Wednesday 14 February 2024

Never Mind About Maths and Physics

Year 8 student's work at an Architectural Design workshop at
Hampton School, with the RIBA schools outreach programme.
Photograph by Paul Cochrane. 

So many people I meet say they would have loved to have trained as an architect but they were discouraged because their maths or physics were not good enough.  Don’t worry about maths or physics.  Buy a calculator instead!

There are about 46,000 architects in the UK and I bet you won’t find two the same.  Architecture is a subject with a wide professional scope, there is a place for everyone and I would suggest that individual talents need to be encouraged.  Some people are good at making presentations and delivering the pitch to win a project.  Others like to draw and enjoy conceptualising ideas.  Every practice needs its mechanics - the architects that can take a concept and make it realisable with robust details.  Job runners are essential because they can progress a project through the RIBA work stages from design, through its statutory consents, to construction and completion.  Some architects are good at client liaison - without clients where would be no work.  Others are good at contract administration and contract law - we all need to be accountable and stay on the right side of the law.  CAD, BIM, parametrics, generative AI and visualisation draws its specialists out of the profession, as does physical model making.  The examples can go on.  Architecture is a subject which spans all subjects, from arts, languages and the humanities side of the national curriculum to maths, sciences and technology.  And there’s room for everyone! 

If you want to be an architect, go for it.  It’s a big pool and can make very rewarding profession.  To test the water, here’s a couple recommendations to that every architect should do, from budding student to seasoned professional.  They are both confidence builders and learnt skills, so there is nothing to lose:

  1. Draw.  It is important to articulate your ideas visually in architecture, so drawing is an important skill to develop.  Get a sketch book, something that will fit in your pocket with a pencil, pen, anything that will make a mark, and practice drawing buildings, spaces, people, animals, anything.  There is one rule to remember - There is no such thing as a bad drawing.  So dive in.  You might not like your sketches at first but give it time and some patience.  Drawing styles are as individual as the number of architects so go with what works for you.  As you gain confidence, practice quickening your drawing pace.  There will be occasions when it is important to capture the moment, describing an idea in a meeting with a client, the boss or to a design team.  Look at as many examples of drawing styles as you can and experiment with the styles and techniques.  Enjoy developing your skills.   
  2. Network.  Architecture is a very social profession and networking is important not just to meet new people.  Networking is a life skill that will develop your confidence to handle many social situations you will encounter as a professional.  The goal is to feel confident standing in front of people and verbally articulate what you are about:  Be visible and accountable.  There are a lot of people to engage with from clients to consultants, suppliers and work colleagues, and everyone with an interest in what you are doing.  Think about what positively defines you, what excites you about architecture and why you chose this route.  Develop a set of narratives which describe your aspirations (where you want to go in the profession), interests (what makes you individual), skills (what you are good at, especially in drawing), and any success stories you might have to tell.  Work on developing your confidence to stand in front of people and successfully deliver the relevant messages for that situation.  Think of it as acting out a role.  This will become useful when it is time to pitch to a client for a project, deliver a presentation to an audience, argue your case on a design decision or stand your ground in a workplace dispute.  It is all relevant. 

Your college course at architecture school should cover most everything else, even some maths and physics (although I can’t remember when).  To help and as a starter in drawing and networking, some links are given below.  Good luck in whichever professional route you take.