In the Eyes of an Architecture Student: About Mental Health

Hi Everyone!

I’m back again this week to discuss the topic: Mental Health.

More specifically, I will be discussing my take on what mental health is, how to deal with it, and what design potential there is in this field.

Disclaimer, these are by no means definite answers or correct answers. This is my own take on mental health and the field of architecture.

In my Health by Design course last night, I was struck by three thoughts during class, that I did not mention despite the open share quality of the course.

  1. Design has so much potential, yet we are constantly stuck in the aesthetic realm thinking about it
  2. Health, especially mental health, is a hot topic in today’s society, yet we have only just tapped the surface in the amount of research that has been done about it, over all of these years that humans have been existent on this planet.
  3. I think it’s ironic how much I value the idea of wellbeing and health, including mental health, yet it is still something I grapple with to improve within myself.

Why didn’t I share these thoughts in class? Well, first off, it would sound pretty irrelevant in context to what we were discussing during class, or more so that I would be going off on a dramatic tangent. We were discussing essentially different methods of using design to solve for issues for specific personas (people) that we made up, but are highly realistic. And it hit me that, sometimes, it’s hard to understand and believe that our field and abilities as humans can be limited. For instance, we often take the internet for granted. we expect everything to be stored and processed through this virtual space, yet so few of us really understand how it works, and mos importantly forget that virtual space still has limits despite how limitless or imaginary it seems. In other words, google drive, which a ton of people use (still an understatement) has a lot of space but it will run out one day, and you’ll be doomed, once you’ve already utilized all hard drives, etc. Now, think of architecture. Really, it is quite similar in the manner that architecture can only do so much to attempt to reshape human interactions and habits. But what both these fields share is the potential to do so many things, to say the least. Yet, we as humans are still in control of the decisions we make.

Perhaps this is the issue. We as humans, are surface creatures. We like pretty things above all, and this is shown with research that has been done demonstrating that people within the US value beauty care more than health care, and this is evident from the enormous gap of spending between these two sectors. And, this is not just because of the price ranges or number of products offered from either sector. This is seen once again even through design. Products are made to be most visually appealing to capture the eyes and hearts of consumers, and this includes everything from the plastic wrap around the toilet paper you purchase, to the home you decided to settle into. Even humans can unfortunately be seen as products, when we are commodified through apps like Tinder or Facebook, where the surface qualities are prioritized. All of these “little things” add up and you end up with the medical bills for poor physical and mental health.

What can we do, to improve our own health? If we each are able to easily answer such a task and do so, then health would never be such a societal issue as it is today. I found it sad, yet truthful that perhaps not all, but a lot of college students tend to prioritize anything but their wellbeing. I definitely see myself as someone that prioritizes work above all else. Peper not finished? I’ll sleep later. Model not done? Just a nap will do. Have class until 9? I’ll have dinner after (if I remember or feel hungry still). I laughed when my professor asked us these exact questions, and totally agree that it’s almost ridiculous how basic these questions are. Anthropologically speaking, these questions are essentially the basis foundation of how people survive. But this is what is different about humanity is now, than the humanity that really prioritized survival all those thousands of years ago. Humans today depend on more than just the essentials before being fully happy and satisfied with life. This varies from person to person, but it’s pretty much real and true for humans nowadays, and it makes me anxious to ponder how the future humans may be. So, what can we as humans, and designers do to reverse this habit and fully change society?

That is the big question in architecture today, and unfortunately I am still frazzled with how to even begin to process such a question.

Above all, I consider my interest in architecture to be about wellbeing. I want to design spaces to create a sense of comfort and serenity for people, not just in hospitals. I want to create spaces that inspire people to do the best they can for themselves and for others. Such spaces that would encourage people to desire to live, not just make living “work.”

Much of design is about aesthetics, but also a lot about functionality and efficiency as well. And, after having thought about this a lot, I argue that these are all qualities that we as designers need to let the consumers decide what is best for them.

Designers often mean well, doing mass research in attempts to “get to know” the person(s) they are designing for. But no matter how much we do, we will never truly be in their shoes, and we will always be designing for our own ideas about them. Designers cannot help but project a personal manifestation of their own thoughts and beliefs about the consumer and the context. This will never change, no matter how much we are aware of it or despise it; it is simply something that happens as humans, in any field honestly. But consumers also cannot do the design tasks themselves because they have not been schooled for such things. And to be fair, designers should really be working more with people from other fields, so that more voices are heard in the design process to provide the best possible results, partially because other fields are much more well-researched. I do also argue that architecture itself is a challenging field to do research in, mostly because of how long it would take to yield results, and how difficult it can be to take measurements of specific things, like the amount of happiness or anger that a space has resulted in. There are sort of ways around this to make it work, but these are also very complex “things” to take measurements of even if you can get closer to doing so through, say, taking measurements of blood pressure or vitamin deficiencies. Perhaps some issues were never meant to be “solved.” Perhaps this is the essence of existence. Not to be philosophical, but it really hits me that all of these fields on study were meant to be used together to yield the best possible results to help us as humans, and yet we are expected to “specialize” in one, being almost completely clueless about others.

