carried out with experiments. The second part is the drawings. This includes plans, sections and detail drawings as well as a 3D view if needed.

Audit – this part explains the real-world technicalities of the project. For example, the costs, materials, building regulations and health and safety. Luckily, it doesn’t need actual figures but simply an understanding of the way it works.

Our top tips


Here at :scale we heavily emphasise on organisation. It is a lifesaver! Similarly, for the technology submission, the best thing you can do is organise yourself. Set out a couple of hours once you have the brief, to brainstorm on your project and make a template of the pages you need. We would recommend you buy a small notebook where you can keep your ideas. It will also come in handy during tutorials with your tutors regarding tech.

If your brief doesn’t already include a breakdown of the pages you need, either make one yourself or look at past projects to get a better idea of the structure. We’ve already touched on this above. Then, create a file in Adobe InDesign and set up a front cover (not the final thing), the pages, headings and subheadings and other details you know you need to include. This way you’re not creating pages one by one and slowly adding it to a folder, you can instantly lay out a page in your file and keep it all in one place, ready to go. If you have ideas for the presentation or colour scheme it makes your life much easier. Personally, we would say keep it simple but do something fun with it that doesn’t go over the top. If you need ideas, have a look on our Pinterest board ‘Layouts’.

A small but crucial part of the technology is to come up with a technical focus. This might be something new you’ve thought of or something you want to build on. Let’s use ‘natural ventilation techniques’ as an example. If you wanted to make your building more sustainable, for whichever reasons, you need to come up with ways in which you can introduce natural ventilation. An example of this can be a wind catcher or wind tunnel. Using this as one of your technical experiments, you need to think about the kinds of tests you can do to ensure you have the best model.

  1. Placement of the wind tunnel – here you can experiment where it will be placed, depending on the orientation of the building, you can do wind experiments on site, 3D model a wind tunnel and use software to understand where it will catch the most wind.
  2. Design – think about the best kind of design of a wind tunnel. Look at existing ones, the materials, the size, all kinds of factors.
  3. Efficiency – obviously, you can’t test this on site, but you could simulate conditions via a 3D software or a scaled physical model.

Essentially, the more factors you have to test, the better. But you need to make sure it makes sense with the rest of your project. Why are you testing this? Why is it important for the project as a whole? The best part is, even if some tests don’t work it, you can and should include it so that the examiners can see you tried various routes and then finally settled on the best outcome possible. This bit is probably the part where most students get stuck, they don’t know what exactly they need to ‘test’ but once you’ve got some ideas, it becomes very easy to keep going.

By planning ahead of time, you’re leaving yourself more time to work on the real stuff. You don’t want to be rushing at the end working on the layout of the dissertation even though it is an important part. Planning ahead also means thinking about printing services. For some technology dissertations, drawings are also required but these have to be to scale and therefore need to be on sheets of A3, A2 or even A1 and have to be folded and stuck in. Make sure you leave space for this and plan and scale your drawings well.

It’s also a good idea to have two copies of your dissertation, one for the submission and one for yourself or as part of your portfolio. Make sure you decide on how you will print your document and understand roughly how many days it will take. Then, count back from the day before your deadline and set it as your own deadline to finish everything. You want to leave a day or two for adding in the drawings and checking everything is good. If you can, try leave a backup option in case nothing works out. This could be a simple printed out booklet you make yourself.

Use your 3D models to your advantage. You don’t need an exquisite physical or digital model for this. Smaller, prototype models or experiment models are great. A good tip would be to duplicate your current digital model, extract out the area of focus, whether it’s a sliver of your building or a corner and use that file for the base of your technology drawings. Remember, you don’t need fancy renders or illustrations, a simple line drawing in orthogonal view is great. If possible, try and model the building with actual layers of the walls, the structure etc. so that when you draw a section out, it’s already there. Some programs like Revit or Vectorworks make it easy for you to do this.

Don’t forget

This was our breakdown on architectural technology, what it is, what you need and our top tips for getting through this module. If you want to see more useful and helpful articles or even our tutorials, make sure to check them out below or by going on to our Blog page.

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