Architecture school is BRUTAL

May 8 '14 63 Last Comment
May 8, 14 7:03 pm

I am taking a accelerated design course in architectural design 1 and it is tough. I mean the professor puts everybody's models on a table to be reviewed and just starts desecrating them one by one. I am having trouble making my cuts on chipboard and my models aren't impressive enough. I'm trying to find out more about tectonic and stereotomic modeling but am at wits end.


Can anybody give some advice to a struggling arch student? How can I make my models more impressive without spending large amounts of time on them, I mean I can spit out 4 models in a day and a half, but the craftsmanship is killing me.


I took two pictures of my Tectonic model it is unfinished, but any advice would be great.


May 8, 14 7:19 pm

my first bit of advice would be to go into finance

second, the secret to cutting chip board is a bunch of cuts without putting a lot of pressure on the knife, rather than trying to cut hard.  also, keep the blade sharp.

third, get a computer and make models with sketchup or rhino or whatever the kids are using today.  your professor must be stuck in the '70s

sounds like all you're learning is cutting chipboard and gluing.  teaching you to slow down and think would be more helpful....

May 8, 14 7:39 pm

making models look good take a great deal of time and dedication. 


my modelling rules:

1. cut all parts, then assemble. This keeps you from holding the little pieces up and measuring them to fit, which results in wonky models and 95* right angles. 

2. When you make a mistake, throw it away and start over. No point in trying to make something look nice that is already damaged.

3.  Tools.... Get a rotary cutter and an XL cutting mat.  Get a small tablesaw for building models. Get a Chopper brand chopping thing.

4. Construction lines. Use a hard lead in your lead pointer and make little 90* marks directly on the chipboard where walls intersect or important parts fall. 


Remember, you are still building, fabricating, constructing somethings - even though it is really small. Measure twice, cut once, the fabricator is only as good as their tools, and all those other worn axioms about building things definitely apply here.

jackie jormp jomp
May 8, 14 7:59 pm

Is this a joke post?! the hell did you already go through some school and a job (took a quick glance at your post history), talking about 3ds max IDP and building codes, but have to whine about a chipboard model?!?!

timothy sadler®
May 8, 14 8:19 pm

Learning how to make a model that expresses your ideas isn't easy.  I remember struggling through the process myself when I was in undergrad, here's what I did to get past the pain!

  • Unless you're mandated to use chipboard (which I hated), try a number of materials and see what you like.  I found bristol board to be really quick and easy to manipulate, even though it was really thin.  I'd cut out big pieces with a pair of scissors, moving quickly, then pin them together with tape just to get the ideas out in the open.  I would make a number of these studies then walk away.  When I returned I'd look at the models and evaluate them, taking them apart and combining the parts I thought most successful until I had a couple of reasonable iterations. 
  • After than I would get into the thinner strathmore board to make the presentation  models.  I'd switch xacto blades after three or four cuts, keeping the old ones for study models until they were dull and ready to throw away.  I eventually developed a method of cutting slots in the material then fitting the pieces together in the slots, reducing or eliminating the need for glue. 
  • I used corrugated cardboard for site elements, background elements, etc.  At the time we had access to a kind of corrugated cardboard that had a really nice golden finish to it.  Interspersing these golden cardboard elements with the really white bristol or strathmore board really looked nice. 
  • Some people got into more exotic or labor-intensive methods.  One guy would take canson paper in different colors and laminate it with Super77, creating his own colored "board" stock in various colors.  His models were really distinctive and stood out for their color and craft.  Other people covered presentation models with watercolor paper, effectively doubling the effort.  Crazy times. 

Above all patient.  You're teaching yourself the process of how to design and make things, which won't happen overnight.  Look at other people's models that you like and study their techniques. 

May 8, 14 8:31 pm

 Jackie, I am a complicated person and I study many things in and out of school i'm not in the idp program but I know a lot about it. I mean what is the use in becoming an architect if you don;'t know how to become one. I lost my job due to a lay off in march 2014(never heard of work and school?) and taking this design course in summer 2014.



