So if you are headed back to college this fall. First of all I have got to say “I am jealous.” I absolutely loved school. If I had the funds I would be a full time student for the rest of my life.

It is time once again for another round of the #architalks blog sites. This month on we are talking about “back to school”. To me that means back to architecture school. So on this post I will give a little bit of unsolicited advice on how to survive architecture school. If you are looking for a bunch of other great reads about "back to school" take a look at the bottom of the page.

By nature I am a very curious person so being in college is like heaven. Although, as anyone who has been through an architecture program can attest, it is grueling. So with that in mind, here are my FOUR tips to maintain your sanity.

Remember Architecture is for people

To someone who has never been to school before that might sound obvious, but at least from my experience, in all too many cases students and professors can get caught up in formalism and finding new ways to create novel aesthetics that sometimes it is forgotten that the primary function of Architecture is shelter humans. This little slideshow is an exercise I went through in one of my classes. First we watched a movie, then we made a chart to describe the way the timeline of the movie jumps back and forth. Then that chart was abstracted more and more until finally it was a building. I really enjoyed this exercise and perhaps it is a great way to help young minds break out of repeating the same forms they see all around them. But it had nothing to do with how people get onto the train station or what they see once they are on the platform.

in the end architecture is for people.

If all of the work you go through to create a novel form ends up creating a building that has bad circulation and spaces that don’t promote the health of humans than you have failed.

Talk like a human

I grew up in rural Utah and there are a lot of “words” the people from my hometown understand, but outside of that I get general looks of confusion. I have spent the better part of two decades trying to speak like a “normal human”. Just like my hometown, the hallowed halls of architecture schools are full of words that are not heard nor understood anywhere outside the profession.  Unless you are only going to try and explain architecture to architect for the rest of your career, try to not pick up an architect accent. If you start using words like tectonic, materiality, or fenestration your non-architect client might not understand, or worse might think you are intentionally trying to talk over them. Window is a great word. Use it. Do your best to not pick up an architect accent, it will save you years of learning to talk normal again.

Embrace the ludicrous nature of design studio.

After having a few years in the profession I look back with delight at the freedom given on my studio projects. After school, you will likely never have a project without a budget. Enjoy the freedom you have in school to just focus on design. Make really (really) far out there projects. If you can’t (or won’t) design a project that is beyond crazy in school you will have a hard time creating a project that is anything but bland when you have all the constraints of projects that are intended to be built. Looking back I wish I would have taken advantage of that freedom a little more. Make grand gestures, only slightly respond to gravity.

An Elementary School, "designed" in 6 weeks by one person, yeah right

An Elementary School, "designed" in 6 weeks by one person, yeah right

Try a project that is small enough to actually design.

A rowhouse design in the spirit of Venturi - Scott Brown 

A rowhouse design in the spirit of Venturi - Scott Brown 

I “love” the fact that you are going to be asked, as a solo person, to “design” a 100,000+ sqft building in six weeks. In order to actually design that project it is going to take a team of 20+ people (including consultants and everybody) between 6 months to a year to design a project of that size. I understand that you don’t have much control of what your projects are going to be, but if you have the choice try your hand a small spaces. I would love to see the project that is the reception area for a small office. Sometime grand gestures are easier than making sure you can’t hear bathroom noises while you are talking to the receptionist. (and yes, you will need to deal with that problem when you are designing in the “real world”)

Be sure to check out some of the other great back to school posts below.

Enoch Sears - Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
Back to school!

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Designing Back to School

Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks: "Back To School"

Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
What Have We Learned? It's Back To School For #ArchiTalks 21

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
good to go back to school

Mark R. LePage - EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
Back to School: Marketing for Architects

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
4 Tips As You Go Back To School

Cormac Phalen - Cormac Phalen (@archy_type)
Back to School Again

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#architalks 21 "back to school"

brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Back to the Cartography Board

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Back to School

Michael LaValley - Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
#ArchiTalks / 15 Ways to Make the Most of Your Architectural Education

Eric Wittman - intern[life] (@rico_w)
getting [schooled] again

Sharon George - Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
What's better than architecture after school?

Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept)
Back to {Architecture} School

Kyu Young Kim - Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
Back to School: Seoul Studio

Jared W. Smith - Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
Back to School...

Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)

Adam Denais - Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch)
[ArchiTalks #21] 10 Things Architecture Students Say Going Back to School

Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Back to School? It Doesn't Stop there for Architects.

Tim Ung - Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
10 Things I wish I knew about Architecture School