How should I start my portfolio


Hello everyone, I just recently joined this forum as a new member wishing to learn more information about the area of Architecture. So currently I am in my second year of community college in the city of LA, California. Hopefully I will be transferring sometime around this time next year to Architecture school in hope to get my degree. Living in Los Angeles I am grateful that there is many entry level Architecture colleges near me that I can apply to due to my low gpa :( . But after doing some research I can't seem to find the answer to how I should start my portfolio, I am confused and just lost. Should I just start to make random drawings in CAD of homes that are in my mind or examples of schools, parking lots, buildings and choose the best from there. Also the community college I am currently going doesn't have any form of Architecture classes or program so that road is closed for me.

Any help would be wonderful!

Thank you, 

Nov 19, 18 9:03 pm
Non Sequitur

You're applying to architecture programs in order to learn how to do architecture so don't just make anything up because you think it'll represent architecture.  It's expected that your don't know shit, so focus your portfolio of something you're hopefully already well versed in.

Do you draw, paint, build, sculpt?  Assemble good examples of creative graphic work that shows how you think, how you understand composition, how you handle scale, light, shadow, materials, etc, etc. Take some evening life drawing classes, carry a sketch book and draw interesting parts of the city at different times of day... just to mention a few. 

Also note that photography does not count unless you've won competition and/or are published and avoid just doing reproductions based on photographs.

Nov 19, 18 9:55 pm

Oh ok, I understand, I just noticed how a portfolio is recommended on almost every college application. I don't do any of that, draw, paint, build, or sculpt but if it will help me to grow my understand I can forsure take those classes. The only experience I really have is I have taken a year of CAD class and also my father is an Architect so I am always asking him questions to expand my knowledge.

What if I self-publish my photography?


christ I hate portfolios that contain photography. 

there is no better indicator of a) “I hacked this together two days before the deadline because I’m not a creative person,” b) “photography is my art and I take it seriously because instagram don’t forget to like and follow lol,” or c) “I understaaaaand the city because I see it through my lens, bro”

Nov 19, 18 11:04 pm

What is drawing(!) you towards architecture? What is it that makes you want to study that direction and also why didn't that yet ignite some kind of creative spark in any of the suggested creative fields mentioned here above? You want to become an architect so you took a CAD class? Was that what your father suggested? Is he happy at his job actually?

Nov 21, 18 2:47 am

What is drawing me towards Architecture is that I want to build homes from demolition to a brand new home. The reason I took a CAD class is to even see if I was interested in the idea which I am heavily interested.


What aspect of architecture really excites you? I understand the difficulty of sounding overly embellished about what it is you want to do in architecture. However, I don't sense in anything you wrote about architecture that excites you. Why do you want to be an architect (or building designer)? If you become an architect or building designer, what do you want to do with your career? What would you want to be known for by your professional peers in 50+ years from now? 

Iman, let me be clear with you that this statement, "What is drawing me towards Architecture is that I want to build homes from demolition to a brand new home", is very weak and not very compelling. If this is your business slogan, hire me.... I'll demolish your home and build a new one in its place, it would be a turn off to some clients. If I was a prospective client, you would turn me off by that argument. I would say.... nope. I am a building designer that works in sustainable building design, historic preservation & restoration (which is an extension of sustainable building design), and aging-in-place/universal housing and related services. 

What if they like their home? What if it is historic with high historic integrity. To be a good architect or building designer, you need to be flexible and you have to have some passion about the process of creative problem solving, and taking a clients vision and aspirations and designing a solution that meets their needs even under the constraints of budget, various building and zoning regulations, environmental responsibility, etc. If you don't have passion at the root of it all whether it is with existing/historic buildings or with design solutions for new construction. 

For example, I am already in the business of building design. For me, my passion roots on the passion of problem solving through creative thinking and designing. Sustainable design practice and historic preservation grew out of that core passion. For me, it wasn't something that just happened suddenly one day. It was a process as it was in positioning myself as a business. Sometimes, you correlate with other areas of interests or passions you have. For example, I have a passion for drawing/art and also science, and my passion for studying (not only didactically but also autodidactically). 

My interest in sustainable building design began with interest in science and then my studying of passive solar design and it expanded from there and coincided well with concurrent studies such as physics and of course global warming (now mainly referred to as climate change). Global warming and environmentalism isn't new and there has always been some degree of interest in it even when I was living in California more than two decades ago.


If your interest in architecture, even with an architect in the family, only made you take up a CAD course and nothing any books about architecture perhaps, and no not drafting manuals.


While I won't be judging of his father but what I can say is I don't see anything indicative of any passion for the profession whether as an architect or building designer by Iman123iman. At least, I don't yet see it. It really takes some of the same 'right stuff' for being an architect or building designer.


Subtract: "While I won't be judging of his father but" from the above comment. I think I might be partially confusing him with another poster that posted something very similar in the last couple days. In any case, the rest of might point still stands in that I don't see any passion indicated. Iman123Iman, there should be some courses in Art Basic Design or similar course. I am not sure which community college in Los Angeles but I think most have a basic introductory art basic design courses. The abstract principles of spatial composition and 3d form as used in fine art also applies to architecture as well. Spatial composition on 2d surfaces applies to facade composition of surface planes. Take these. The better you do this, the work you do here would be helpful for architectural admission because most students comes in from prior art courses in high school or college background or transfer in from another architecture school program.


