Building a M.Arch Portfolio


Hi Archinect community! First time poster here, looking to get some insights about building a M.Arch portolio. For background...I have a B.S. in Business Admin, graduated in 2014 and have been working in Media (specifically Ad Operations) ever since. For the past several months I've been wanting to shift into Architecture and am now looking to apply to a Masters program.

My understanding is that "introductory summer programs" offered by the various grad programs around the U.S. offer a great opportunity to (1) build out a couple of portfolio pieces (2) get a general understanding of what the field is like (so that you don't fully commit to a program only to find out you hate it) and (3) meet faculty and other like minded individuals. 

I took a Rhino 5 course earlier in the year to get some exposure to people in the industry, learn some software chops for when I'm building a portfolio and to possibly even get to know a professor that could vouch for me later on down the line - so really, I'm only looking to bolster my portfolio building skillset at this point.

Unfortunately I have a full time job and am unable to take 4-8 weeks off (avg. length of these programs) without actually quitting my job. 

Do you have any suggestions / recommendations for ways to create a strong portfolio without the guidance of a grad school intro course? Would you say that regardless of my Rhino 5 course, its worth it anyways? If so, for what reasons? Some online posters have mentioned it could be worth the time to reach out to local firms and see if they're looking for inexperienced interns, but architects I've spoken to (in other cities) say theres no way that'll happen without any experience. At this point I'm left wondering: How can I get the portfolio guidance I need without quitting my regular job? 

Thank you very much!

Apr 16, 19 12:30 am

Many of these introductory programs have an evening option for those that are working.

Apr 16, 19 12:50 am  · 

Gotcha. I'll take a look at those. Thanks!


People without architecture undergrad backgrounds aren't expected to have architectural work in their portfolios.  That's part of the reason these summer programs sometimes get a bad rap:  they're portfolio farms for insecure applicants who are trying to manufacture architectural experience in a few weeks.  The work that comes out of them is easy to recognize. 

At least a third of people applying to first-professional M.Arch programs have no architecture or related undergrad backgrounds.  Really.  People come from the sciences, liberal arts, business, computer science - and all they need for a good portfolio is evidence of strong visual thinking.  That doesn't necessarily mean projects from an architecture studio, or any sort of architectural modeling, rendering, or anything like that.  It can mean drawing, painting, sculpture, furniture making, or pretty much any other design projects of any sort.  Some of the best portfolios I've seen, from people with whom I went to architecture school, were mostly full of non-representational art.

If you don't already have enough visual work to curate a good portfolio then you should ask yourself honestly whether you've got the natural design instincts to survive architecture school and become an architect.  If you're really a visual and creative person at heart then you probably have a ton of projects of various sorts.  

If you really feel the need for more courses, I'd recommend hand drawing, a graphic design course, maybe color theory - all things available in any community arts program or continuing ed program through any local college.  You really don't need to drop everything to go spend 6 weeks at an expensive summer camp.

Apr 16, 19 1:07 am  · 

Thanks a ton for this feedback. I definitely have heard (and seen in some portfolios that people have shared on Archinect) that showing that you have an "eye for design" (so to speak) is what's expected from non-designer applicants, but there was some lingering doubt so I appreciate you touching on that.


I think you should consider the AA's Visiting School Programs:

Short (mostly 10 days max) programs/workshops across the world tackling different themes and programs. It's mostly taken by students with design backgrounds, but I believe they're open to anybody who is interested. Having Rhino knowledge is a bonus. You could take several (like 2 or more depending what fits your schedule and their schedule) of these for a total price of how much one summer/introductory program at an ivy or any university would cost. There's one in New York and LA if you want to just keep it in the US if taking a leave from work is a factor. 

Apr 16, 19 12:43 pm  · 

Hey this is awesome! There's a Mars themed workshop in LA that sounds really cool. I just might. Thank you.


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