B.Arch interested in Computer Science


Hi all:


After weighing a number of interests for a graduate degree over the last couple of years, I've finally honed in on Computer Science for several reasons:

>> It's a departure from the realm of architecture. I don't have many deep-seated issues with the current professional discourse but find far more interest and value in melding technical science thinking into architecture (and vice-versa) to try and push the boundaries of the profession than I do with adding more architectural thinking to my already 5-year foundation.

>> Pursuing tech interests will be more accessible.

>> I graduated 6 years ago, have been working at architecture firms since and am finishing up my ARE exams.

That said, I'm wondering if anyone with (or has technical knowledge of) a CS background could speak to the challenges I should expect as I investigate and pursue a master's in CS. In the little investigating I've done thus far, I'm narrowing my search to schools that have both CS and architecture programs with the idea that I could begin to establish a dialog between the two.


Also, if anyone has connections to people who would be good to reach out to I would greatly appreciate any and all contacts. Feel free to send me a note through Archinect.

Many Thanks -Phillip

Apr 21, 13 5:39 pm

wise guy... I think architecture is a field where you need to have a backup.  A profession you could jump into if architecture doesn't pan out how you envisioned, or perhaps purely for financial reasons.  Jobs, projects and work in architecture isn't a guarantee and takes a lot of years before you even know it will work out or not. 

Apr 21, 13 7:19 pm

I recently read an article regarding learning to write code without the need of going to college.

Apr 22, 13 12:13 am

Thanks for the link... I have my doubts that a 9-week bootcamp can teach a solid foundation. It sounds like it would work best for someone going into a full-time tech position with access to other coders on a daily basis. Also, it's a tempting proposition for someone who wants to abandon their current career path for more money but I'm more interested in integrating a CS skillset into design and architectural practice.

Do you know anyone who's been through one of these programs?

Apr 22, 13 10:30 am

your plan is to stay in the field of architecture, in the sense of working for a company (or owning your own company) that designs buildings that can get built, and applying a CS degree to that job?  I don't see how this would work.  It's more likely you will go deeper into debt and get a job somewhere as the guy who kind of gets revit and can fix the printer.

Technology commonly causes great fear among the sort of people who are in a position to provide you any decent experience or opportunity in this field.  displaying any sort of forward-thinking knowledge outside of printing patterns on porcelain tile will likely cause great harm to your future in this industry rather than helping.  anyway, good luck.

if you've been working in the real world for 6 years then you're no longer a starry-eyed idealistic student.  have you seen examples of people successfully crossing technology and architecture?  how do you see that working?  what do you think your job on a day to day basis will be after the second degree?  i could be wrong and am interested in understanding your perspective if i am.  or were you thinking of working at autodesk?

Apr 22, 13 11:34 am

I have a CS (and neuroscience) background. I see some potential issues with what you're thinking of doing... Granted, I don't know how much prior knowledge you have or what your math/programming background is.


First of all, creating a meaningful "dialog" between arch and CS is probably not going to happen within the framework of a CS masters. If you go to a school with a wacky arch department they might be open to it but I doubt the CS people will -- areas like architecture (and the arts in general) talk a big game about putting ideas together from different fields, being interdisciplinary, etc. But when you get into the sciences you start to realize that these idealized "dialogs" between fields don't happen that often -- it's usually because  "interdisciplinary" science work involves someone with a deep technical knowledge of one field applying it to a problem in another. It isn't really a dialog, just an application. For examples of this look up bioinformatics -- they call it interdisciplinary but all the real advances are being done by cs people who know a cursory amount of biology.


The second problem I see is that you want to do a _masters_. An M.Sc isn't professional school. I suppose that particularly in CS they might have more "practical" Masters options, but by and large these programs are focused on research. They are not about breadth and they are not about teaching you practical skills. Don't get me wrong -- there are loads of interesting research areas in CS... But if you're looking for a solid base in coding, algorithmic thinking, etc you are not really looking for a traditional Masters program.


