As an architectural and interior design professional, I've been tutoring students and professionals in these fields for some time, getting them up to speed with certain architectural software or providing design critiques on their work, and even teaching hand drafting. More recently, I started working with middle school and high school students interested in learning more about architecture/design as a possible profession. Some of these students grew up playing Minecraft and Legos and are natural builders, and others are more fine arts oriented and looking for a practical application of their artistic talents. There's room in architecture for all these types of students as the profession encompasses a broad spectrum of skill sets and possibilities. And my goal is to expose interested students to as many facets of the profession as possible.
In an attempt to capture the myriad topics of the profession, I developed an introductory course, "Architectural and Design Thinking." The course introduces various elements of architecture through a combination of presentations and group discussions. This 10-week course includes topics such as: architectural influences, design methodologies, pertinent issues within the profession (sustainability, wellness, limited resources, etc), innovative materials, and building resources. The focus of this course is not to teach particular skills, rather, to learn about how architects and designers think about the built environment. It's more akin to putting on a pair of architect's black spectacles to understand the world through their lens.
Then, there's one-on-one mentoring of students who are dedicated to exploring the profession seriously. This is a more hands-on and individually tailored approach. Like a university studio course, I use a project-based learning approach and teach specific skills along the way to achieve project goals. The lesson plan is curated specifically for the student, based on their skill, time commitment, and interest.
Here's the final presentation from a middle school student I mentored remotely showcasing the results of her semester of independent study:
With no prior drafting experience, she learned to draft an existing building, create an addition, and make a scale model. By studying the Farnsworth House, an architecturally significant building, we discussed the history and theory behind the project and used it as a case study to develop drafting skills. The project assignment of a house addition was meant to teach design skills. What are the site planning considerations? How do we mix various architectural styles and materials? What makes for a functional interior layout? Finally, we used basic model-making materials (foam core, acetate, and museum board) to build a model of the Farnsworth House.
Honestly, architecture is not for everyone. If you watched the featured student project above, you'll see that she repeatedly mentioned how much more work and time-consuming it was than she had anticipated. Is it rewarding to create tangible objects requiring technical skill and understanding? Absolutely! To do this as a profession though, requires more consideration.
When I mentor my students, I make sure that they understand the painstaking rigor it takes to produce a clean drawing or build a neat model. It will require multiple iterations and any task typically takes 3x as long as you think it will. I encourage them, but I also keep it real so that they know what they are getting into. I may tangentially share stories about how grueling architecture school is, how one will be prone to sleep deprivation, and even some insight on workplace dynamics. There are also some common misconceptions about architects that I work to dispel. Check out my other blog listing just a few of these misconceptions.
Going through this kind of mentoring, students sometimes quickly realize that architecture is not for them. And other times, despite the hard work, they are still passionate and energized. It becomes apparent to them that they will pursue this further. In either case, the experience will ultimately help them narrow down their career choices or come one step closer.
Book a free 30-minute Discovery Session with me to learn more about mentorship in architecture.