What to Expect in Architecture School

Architecture curriculum is not your typical coursework.  While your friends are in the library pouring over articles, doing problems sets, and writing papers, you’ll be in studio making drawings and scale models.  You’ll also take some more traditional classes like your non-architecture friends, but the bulk of your time will spent working on projects in studio, not in the library studying.

How design studio works

Design studios are usually fairly small classes of 10-20.  These people will become your family for the term, and will probably remain your good friends after the class ends.  If your school has a large architecture program, there will be a lot of people (maybe 80-100 students) enrolled in the class, but you will be divided into smaller sub-studios.

Studio is a place as well as a class.  You will get a desk assigned to you.  Hopefully it will come with some storage space for all your studio supplies (you’ll end up with a large collection of drafting materials, glues, rulers, knives, compasses, T-squares, etc.).  Your desk will become your new home for the next few months.  You’ll work, eat, and sleep here.


During a studio class, you usually complete one, large design project.  Occasionally, you may do a few related projects.  Your professor will explain the project the first week of class and will give you assignments each class period to help you progress.  Sometimes your assignment might be different from your classmates–it will depend on how you work and what your design is like.  Your grade will be based on your professor’s overall impression of your project–how hard you worked, how much you’ve improved, and how good the final product is.

Desk Crits

Desk crits (short for critiques) are informal meetings with your professor.  Most class meetings will probably consist of desk crits.  Your professor will go from desk to desk meeting with each student individually.  While you wait for your turn, you’re expected to work on your project.  Its very important that you are able to be productive during this time.  Studio classes are often 3-4 hours long, so you should be able to complete a substantial amount of work (and reduce your homework time).  During your desk crit, you will present what you’ve done to your professor, and he/she will give you their thoughts on it.  They will also tell you what to work on for the next class.


These are informal presentations to your class.  Each student pins their work onto the wall of the studio (and put their models on nearby tables).  Sometimes each student will present their work, and then the whole class comments on it.  Other times you will look at everyone’s work at once and comment generally about the class’ progress.  Pin-ups are a great way to check in to see how your work compares to your fellow studio-mates.


Reviews are formal presentations that usually are supported by boards (posters) and a physical model.

You will have a couple of jury presentations or reviews every term.  These are formal presentations that function as your midterms and finals for studio classes.  Usually you must print large-format posters that show your project as comprehensively as possible.  You will have plans, sections, diagrams, and renderings.  You also will probably have a model.  Your professor will invite practicing architects and other professors to come listen to your presentation and to comment on it.


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