Anna is Toner Architects' Summer Intern. We have asked her to write some visitor posts for our blog. She has chosen to write on her educational experience as a student of Architecture at RISD. We think you'll enjoy her particular perspective and insight as it shows a glimpse into the challenging world of an architecture student. Thank you, Anna!
snapshots of some of my work
My Name is Anna, I am a rising thesis/5th year student at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). I met Ian back in February 2014 when I was searching for a summer internship to meet my graduation requirements. I knew I wanted to work in a smaller office setting where I could be more hands-on and engaged in the projects. Working for Ian that summer, I learned new computer software and got the opportunity to freely design projects. I got to meet with clients, survey existing structures, and collaborate in an office setting.
Working for Ian, I also got to see the tougher side to being an architect. As a solo architect, Ian does everything himself, from running around the city meeting with clients, to enduring the lines at the Municipal Services Building when requesting zoning and building permits. Eagerly tagging along, I am grateful for the opportunity to directly experience the more professional side to architecture. I can safely say, I got to do it all and be an actual architect for a summer, an experience that is still elusive to many of my friends and colleagues back at RISD.
Who is an Architect?
Architects are highly visual people with an affinity for the third dimension. We think about heights, widths and lengths. We think about spaces all the time. We are visual learners and problem solvers. We don't REALLY solve problems by crunching numbers and writing formulas (although some of us like to think we do). We solve problems by drawings lines. You're probably thinking, "Lines? What's the big deal?" Well we're trained to recognize and memorize all sorts of different combinations for these lines so that when we sit down and design the plans for your house, we can solve all the illegal stuff you've never even heard of. Illegal stuff like 2ft clearances at the top of your stairwells or that dark, windowless bedroom your angsty middle-schooler is yearning for. That's just the tip of the iceberg. We also know how things get built and constructed so we can help navigate you through potential problems with contractors and builders.
It's important to remember that as architects, we still pride ourselves in the artistry and creative freedom we execute in our work. We would probably go crazy if we just spent all day making identical house after house. We love narratives and making projects personal, both for the client and for ourselves.
I've been an artist for as long as I can remember. As a visual learner, I love sketching and drawing and visualizing ideas. I chose art school because I wanted the best of both worlds. I wanted the experience of being completely enveloped in an art education while learning how to navigate the world of architecture.
As far as art school goes, RISD has been an incredible experience, although bittersweet. The things I have learned and created are immeasurable as far as personal growth is concerned. That's not to say there hasn't been turmoil. The biggest part of art and design school is the critique. If you don't know what's wrong or incomplete in your work, how will you improve? Luckily in art school, there's usually a whole panel of critics to say it to your face. Unfortunately for us artists, many times our work is an abstract or even direct representation of who we are. When you hear people tell you your work sucks, they might as well be saying that YOU suck. While that may be an exaggeration, to some extent it holds true, especially in the architecture department, where you will regularly pull all-nighters to complete a project, just to have the stoic panel of black-wearing architects criticize your effort and snicker in their unimpressed boredom.
In architecture school, I've learned that there's no such thing as criticism- only blunt, sometimes harsh suggestions. What we do with our critiques is up to us, but it's important for every architecture student to understand the value of a blow to the ego. So when I get criticized, I take it as a challenge and an opportunity for self-improvement. We are going to be architects after all. We are responsible for the feel of the cities, the feel of the homes, the feel of society. Sure, we might not be the ones who build it, but we share and manifest our visions with the world and it's important to be universal and inclusive, and a lot of times, that means casting aside our ego and choosing to create the solution that is the best, not necessarily the favorite.
Stay tuned for the next post, where I'll go into more detail about architecture school and the studio process.
[note: this is part 1 of a 2-part series on architectural education]