I have learned 3ds max with vray, photoshop, after effects, indesign, autocad, revit, and sketch up. Some of this stuff I learned in my first degree which is an A.S in architectural and building technology (I am better at some software than others I would show you my portfolio, but I don't want to give out my name anymore)

May 8, 14 8:36 pm

That chipboard looks helllllla thick, get some thin chip so you dont have to hack at it for days, and the cuts will be cleaner

jackie jormp jomp
May 8, 14 9:36 pm

Point taken, sorry for being brash. But I'm still astonished that among all the things that you've learnt in your degree model-making wasn't one. I guess when the focus is on the more technical side it worked more towards your advantage that you learnt the programs first.

May 8, 14 9:58 pm

no problem my first degree was focused on the tech side there was no model making just autocad and revit. All the others were learned from YouTube and vray guide.





I know it is very hard to believe that someone can learn software so easily, that is because of YouTube here is one of the videos I used to learn different software.

boy in a well
May 9, 14 12:43 am

I'll bite.

Why the hell not . . . ? . . . .

It sounds like you have a case of the "never manually drafted before." I thought it was a mythical disease invented by scared pencil huggers. Perhaps I was wrong? Perhaps I am wrong? you manually draft on the chipboard and the first cut scores the surface. The following cuts continue to score and to cut, slow cut line by slow cut line. Get a nice metal ruler. A properly sharp blade has a properly sharp scoring sound . . .  makes me zone out just thinking about it. Its like a sensory depravation tank. Its nice to be patient and make something well - even in autocad, though I don't know if anyone teaches it that way...

After that, all I'll add is that a solid idea can sometimes bear the weight of a shit model. Expect a few good slaps between compliments. I'll leave it to your professor to teach you about form, ideas, and tectonics, but maybe having every shape only as thick as your chipboard isn't the only solution. Goodnight!

May 9, 14 1:40 am

I built a silly ass contraption to cut perfect lines easier.   I can do it the regular way quite good, but to make things faster I basically attached a rip fence for a table saw to a home made table top so the straight edge wouldn't move as I cut   It worked really well.  You just need to build the table and rig the fence in a way that allows the chip or bass wood to slip under it.  You can lock it down then.  It was a huge time saver.  

May 9, 14 2:34 am

it's a difference between study model and presentation one , which one is this ?

May 9, 14 7:06 am

third, get a computer and make models with sketchup or rhino or whatever the kids are using today.  your professor must be stuck in the '70s

Do not replace hand modeling with a computer.. probably the worst advice possible. You will loose a sense of scale and materiality quickly.

As others have mentioned, in order to truly learn tectonics (simply put, how things go together), it is necessary to make something physical. The more you do it, the better you will become.

May 9, 14 7:08 am

practice, practice, practice.

May 9, 14 9:33 am

Also work on your designs more it is not about the model...the model needs to be built at a quality that gets the concept across but the craft is not everything. At every program some will have excellent craft from day one and others will have to work on it. If this is a tectonics model explore more about what that is and form a concept to explore such as shear -slippage, fracture or puncture and keep it uniform and make only a couple small moves in a big way for small study model such as these. Your designs will improve and your craft will also improve as you know what your building.

May 9, 14 11:23 am

If you want to be an architect you will have to know that architecture school is brutal and so is the profession.

based on your model photos, your craftsmanship needs a lot of work, and your design skills totally lack any confidence - there is very little pleasure and only a small affection  in just looking at your tectonic modeling project.  You are thinking way too hard about it.  take advice from your peers and let them influence you and keep in mind that your professors want to be on your side and want you to succeed.  It will only help you.

Please don't get me wrong - I've been practicing architecture for around 10 years and I still suck at making models.  But there are so many ways to think about design.

Good luck.

May 9, 14 11:35 am

Med I totally agree with you, which is why I am taking the rest of the summer off. I need to soul search, my modeling is horrible and I don't know why. I'm thinking maybe a different route or not anything at all. There are many ways of becoming an architect, but there is not many ways to make money in architecture I am struggling too much for a degree that is probably not going to employ me for longer than seven months like my last job (I dont even want to talk about the things I've read about the IDP program).



