Best Advice I Received in Architecture School
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When you’re in a position where there’s a huge workload and demand for time, it can get really tiring and we look for that extra motivation we can get every time. In architecture school, the competitiveness and subjectivity can really take a toll on our drive and so I’m sharing with you the best advice I have received throughout uni that have helped me A LOT.
Here are some of the things I keep in mind when it gets tough. Hopefully, it helps you too!
#1 “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”
It was just before college when I was told this advice. Summer vacation before uni started, I was being mentored by one of my dad’s friends, an artist (a painter), on how to do some perspectives and improve my sketching. If you’ve read my other blog posts, you’d know that drawing isn’t really my forte. My mentor, however, told me that it isn’t always about talent. Having graduated from a fine arts college, he told me that he’s got classmates who were extremely talented but because of their laziness, didn’t manage to graduate on time. He told me that they were way better than he was (and my mentor’s already absolutely talented!) but he managed to finish college first compared to them.
Whenever you feel like you’re not as talented or you think that your work isn’t good enough, remember that it pays to do hard work. I’ve had a professor who told us that he prefers to mark up the grades of those students whom he sees actually making effort (despite not being as good) as compared to those who are really talented (as reflected in their work) but was obviously crammed.
I guess my point is, it’s not a downer if you’re not the best or as skilled as the rest. In a competitive and subjective setting, hard work can level the field.
Not everyone gets to have their mentor, and not everyone knows an architect to teach them personally whenever and wherever they can. If you’re interested in learning off-school from Frank Ghery – yes, THE Frank Ghery, I have a link for his Masterclass here! Check it out if you can.
#2 “The key is prayer and hard work.”
I got this advice in my first week of my first year of college. During orientation week, we found out that one of our facilitators were one of the top ten students of their batch, the previous year. Obviously amazed, we asked her how she did it. This advice is what she said, “prayer and hard work”. I really kept that in mind because despite graduating second from my class in high school, I didn’t think I can reach the top ten of the batch comprising of 12 sections! Boy, was I wrong.
Prayers truly partnered with hard work does wonders. I’m a believer that hard work alone isn’t enough as there are a lot of things beyond our control and therefore our own work can’t and won’t define the future alone. If we really aim for something, I believe we have to ask Him and consult Him with it. Just like what our facilitator said, it can be done with prayer and hard work. That year, I was blessed to rank first.
#3 “I’ve made the worst and funniest mistakes but it got me where I am.”
This advice is taken from another one of our facilitators. He might claim that he wasn’t the best student but he surely was the best facilitator we had with the amount of help he gave us. He would always tell us that he would misinterpret instructions and that his work was one of the least in his first year, but with those mistakes, he guided us every step of the way. He let me learn that mistakes can really help you learn to do better and because he was able to teach us what he knew, we were able to avoid those mistakes and even perform better that we probably could have on our own.
#4 “We are a Jack of All Trades.” A jack of all trades is a master of none but oftentimes better than a master of one.
Professors would tell us this advice. They would always say that we would have to have an idea of different fields as it will affect how we design. We have to know the concepts of engineering, we have to understand psychology with the effects on users, we have to know the laws, etc. Architecture is not just about aesthetically designing spaces, which, if you’re an architecture student, you probably already know.
An architect has to be able to relate to his users, and in order to do so, he needs to be exposed to different experiences. These experiences aren’t necessarily your own. We can learn from each others’ experiences and it’ll be as if we’re learning from their mistakes or reflections as well. The more we expose ourselves to different fields and the more we learn different skills (no matter how small or unnecessary it may seem), it can go a long way as you never know what type of client you will meet.
#5 “It’s not the end of the world.”
Every student probably values his grades whether you admit it or not. It is harder in a subjective course as it’s harder to calibrate how on earth your grades will turn out. There’s one thing to keep in mind though, if you didn’t get what you wanted (and even if you’ve done everything in your power to change it or improve), it’s not the end of the world.
A professor told us when we were in our second year of college, that thesis students put so much value in their work to the point that sometimes, sadly, they sacrifice or forget the value of life. Being a thesis student now, I understand the pressure better but I’m blessed to have higher year friends to remind me that there’s more to life than this, that we’ll get through it and after, we’ll look back and say “that was it?” I’d like to remind myself that yes, I do have to work hard, a lot (especially when I’m getting lazy), but not to the extent where I sacrifice my health and sanity, and my relationships as well. I know my priorities and honestly, to the grand scheme of things, what is this thesis or school stressors compared to?
There are many students out there who get bombarded with stress and once in a while, we have to remind ourselves that whatever happens, it’s not the end of the world.
#6 “I just get done as much as I can. If it’s 4 am and I’m not yet done, I just let it go then sleep.”
This might seem minor compared to the others but this stuck with me. I was in first-year college when my classmate/block mate told me this. At that time, I was really burning the midnight oil. I will not sleep until the work is done. I’ll break down a lot if I’m not able to. I know 4 am is too much, but in this course, I’ve met a lot of people awake at 2 am and it seems normal. 5 am or 6 am seems late to me tbh. 1 am seems early. Although I am well aware that that is not healthy and may sound surreal if you’re from a different field, that was the norm that I was led to believe in my lower years. When my classmate told me this, I thought to myself that I wanted that confidence. That even if I didn’t get it all done, I still have my limits as to what I will sacrifice. Maybe I wasn’t entirely efficient which is why I end up staying up all night – or maybe it seemed like it was the only way. The point is, there should be a limit. Up to what extent shall we sacrifice our health and relationships?
Other Advice You Might Want to Hear
#7 “Joining organizations help you a lot in the work field.”
This is something you’ll probably normally hear from organizations and I get them a lot too. Although I am not yet working (which means I’m not completely eligible to provide this statement), I still know that I have learned a lot, A LOT from joining them. There were good and tough times, a LOT of tough times, but I would say that I probably wouldn’t have learned the things I have learned anywhere else.
With organizations, you get to learn about and understand different people. It’s not just about organizing events (which I’ve read is one of the hardest jobs ever), it’s about learning how to work with people who have a similar vision to yours, and at the same time, work with people who are completely different from you. Architecture-wise, I learned a lot about sustainability as one of the organizations I joined was an architecture-sustainability organization.
Check out my 5 Tips for Freshmen in Architecture where I also talked about the pros and cons of joining an organization. Seriously, with organizations, I learned a much deeper meaning of working with people.
#8 “You don’t have enough time.”
You might be thinking, this doesn’t seem like a very positive one, and it’s probably not one you would like to hear. However, I still think this is a realistic one and we have to keep ourselves in check. Do we really have to do this and that? Are we being a perfectionist? We don’t have all the time in the world. Panic is unnecessary as it will do us no good, so even if we’re trying to avoid the rushed feeling, we have to keep in mind that we don’t always have enough time. A professor told us this line. Another professor told me that we have to know when to stop. I’ve read somewhere that good design isn’t when you have nothing more to add but instead, it’s when you have nothing more to take away.
We must keep in mind our limits. Start and prioritize the basics, then we can add some stuff from then on.
If you’re an architecture student doing a thesis like me, then you must get really stressed as well. If you want to know how I manage to handle stress in architecture school, check out this post.
There’s a lot of advice I’ve received throughout uni, both inside and outside school. Here are some of the most helpful ones that I always remember:
- Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.
- The key is prayer and hard work.
- I’ve made the worst and funniest mistakes but it got me where I am.
- We are a jack of all trades.
- It’s not the end of the world.
- I just get done as much as I can. If it’s 4 am and I’m not yet done, I just let it go then sleep.
- Joining organizations help you a lot in the work field.
- You don’t have enough time.
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