University of Southern California (Daniel)

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    The Importance of Anything but Architecture

    By Daniel
    Feb 2, '06 2:24 AM EST

    So I'm all really excited right now because I was accepted into the Cambridge University summer program. I'm not entirely sure what the level of competition for admissions was, so perhaps I ought to save the self-congratulations for later, but I'd rather not. Yay me. The cool thing is that USC recognizes the credit I will earn, so I get 4 elective credits. Not that I need them--my AP transfer credits already cover more than what I need to graduate--but still. Yay excess credits. Must also stop saying "yay". It's sort of been on my lips all day.

    More relevantly, I wrote my application essays about my eagerness to study read architecture at Cambridge after I earn my B.Arch here. But I won't be studying architecture this summer; hopefully I can get into some art history courses. I think it's hugely important to 'get away' from architecture, if not for a physical break then for a change of perspective.

    So far I've been a little bit dismayed to find out that USC's B.Arch is so narrowly focused, but then I think that may be the case with most five-year B.Archs. I'll graduate knowing drafting, model-making, structural physics, and computer design, but in the middle of all that I'll never have time to nudge my French to fluency or take a demanding philosophy class. I'm beginning to seriously wish I would have applied to a B.A. program, which makes me even more annoyed because I know I could be at Harvard or Yale right now.

    Is it so bad to want something more than architecture? I feel so limited by the weight of studio... and really the whole architecture curriculum in general. It's so massive and prescribed: five hour classes three afternoons per week, and morning schedules set in stone. GenEds and electives fill in the gaps, mostly depending on what time slots you can manage to lose.

    But I think it's so important, even essential, to escape from architecture and pursue other things, related or not, from something trendy and potentially pragmatic like photography or painting to something glittery and vestigial like Latin or theology. I have this awful feeling that I'm being trained to be a great architect but not an architectural scholar. One of the things that impressed me so much about Liz Falletta, my instructor last semester, was that she earned a BA in philosophy before her MArch and further degrees. She could quote Kant and Corb in the same breath. And that's super-cool.

    Cultivating other interests and engaging in other disciplines, no matter what they do, is healthy. It certainly isn't going to harm your architecture, unless through mere constriction of the hours in a day. And one's architecture almost cannot help but become richer, more allusive, and--for lack of a more polished term--more well-rounded.

    So I think I'll be studying art history this summer. It's distantly related to architecture (what isn't? One of my favorite quotes from the Cornell Summer College program was Prof Mulcahy: "Architecture is the most promiscuous of the arts.") and may or may not have practical application in the future. I frankly couldn't care less; it's just something I want to do. So yeah, I'm excited.


    • Appleseed

      I don't think it's bad to want more than architecture, at all. That was one of the primary reasons I did my undergrad at a large, public university. Lots of variety, and the ability to major in more than 'just' architecture.

      Feb 2, 06 3:28 am

      hey! I only just discovered your blog. I graduated from 'SC last may, and am very happy to see my alma mater represented. At some point when it's good looking, might you post some third-floor pictures? I was excited about this, but then I took a peek mid-construction, and they'd ruined the second floor for it. Very disappointing.

      And the great thing about the B.Arch's focus is that you can go do whatever you want afterwards and not worry about the M.Arch for licensing purposes. But def. enjoy Cambridge!

      Feb 2, 06 1:29 pm

      Yay you, Daniel. Congratulations on Cambridge. I echo Rationalist on virtually every point. The BArch is narrow... but architecture is vast, and without this sustained focus, you'd be ill-prepared. (I'm of the opinion that the 3-year master's is woefully inadequate training for this profession, but that's another topic.) If you decide to, you can do your master's in another field for breadth; if you choose carefully, you can tie it to your BArch and make your resume' especially rich (architecture + preservation, or landscape, or law, or history, or geography, or art).

      So, yes, go! Go and learn everything you can on what interests you. This sometimes means course work, but often can be less-structured: lectures, hikes, books, conversations with interesting professionals or artists... you get the picture. Enjoy!

      Feb 2, 06 2:08 pm

      ooh, and also, it'll feel like you have more opportunities when you get to fourth and fifth year. The USC program is very front-loaded. Since you've got transfer credits (did any of them count for G.E's?), you'll be able to take lots of random and interesting things later on. I took yoga and preservation, knew people taking Japanese, planning, business, guitar, all sorts of stuff. So if you focus on requirements early, you can have a lot of fun later on.

      Feb 2, 06 2:19 pm

      Yes! Take a class or two over in the School of Policy, Planning, and Development. Planning and real estate are interesting in their own right, but knowledge of them gives an architect a distinct advantage.

      Feb 2, 06 2:37 pm
      Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke

      Congrats on your acceptance ... i remember years ago when I was accepted to a similar summer program ... it definitely gave me a boost. But Cambridge! Wow! That's good stuff. I echo everyone else's sentiments, but what ever you do, just read. Read lots. Inhale books. Morsels gleaned from a book will inform your practice in many ways. Good luck!

      Feb 4, 06 12:48 am

      Yes, SC is very front loaded. However, it does get better. I used all of the transfer/AP credits to take deep water cruising courses. Sailing a 50’-0” boat to Catalina Island three times a semester four two semesters was a great break. Leaning celestial navigation was a real plus too. Fight On!

      Mar 4, 06 10:30 pm

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