Maybe a Bachelor's in Construction Management and then a masters in architecture it will take the same amount of time as the program that I am in now , but I don't have to go for a second Associate's. The program that I am in is way to complicated and too model intensified, is it like this for all architecture program? I am way better on a computer than on a cutting mat with chip board my index finger feels like it is about to fall off.

May 9, 14 2:58 pm

start with foamcore... then progress to thinner chipboard. xD

May 9, 14 4:45 pm

I like to start with bristol vellum then move to thinner chipboard. 

or just laser cut  that Sh*t or 3d print if you cant cut a straight line. 

May 9, 14 11:50 pm

I'm with everyone who says thinner chip board, in 6 years of arch school never used anything as thick as what you are. If you need something to support the structure and thinner chip board won't do it use foamcore and hide it.

Honestly If it's just a cheap formal study model I might just use foamcore and sewing pins, I always liked that combo.  It looks messy but in a sketchy kind of way, and you can do just about any form with it in no time flat.

If you're trying to make a presentation model I'd bump up to nicer materials.

May 10, 14 8:11 am

Maybe you guys are right and I should give it another try in the fall and have a full 16 weeks too. I'm sure I can find some thinner chipboard as well. Most importantly how do you earn a living in this profession? I haven't been paid over the current US minimum wage in architecture and haven't kept a job over 8 months without being laid off. I need work and depleting my resources for a profession that can't pay for an apartment, car, and savings is making me feel dumb for even trying.

Nathan MattsonNathan Mattson
May 10, 14 12:37 pm

Well, plenty of people will point out that basically no one makes good money in architecture. However, if you get into a "real" entry-level architecture position at a firm you can definitely be liveable, unless you chose to do it somewhere like NYC...

I'm not talking about internships, or drafting positions. The kicker is you probably need at least a four year arch design degree, and ideally a professional degree.

May 10, 14 9:13 pm

I just wanted to say THANK YOU for you responses and help. I am still new to this profession and I have long way to go professionally. I will try again this fall because I dropped the two classes I was taking, which were ENC 1102 and Architectural Design 1. I can take this time to study tectonic and stereotomic modeling. I also read that you guys thought my design was lacking(a**holes...just kidding) how can I improve my interpretation of space? In the design class that I was in we worked on a 6"x6"x6" grid, I want to just keep modeling until the fall starts and WORK on my design(less criticism...hahaha) I have the book ARCHITECTURE: form space and order and there is some great stuff in here maybe it will help.

Abraham MelendezAbraham Melendez
May 11, 14 11:13 am

If you think it is normal to get your desecrated, it's not. If you can begin looking into another school do it. It's like a relationship the moment you're disrespected than its time to leave. Clearly that school has an old fashion way of thinking. It's not normal. If you continue this relationship you will grow bitter about the profession and your dreams will not flourish as you thought they would.

Go to a school that focus on improvement in design rather than chastising you on model quality. You will grow into a better designer and love/miss your school after you leave.

Architecture school doesn't have to be allnighters and stressful. That's what was left behind from your elder peer because they didn't know anything else and you don't have to suffer through that too. Change your future by changing how teaches and mentors you.

May 11, 14 6:01 pm

here is a tip:  For your sketch studies, quantity is more important than quality (clean cuts, glued properly, neatness etc).  You should think of making as many models in the quickest time possible.  Use whatever material or technique that lets you experiment and build models quick.  Looking at your model, I'd have thrown that together in 5 minutes max.  Why spend hours cutting and gluing a rough sketch model.  You aren't there to learn how to cut and glue cardboard.  You're in school to explore ideas, learn, get creative. 

May 12, 14 1:08 pm


When was the last time you picked up a book on art, art history, philosophy, architectural history, or architectural theory? You are approaching the art/science of architecture with the mindset of a technician, rather than a visionary and somehow expect to get a different understanding of architecture. Reading Francis Ching, you will hone your skills as a technician. Do you want to be a technician or do you want to be an architect? You find architecture school "Brutal" because you are banging your head against the wall over and over again expecting to get different results. In society, we call this condition insanity... Change your mindset and stop complaining. 

