7 Ways Architecture Students Can Make The Most Of Summer


No longer do you have to spend late nights in the architecture building. You actually have time to chill with friends and loved ones who thought you were dead.

Why sleep on a floor, cardboard box or dirty drafting table when you can blissfully rest in your own bed, without the guilt?

You don’t have to worry about excessive deadlines unless you are taking summer classes or doing a summer studio.

It’s summer time and you should give yourself a pat on the back for trekking through a rough academic year of architecture school.

So, what should you do to get ready and in shape for the upcoming school year? You want to come back to school in September energized and ready to rock and roll. If anything, you can do things that still engage and work your architectural design muscle!

It’s OK to relax, but don’t totally cut off the architectural learning. There are so many ways and means to acquire skills and knowledge that will help you in the next semester, and you can also have a bit of fun with what you’re doing as a designer. You’re not studying history or public health – architecture is cool!

1. Get a summer job related to architecture

This is probably one of the first things you should have considered right after Christmas break. There is so much to learn in practice that school will not teach you. Believe me, it’s going to give you the confidence and proficiency to be prepared to kick some butt next semester.

2. Get your design portfolio done

If you’re reading this article, you probably didn’t apply for summer jobs on time. But you should still try to get ready for next summer right now! This is a challenge that many architecture students have experienced, myself included. You DO NOT want to push your portfolio to the end of your architectural education.

If you want a summer job or a job right after graduation, it is really imperative to work toward building your portfolio over the years, and adding, removing and revising projects. The trouble with putting it in the last minute is that it delays your time getting into the workforce. You might feel overwhelmed with the work you have to do, lengthening the gap between graduation and getting hired, which will make it even more difficult to break into the field.

Hope you learned your lesson: next time, apply for summer jobs about four months before school ends in May.

3. Practice learning and using software

For those who struggle in getting up to par with technology, take this time to work on learning the software (college courses, online courses, tutorial websites are a plenty and are accessible online).

One friend from interior design suggested that I should pick a famous house design with drawings available (the goal is not designing but honing your technical skill) and model the heck out of it with Rhino, Revit, SketchUp, and render it – practice Photoshopping it. Take classes, or even do competitions to keep exercising.

One way or another, just find a way to acquire more proficiency in the tools that you will use.

4. Get up-to-date on architecture news

There’s a plethora of architecture news websites that everyone uses. From ArchDaily, to Design Bloom, to blogs like Archidose (which my first-year studio prof introduced me to as it provides a well-articulated formal analysis of the buildings it features).

You want to retain a library of designs in your head to inspire you. Also, critique why you like those images and drawings you see.

5. Take some time to travel

I could not afford to travel a lot as a student, so when I did I made sure that it was educational and worthwhile.

If you are a member of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), are involved in running a chapter or participate in Freedom by Design, or you are nearing the end of your education, consider attending the AIAS Grassroots Leadership Conference. That was an eyeopening summer for me: I made many friends from different architecture schools, I defined what I wanted to be as a leader, and it made me even more hungry for architecture school.

Likewise, I have friends who have gone to Europe for a summer design studio. If anything, travel around your own city – even one year of architecture school will make you see your hometown differently.

6. Grab a pen and start sketching

If you sucked at drawing this year, now’s the chance to continue to practice your hand drawing skills.

After submitting my first-year sketchbook in for my drawing class, I asked my professor how to get better at drawing and designing. The answer was practice, practice, practice. Being the resourceful student that I am, I decided to take up Freehand Sketching by Paul Lesau at the end of my first year to practice sketching during the summer.

I personally felt that this helped defined my crude and raw sketching style with a black pen…and then eventually I used colour markers to accentuate my drawings. It’s a nice short book and provides simple exercises to improve your sketching skills. It definitely helped me as a student and even resulted in my professors always being impressed by my process sketches for studio projects.

7. Get back into your other interests outside of architecture

I am an individual who always wants to link architecture to the world and the world to architecture. Like what the Futurist David Zach would say, “Think outside the box and look into other boxes.”

Realize that your interests can marry well with architecture, and it is up to you to maintain the balance between having a life and being owned by architecture. Architecture is ultimately a reflection of society’s culture. Don’t neglect the other aspects in life that are important and value them too!

Dine out, watch movies, go to shows, attend conferences – one way or another, they will link back to architecture and design.

How are you planning to make the most of your summer?

Photo credit: Jamie Henderson

About the author

Ulysses Valiente is the writer and creator of The Underdog Architecture Student's Blog. A recent graduate from Ryerson University with a Bachelor's degree in Architectural Science in 2012, Ulysses does a wide array of projects based on his passion for architecture, writing and design. Realizing and understanding the struggles that design students face at first hand, Ulysses advocates through his blog for positive change in architecture education and a calls for design studio culture that cultivates and hones each and every hardworking student - even the ones that struggle and fell behind.