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Unbeknownst to those outside of the profession, architects receive an extra-long undergraduate degree – it’s a minimum of five years! This additional time may be mandatory given the incredible responsibilities bestowed upon architects later in their careers, but there is a lot more to the education of an architect than you might not expect. Whether you’re working with an architect to develop plans for your home renovation, or just looking to gain some insight into the profession, this five-minute architecture education can give you an inkling of what architects really learn in school.

Typical architecture education is broken into studios and seminars. A studio is a semester-long project with a building or group of buildings as the final product, along with a public presentation and presentation to a jury of experienced architects and theoreticians. Seminars are often broken into three categories: visual studies, cultural studies, and applied studies.

Visual studies

Visual studies classes provide an intensive approach to the value of drawing, modeling, and representing a building or project. The exercises students go through in a visual studies seminar are often very abstract, with a focus on lines, volumes, and even paper quality. This is often a series of classes that relies on computer software and contemporary forms of fabrication, such as 3D printing, milling, and laser cutting. The end goal of a visual studies project is to investigate the most attractive and engaging methods of communicating the idea of a project through a given medium.

Cultural studies

Cultural studies are a series of classes that focus on the history and criticism of architecture or other cultural practices. These classes can also be about art, politics, and even film, with the end goal of a greater appreciation of these tangential fields through the lens of architectural thinking. At the end of a cultural studies seminar, students would either produce an extended essay or a public presentation of either an opinion about a cultural practice or an investigative report on a specific piece of art or architecture.

Applied studies

Applied studies classes are possibly closer to what those outside the profession might expect architects to learn in school. A lot of hands-on learning goes on in these classes, often by experimenting with new forms of fabrication and materials. Similar to visual studies classes, applied studies classes are interested in how to visually communicate the value of architectural detail or major element. And when these classes are not about directly learning from materials, they are about improving students’ ability to produce construction and design documents, as well as understanding the complicated transactions that take place among architects, clients, and developers. “Applied studies” is an umbrella term in architecture school, in that it encompasses both structural/material efficiencies and architect/client engagement strategies.

Architecture school is said to offer a “renaissance education,” and the various subjects of seminars are exactly the reason why. Five years go by quickly when this amount of education is required to pass, but it is more than worth it to be able to engage in such a wide array of subjects.

Read more: Vitruvius Architecture’s Golden Rules: The Vitruvian Triad

Your Five-Minute Architecture Education was last modified: October 16th, 2019 by Shane Reiner-Roth

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