May 12, 14 7:07 pm

Well, I don't want to be insane and the Francis Ching was the book the design class assigned. Can I ask what book do you recommend? I have a history of Interior Design and Furniture from ancient Egypt to nineteenth-century Europe, which was for my 2 history of architecture courses.

I have been reading the Francis book and it is purely art I mean all I have been doing is sketching. I sketched the Shodhan House and am working on the Schroder house, I am drafting three huge projects for upgrading my portfolio a skyway house, a fire station, and a student library. Lastly I'm catching up on animations in 3ds max and after effects.

boy in a well
May 12, 14 10:19 pm

I don't think this book exists. And im not sure it could.

May 13, 14 3:25 am

Probably you have right. I looking for this book but I can't sreach something. I saw only similar book on

May 13, 14 3:33 am

OMG are you serious or am I just being made fun of?


not trying to be an asshole but this is the book that I am ranting about.

May 13, 14 8:04 am

Answer this- does your education and interest stop and end at the school level? Do you visit any museums? Do you like discussing art critically among peers? I can recommend many books for you to read but it really depends on what you are interested in... The very fact that you seem like you cant get past the technical makes me want to suggest graphic standards instead of essays by Koolhaas and Easterling for example...

May 13, 14 8:15 am

It seems odd that anyone wouldn't know about Ching. Tons of books by Ching about drawing and such. I'm confused if they're making fun of you too. Or maybe they're just like I was and completely ignored all the books by Ching...

After reading, here's my suggestion. Don't get caught up on model building and hand drawing. It's great and all, but it's time for your focus to be on computer modeling and understanding Revit. As much as Ching has probably been helpful, it doesn't help build a portfolio, unless you want to look old school.

Get to know your modeling programs. Learn how to render and spend time getting the environment right and lighting and photoshopping. Although the way things render these days, photoshopping probably isn't needed.

YouTube is honestly a great way to learn. Use it for your programs. Learn and understand the intricacies of the programs in order for it to be used as a tool to truly showcase your design.

Put the books down for now, and learn those programs. Plenty of helpful resources on the internet.

For model building in the future. I used construction paper. Colored. It easy to cut, and the various colors helps display material choices. It maybe too thin to use at a certain point but use foam core or chipboard to strengthen the model.

My two cents. Good luck!

May 13, 14 9:51 am

Try using different materials: foam core, mesh wire, plaster, museum board, plexiglass, rigid insulation board, wood. Since the studio is about tectonic, you should explore different materials, and how they have to come to assemble together to make a form. 

Hope it is helpful.

May 13, 14 10:50 am

After reading, here's my suggestion. Don't get caught up on model building and hand drawing. It's great and all, but it's time for your focus to be on computer modeling and understanding Revit. As much as Ching has probably been helpful, it doesn't help build a portfolio, unless you want to look old school.


MY DREAM: if you ever want to be recognized as anything else but a technician- learn to draw! 

May 14, 14 3:42 pm

Wow, I just got an interview with a firm based in Orlando who are way more BIM sound than my last firm. They want me to come in on Friday the 16th (whew...not the 13th) to take a look. They know about me going to school with Valencia/UCF/UF and all and are ok with it. It is amazing how there are opportunities out there, but yet at the same time I have a lot on my plate trying to study up on things I should just take a break and just focus on work, school and 3ds max, AE, Ps for stills and animations these could be great tools for my future employer and whatever comes along.

Jan 13, 15 10:07 pm

Hey I know it is a big no no to ask for help in architecture school, but does anyone know how to get the dimensions for MACBA by Robert Meier? Also I didn't get the job Chachi and Peterson^^. I think they were looking for someone with at least a b.arch. I did however get commended by what skills I have and I was told thru the turn down letter that he was very impressed but it just didn't turn out my way.

Jan 13, 15 10:26 pm

...his name is Richard Meier not Robert.

