Planning of summer architecture activity


Hi guys, I've just been so frustrated by this questions lately and would love to hear how people think of my plan since no one in my school knows about applying to M.arch. Appreciate any advise!

Background: currently a sophomore of Studio Art major in a LAC, planning to apply to March I, did GSAAP summer program last summer. 

Elements I consider: the money, what can I put into my portfolio and recomm letter.

In last GSAAP summer program, I felt I didn't learn a lot and the works are quite incomplete and simple. I'm thinking about doing M+M in SCIARC again this summer, but that's gonna be $$$. And also, I'm not sure to do it this summer or next summer or just not. I feel like if I do it next year, the works come out will definitely be better since I will take more art class, like sculpture, next academic year, but I'll only have about one semester before the application deadline.

If I take M+M this year, I will probably have the chance to do a internship at a firm next summer. (though I'm not sure how that work since I'm not a B.arch stu)

I also have other choices for this summer, like a one week architecture workshop by a GSD prof n/o a three weeks workshop by a well known architect, both in China

Thanks so much!!!


May 5, 19 12:51 pm

Take the money you'd spend on one of these silly one week workshops and buy a plane ticket somewhere rich in architecture.  Spend your trip experiencing buildings first-hand and sketching them.  Not only will it give you plenty to include in a portfolio, it will give you experiences of the built environment that can help inform your design decisions.

May 5, 19 2:10 pm

Thanks. But I feel like the sketches could only be included in the "other work" section? I have plenty of works I could put into the other work section. I just want some guides on how to start and finish a project, since I don't know how to do it by myself.


A lot of people's portfolios for first-professional M.Arch programs contain no architectural projects at all. It's not unusual that the entire portfolio is sketches, painting, etc. You've already done one of those summer programs - don't waste time and money on more. They're not really looked on all that favorably by admissions committees in the first place, and if most of your portfolio ends ulp being work from those programs it's going to be fairly obvious. It's important to show self-driven design process, which is tough to demonstrate when you've got the same projects/programs as so many other applicants. Some argue that you can make connections and get some recommendations out of them - but I can't imagine writing a recommendation for someone I've only known from a one-week program. I'd agree you'd be better off traveling, and/or trying to get an internship for this summer.


Thanks! That sounds reasonable. But...just to clarify M+M is a four week program. idk if that would change anything? I'm also planning to do a personal project sometime. so if I don't take the
program, that means I'll do more project/s to replace the program's work


No, it doesn't make any difference how long the program is. You've already done one summer program. Two is total overkill. For most of us who have ever been involved with admissions, the projects from these summer programs are one of the biggest portfolio cliches and snoozes we see. Even when the students don't include having attended such-and-such summer program in their resumes or identify the projects as having come from those, it's immediately obvious because of the programs and the look of the work.  Consider that everybody else in the program is also applying: including those projects makes you just one of the hundreds. It's got some stigma as a rich-kid way to try to puff up a portfolio.

That said, it seems like there's some value in these programs: they're good for those who really aren't sure architecture school is for them; they're good for people with a lot of self-doubt about their ability to put together a portfolio; you might make some good contacts; you might get recommendations out of it. But you've already done that. Do something else now!






Thanks for your advices, my mind has changed a lot. But I'm still concerned that since I feel like my former summer program's critic would not likely to write me one recomm letter(heard it weights a lot in application) and I'm still not certain about going into a March program(though i've already been researching), would attending a summer program in Chicago school like IIT be worth doing? They are much cheaper than GSAAP's. or a sustainable architecture summer program at Pratt? since i'm also quite interested in that area. Thanks!


Recommendations matter a lot. But they can be from professors in subjects other than architecture, and from employers/internship coordinators, or anybody who knows you and your work well. The problem with these summer programs is that there isn't time to really know you and your work well. It's pretty clear that you're dead set on doing another one of these summer things, regardless of what everyone here is advising. If you have to do one, the sustainability thing at least would be slightly different subject matter than what you've already done.


ok, but I never said I'm going to join any of these for sure. Thanks.

Get a summer job in construction. If you keep your eyes open you'll learn more in two months on a construction site than you will in two years of architecture school.

May 6, 19 12:36 pm



Go travel and soak up architecture, read up on some good books (possibly architecture related), do some arch. design competitions, try interning at an arch. office or on a building site, mend a garden, learn how to cook decent food or learn a new language whatever.

May 6, 19 1:08 pm

I've been learning Dutch on Duolingo. Hoe gaat het?


Does firm hire interns with little architecture background? Most all that I saw wants student in Barch or March program.


Ik mag niet klagen Alina :)


xxetc You must be really passionate about architecture if you're so easily discouraged to even try.


No. I'm just asking


not the question you're asking but why are you studying studio art if you want to be studying architecture? you're only a sophomore- does your school offer anything related to environmental design you could switch into if that's your interest instead of doing 2 more years of something you seem to be disinterested in?

and to clarify - it's expected that applicants from non-architecture backgrounds have incomplete or simple architecture works, or even none at all. they just want to see that you are good at something related to design.

you probably would benefit more from spending time in an architecture office and seeing how things work given your background. spatial thinking is essential but the work process is so different from artistic creation you might be disappointed with the real job of an architect.

May 6, 19 3:47 pm

Like I said in my post, my school don't any architectural course and any professor knows a lot about architecture...I'll take all courses I haven't toke and kinda related to architecture next year like sculpture theater classes


Putting a portfolio together can be quite daunting, even for those with an architectural background.

If you want to include more spatial work, then I recommend playing around with Google SketchUp and give yourself some parameters. You could design an art studio for yourself or a one-room gallery for one of your pieces. Select a site and say every 10 commands save your file as a new project name (eg. Iteration 1, 2,...). Be able to justify every move and enlist the mentorship of a local architect or architectural student with extra time. To take things further you can design and make a piece of furniture/artifact for your space at a maker space. 

May 7, 19 7:40 am

Thanks. Those are really good advices!


Search the forum for other MArch applicants who have put together a portfolio with no architecture background.  You'll see that many have good pieces that get across their skill level without anything architecturally-related.  Read the critiques commenters have provided.  Spend your time focusing on composing a portfolio.

May 7, 19 9:21 am

Thanks for you advice! I do have many art works that kinda related to architecture, but when I see the portfolio of other applicants that admitted to very good schools, they all have 4ish architecture project and every other art things are put into the other works. Would a portfolio with art projects included in the main section strong enough?

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