Architect Student’s Daily Life (Typical Highs & Lows)

It is always intriguing to find out what an architecture student’s life is for a prospective student.

You have heard stories of inspiration as well as dismay that students go through to finally attained that much-coveted degree in Architecture.

So now, take a peep into a day (or two) in the life of an architecture student – she’s Hailey, undertaking the Bachelor of Architecture program.

day in the life of an architecture student

On a Typical Weekday

6:00 am

The only thing that gets me out of bed is an annoying alarm clock screaming “wake-up, wake-up” in my kid sister’s voice. If I could find it, I’d break it, but it’s rolled under the bed.

My little sister calls herself a tech mage, and she made it for me. It’s a ball, and when it starts the alarm call, it rolls and hides. She made it as a gift when I packed my things and left to pursue my architecture dreams.

It does the job of getting me up. I’d like to say I now do some yoga and meditate to get into the right frame of mind to design amazing buildings, but I’d be lying.

What I do is stumble to the shower and then into the kitchen. I microwave some oats and water and add a chopped banana. It’s nutritious and cheap.

I pack up some food to eat during the day and fill up my water bottle. I save money where I can; books and materials aren’t cheap.

The rest of my housemates are asleep or elsewhere. I don’t live with other architects because I like to try and get to know some people outside of my course. Plus, I’m going to be spending next year abroad; not decided where.

8:00 am

My first formal lecture of the day starts at 10.00 am, but it’s a presentation session. I want to go through my slides and handouts and run through my notes.

This presentation is stage one of the design project. Stand up and present the concept.

The hall is going to be filled with other students and the judging panel; there are going to be questions. I’ve spent the past two days trying to think up what sort of questions they might ask as I want to nail the presentation.

I’m lucky. I’m first up; it means the panel can’t really judge my design against someone else’s presentation. It also means that I don’t have to sit in the room with the nerves building up.

There’s a lot of presenting, standing up, trying to make other people see your vision.

9:30 am

Drinking coffee and working on my sketchbook. It’s what I do in “downtime” – I try out little doodle ideas.

In Architecture History, we are looking at Russian Architecture; I have an idea for a kid’s playhouse. We are building one for a local school as a community service.

Plus, it’s a project we can work on from concept to completion.

10:00 am

Standing up, talking, answering questions – some less convincingly than others – and then sitting there and watching everyone else present their work. I have project envy.

1:00 pm

I eat my packed lunch, sat at a desk with my computer. I’d scribbled down some notes when I sat down after my question session, but I want to get it recorded as part of the project file.

When we go forward to the next stage – building a scale model, I’m going to need to show that I’ve listened to the “client” criticisms.

Arghh! They didn’t shower me with praise, they feel at least three of the drawings need a complete makeover, and I’d made the mistake of not clearly translating my design concept onto the scale model – they critiqued that I’ve got to be bolder with the execution.

I’m probably going to have to scrap it and start again. It’s frustrating. Plus, it’s due next Tuesday.

1:30 pm

I meet up with an older student and haggle over the price of some second-hand textbooks. They are in pretty good condition and about half the cost of buying new.

2:00 pm

Lecture on structures – what you need to know to make a building stand up in high winds.

The guy giving the lecture describes himself as a forensic architect – he’s the guy that gets called in when things go wrong.

He likes to use practical examples. He gives us a portfolio of evidence and gets us to work out what caused the problem and how to fix it.

It’s challenging, and it really makes you think.

The discussions are lively, and a group at the back sort of gets the right answer.

3:00 pm

From structures to town planning, some architect graduates end up in town planning. It’s not straightforward; new development puts pressure on utilities, schools, and hospitals.

It’s another assignment with a killer deadline. Research the rules for development in a “sensitive” historic district and come up with an outline of an acceptable new house.

4:00 pm

Five minutes is not enough time to get from one end of the department to the other.

Clearly, whoever schedules the lectures in the rooms doesn’t think about that – we call silo planning, an issue made worse by the number of subjects we study in architecture.

We’ve just been covering that in town planning – what happens when you don’t think about the impact a development has on its surroundings.

I love 3D rendering; my guilty secret is I enjoy those exploration games. Not so much for the game as to the beautifully rendered background.

The software is really cool – have you ever seen a bungalow with a psychedelic design?

Me neither, but you can do some fantastical creations in 3D. When I work up my Russian style playhouse, I’ll be using this software.

The university gives us access to Octane Render, which has some nifty features that aren’t available on the free tools like Blender and Maxwell. Octane is superfast.

5:00 pm

There’s a meet and greet. A whole bunch of kids is spending a couple of days at the university, and they get to mingle and ask questions of real-life students.