That museum was widely published back in its day and your school's library probably has plenty books / magazines with good drawings you could refer to. Did you try looking? Ask the librarian for help - they love that.

Jan 13, 15 10:29 pm
Jan 13, 15 10:43 pm

Midlander I stupidly left the school without going to the bookstore or the library, which I need to anyways to grab some recommended book from my professor. I have a floor plan from google and I watched some vids on the building, but no dimensions. I started by a drawing a rectangle 1/8 scale:124ft by ? and am just gong to  

Do you buy the books from the website I don't see a add to cart plus I don't have the time he gave us like a day to do this. 

Jan 14, 15 10:14 am

You could also get pretty close by measuring something constant, like a door, and use that to figure out the dimensions for the rest of the plan. It's not the most precise option but it'll do for a model or project.

Cuhaci & Peterson has a pretty good relationship with the local schools, half of Citylab's master's program is employed with them, haha. If you're going through the entire 2+2+2 program, don't be too stressed out that you don't have a job in the industry right now. You've got plenty of time to get experience once you've been indoctrinated into the culture of design.

Jan 14, 15 10:53 am

With regards to the original post - Is your prof. ripping your ideas or construction quality of the model? 

For desk crits I often used junkmail cardstock, its cheap strong enough, and you don't burn through blades. 

first year professors often tore apart models at  my school as well, even during final crits. I agree its not fun, but it won't last. 

Jan 16, 15 10:16 pm

Shivuy I am  in the 2+2+2 program and at the time of that interview I had just got laid off a few weeks before and just getting into the school program I did not know they had such a relationship with the 2+2+2 program though. When it comes to MACBA I thought the building was composed of a cluster of forms a curved rectangle a cylinder and a stack set of rectangles at different sizes on the left put into a linear organization. So  I winded up understanding that the MACBA has three major forms: A curved rectangle, a cylinder towards the middle and rectangles on the left. I proportioned them in accordance to the floor plan and drew it, it took two tries but I was commended by my professor in the end.I also had to draft a floor plan of the mies van de rohe pavilion but that was just to easy.

Out of all the people in my class I was the only one to draw the two floor plans correctly. Everyone else had nothing on MACBA and these oversized incomplete things for the pavilion. I did not gloat, this forum has definitely shown me not to be arrogant in the lesson learned, but I did get some feed back on what was to be done next.

Shuellmi I realize how much I sucked in the beginning of design 1 and how static my designs were I now understand to design the space and use the material to make a composition of the space, but I'm sure when I'm in design 3 I'll be like I sucked in design 2.

Feb 12, 15 1:32 am

More adversity for me and more trouble! I think architecture is trying to get rid of me.

I know this post is kind of all over the place, but I couldn't really find another home for this problem. Here's the problem I am being treated unfairly in my classes point blank, I feel as though my peers are not as good as I am and I'm being treated poorly because of it. I feel as though I may be hated because of race. I also feel that I am just being dealt with.

I got skipped in class yesterday while everybody else in class did not during  pin ups. Also I am being marked on when I do present my pin ups,  usually, until one person can't stand it and says that is a beautiful model and perfect drawings while there are these two who always say there models are great and mine sucks. Haven't really made any friends, and now the professor himself is like joining in the mix by skipping me in class.

Is this a sign to get out? Not because I can't do good work or because I'm failing, but because I am dealing with a bunch of racist douc bags who can't take that a black guy is out classing them and may be better than the professor himself sparking jealousy and hatred. Should I just yell out HEY You SKIPPED ME ASSHOLE while my professor is going from one drawing to another and just skips mine and goes to the one next to me.

A little at a lost??????

Feb 12, 15 2:23 am

Well, it's pretty common for everyone to turn into rabid dogs during architecture school and tear everything and everyone apart. Competition and stress bring out the worst in people. Even if your work is great people will hate it. But your first model was weak - have you improved?

Anyway, the professor shouldn't skip you if you're presenting new work. Meet him after class and tell him you don't want to fall behind but you're not getting any useful input. Don't be nasty or accuse him of being racist or anything unless you really want things to go bad.

