Anna is Toner Architects' Summer Intern and an architectural student at RISD. We are delighted to have her back here for a second post. This one is a follow up on her last one and delves more into the all-nighters that come with the territory, "crits" and the bond developing with her fellow students. Being an architectural student is not easy and we're grateful that Anna is opening up her experiences to our viewers.
Thank you, Anna!
Architecture school, in my case was a rude awakening. Coming from high school, I felt unstoppable and didn't really dedicate any serious thought to what architecture school actually entailed. Sure they said it was hard, and sleepless, and exhausting, and disheartening, but being the outstanding human that I considered myself to be, I assumed I would be immune from the rigor. Architecture school is a lot of sleepless nights. I pulled my first all-nighter and many more followed.
The biggest problem I faced was the constant, seemingly unrealistic deadlines. Architecture is getting assigned a 4-week project that would typically take any self-respecting architect months (sometimes years) to finish. 4 weeks. That timeline doesn't leave much room for normal human things like, oh I don't know: friends, food, fun, happiness, self-esteem. Just kidding (kind of). But really!
a professor critiques a student's project
And sure, you might say, "Don't sweat the small stuff! It's college, have fun, blah, blah." That type of thinking doesn't really fly when you're standing in front of a panel of critics who are essentially calling you out for everything you did incorrectly, because naturally in my first semester I have the entire building code of the world memorized. But I get it. It's how we learn. Worst critique I've ever gotten? "It looks like you've designed a cheap motel instead of student housing."
A group of architects might not seem like a big deal or anything worth losing sleep and sanity over, but having your work torn apart and essentially ridiculed gets disheartening and embarrassing in front of your colleagues.
In addition to our structural and history classes, the majority of my architecture education is spent in studio. We each get our own personal desk space. The entire department is together in one building, each grade separated by floor. The floors are usually large, open spaces where all the desks are arranged side by side. This is nice because it allows the students to collaborate and see the work that everyone is up to. My colleagues are all usually very encouraging and willing to help each other out. We get split up into sections. Although there are about 80 kids on each floor, we are all grouped together in sections under different professors. There's usually 10-13 kids assigned to each professor and the sections each work on different projects for the semester.
Various views outside my studio window as the sun was rising during an all-nighter
We usually start the semester by spending 4 weeks doing "warm-up" exercises and assignments. Once the final 6 weeks creep around, that's when the professors introduce our main project. And, of course, the dreaded all-nighter. The night before a major deadline, you can expect the studio to be full- usually till sunrise the next day. I always try to make an effort to go home and get some rest before critique, but sometimes you just get so caught up in the last-minute details that you don't even realize how quickly the hours fly by until you glance out the window and slowly see the sun lighting up the outside world.
Once that happens, you kick your pace into hyper speed and the adrenaline gets you through the final push till morning. I can't say I enjoy all-nighters, in fact I hate them- they drain my concentration and focus for the week and for days I walk around like a zombie feeling like no matter how many naps I take, I can't get enough sleep. That being said, I think we do the best we can to make it fun for each other. Some nights our studio will order pizza and collaborate on a playlist to blast on full volume. After 2 AM kids start getting weird and everything starts getting really funny, even though there's nothing funny about spending an entire night cutting chipboard. It's important to have fun and make the best of your choice to sacrifice sleep, and having a supportive environment by seeing your colleagues work just as hard as you do, is really encouraging and helps you stay on track.
By the end of the year, you grow really close to your studio-mates. There's nothing like shared suffering to really create memorable bonding experiences.