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How to study better as a postgraduate architecture student

James Davis

Architecture is as useful as it is difficult to learn. Fortunately, we have some study advice you can employ.

If you’ve been an architecture student for any length of time, you’ve likely encountered the high-stress of multiple assignments piled high while simultaneously feeling elated (or deflated some weeks). It’s also likely you have many tips for surviving on your own by now, but there are others that may not have occurred to you. Here are some excellent ways to study effectively as an architecture student.

Ask good questions frequently

This general piece of advice applies well to architecture. You may feel as though the time of your classmates is better spent on other things, but professors are here to help. It’s likely some of your colleagues were itching to ask a question but never did in fear of interrupting the class, only to have someone else do so to their relief. You can be that person and ask the questions where necessary. All you need to do is determine whether or not your questions is useful to the class. There are several questions you can ask to help ensure you meet this standard.

  1. Does this questions have a linear answer? If it does, don’t ask it to your professor. For example, if you’re a postgraduate architecture student and want clarification regarding the concept of ‘function’, this is likely something you can figure out or research in your own time.
  2. Does this question capitalise on the unique knowledge of the person you’re asking it to? If the answer is yes, it’s likely a good question. For instance, let’s say your architecture professor worked for Gensler prior to their current role. Example: “From your experience at Gensler, what have you found to be most effective at dealing with this situation?” where “this situation” can apply to the query or concept you’re discussing in class.
  3. Will this question yield actionable knowledge? If the answer is yes, it’s likely a good question. Actionable knowledge is anything you can see use for in a current or upcoming project. Getting a question that yields ‘actionable knowledge’ is normally about specificity. Example: “Why is design X superior to design Y in this situation?”

This methodology is useful outside the confines of a classroom too. You’re free to email tutors and professors your questions, or even give them a call provided you’ve gained their permission. If you can learn to structure useful questions that are tailored to the person you’re asking, you’ll not only gain useful information for later user in both academic and professional contexts, but also entertain the askee with a compelling thought exercise.

Take breaks from the studio every 50 minutes

Humans never evolved for long spans of complete concentration. Doing yourself a favour and stepping out to take a walk and engage portions of your brain otherwise idle during regular study is an excellent way to recharge. Similar to how sleep serves to organise the day’s thoughts, taking breaks allows you to reflect on what you’ve learned or what you’re doing. It’s less disengaging with the task at hand and more giving yourself the opportunity to handle it.

Engage with other classmates and learn from their work

In architecture, many design decisions are subjective. Whatever you’ve chosen to do for a project will be highly unique and may differ significantly from any given number of peers. This is a blessing. By speaking with fellow students, admiring their work, hearing the issues they’ve had and success, you may gain new ideas and become observant of pitfalls you would have otherwise missed. Learning from your own mistakes is useful, certainly. Learning from the mistakes of others, however, is even better. Similar can be said of successes. So, consider interacting with peers part of necessary study time. You never know what can be learned.

If you’re able to ask insightful questions, bring yourself to take breaks and observe the efforts of other students, you’ll be a far more successful architecture student from an academic standpoint. The quality these points have in common is their reliance on taking part in activities not normally considered ‘studying.’ Hopefully now, if you didn’t already, you’ll realise that hitting the books or even working on your hands-on project around the clock aren’t necessarily conducive of the utmost success. They’re important, but these things will help augment these processes to an extent you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.