I’ll let you ponder on these things, but I will definitely be thinking about them more on my own, and through the perspective lenses of that course. I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this subject, so feel free to drop a comment!

Ciao 🙂

In the Eyes of An Architecture Student: What Music do you Listen to for Studio Work?

Hi everyone!

Hope you all had a wonderful, restful MLK weekend!

I’m back again this week to discuss my answer to the question: What music do you listen to as you’re doing studio sketches or modeling?

First things first, I’ll just say, I have always been someone who’s been easily distracted no matter the context. So, getting me to focus and stay still to focus on specific tasks under a seemingly far away deadline is like pulling teeth. Whenever I do my structures assignments, I’d say that I listen to anything really, I find that classical music is alright too (I did used to be in orchestra, in case you were wondering how I don’t fall asleep listening to it for two hours straight). For any assignments that involve in-depth writing, like essays or reading, I listen to instrumentals. Again, orchestral music is great with me for this. I also really enjoy listening to dub step or even just instrumentals to tropical pop songs, and even remixes. I’ve even done quite well listening to non-English music. As soon as I hear English music, I find it inevitable that the lyrics will end up somewhere in my paper haha. As for my studio design sketching and modeling, I guess I do not really distinguished playlists for either of the tasks. I enjoy listening to anything really, as long as its upbeat. So, pretty much anything within the genres: pop, EDM, tropical house, and synthetic instrumentals, I find quite inspiring to my work actually. Besides the fact that sometimes I will find myself awake or still-awake at unearthly hours, I just find that anything upbeat and catchy just sets a great groove for me to “settle” into the work that I need to do. I oftentimes find that the beats and catchy lyrics keep me energized for hours, as I’m usually doing some sort of tedious, repetitive task either with my knives on the cutting mat or on my laptop with the software. I do also think that the devices that I use to listen to my music influence my ability to make this work as well. Sometimes. if there is just too much linework, or powerful renderings that need to be done, I will go to the BT Lab (our PC classrooms with very powerful computers) and I just end up listening off of their PC with my earbuds. If I’m at my desk doing my work on my laptop, I’ll just listen off of my laptop with my earbuds or my wireless headphones- the only downside with the headphones is I often get too warm or my head starts to hurt from the weight and pressure put on my ears for the extended period of time. Now, if I’m modeling, I find it immensely more convenient to use my wireless headphones- you can imagine, there’s a ton of materials and blades and sketches scattered on the desk, so the last thing you need or want is a tangled wire of your headphone getting caught on stuff, as you’re constantly re-positioning in order to produce the most effective cuts. I’ve definitely forgotten to charge my headphones and ended up using earbuds, and the result was just some wasted minutes to untangle things, or bring my phone and headphones along wherever I moved. Aaanddd, here’s what you would consider the click bait of this post: an excerpt of my playlist! I hope ya’ll will give it a go, whether you’re sprawled in bed or doing your own work. If you do, (or don’t I guess) and have comments or suggestions, feel free to drop your thoughts in the comments below, or reach out to my instagram at: themichiganarchitect Ciao 🙂

TheMichiganArchitect Work Playlist Winter 2020 🙂

Mike Perry feat. Tessa: Stay Young

Sistek feat. Tudor & Amy J Pryce: Pitfalls

Doja Cat: Say So

Far East Movement feat. Jay Park: Sxwme

Maggie Lindemann (Cheat Codes and CADE Remix): Pretty Girl

Bazzi (Bazzi vs Young Bombs Remix): Mine

Timeflies: Once In a While

Timeflies & Shy Martin: Raincoat

Alex Ross feat. Dakota & T-Pain: Dreams

Ali Simpson: Guilty

Allie X: Catch

Overstreet: Carried Away

Lovelytheband: Broken

Jax Jones & Ella Henderson: This is Real

Arizona: Electric Touch

Kim Petras: Icy

Alexandra Stan: Little Lies

Adventure Club & Crankdat feat. Krewella: Next Life

One Republic (Arty Remix): I Lived

The Knocks feat. Foster The People): Ride or Die

Austin Mahone: Better With You

Tiesto feat. Stevie Appleton: BLUE

In the Eyes of an Architecture Student: Answering “What class is your favorite?”

