What should students consider when choosing where to study Architecture? By Crispin Kelly, architect and former president of the Architectural Association.
Are you ready for a long slog?
The 3 year course is effectively the first part of the training to be a qualified architect – completing it means you have achieved Part 1 of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) qualification. Part 2 requires two more years of uni, and Part 3, two years of monitored work in an architectural firm.
So full qualification as an architect is a big commitment, but a degree in architecture on its own is good training for many other jobs which involve buildings and the built environment, like surveying, building, property development, interior design, conservation and green energy. It is also good general training for almost any career – you find that people who have done architecture undergraduate degrees but opt not to continue to become a qualified architect go on to become successful bankers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, etc.
Do you want to get rich?
Qualifying as an architect is hard work, and once qualified the pay is not brilliant. Much of your satisfaction will come from pride and delight in the work you do.
Are you interested in design?
All courses involve a significant design component. This doesn’t mean you have to draw like an angel, but you need to be passionate about making buildings – how they will be used, how they will be built, their context and cost, spaces and sequences of spaces, and aesthetics.
Found an Architecture course you like? Check out how much emphasis is put on…
- Architectural history
Most courses will have a canter through architectural history, and some essay writing as a result.
- Technical study
There will also be a component of technical study, showing a familiarity with building technology – how buildings stand up, keep the rain out and the heat in etc. Some colleges veer more to this side of things – architect as builder – others more to the image of architect as artist and designer.
What kind of teaching experience do you want?
A few colleges operate a lecture based system much as you would expect in many subjects at uni, and very little tuition in small groups. However most have adopted a studio system, where students sign up with a particular tutor and follow his or her programme, investigating specific areas of interest. There are normally 15 students or fewer assigned to each tutor, and you’ll be working on particular projects – more general in the first year, and then gradually more specialized in the second and third years. For each course you are interested in you should check what teaching style is being offered, particularly the size of the studio groups and whether you think the tutors are interesting.
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