Feb '09 - Oct '09
Welcome to my blog. I chose to start writing about my experiences at the Boston Architectural College for a number of reasons. First and foremost to give back to the Archinect School Blog project—Nicholas Ng’s blog about the BAC was a huge help for me when I was trying to determine what school to attend, and even whether or not I wanted to pursue architecture as a career.
I’m 27 years old and I’ve done a plethora of different things in my life. I wanted to be a photojournalist in high school, decided to do my summer internships as a newspaper page designer. After college I worked at a special education high school for students with emotional/behavioral problems. I then worked for three years in real estate, and as the real estate bubble burst, I was up for yet another change. I had narrowed the decision down to school but I was faced with deciding between getting my MBA, or going for the much more lengthy, less promising (in terms of salaries), and less astute in my family’s eyes, MArch program. I chose architecture.
I give you my life story because it’s relevant to why I’m at the BAC as opposed to other schools. The BAC is an open enrollment school—yes that’s right, they accept 100% of applicants. For the Masters program you need only have a bachelors degree in any subject. The fine print however, says that there is an 80% drop out rate. The program follows a concurrent learning philosophy—the typical student works at an architecture firm during the day, while attending classes at night. There is a certain emphasis given on the idea that the student learns how to be an architect in practice, and academic classes work concurrently to produce well rounded architects that upon graduation are able to enter the workforce, and sit their licensure exams having fulfilled their IDP hours.
The obvious drawback to the program is that it doesn’t allow the student to concentrate on their academic studies and studio projects. You also miss out on that particular studio culture that is a trademark of architecture schooling. The benefit is that for a student with my background, it’s perfect. I’m at a stage in my life where I don’t have the luxury of taking years off of work to attend school. I also don’t have the architectural/design experience to put together a portfolio worth of applying to a more traditional program. (In fact, 3 years ago I visited UC Berkeley’s admissions office—they showed me the portfolio’s of previous applicants and I was blow away.)
Currently I am now in my 2nd semester of the AOP program—that means for 1 year I’m taking day classes instead of working. Think of it as sort of a boot camp for design students, which I really appreciate because it allows BAC students to experience the studio culture that is absent from the typical BAC student’s experience. Plus, I’ve now developed certain applicable skills that will put me ahead of the competition in the job search.
So far, my thoughts on the program are mixed. I’ve had good and bad experiences with teachers. Most of the full time – AOP instructors are great. A lot of students might disagree with me, and here’s where I think the disagreement stems from—This is a graduate program. We are expected to have some degree of independence, self-reliance, self-motivation, and a desire to learn. I feel like there are some students who need constant direction and instead of understanding the value in discovering concepts and ideas for themselves, they would much rather have the instructors tell you exactly what to do. What’s the point in that? I have however, experienced in certain classes a lack of care on the instructor’s part—especially in the night courses which are geared towards students who work during the day. Since focus on academic work has to be negotiated with office work, students and instructors alike can have the tendency to accept less than acceptable work. The good news about this though, is that does lighten the workload on an already hair-pulling, sleepless schedule. It puts the responsibility of learning on the student.
Resources at the BAC are ok. Since it’s not a full time academic school, we do not have individual studio spaces/desks like most schools. We all work from home, and bring in our projects for class crits. This makes commuting on the train the most horrible experience EVER! East-coast morning commuters just don’t have any sympathy for a sleep deprived architecture student carrying a tub full of models, an oversized t-square, and art-bin box! That aside, the BAC does have pretty good computers with all the software you’ll ever need. They have 2 laser cutters, platters, drum roll scanners, a photo lab, woodshop etc etc. All basic stuff. The biggest problem is that the school closes at 10pm every day. Don’t they know that students do their work throughout the night?!
Some students have knocked the library as being insufficient—it’s an ARCHITECTURE library guys. It’s going to be smaller than your university library b/c we don’t particularly need to have books on liberal arts, sciences, etc etc. I’ve been to the architecture library at Harvard GSD, Illinois Institute of Tech, and Berkeley, and guess what, they’re all about the same size.
So to conclude my first blog entry, I’ll say that I’m pretty happy with my experiences so far. There’s a bit of a mish-mash of student types—but it adds to the whole uniqueness of the program. There are students with art/history backgrounds, MBA's, industrial designers, teachers, ex-lawyers. I feel like a lot of us are taking advantage of the open enrollment policy to figure out if architecture is the right choice for them, and that’s ok. In fact, that’s what the BAC is all about. To level the playing field given the huge gradient of experience, our first few studio's are foundation studies. I've been blown away at how much students have progressed--seeing someone who has never drawn before able to have an entire portfolio of freehand and hardline drawings, good drawings, after 1 semester is pretty cool.
From here on out, I’ll keep you informed on my studio projects, classes, job-hunt (which isn’t looking good in this economy!!!), and any other rants/raves about BAC life. I appreciate comments from anyone and everyone and look forward to the next 5 years of blogging.