Hi everyone! I know it’s been a while, with break and everything, but I’m back again this week to open a discussion about my answer to the question, “what class is your favorite?”

And yes, I am well aware that this is one of those cliche icebreaker questions, but it’s actually also a common question you’ll hear people in studio talking to each other about from time to time, whether it’s asking for peer suggestions on what class to replace with another, or just curiosity. With that said, I’m also well aware that prospective students are probably wondering the same thing and probably worried about the answer I’ll give like, “oh jeez, will I be able to enjoy such a class myself?”

Again, in no way am I representative of the whole body of architecture students here at the University of Michigan, where we all have different values and aspirations, so each one of our answers to this question will likely vary.


Over the years, I’ve taken a great mix of courses.

  1. I will say that the first year, I took mostly prerequisites such as calculus and English, and this is similar to what other majors do as well. within the first year. Is this enjoyable? Well, you definitely will still be adjusting to college lifestyle and workload to a certain degree, but it seems to me that this is the closest you will get to high school courses. I personally see prerequisites as bridging the gap between your high school education and the educational standards at the University of Michigan. These courses are just the bland standard to me, they’re just in place to ensure you can handle survival at this university, and they’re just in the way to the actual excitement of your discipline, which is to come! I believe you only get a peak at your discipline in the first year. I remember taking a few basically introductory courses to architecture, and feeling hungry for more of it.
  2. In the second year, you’ll be finishing up prerequisites and taking more official architecture courses to set you up for the studio life that’s to come. This includes actually purchasing expensive drafting equipment, constructing your first models, learning studio sharing culture, along with being thrown into a few different software programs that you’ll be expected to learn either on your own or with your studio mates. Honestly, this year is both exciting and frustrating because you’re finally tasting what it takes to become an architect, but you’re also held back by the fact that you can’t really do “real” architectural stuff if you haven’t intermediately mastered such materials.
  3. In the third year, you’ll be using everything you’ve learned in the past two years and applying it to hypothetical, yet realistic scenarios in studio. You will (likely) become more digitally oriented because of the amount of work asked to produced in both the forms of drawings, renderings, and scaled models. And you’ll probably also be getting a nice camera to document all the amazing work you’ve done so that you can create your own portfolio that’ll lead you to internships.
  4. In the fourth year (my current year), you’ll be sort of be given more freedom in terms of deciding on what aspects to focus on when creating the project, but you will still have a structured prompt given to you in studio, along with a professor who will oversee your work and give you suggestions, but it’s definitely a more self-oriented year where you can take more electives as well, to ensure that you can get more flavor into the architectural experience that you’d like to get out of the university. I’ve actually taken my non-architectural electives during my sophomore year, but I’ve been taking more architectural electives these past semesters. A bit off track, but I’ve finally been able to get into a health design course that I’ve been looking for for awhile (it’s a completely new course) and I’m VERY stoked that the professor seems amazing, and this course is so valuable in that it provides interdisciplinary perspectives to architecture and its effects on both physical and mental health. Anyway, I was just really happy about that and wanted to share that with you all!
    With that said, I would have to say that my hands-down favorite course, out of all of the courses I’ve taken all of these semesters here at the University of Michigan in architecture is my first studio course, UG1. People claim it is the “weeder course” because it is the first time you are asked to apply a plethora of newly-acquired skills into a real world scenario, with many projects thrown at you. But I personally found that it was the most imaginative studio. And, hear me out. Yes, you are asked to do all of those things listed above as a newly developing designer, but you’re also given less restrictions because at that point we have not quite understood building code and real-world spatial regulations. You’re able to freely express yourself and that is what I found the most refreshing, because all options are “on the table” so to speak.


Unfortunately I gotta launch back into my assignments again, but I’m so excited to hear your comments and thoughts on this blog! Once again, if you haven’t already, if you want to see more of my photography and what studio works I’ve been up to, give me a follow on instagram: @themichiganarchitect
Ciao 🙂

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!!

In the Eyes of an Architecture Student: The Power of Writing and its Relationship to our Discipline

Hi Everyone! I know it’s a bit late, but bear with me! (Ahaha, this is the typical life of an architecture student)

I’m back again this week to discuss the topic: the power of writing and its relationship to our discipline!

