What Can You Expect to Learn in Architecture School? – PART 2

This is the 2nd part of a multi-part series about “What You Can Expect to Learn in Architecture School”. In the first post we discussed Architectural Communication, History and Criticism, and Architectural Design and Theory. If you’ve missed that be sure to check it out and then come back to this page. Happy learning! 

When you get to higher years in architecture school, your courses will start gravitating towards a lot of technical stuff.

Don’t be fooled by your younger years, where you will most probably be focused on presentation, standards, theory, and the creative design process. There is an entire more nosebleed-inducing side of the profession that you can – and will – learn about. This 2nd part is to give you a glimpse at the more technical side of architecture courses. Ready? Prepare your hard hats.


Building Construction and Materials
(c) Aldo Mayoralgo

Building Materials and Construction.

Chances are, when you’re a freshman or sophomore, your primary design questions will be more of arrangement and programming of spaces, meanings of forms, and a greater focus of shapes and volumes. Once you hit your first few construction courses, a number of new questions will be opened up to you – which you will need to consider in future designs:

“How am I going to construct this? What kind of structural elements will be needed? Given the climate of the area, should I use wood planks for my decks or just use some sort of stained fiber-cement board? If I want to frame my pavilion with bamboo, what kind of treatment process must I undergo so it wards off termites?” 

You’ll be learning about the different kinds of materials, both in their use as structural building elements and as finishes. You’ll be exposed to how popular building materials like wood, steel, and concrete are processed as raw materials so that they are ready for construction. You’ll be introduced to materials preparation, curing, treatment, and the different layers of substrates.

(c) Aldo Mayoralgo
(c) Aldo Mayoralgo
(c) Aldo Mayoralgo
(c) Aldo Mayoralgo

You’ll be learning about different framing systems and how floors, walls, roofs, foundations and ceilings connect. You’ll be discovering how you can terminate these connections (baseboard vs floor reveal, cornice vs shadow gap)  to get an intended effect. You’ll study the implications of framing your buildings with wood, steel, reinforced concrete and the like. If you’re professor is up with the times, he’ll require you to research on the latest construction methodologies to ensure you’re kept in step.

You’ll be exposed to standards of strength and finishing. You’ll be briefed on standard sizes of elements like lumber, tiles, planks, and the like, . You’ll become of aware of different strengths of steel or concrete to determine what is most efficient for certain purposes.

Construction Tamb Corridor
(c) Aldo Mayoralgo

Instead of just design drawings, you’ll learn how to produce construction drawings. There is a BIG difference in the drawings you produce to woo a client and the the drawings you use to direct how to build your buildings. For the former, beauty is the prime consideration. For the latter – clarity reigns supreme, or else. Construction drawings are basically (or literally) the detailed blueprints you give to contractors for them to build your designs. It’s a no brainer that they have to be extremely specific and clear so that there is no confusion that will bite you back in the butt later on.

(c) Aldo Mayoralgo

You’ll be taught how to write Specifications – which is basically a very long document that states all the materials you’ll use for a project, and how you’ll use them – to the last detail. These documents are some of the most important things you’ll be signing and releasing when you start practicing as a professional. It’s important to specify smartly and carefully, because there are legal reprecussions if you don’t. Dun dun dunnnnn.

I absolutely loved my construction classes, because even if they were tedious and tough, they really allowed you to learn the nuts and bolts of architecture. You’ll really be better informed on how and why buildings are put up the way they are, and start developing a sort of “x-ray vision”, if you put enough work into it.


In the next installment I’ll be giving you the lowdown on Structural Analysis & Conceptualization, as well as Building Utilities and Technology. Stay tuned for PART 3!

All posts in the “What Can You Expect to Learn In Architecture School?” Series:

PART 1: Architectural Communication, History and Criticism, and Architectural Design and Theory.
PART 2: Building Materials and Constuction
PART 3: Structural Analysis & Conceptualization 
PART 4: Lighting and Acoustics Design
PART 5: Plumbing/Sanitary and Electrical Systems
PART 6: Mechanical and Fire & Life Safety Systems
PART 7: Building Laws and Professional Practice
PART 8: Site & Urban Planning and Design, Architectural Research

Did you like what you just read? There’s more where that came from! Click the image below to check out all the posts in the category of FORMATION!


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