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Architecture and structural engineering

I am in my first year of my architecture BSc degree. However I haven’t quite enjoyed it as I thought I would. I’m considering changing structural engineering (or something else) but I have some questions. How similar/ different are architecture and structural engineering? What is the learning style / pedagogy like for structural engineering? Lectures? 9-5? Workshops? Exams or assignments? Does it involve any creative work or is it mostly calculations? Can I enter straight into year 2 with my year 1 architecture qualification? If you have also changed from architecture can you please tell me what you changed to and what made you change? How easy/ hard is it to change courses and what’s the application process like after A levels. Is it still UCAS? How hard is structural engineering? Thank you very much for your patience if you’ve read all of that! XD
Reply 1
you could transfer courses using your uni's internal system - I did architecture at Cardiff and during my first year there were a couple of people that did that.

Structural engineering is very different from architecture (from my experience working with engineering students on joint projects) - a lot more maths emphasis and it's a lot more complex (matrices and stuff). Like, you might need to do some basic load calculations in architecture getting some values from buildings regs and stuff, but in engineering you'll have to work it all out yourself and use more advanced formulae. You definitely won't be prepared enough from your first year in architecture for year 2 engineering lol. Other things I've heard, you don't really 'design' in the same way as in architecture, if you do a project it'll be focused on solving a particular engineering problem (ie no 'social' or 'aesthetic' factors will be considered). Teaching-wise you'll have some conventional exams mixed with coursework and presentations, rather than it being purely coursework, and your lectures will probably be more frequent and in-depth. I found these lecture notes from the University of Birmingham that can give you some idea of what you might cover.

Hope this helps.
Reply 2
Original post by Pedr0
you could transfer courses using your uni's internal system - I did architecture at Cardiff and during my first year there were a couple of people that did that.

Structural engineering is very different from architecture (from my experience working with engineering students on joint projects) - a lot more maths emphasis and it's a lot more complex (matrices and stuff). Like, you might need to do some basic load calculations in architecture getting some values from buildings regs and stuff, but in engineering you'll have to work it all out yourself and use more advanced formulae. You definitely won't be prepared enough from your first year in architecture for year 2 engineering lol. Other things I've heard, you don't really 'design' in the same way as in architecture, if you do a project it'll be focused on solving a particular engineering problem (ie no 'social' or 'aesthetic' factors will be considered). Teaching-wise you'll have some conventional exams mixed with coursework and presentations, rather than it being purely coursework, and your lectures will probably be more frequent and in-depth. I found these lecture notes from the University of Birmingham that can give you some idea of what you might cover.

Hope this helps.
Thank you so much for your reply!!! It answered many questions! One more thing, I was wondering since you did architecture, does architecture get more technical in later years and does emphasis on creativity decrease in any way?
Reply 3
Original post by Student(:
Thank you so much for your reply!!! It answered many questions! One more thing, I was wondering since you did architecture, does architecture get more technical in later years and does emphasis on creativity decrease in any way?
It does get more technical but this doesn't necessarily mean less creative. Like, the fact that the course becomes more technical gives you more criteria to think about when designing, which can actually give you ideas and thereby boost your creativity. personally i struggled a lot during year 1 because there wasn't much to direct me, but got better as the course progressed.

So during the course as you learn more about building regulations (Approved Documents, etc.) and the 'architectural technology' side of things, you'll start incorporating those into your projects. So as well as thinking about how the building looks and how it would benefit its users and the surroundings, you would also have to decide things like:

the building's structural system and whether it can support the required loads being placed on the structure (by the occupants, by the building itself, by the activities going on inside);

window size and placement to provide enough natural light for the interior, and shading to reduce overheating/glare;

ventilation requirements (and how you're going to achieve those - mechanical, natural or hybrid ventilation);

acoustic requirements (sound isolation between rooms and storeys)

thermal comfort (heating and cooling systems)

fire safety and escape routes

throughout the process of making these technical decisions you also have the freedom to decide how they're expressed aesthetically (tying into the 'creative' arty aspect of architecture); for example you could choose to reveal the structural frame (e.g., Sainsbury Centre by Norman Foster), or use the building's natural ventilation system to make its appearance more striking (Centre for Development Studies by Laurie Baker). A really good (I think) and relatively recent example of how technical considerations can affect aesthetics is Goldsmith Street in Norwich; the white 'cutout' bits around the windows are because this development was designed to be low-energy - so big windows couldn't be used as they would let too much heat escape, leading to higher energy usage (and bills). So the white bit is like an optical illusion making the windows look bigger, and also imo gives the whole project a distinctive look.

