Great habits to develop for architecture school

Get Sketching! – Learning to draw by hand is a key skill for an architect. It is a quick and easy method of explaining ideas to both clients and other industry professionals. Since the development of computer software, we often forget what a powerful tool sketching is. Get in the habit of carrying a sketchbook with you at all times and sketch when and where you can.

Give back to your studio community – It is often easy to feel competitive with your studio peers. It is good to have a bit of competition to drive you forward but don’t forget architects work in teams. There is no harm in sharing your knowledge or expertise with your peers and no doubt they will return the favour to you. This can be extended into the profession.

Consult your peers and superiors – Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The beauty of university is that there are people there from all walks of life and at different stages of there academic or professional careers. Try talking to other year groups, your tutor and open communications with your classmates. We can learn a lot from each other.

Read – There is an abundance of material on all aspects of architecture: books, journals, magazines and blogs. Whenever you have a spare minute delve into the unknown. You will never stop learning something new. My favourite times to read are: whilst travelling, half an hour before bed and on the weekend. Don’t forget to arm yourself with a cup of tea.

Get out the studio – We all spend too much time in studio even though we come home thinking it wasn’t long enough. Don’t spend your life in front of a computer. Get out and look at and experience buildings or research in the library. It is important to have a change of scenery. You will work better if you have variety to your week.

Self Wellness – To me, this is the most important factor. Take care of yourself. Make time for your basic needs. Shower, have a good meal and get enough sleep. A lot of work goes into an architecture degree and you want to be working at your best. In my opinion there is no point slugging away at 4am producing mediocre work and then having to attend a 9am lecture you won’t absorb.

Have a life outside of studio – Give yourself time to concentrate on other things. Go the gym, go for a walk or learn to play an instrument. If you do not allow time to relax and pursue other interests you will start to hate what you are doing. Don’t make it a chore. No one likes chores.

Listen – As an introvert myself I find this habit pretty natural. Listen carefully in lectures, listen to critic and listen to your family and friends. hey can see things you can’t and it always interesting to get a different perspective.

Learn to deal with criticism well – Final crits are never fun and you rarely get one with sunshine and rainbows so don’t be disappointed if things seem to not go so well. Listen to the opinions of others and take the criticism on the chin. Remember everyone has their own style and you may just get a critic with an opposing one. It is the universities job to toughen you up a little for when you get into practise. It is daunting now but you will feel better for it in the end.

Think – Learn to think for yourself. Look carefully at the brief and approach it from many angles. Develop your own ideas. Let the design stem from the site, client, and the program specific requirements. Finally, question everything.

Be brave – It’s university, have fun and take risks. Be confident in your ideas. This is the safest time you can experiment with form and architecture. Try new ideas even if at first they seem far-fetched, you may just end up with something wonderful.

Enjoy yourself – Remember, you’re there to do something you love! Have fun with it!

Site Anaylsis – What should you be looking for?

Upon starting a new project, a site visit is one of the first steps in the design process you tackle. Conducting an analysis can be a daunting task and because these initial stages are incredibly important I have listed a few areas of focus for you to consider.

What should you be looking for?

Location – Undertake prior research of the area before visiting. Make a mental note of what areas you could focus on upon arrival. Where is the site located? How is the site approached? What is the existing land use?

History – How has the area developed over the course of time? How can your design be respectful of the existing context? What architectural movements are in the area? Are there any important parts of the sites history you want to preserve?

Geological – Geological factors will influence certain aspects of your design. It is important to have an understanding of what your building will be built on. How stable is the ground? What types of foundations would be appropriate?

Anthropological – The study of humans, past and present, with in the area is important. How is the area occupied? What are the neighbourhood relationships like? Human interactions?

Hydrologic – Analysis: Water movement, water distribution, and quality of water in the area.  Research the water resources in the area and environmental watershed sustainability. Is there any potential for rainwater collection or any need to plan for flooding?

Patterns – Can you notice any patterns such as: Street patterns, natural vs man-made, street variations etc.