In a nutshell: it's great that you're interested in computer science, but I'm not sure a Masters is really going to provide what you're looking for. The nice thing about CS is that there's so many open source (or illegal but readily available) resources out there, so if you are really interested then nothing is stopping you from doing some independent learning. The other nice thing about CS is that it's one of the few fields where your skills do the talking -- you can very easily teach yourself something relevant and go get hired, no problem. I see this all the time -- psych majors who build websites for people, etc.

Anyway, since you have some arch background maybe you would find research areas like computer vision interesting. You have to keep in mind that a lot of the "cool stuff" in cs research is very math based (how's your linear algebra?).

Apr 22, 13 2:31 pm

Gual- certainly some good advice in there. Thanks! At this time I'm still trying to figure out how this combination could be applied. There are some obvious examples of technology consulting firms for the architecture and construction industries (see Case Design) but I'm not too concerned with figuring out all of the specifics. Having been through an architectural education I feel confident I could apply that thinking to CS and as I find out more about CS there are certain areas of architectural design particularly suited for  algorithms, programming and data structures. It's just the really interesting aspects of the two, at the fringe that I'm attempting to get up to speed with.

Perhaps a CS masters program is not best suited for me but I'll need to do some more digging to find out for sure. I'm going to hear Joi Ito speak in a week...that might light a spark!

Apr 23, 13 11:22 pm

 "certain areas of architectural design particularly suited for  algorithms, programming and data structures"

Yes, and research/work in these areas is very saturated right now.  Grasshopper, Revit parametrics, etc.  Gual is absolutely right - unlike architecture masters programs, which are basically equivalent tracks to B.Archs with maybe a little extra sprinkled on top, "hard science" masters programs are about depth in a very specific, high level area of a field.  Basically, if you weren't a high level CS undergrad, there's no point in you going to a CS masters program.  Unless you are some sort of savant, you either a) won't get accepted, or b) will somehow get accepted, but will be in way over your head.

If I were you, I'd learn to code (well) on my own time.  Unlike architecture, there are enough resources on the web that you can get a complete practical CS education without school, or even taking time off from your current job.  Seriously, is 100k plus of debt worth a CS education that will end up tangentially (at best) relevant to your interests?

Serious question: what's your coding proficiency?

Apr 24, 13 2:10 am

All valid points. I am neither a savant or a CS undergrad. Learning to code on my own sounds like a good idea too, in theory but I'm worried about how realistic that is for people with full-time jobs that often demand quite a bit of overtime.

My coding proficiency is (brace yourself) 0. Aside from taking a C++ cource in college, I have no experience writing code. Admittedly it'll be a long, uphill road and I suppose the question is now where to start...

Apr 24, 13 2:04 pm

1.  Learning to code is not that difficult, especially for an obviously smart guy (girl?) like yourself.  The rigorous thought process that goes into architecture also works well for a lot of CS (especially scripting), so I think you'll do great.  Seriously, architects way overestimate how difficult this is.  If you can, sideline Sunday and maybe 4 hours over the rest of the week to practice coding - you'll be a pro in no time.

2.  A CS masters program is NOT for beginners - unlike architecture, Masters and Bachelors in CS carry vastly different connotations and imply different levels of proficiency.  A CS grad program teaching beginners just won't happen.  Maybe a bit of community college is a better option to see how you like it?

3.  If you'd like my advice, you should start by learning Python (because its easy), and JavaScript (because its incredibly useful as a standalone skill, and has parallels to a lot of other langauges).  Both languages (especially Python), are comparatively easy to learn.  Even better, they have nearly LIMITLESS resources on the web, including websites like Quora and stackOverflow, where you are basically guaranteed to get any question under the sun answered.  The coding community and online resource bank is ridiculously good.

4.  Architects tend musjudge just how meritocratic and "free-wheeling" the software world is, which is totally understandable given our background of office politics, licensure, starchitecture, and endless self-promotion (sorry, its true).  CS is not like that - just learn it (potentially on your own time), put together some cool work, and you're in.  Its that simple; there are very few barriers to entry.

Good luck, and feel free to ask more questions as they come up!

Apr 26, 13 12:28 am

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