Question on Architecture study/schools
We are in California.
My daughter likes home design. She spends a lot of time drawing homes
and is interested in homes. She wants to be an architect.
She is fascinated with high end homes.
However, she struggles Math. How much of an impact will this have ?
How important is Math for a degree in architecture?
What are the most important strengths that an architecture student
should have ?
Any input/suggestions/pointers on the above would be highly
the word architecture contains the word art and technology. it's both a
science and an art. u can enter the field from art or science undergraduate
degree. architecture is a second degree, u need an undergraduate degree to
get in. some university prefers an art undergraduate degree but some
university prefers science. u needs to know about basic structural theory
as well as fine art displacement. some university doesn't call it
architecture but urban design. it's strawberries u pick. u decide what u
want. your daughter is going to work with a bunch of guys in the
construction field and those guys are very tough. think before u enter.
But maybe she wants to do good ones. Or interesting ones.
Or maybe she sees her interest in the one subset and figures to learn
the larger field. May turn out she's the next FLW of hospital
Not much. Not very. There will be math classes. They do have to be
I tutor Structures 1 and math at the BAC. The math is basic high
school algebra and trig. My personal feeling is that an understanding
of trig is just helpful in a field that deals with the shapes of
things. Heck, I'd like to see everybody understand my fifteen minutes
"all you really need to know about calc" but that's unlikely.
That said, I get a great number of students who can do the following
in their head. Frequently. Consistently.
0 = 37 + X
X = 37
Which may look like a minor error, but it is the difference between
tension and compression and the cause of the other end of the truss
being able to be made out of soft cheese and people dieing.
We don't need her to like it, we just need her to be able to pay
enough attention and apply herself enough to understand it. Want to
win, even if it sucks. But that's college. We all have to take classes
we don't like and aren't good at. Figuring it out so that those
classes aren't the important ones is the first step.
As an architecture student she will spend a lot of time drawing to
scale. There are special "rulers" for that which help a lot. Still,
it's good to be able to say "OK, that's about as long as the first
joint on my thumb, pretty sure the model is in quarter scale so that's
about four feet give or take." It's handy to be able to say "that's 8
blocks tall at 8" per, 64" total.. 4*12 is 48... 5*12 is 48+2P + 10
= 60 so five foot four."
We do Structures 1 here predominantly through the graphical method and
that involves a lot of scale drawing at scales that aren't on the
"ruler". "One square equals three hundred kips." So being able to say
"well, one square is a quarter inch, so I use 1/4 scale and get 12
feet so 12*300 = 3600 kips." is handy. But that's just for getting
Most architecture students get excited about the Golden section for a
while so it can be handy to know how to count and multiply.
Architecture is a real world discipline so it deals with real world
things and that usually means pushing some numbers around, but only in
the + - * / side of the world. Working with feet and inches makes that
a little harder but we aren't talking eigenvectors or partial
An ability to take criticism.
An ability to let go of the precious. Or to avoid making things
precious to begin with.
At RPI they use(d?) the phrase "critical inquiry". At the BAC we talk
about design as an iterative process. These aren't things she needs to
come prearmed with. But the idea that designers sit around in a bean
bag chair smoking sweet Virginia leaf sipping on gin and juice until
the design pops into their head and they then spend the next three
weeks documenting and drawing up the details pretty is wrong. In
design school we have an idea. Evaluate. Rework. Evaluate. Rework.
Evaluate.... The idea changes. The evaluation stage can be brutal.
(Look for a book "The Crit". Also "Architecture 101".) Doing math you
can get a wrong answer. 2+2 doesn't equal 3. You can try an elaborate
proof that leads nowhere. Doing design somebody can come along an
point out how your great idea doesn't do what you claim it does. It's
so much more personal. When architects cry it's because somebody
external told them their ideas suck. When engineers cry it's because
they tell themselves internally they are stupid.
It's good to be able to draw a little. We get some students at the BAC
who can't draw. We make them draw and they get somewhere through
It's not that one needs to be able to make beautiful measured inkwash
rendering of baroque masterpieces. If the designer isn't sitting in
the bean bag chair waiting for the idea to pop to mind fully formed
then what is the designer doing? The designer is taking half an idea
partially formed and putting it to paper to see what it looks like.
Then having a new idea and altering the drawing or making a new
drawing. Making ten drawings to pin on the wall and compare and
contrast. The drawing is a conversation between the designer and her
brain. When she talks to her peers she can expect to whip out a pen
and sketch something. We are design students, design form shape
building results and problems are what interest us. Sitting in the
coffee shop: music students hum to each other; jet fighter students
swoop their hands around the table knocking lattes and spraining
elbows; design students.... sketch on napkins.
And then you pin up and your pictures have to look like something to
help explain what you are doing.
My impression is that schools expect students to need help with their
drawing skills. Also that schools expect students to ramp up - they
are supposed to WANT to be doing this.
My second semester studio instructor and one of the guest critics he
brought in joked about my instructors inability to draw.
If your daughter isn't much of a drawer and is looking for something
to do the summer before school, a sketchbook and a pencil, or a class
at the CC for some structure might be good. I suggest this not so that
she would become good or anything but only to loosen up the drawing
mind. The first few drawings are always the hardest. I'm not
particularly good but if I take a break, I get pencil shy and my
drawing is stiff when I have to pick it up again. Having a bit of
fluidity comfort, even if the final results are horrible, is nice.
CAD skills aren't needed. CAD use is even often discouraged at early
stages. But they are also another thing that is helpful to have a leg
up on. Photoshop too. And drafting. But we're getting away from "most"
and "important" here.
An affection for buildings and how they are made.
An affection for coffee.
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