If it turns out your work isn't good enough to review maybe you should consider whether to continue in architecture. There are other ways to be involved in the building industry which don't depend on design talent, and they can be satisfying careers. We all have classmates who switched early into construction management or engineering and they tend to do well.

Why don't you have any friends? From your posts you sound normal and without the social disorders common among anonymous forum posters...

Olaf Design Ninja_
Feb 12, 15 7:23 am

Get in and get out, get a job and do it your way. Will power trumps all things in this profession...... I have had studio teachers aim their disdain directly at me,partly because I am an asshole myself sometimes,but at no point did I really think their 'opinion' ever mattered that much. This one duo, world famous,sometimes would skip me in studio or start a class presentation on me and rip into me. They even emailed the dean out of the blue complaining about the fact I was a commuter and not always in studio. I admit I am all last minute and they had no clue what I was going to present at a prestigious tech scho, but when I did their guest of honor for the crit loved it, and all the research I did on a scope they thought was irrelevant was later furthered by other students as this was one of those 5 year research studios.....last but not least I worked on repair details for details they had only done a decade thanks for the C and the threat to kick me out of studio. I make archinect salary poll look weak,have taught and done crits at nice institutions,and do great detailed work on high profile shit.. So Mydream - fuck 'em, fuck 'em all,it's your dream,stick to your guns......maybe they skip you because they are scared. Will power - they don't teach that.

Feb 12, 15 9:01 am



Feb 12, 15 9:14 am (copy and paste)

Here is my work on the Barcelona pavilion( Two Floor plans and Model) and MACBA( First floor and section).

Miles JaffeMiles Jaffe
Feb 12, 15 9:26 am

Use very thin chipboard. Minimize your glue joints by using a score and fold technique. Cut halfway through the board then fold for a nice sharp corner. You can brace it on the inside with a gusset or rib if necessary.

I used to make chipboard models out of a single piece of board. I'd draw the unfolded shape on a board, cut it out and fold it into shape. The trick was if the design would allow it and allowing for material thickness. 

But maybe this is too advanced if you lack manual drawing skills as this is a prerequisite. 


As to crits, don't let it get under your skin. Pay attention to other student's work and their crits, which is hard to do when you're nervous or pissed off about your own.

You've selected a difficult career, and a dysfunctional educational system doesn't make it any easier.

Feb 12, 15 9:34 am

a big part of survival in the field of architecture, as well as many other fields, is building relationships.  this might not be quite as evident in academia.

it sometimes seems to me that you have a fairly high opinion of yourself.  this comes through when you say you're outclassing your peers or your professor is jealous or whatever.  i'm not there, so anything i say here is speculation, but if you start believing race is your problem, that's going to come through in your actions.  unless you're certain that's the cause of the animosity you're feeling that you're getting from others, i'd try not to let those thoughts get hold.  might be worth entertaining the notion that it could be your ego or possibly even narcissism.

here's a quote from someone;

Watch your thoughts for they become words,
watch your words for they become actions,
watch your actions, for they become habits,
watch your habits for they become your character,
watch your character for it becomes your destiny

part 2 of my thoughts on what you're posting here.

you say you're pretty good at whatever it is you're doing in studio.  that could be design, or the ability to critically think through problems, or the ability to put together a presentation, photoshopping, bim, making chip board models, maybe it's your debate skills and your ability to defend your project.  apparently you're not doing that good of a job of building relationships.  you can't just expect people to congregate around you and such, you have reach out a bit.  listen to others, care about what they say, things like that.

what you think may be a great job at designing or arguing to defend your project may be perceived by others as a shitty job or just whining.  architecture school is very subjective and opinionated.  not everyone is going to agree with you.  so, maybe you just fell into a studio you don't really fit in with for this semester.  hopefully the next one will be better.  for the time being just try to listen to your professor and give them what they want so you can pass this studio, hopefully with as good of a grade as you can, so you can move on the next one.

Non Sequitur
Feb 12, 15 9:43 am

Sharpen that pencil and add some character to those drawings. That section is really bad.

Feb 12, 15 3:26 pm

Fuck Architecture.

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