How often do you read/hear the following from high school students or prospective architecture students “Do you have to be really good at physics and maths?” Most people respond “You’ll need to be at least at Einstein’s level” [they don’t really, well I hope they don’t]. A quick look at some local universities and the only specific requirement is a good English score, so what’s with all the physics and maths?

[disclaimer, the following is based on my own personal experience and observation, yours may vary]

Yes you need some level of maths, to calculate dimensions, sizing, if you’re laying out patterns or objects by numbers and understand how to scale drawings. At best, you should have a good understanding of Pythagoras Theorem and know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide. That’s what I have found in my studies so far, I haven’t needed to use complex math equations or the like.

As for physics knowledge, I haven’t used physics yet, personally. An assignment last year got us to work out the loading of a beam on the column structure using physic equations however the other group members did that while I did the drawings [that’s a whole other post!]. Other than that, I have yet to find any need for a sound physic knowledge base, and even then they give you the formula, you just need to plug in the numbers.

Why do people think you need to have an awesome maths and physic background for architecture? I honestly don’t know. Architecture is about the space, the material and most importantly, people. It’s about shaping and forming our built environment and creating spaces in which people will live, work, play and relax in. You don’t need to know e=mc² or f=x+[y-z]x45.76-f+1.9-l [yes that’s not a real equation, and I suck at pretending to be mathematical] to do this.

Now, if you wanted to be an architect who has an amazing knowledge of engineering, or you want to be an engineer, then yes maths and physics are extremely useful and most likely mandatory. If you do decide to design a complex geometric parametric building, no doubt you’ll need some good level of maths, however [would like someone to confirm this] I would think the computer program can do a lot of the maths for you?

If you’re stuck on which subjects to take, think about why you want to study architecture? Do you enjoy the design and artistic nature? Or the rigid mathematical approach? I would recommend taking maths, but also art-based subjects, and if the school has no specific subjects required for entry, take whatever you will enjoy. You don’t need to be a genius in maths, physics, chemistry and whatever else Sheldon Cooper would have studied. Want to get a head-start on the course? Just read a bunch of books from architects, that will teach you a lot more than trying to work out why MCHammer was too square to take e.