Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Is Maths A level necessary for architecture?
A. Some universities will strongly recommend maths, but most universities like to see a range of subjects - a 'technical' subject (usually maths or physics), and humanity (geography or history) and an 'art' (art or graphical design). The 'best' combination is usually a blend between the arts/humanities, and the sciences.
Q. What should I read before starting university?
A. It's likely your university will send you a book-list. More often than not, they recommend books which are a thousand pages long and don't have many pictures - you can buy them, but not many students ever manage to read the whole thing!
There are quite a lot of architecture journals which are like magazines that cover the latest news in the architecture world. Your university's architecture library should subscribe to these, although you can take out your own student subscription (which costs much less than it does normally!). The Architect's Journal, Blueprint, Detail and Architectural Review are all good reading material. The likes of ArchDaily and Dezeen also make for some interesting reading, and these are free to access, so could be worth investigating pre-university.
Q. That's all well and dandy, but I want real books! Recommendations?`
A. Hehe.. okay! I have a list of books I recommend on Amazon - they're vibrant rather than full of dreary text, and are bursting with inspiration and ideas - Amazon Book List.
They're all fantastic books, and I have little doubt that over the course of your studies, you'll come across most, if not all of them.
Q. Help! The university I'm applying wants to see a portfolio! What do I put in there?
A. The university you applied to will generally specify what they're looking for in the portfolio, and it's usually best to stick to that. Put a lot of thought into the work though - remember that this is to show your creative and drawing skills. On the whole, the university just wants to see that you can work creatively and think critically - so play to your strengths in terms of content! They'll want to see that you can draw, and that you have the ability to communicate visually. Also remember to try and present your work professionally.
Jrhartley's portfolio is an excellent example that you can use for ideas.
Q. Is work experience in architecture firms necessary?
A. No, although a keen interest in architecture is very necessary! Obviously work experience demonstrates interest in the field, but if you also demonstrate passion for the subject, this will suffice just as much.
Q. Is it all essays in Architecture, or is it all arty and models?
A. It depends where you are. Some universities have modules on architectural theory which will require essays, and it's likely there will be a final year dissertation or research report. However, many universities encourage your creativity and expression of ideas through art and model making. An important aspect of architecture is being able to express yourself visually.
Q. Are architects well paid?
A. Depends how good you are! :p Realistically, for a course which requires at least 6 years of studying and experience, Architecture isn't well paid in comparison to courses of a similar ilk such as medicine or law. However, if you do turn out to be a good designer, it's not uncommon to get good salaries with experience. A starting graduate salary is typically £22,000 outside London.
Choosing a university
Q University X is higher than University Y in the league tables? Where should I go?
A. University league tables are nigh on useless for architecture, and very biased. The best way is to go to the Open Days and see the universities for yourself - get a feel for the city, and the building you'll be working it. A lot of universities invest in purpose built architecture buildings so you may find you like the way the building you study in has been built. Think about things like facilities, course content and studio spaces. On the whole, different architecture schools have very different focuses, so it very much depends what you're looking for in an architecture course :)
What to bring when you start your course
Life as Architecture Student
1. You will need to have good time management skills. Sometimes you'll end up pulling all-nighters or losing a weekend as deadlines draw near BUT you can allay these to some extent by treating your degree like a 9-5 job. 100 hour weeks are not uncommon, even in first year!
2. You'll probably moan constantly about your degree despite having no intention to actually drop it.
3. Learn to recycle modeling materials - then you can afford to feed yourself.
4. You may find that non-architects don't understand your workload.
5. Be prepared to take the initiative.
6. Travelling is important for an architecture student - the ideal excuse for a holiday abroad!
7. Part-time work is probably best saved for the summer if you intend to do really well in your studies. Budgeting is a must. Fortunately, alcohol is cheap.
8. Power-napping for 15 minutes every 45 minutes for the 3 weeks leading up to a crit or deadline will not, contrary to popular belief, work. You may end up in a coma.
9. Don't date an architect, unless you are insane.
10. Enjoy your work! If you plan to become an architect, your projects as a student are more flexible due to the absence of fussy clients and tight budgets (but yes, you will have to take harsh criticism from your tutors).
Graduate Destination and Careers Prospects
To be a Chartered and recognised UK qualified Architect, the following needs to be accomplished: RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) - where 3 parts need to be completed alongside 2 years of professional experience.
This can be done by: A 3 year undergraduate degree that ensures a part 1 RIBA exemption followed by a year out (placement year) in a professional environment A 2 year post-graduate degree (usually 2 years) - Part 2 RIBA followed by another compulsory placement year in a professional environment Professional part 3 examination.
The degrees are offered as either sandwich, full-time, part-time. Many people follow this 7 year scheme - but some tend to have a 2 year or even 3 year placement before they complete their RIBA.
Any additional information can be viewed at the RIBA website.