What Should Architecture Students Do During Summer Break?

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Here in Australia we are currently on our summer break, well those of us who didn’t do any summer school. I don’t know about you but at the start of the break, or even the shorter winter break, I think about all the stuff I want to do. I mean there is a lot that can be done, we have around 16 weeks off from the pressures of architecture school. However as architecture students, how should we use this precious time? That’s something I want to touch on, because if you had asked me 2 years ago I would have given you a completely different answer. In fact I’ll give you a 2016 and a 2018 version.

2016

So it’s summer break, you have 16 weeks of freedom ahead of you. How should you spend this time? Well here are some ideas;

Work in an office

Finding employment is a task in itself, however if you’re able to get a job in an office, then that’s awesome! You will learn so much in those 16 weeks, you’ll learn how buildings get built, how a firm operates, might pick up some details or learn something new in CAD. Worst case you will get some real-world practical experience, just remember to be paid for it.

If you are having difficulties finding a job with architects, try looking at builders? If you think you’re physically capable, why not be a casual labourer and spend some time on site? While the architects offer real-world practical experience, it’s a whole other level with builders.

Sort out your portfolio

This ties into the above somewhat, or it can be it’s own independent¬† task. Whether you are a first year, third year, fifth year or anything in between, working on your portfolio is a valuable exercise. Really look at your projects, curate your portfolio (instead of throwing everything in), practice your graphic design skills… All these things help

Revisit your older projects

Something I’ve done, and this ties into the above (ooo bit of a trend going on), is to go back to older studios and have a go at re-designing it. For my application portfolio to Melbourne School of Design I spent time re-designing my two 3rd year studios. The exercise allowed me to try approaching a design problem with a different way of thinking. Whether I thought about materiality differently, or space, or detailing, or pragmatic layout, or construction systems, or whatever it was.

Improve at software or learn new ones

Want to learn Revit? Or improve on your SketchUp? This break is a great time to practice your software skills. Or maybe you want to practice rendering, or learn how to do a fly-through video? Improving your skills will look very favourable to your future employers and studio leaders.

Sketch and read everyday

Something I neglect to do every major break time, and every time I regret not doing it. Buy a fresh new sketchbook and each day fill a page. Whether you sketch an architectural idea, sketch some details, sketch a building in your city or even just sketch everyday objects. Just make sure to keep your hand moving. On top of that, borrow a few books from the library and begin reading more than what your history subject assigns.

2018

So it’s the 2018 summer break, and well my advice to you is a bit different now. Here are some alternative ideas to try this break;

Take up a hobby

What interests do you have OUTSIDE of architecture? Is it bird-watching? Playing the guitar? Learning a martial art? For me I took more interest in photography / videography. Having a hobby that isn’t embedded in architecture gives you that escape when it becomes a bit overwhelming.

Read and watch documentaries…

The key to this, make sure they’re not directly architecture related. Don’t watch a documentary on Louis Kahn, or read a book on modernism. Instead, watch a documentary on India’s educational system and read up on what was happening in the world between the 1930s and 1960s. If you broaden your knowledge from a non-architecture perspective on things that have happened, or happening, you can approach a design problem in a totally different way if it ever requires you to do so.

Travel

If you can afford it, travel! Travel! Travel! Whether you travel halfway across the world, or to the nearest country or even just to a different state in your own country. You should be using this time to explore other cultures, try new foods, go on adventures and to break out of your comfort zone! If you can’t afford major travel, grab a few mates and go on a road-trip somewhere, camp, spend some quality time together and just take in the moment.

Take a break from architecture

It’s called summer ‘break’ for a reason. Trust me when I say this, taking a break from architecture is needed. You’re not going to fall behind, you’re not going to lose your mojo or anything like that. By giving it a break it allows you to grow as a person overall, and a well-rounded person makes for a great architect. I basically want to tell you to not fall into this belief that architecture is a 24/7 lifestyle, because it isn’t.

See much difference from 2016 to 2018? I like to think 2018 is a bit more mature, and a bit more wiser. Now by all means if you want to work, re-design your projects, learn new software and sketch everyday then go for it. I think perhaps the main point I want to mention is do what you feel like. If you want to learn Revit, awesome. If you want to learn how to paint landscapes, awesome. Don’t feel guilty if what you want to do isn’t architecturey or anything.

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