Circulation – How do people move in and out of the space and through the area? Concentrate on vehicle Vs pedestrian movements, cycle routes, access to and from the site.

Orientation – The orientation of the site will prompt some design decisions. It will tell you the best way to position a building in order to optimise the natural resources such as the sun and wind. It can also indicate where certain rooms will be best positioned in the design for example: putting the kitchen in the east for morning sun.

Temperature and Sunpath – Look at the local climate and monthly average temperatures. This will indicate potential for natural lighting techniques and solar energy production.

Wind Direction – If you are to design a climatologically responsive building, careful consideration will be needed to best use the direction of the wind to create natural ventilation. This will initiate the placement & size of openings such as windows and doors.

Soil Type and Condition – From a structural point of view this is an important aspect of the site study. What will your building be built on?

Topography – By looking at the slopes and levels of the land you can produce a detailed contour map if necessary. Other areas to focus on include: Edge conditions, surfaces and materials in the area.

Vegetation & Natural Features –  Look at the trees, fauna and flora present in the area. You should indicate these on the site plan so you can refer to them during the design process. Can they be incorporated into the design? As well as the location of the vegetation it is also important to include a certain level of detail about them. For example: type, size, diameter, heights etc. This will help you easily refer back to them and make conscience decisions as to how to work with them.

Precipitation & Hydrology – During the site visit, you need to identify water sources in and around the site, for example: lakes, ponds, reservoirs, rivers etc. The scale and location of the water sources should indicate if they could be integrated into the design scheme. Also look at: rainfall in mm, precipitation, water drainage patterns, relative humidity, moisture content, the water table and the potential for rainwater collection.

Infrastructure Facilities – Make a note about services present in the location. Look for: electricity supply, water supply, waste disposal and drainage connections etc.

Surrounding Land uses and Buildings – By looking around at what exists you can determine certain elements of your design. If there is a problem with the site you can see how other buildings have tackled it. You will also need to look at how these buildings will directly affect yours. Study the noise impact, building heights, scale, hierarchy, form, public Vs private space, open space, negative and positive space and overall massing etc.

Prominent Vision Lines / Visual Links – How a building reveals itself can be extremely important. The views to and from the site can be carefully considered while designing. Are there any perspective relationships and interesting views you want to take advantage of?

Locally Available Resources – This is important if you are trying to design as sustainably as possible. What materials are available in and around the site, which can be used in the design? This will help to reduce the transportation energy & overall costs of the project.

I hope this post helps get you started with this task. Please find below a link to my Site Analysis Example Board on Pinterest for inspiration.

Useful Links: My Pinterest:

(post in progress)

Travelling for Study

Travel is a very important part of architectural education. Each year at Architecture School you will most likely be given the opportunity to undertake a study trip either in the UK or abroad. This gives you a fantastic opportunity to visit places with peers interested in architecture. You start to look at the built environment in a different way. During my part I I got the opportunity to visit: Paris, Amsterdam, Lincoln, Orvieto and Rome.

On these study trips we were taught how to analysis and record the city and also how to correctly undertake a site survey.

What to bring:

  • Camera
  • Camera charger
  • Sketchbook
  • Pencil wrap with an abundance of pens and pencils
  • Ruler
  • Tape measure
  • Map of the area
  • Tracing paper (to trace information over the map)
  • Travel Guide
  • List of places of interest

What should I be looking at?

  • Look up
  • Circulation
  • Pedestrian and transport routes
  • Massing
  • Boundaries
  • Forms
  • Symbolism
  • Main routes
  • Interesting details

Overall, when designing in an area it is important to look at the wider context. There is plenty to learn from in the abundance of cities around the world.