Super long-winded answer sorry lol but hopefully some food for thought. good luck :smile:
Original post by Student(:
I am in my first year of my architecture BSc degree. However I haven’t quite enjoyed it as I thought I would. I’m considering changing structural engineering (or something else) but I have some questions. How similar/ different are architecture and structural engineering? What is the learning style / pedagogy like for structural engineering? Lectures? 9-5? Workshops? Exams or assignments? Does it involve any creative work or is it mostly calculations? Can I enter straight into year 2 with my year 1 architecture qualification? If you have also changed from architecture can you please tell me what you changed to and what made you change? How easy/ hard is it to change courses and what’s the application process like after A levels. Is it still UCAS? How hard is structural engineering? Thank you very much for your patience if you’ve read all of that! XD

There aren't to my knowledge any pure structural engineering undergraduate degrees; if you want to study - and work in - structural engineering you'd typically study a BEng in civil engineering, which, as will have structural modules (as well as others, like for example transportation, geotechnical, etc.). After graduating you'd apply for structural engineering jobs.

The degree itself - all engineering degrees, really - are based on physics, which at the university level is essentially applied maths, so it's almost exclusively calculation based. You won't really be "designing" things like you will when doing architecture, and there won't be any "studio time". This is university dependent, but most modules will have an exam at the end, which is based on solving problems mathematically. Many will also have coursework, which can be things such as how to use relevant software (e.g. AutoCAD, finite element analysis, etc.), or maybe also a group design or investigation type project. In short, it'll be somewhat different to studying architecture, though to be fair architecture is different to most degrees.
Original post by Student(:
I am in my first year of my architecture BSc degree. However I haven’t quite enjoyed it as I thought I would. I’m considering changing structural engineering (or something else) but I have some questions. How similar/ different are architecture and structural engineering? What is the learning style / pedagogy like for structural engineering? Lectures? 9-5? Workshops? Exams or assignments? Does it involve any creative work or is it mostly calculations? Can I enter straight into year 2 with my year 1 architecture qualification? If you have also changed from architecture can you please tell me what you changed to and what made you change? How easy/ hard is it to change courses and what’s the application process like after A levels. Is it still UCAS? How hard is structural engineering? Thank you very much for your patience if you’ve read all of that! XD
Hi there,

Sorry to hear you are not enjoying your course. My first advice would be to reach out to your student services or head of your course. You can explain your thoughts and they can best advise what your next steps would be, whether you would be able to transfer directly or you may have to take extra modules to catch up and what they can offer to help with the transition. You would only need to go through UCAS if you left the university and completely reapplied, usually transfers are done within the university itself.

In terms of differences, course structure and content this is dependent on the university. Architecture and structural engineering are similar however architecture is more focused on the initial design concepts and structures delves deeper into the physics of the structure. As well there are additional aspects you will study in each for example, you are likely to study foundations and geology in structures whereas this may not be as relevant in architecture.

My experience is that structural engineering is still creative - you will still be coming up with concept designs but you will do more calculations to test their functionality, arrange beam structure etc. Lectures again will depend on the university, my experience has been less lecture based and more focused on practising the physics and design process. I always advise to treat university as a 9-5, being a student is full time job and you should prepare for such. This doesn't mean that you have to work the hours 9-5, you can arrange your schedule to suit (and around your lectures) but the hours should be full time.

Good luck with your decision,
Sophie
Original post by Student(:
I am in my first year of my architecture BSc degree. However I haven’t quite enjoyed it as I thought I would. I’m considering changing structural engineering (or something else) but I have some questions. How similar/ different are architecture and structural engineering? What is the learning style / pedagogy like for structural engineering? Lectures? 9-5? Workshops? Exams or assignments? Does it involve any creative work or is it mostly calculations? Can I enter straight into year 2 with my year 1 architecture qualification? If you have also changed from architecture can you please tell me what you changed to and what made you change? How easy/ hard is it to change courses and what’s the application process like after A levels. Is it still UCAS? How hard is structural engineering? Thank you very much for your patience if you’ve read all of that! XD
Engineering is an analytical degree, not a creative design degree. You would be solving differential equations all day every day. You won't be designing anything from a creative perspective- engineering design is separate from this. Engineering design is using theoretical calculations to plan engineered systems (e.g. structures in this case). Presumably for structural engineering it would involved more designing static systems (e.g. truss/beam setups, cantilevered systems, soil mechanics etc) by doing the relevant calculations. Engineers don't design how things look, they design how things work.

Teaching would be through lectures plus lab sessions with tutorials to support. Assessment would probably be primarily exams plus problem sets and lab writeups as a secondary form.

You would not be able to enter year 2 of an engjneering degree from a non-numerate degree (if at all, due to accreditation requirements).

Note also A-level Maths and usually physics would be typically required and you will build on both continually throughout the degree.
(edited 2 months ago)

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