In the Eyes of an Architecture Student: It’s Not Always Just Doing What’s Assigned

Hi Everyone!

I’m back again this week to discuss this week’s topic: “It’s Not Always Just Doing What’s Assigned.”

Yes, I know, this week’s title is a bit wonky grammatically, but what I mean is that, in architecture school assignments, we as students are the creators of the proposals and, despite the assignment prompt, we are in ultimate charge of deciding what we should produce to complete the assignments.

To clarify, say, you get a prompt to write a paper in your English paper. This prompt most likely will provide you with specific topics you should cover in the topic of your choice, or specific additional questions to address if certain topics were already chosen for you. All you have to do is answer all these questions in your paper. right? Well, an architecture prompt is essentially the same as an English essay prompt. In architecture, the given prompts simply gives you the dimension parameters and maybe a few specified programs to be placed within your proposed building, and your professor will give you suggested modes of representation (i.e. models, drawings, vignettes, sketches, VR, gifs, etc) to produce in order to “answer” the design question graphically. Ahem, we place emphasis on SUGGESTED because there are many cases where certain modes of representation are more efficient in conveying ideas depending on the project.

It’s funny because I think back to my first ever semester in the school of architecture, and I remembered receiving the prompt and producing all of what was assigned in the prompt. All the while, I’d say that I’m just producing these views because it is what was assigned, or it “looks cool,” Now, four semesters later, I would receive the prompt and am able to comfortably consider what’s being asked of me to produce, but I’m able to decide on what modes of representation I should produce

I realize this skill is especially important because we only have so much time to produce hypothetical projects that, in reality, would take a real design firm months to maybe years to finish producing the real building or even just deem that the building just won’t work and not end up producing it at all (which, not gonna lie, is pretty depressing to have produced all models and drawings and calculations only to end up not conceiving it).

I’ll admit that I do still feel a bit insecure sometimes when I don’t produce some of the things that were suggested or even sometimes what my professor would recommend, but honestly that is a very common thing that happens in architecture school whether you’re an undergraduate or graduate student in design school, and it’s just the process of growing as a designer. This process of growth is ongoing, as I even observe such a thing happen between professionals. Even my professor will ask other professors for their feedback and learn at least one thing new each session! It’s very inspiring knowing that as a designer you’re expected to exhibit a sense of independence in making decisions sensibly, and that it will always be completely alright (recommended even) to ask others for feedback and criticism. In fact, it’s usually considered a bad thing if you’re not getting any sort of criticism because we know that nobody and nothing is perfect (no matter how close they get to perfection), and that projects are never in a “final stage,” so if your project doesn’t inspire thoughts from people then it usually means your work needs something more to even enter the realm of becoming “intellectually stimulating.”

I just wanted to share these experiences and thoughts with you all (especially if you’re a design student) because I think no matter the discipline you’re in, it’s important to establish your independence in making sensible decisions without having to rely so much on whoever you deem as a superior figure to manage your discipline. Your superior can only re-interpret what you tell them, so they will never really understand or be able to imagine your work as you talk about it. They can only come close, so it’s so much more powerful if you are able to produce whatever is necessary to get your own point across, and make your voice heard in the world.

Ciao for now 🙂 Hope you will all finish your semester strong and healthily!!


First Year//Masters of Architecture (M.A.) University of Michigan Taubman School of Architecture+Urban Planning Follow me and my work via Instagram :) @themichiganarchitect and my adventures on Twitter @TheMi_architect

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