I’m sure, no matter what age you are or what major in college you’re pursuing right you, you must’ve thought of English papers and all that unpleasant stuff seemed completely unreasonable and unnecessary to your discipline and life goals. I confess I’ve also had these thoughts at some point before when I took introductory architecture courses that required a ton of writing and I’d remember thinking to myself, “Ughhh I’m in architecture school, shouldn’t I be designing instead of writing all these boring papers‽‽
I do occasionally have these thoughts recurring as I continue to write papers, even as a fourth year in architecture. But I’ve finally grown to understand that writing and architecture are truly interrelated. As ridiculous as it sounds, let me explain.
In architecture, we use different drawing mechanisms as a language to convey our ideas visually. Although drawing seems to be the primary language present in architectural education, it is important to realize that it is still our thoughts and understanding of these thoughts that in turn inspire the abilities behind these drawings.

Let me rephrase more simply, I mean to say that if you cannot describe the idea in verbal language, then you cannot hope to understand the design well enough to effectively convey that idea visually through drawing. All this time, papers have been the root practice at structuring the way we think and understand ideas verbally as designers, but also serves as the universal method to communicate ideas with each other. To be a better writer directly correlates with being a better designer in that you are able to clearly understand what it is you want to highlight about your ideas in the representational drawings. To reinforce my point, these drawings and all your models are to be displayed at critiques reviews where you are expected to help your critics understand your project so that they can then give you feedback on what to improve in your representation, or even perhaps what to add to your design to further it’s successes. I canopy stress how important it is to understand our own work before we try to get others to understand it too. As expected, I’ve observed that my classmates who seem quite fluent in explaining their thoughts and ideas about projects are also quite fluent in representation as well, and they also make for quite amazing critics of our work as well.

So, bottom line: do the papers!! As boring as it seems, it’ll help you SO much in the long run, even just as a general human being in general. After all, humans were meant to communicate 🙂

Welp, that’s all I’ve got for tonight, but I’m so grateful for any one of you who’s still up this late and still reading my blog!

Ciao 🙂

In the Eyes of an Architecture Student: The Importance of Photography

Hi Everyone!

I’m back again this week to discuss this week’s topic: the importance of photography!

Yes, photography, as in the term corresponding to the Webster definition: “the art or practice of taking and processing photographs.”

In architecture, as you may have inferred from all of my previous posts, representation is VERY important. Representation makes or breaks our works’ proposal, and that is kind of a very big deal, even within the stages of education before a job in “the real world.” In architecture school, representation refers to everything (all types of media) you use to “sell” your work to your professor(s), and this includes the exact words you use to talk about the project, how perfectly orthogonally pinned up your work, how nice and stable your constructed models(s) are, and how sharp or effective your photographs are.

Even outside of classes, powerful photographs serve arguably more importance than how well you preserved your hand-drafted drawing(s) or even your original model(s). I say arguably because, when we apply to jobs and internships, the employers are likely to only have access to your work virtually- which makes photographs EXTRA important because that is their ONLY window into your skills and personality as a designer! Yes, employers want to see perfection and thoughtfulness in your work in the portfolio, but they also appreciate the honesty of sharpness of quality of photos- it’s a sort of stunning thing to see, even if you did Photoshop some blemishes or glue-globs out!

Photographs not only serve to simply document you work to show to employers, but also function as a very effective way to remember your work and (potentially) locate your improvements within your work. Of course, the sharper and better your image, the larger the file, but I cannot stress what pain it is to have to go back to old files only to realize I did not document the stuff well enough, and now it’s too late because my models may or may not be rotting in my basement now, very obviously not photo-worthy quality. So, in other words, after you make a model or ANYTHING (if you don’t think it’s worth remembering right now in this moment) it is safest to just check out a nice camera (Nikon, Canon, etc) and deal with a million AMAZING photos now, than to just use your phone (even that cannot compare to a really good camera) and take a few subpar images, only to realize the quality degrades each time you uploaded it to different platforms. The ideal process is as follows: make the model(s), get a good camera, yes spend time and get all angles of the stuff you’re documenting, and upload it straight to google drive for initial storage. But, I’d recommend you go through and eliminate to the images you’re going to keep, Photoshop them to the best of your abilities (or satisfaction, I guess), and save as a Tiff or PNG (or PDF if that’s an option). Fair warning though, Tiff files can get pretty big and jam up your memory, so I recommend saving as a Tiff without layers, or PNG to save memory.

Good luck to you all, happy documenting!

If you have any questions or further insight, comment! I love hearing from you all 🙂

Have a fun and safe Thanksgiving holiday break, everyone!

Ciao for now 🙂