(post in progress)

Sensing Spaces

The Sensing Spaces: Architecture Re-imagined Exhibition was run by the Royal Academy of Arts from the 25th January – 6th April 2014. The event called for seven architects to reawaken the city’s relationship to architecture by showcasing the importance of the role it plays on our everyday emotions. The participating architects: Grafton Architects Diébédo Francis KéréSensing-Spaces1 (1) Kengo Kuma Li Xiaodong Pezo von Ellrichshausen Álvaro Siza Eduardo Souto de Moura The goal of the exhibition was to evoke different emotions from the visitors and ultimately change the way the city engages with architecture. The collective architects were given 23,000 square feet and 72 days to complete a breathtaking large scale installation. Whilst visiting I found myself not just viewing the designs but how different groups of people were reacting to them. The designs were highly interactive allowing visitors to touch, climb, sit walk and play within the space. The chosen materials varied considerably between installations, allowing for human response to be changed through sight, scent, sound and touch. The different materials and shapes caused opposing behaviors and where some designs created a tranquil atmosphere others encouraged noise and play. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to this exhibition. After seeing how a variety of materials, shapes and lighting can affect the human emotion so considerably, I have taken away the understanding of how crucial these factors are in producing good design. Further Reading:

(Post in progress)

“In a city the atmosphere is all around you and is ever changing. New things will become old things, so the idea of continuity is very real. Time is a great architect.” – Alvaro Siza

30 day challenges!

It’s that time again…The start of a new year. After reading a couple of books regarding self improvement I came across the concept of 30 day challenges. In particular, I read ‘Challenge yourself I dare you: 30 day challenges’ by Stuart Ralph. ( He looked in depth at the idea of setting yourself a goal for a shorter period of time – to ease the commitments and the potential risk of failure. I have used this concept as one of my ‘New Years Resolutions’ for 2015. This resolution will be versatile enough to dedicate as much time as I wish to it, depending on other commitments.

Another place in which this idea is discussed which you may find of use is Steve Pavlinas’ blog: Steve describes it as ‘A powerful personal growth tool… a concept borrowed from the shareware industry, where you can download a trial version of a piece of software and try it out risk-free for 30 days before you’re required to buy the full version. It’s also a great way to develop new habits, and best of all, it’s brain-dead simple.’ Also, on his blog are plenty of suggestions to get you inspired!

Towards the end of 2014, I began brainstorming some ideas as to what 30 day challenges could benefit me and other architecture students alike. I have tried to include a range of goals that will help to develop aspects of architecture.

  • Sketch every day for a month.
  • Learn a new building material a day.
  • Write a new blog entry.
  • Take a photograph a day.
  • Do 30 minutes – 1 hour of 3D modelling.
  • Write an extract in your journal.
  • Meditate.
  • 10 minute life drawing exercise.
  • 30 artistic performances in 30 days.
  • Learn a new vocabulary word every day.
  • Write about 30 pieces of Art.
  • Go for a long walk every day.
  • Read for an hour day on a subject that interests you.
  • Write a 500 word reflection.

I hope to look at a range of challenges across: professional practice, technology, design and History topics within architecture. Pease feel free to post a comment and share your goals for the next 30 days if you decide to give 30 day challenges a try. I am hoping these will be a much more achievable way to complete the goals set for the new year.

New Year’s Resolutions….. Friend or Foe?

With the holidays coming to an end, the last few days of the year often end up being a time of reflection. What have I achieved this year? What do I need to focus on in 2015? What could I improve? Being able to reflect on both the good and the bad is something I feel is very important, it can only help in progressing forward positively in the new year. There is some debate as to how helpful or effective New Years Resolutions are, none the less I have decided to write down what I could benefit from achieving this year.

1. To find new ways to improve my organisation. I am normally a relatively organised person. In fact I have been known to sometimes over plan things. For me, the more organised I feel, the less stressed I am and can make better use of my time.

2. To engage in more regular exercise. I currently attend the gym however, probably not as much as I could. Regular exercise doesn’t just have positive health impacts on your physical self, but also helps with your mental health.

3. To try engage with people I wouldn’t normally talk to. I am a quiet and private person and it has always been a struggle to pluck up the courage to talk to new people. I hope to network more with other students and industry professionals.

4.  Sample 30 day challenges (please refer to my follow up post for further information)

May you all have a productive 2015!