There’s food. It means I can eat, and then I won’t need to go back home, and I can hit the studio.

I was hoping to spend an hour here maximum, but I get cornered by a couple of really chatty kids, and the deal is you have to be approachable.

I’m honest; if they really what to be architects, then telling them that you have to work long hours isn’t going to put them off.

I’d wanted to be an architect since I got my first set of building bricks. I can’t imagine being anything else.

6:30 pm

One of my tutors spots me in the corridor heading for the studio. He’s in a chatty mood. He wants to know how this morning’s presentation went.

I remember to thank him for his help with the concept.

He’d spent our last session helping me clarify what I could achieve in the available timescale. He’s got a suggestion about where I could do my year abroad.

I’m going to have to make my mind up soon, but I keep putting it off.

7:00 pm

Studio time.

Every minute when you are not somewhere else is studio time.

Computer software for architects is expensive, so if you want to use the school’s equipment and tools, you need to be in the studio.

There are always people in here; honestly, one of the final year students has brought a sleeping bag.

I’ve not pulled an all-nighter for some time, but I’m not ruling it out for the coming days with all the deadlines coming up next week.

Tonight, I want to use the laser cutting machine, and I’m glad to see I’m the only one. Effectively, I’ve created a kit of my house design.

I need to cut it, and then comes the process of gluing it all together. This time I’m concentrating on the interior design – where the walls go and layout.

10:00 pm

I’d lost track of time. I thought I’d get more time in the studio than I did. It’s always the way.

I go home. There are lights on in my housemate’s rooms. I don’t bother telling them I’m home; if they wanted to socialize, they would be in the kitchen.

There are dirty dishes in the kitchen; all student houses are like this. Eventually, someone will break and bully everyone into having a half-day cleaning up. It might be me.

11:30 pm

It’s time to sleep. I spent too long chatting to friends in the digital world, and I know that I’m going to hate my alarm clock when it shouts at me in the morning.

On a Weekend

7:30 am

It’s the weekend. A couple of hours more sleep in the morning.  Ideally, I’d have got up early and gone to the studio, but it was a late-night last night.

First Friday in the month, the architecture department puts on a social. Each year group takes a turn at organizing it.

Last night was a pizza supper. The whole department turns out with few exceptions.

8:30 am

I’m heading into work. Being an architecture student makes it incredibly hard to hold down a part-time job.

There are masses of work, and the hours aren’t consistent. It makes you a lousy employee. Fortunately, I’m on the university administration bank team.

All students need some extra cash.

The university sometimes needs some grunt work done – stuffing envelopes, making up induction packs, handling phone lines, or setting up for conferences.

The work comes and goes, but it’s enough to supplement my funds.

Plus, it means that I can concentrate on my projects when I need to and am not committed to manning a supermarket checkout at a specific time.

This morning I’m envelope stuffing in a team of six with snacks and lunch thrown in.

3:00 pm

Studio and computer time, I’ve got an assignment due next week. I’m almost there, but I need to use CAD software. I’m not the only one.

Honestly, the studio room is never empty.

One of the other students is about to discard some foam board. There are some salvageable sections, so I wander over and ask if I can have them. They look blank.

A first-year, probably not worked out how much they are going to spend on model-making materials.

Older students showed me the ropes, so I explain that the “scraps” are useable. They ask if everyone saves their materials.

The guy at the next bench laughs and makes a joke about some students being too wealthy.

I point out that if they don’t want to save the material for their own use, there is a scrap store rather than putting it in the bin. The scrap store is free for anyone to use.

I also save packaging materials. I do a lot of model building, and keeping the costs down makes sense.

Plus, I think we should get extra points for recycling.

6:00 pm

I rush home. We are having a small house party. I’ve invited some of my fellow students, and so have my housemates.

Everyone contributes.

We do go out occasionally; tomorrow, I’m taking a day trip into the old town – with my sketchbook.

But tonight, we are going to party; it’s our turn. It’s a warm evening, and the house has a back yard, so we don’t have to squash everyone into the kitchen.

It’s fun, but I can’t help thinking I could have spent longer in the studio. But I’m making time for it because we don’t do this very often.

Most weekend entertainment is getting extra time in the studio, maybe with pizza.

1:00 am

Only a few people left, and I expect they will crash on one of my housemate’s floor. There is going to be a massive clean-up job tomorrow.

I’m still buzzing, so I think I might do that research for development in historic areas. I don’t want to leave it until the last minute, and I’ve learned to operate on minimal sleep.

Disclaimer: The character and events are fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.