Never mind, my eyes must be getting shitty... or tired. Forget subtracting anything. It all stands. Iman2iman, since your father is an architect.... finally locating it in a reply to N.S. Your father should be able to help guide you on resources but YOU need to show some clear indication of passion and you'll need some portfolio work which you are behind the 8-ball on. If you are really interested in architecture and getting into an architecture program, there maybe some things we (this forum) can do to get you on the level playing field depending on your commitment to learn, listen, and practice. Hold off on applying to any architecture program requiring a good portfolio a little bit unless you get into a program that doesn't require you to submit a portfolio for initial admission. 

If you don't get admission into one, relax and don't panic. It happens. I think you need to define a course and direction for yourself. I think you simply don't have a particular direction or course direction. Yes, you may have to be flexible to navigate around obstacles but you need to have a steady eye on the goal and work steadily towards the direction or your be chasing your ass and not going anywhere in any career. You seem to not be far along in your career with just a 2 year community college education. I'd choose a 4+2 program in your case. 

What do I mean by 4+2 program? I mean a 4 year pre-professional degree in architecture with a 2 years M.Arch (professional NAAB accredited degree). You might get into a B.Arch in a school that doesn't require a ~3.5 GPA (most officially state 3.0 or higher but due to high competitiveness.... you'd likely need a 3.5+ GPA level). Many have also a portfolio requirement that you have to dazzle them with. However, many 4+2 programs allows initial admissions into the 4 year portion as open enrollment but later on in the degree track, either at 2nd year or at the end of the 4 year part... prior to moving onto the 2 year graduate program part where there would be a progress/portfolio review. 

In your case, I'd recommend a program in Los Angeles area similar to the Portland State University (Portland, Oregon) architecture program. I'd recommend you pursue a comparable program in Los Angeles area where you can get started. Most B.Arch students usually have a strong Art background in their High School electives and maybe they only go to community college for 1 year to take some art courses or did it during high school to build a portfolio of work. I'd recommend you take some art basic design courses or so from the community college if you can't get into ANY architecture program in the L.A. area. I'd be surprised if you couldn't get into at least one of them. 

Remember, California has more than one path to architectural licensing and probably will remain so for the foreseeable future. Even with a 4 year B.A. or B.S. in Architecture (vs. a 5 year B.Arch), you can still get licensed in California and be on license track and probably still be competitively employable with a good portfolio at that time but don't worry about employment in architecture, yet.


Lots of confusion in the main post, sorry about that. I am trying to become a Residential Designer is what I mean as in building homes but I just feel like having an Architecture license/degree would help tremendously.

Non Sequitur

Excluding the recent ahem forest fires, how big is the market for turning demolished homes into new in Oregon and California?


Iman, I can help you out information wise about becoming a residential designer / building designer. There is also a certification program which can be helpful in standing out but we can talk about that later. Yes, having an architecture education is very helpful in the process of becoming a competent residential designer / building designer. While certification is optional, I recommend you read the CPBD candidate handbook for some general guidance. Note: There is still a lot to becoming successful in the field regardless of whether you go through the certification as a building designer/residential designer or licensure as an architect. While architecture schools will tend to be more commercial oriented, you can often take some electives or courses with some residential oriented design. There are plenty of resources out there. You will not require an architect license to do residential (SFR) design but I will say that architectural education will be helpful.


Of course an architect license in California would be helpful for being able to design SFRs that isn't made of conventional wood frame construction. However, in various states, what a person legally can do without being a licensed architect have different mileage so to speak. Technically, there is no minimum statutory requirements for a person to design conventional wood framed houses. However, there is still some practical knowledge and skills one must have to do this professionally as a professional service. This isn't exactly enumerated by statutes of law or codified. Stick around and we can guide you along the path towards either being a licensed architect or residential designer. We can't guarantee you success or happiness but we can point you towards directions that can help you become more competitive but you have to apply. It is still a tough market out there professionally.

Remember, there is a bigger world beyond just California. You can extend your practice in many states. There is a few states where you absolutely need to be a licensed architect to do residential design professionally. I suggest avoiding Nevada as they have their own licensure requirement as a Residential Designer unless you wish to go through that state specific process. I'm not saying it is a negative thing to be licensed as a residential designer in Nevada. It is very specific.


"Excluding the recent ahem forest fires, how big is the market for turning demolished homes into new in Oregon and California? " 

That is particularly a newer situation. I would prefer to use non-combustible construction in these areas but California's exemption is a little bit limiting in requiring the work to be conventional wood frame construction (without being a licensed architect). I think a mild amendment that allows a little more flexibility within the scope of "IRC" prescriptive path would be better especially for those who are certified building designer. Maybe, we can bring back a "registered building designer" program in California that recognized NCBDC certification as a base line qualification and then a state exam and little registration fee. I'd support that option. They still have the "registered building designer" title protected.

I'd recommend that California also recognize BC registered building designer and similar registered/licensed building designer programs in Australia but all still requiring taking a state exam(s) that covers California laws and residential/building codes including seismic requirements and even fire resistant construction, sustainable building design practices.

Portfolio is the most important thing for an Architecture to present his/her work.  Any where you go, school or job, the first question is " your portfolio".  How should I start my portfolio?Many ways to start portfolio upon to your institution request and it is vary from one to another..First step: keep going with your research, till you hook an idea.Second: grab your projects that you have done "try to pick the best".Third: organize your pages. consider how many pages for each project "normally portfolio comes like a booklet" make sure about the size they requested. Fourth: after you set up the pages and pictures around. You should write a little bit. Define each project and your idea, try to make it attractive. Mention your concept or design process. Fifth: if you reach to this step. You are ready to the final organize. The best software to organize all that is: Adopt indesign. #Tip: remember in portfolio we start our best project from the beginning.I thing that enough for now. Feel free if you have any farther question. All the best..              Yazan Akkad     

Nov 21, 18 10:49 am

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