High school student here. Was wondering if architecture is really my goal.


I'm in the last year of highschool and until now I have had aspirations to become an architect. I've always liked building things and doing artsy stuff. However, I had the impression that architects could branch off from buildings and design furniture, interiors, industrial design, etc. The thing is, I don't know what type of design to specialise in (definitely want to get into a design occupation) and I would just feel very limited if all I did was buildings.

I'm still young so I'll no doubt change my feelings over this in time, however I would like some information. What exactly can architects do? 

How proficient at physics (hated it and dropped it in high school) do you have to be to become an architect? 

May 14, 13 9:26 am

You need Physics for structures in school but then you mostly will not use it.  You should look into Industrial Design they seem to do some interesting work at multiple scales, but I do believe it is tough to get into the right position with that as well. And the schooling is not nearly as long and you can probably have a life outside of school. 

May 14, 13 9:38 am

If you want to branch off into multiple areas of design, I suggest getting experience in those areas while going through school.  I worked a summer "seasonal" job at home depot, and for a year was a furniture salesman on the weekend.

It's amazing the valuable information (on haggling) I obtained at both... whether it was information on the different plants, outdoor accessories, retaining wall and patio/deck designs, out door lighting, etc. (oooh, and grilling... suddenly I have a bunch of friends who won't stop coming over to my house on the weekends), and later the different brands of furniture and deciphering one's quality over the next. 

I highly suggest getting a job at a big box store like Home Depot or Lowes because it's very low key, a lot of the summer associates are of that age, and ever so often there would be some dead time and I would explore a little more of the store as they expected their associates to check for any customer needs while mostly being a presence to keep theft down.

Lastly, just because you're interested in design and form... take the opportunity to grab some Sculpture classes in school.  I think my most innovative designs while I was in studio paralleled my sculpture classes... had some pretty radical stage/pavilion concepts and a wholly unique look on a museum project.  I even went back and revised an older studio project (mixed-use development) and man was I please with that outcome.

May 14, 13 9:50 am
boy in a well

go to a bombass art school and become a bombass designer. meet everyone you can and work for them however you can. get a masters in arch if you still dig it. meet everyone you can, however you can.

or some variation of that.

or, yeah, go work at home depot.

there are many paths, grasshopper.

May 14, 13 10:01 am

Industrial design without a doubt.

You'll learn creative strategies, problem solving techniques, the properties of and how to work in a variety of materials, understanding of and appreciation for human factors. In a good ID program you'll develop a range of practical, intellectual and creative tools that will enable you to design anything and everything from advertising and graphic design to furniture, products and architecture.

A good creative education starts with a foundation program, make sure the college you go to has one. First year is generally a time of exploration where you get to explore before selecting your major.

May 14, 13 12:04 pm

The only part of physics you'll truly find yourself using in arch. school is the section about torque which is simply a force multiplied by the radius.  You'll use it a lot to calculate point loads on a beam. That's usually only a chapter or two in a HS physics class.

Regarding whether architecture is right for you or not, I can only talk from a student's perspective—I'll say it's important to be passionate about buildings which have considerations that don't exist in the realm of ind. design, furniture design, etc. I'm talking about water proofing, building codes, unitized materials, etc. Sometimes these cross over into ind. design. Of course, ind. design projects have consideration architects don't usually deal with too.  Remember, the bulk of architecture focuses on buildings...

May 14, 13 12:30 pm

just don't get into debt like I did.  Your future as a designer will be heavily burdened by debt.   These days no degree is worth 100k debt which is really about 220k once all the interest is paid...You will be better off using your money to invest in your own projects.  Buy a house and flip it, design a product and have it manufactured, is not about which school you go to or what program you enter...If I knew better at the time, I would have just gave a student 100 buck for his syllabus, bought the books, and learned on my own....thats kinda what you will do anyway...

The fact is that you will never get ahead as an employee.  You must be an entrapenuer these days!  My advice is that you shadow a few designers for a while....learn everything you can for free.  read everything you can!  ask architects and designers for book lists.  Start paying attention to technological and social trends!  start making things. start learning about business!  If you start now you can be a financially independent by the time your fellow peers are graduating into a life of meaningless work and debt slavery.

 fuck school!


May 14, 13 1:34 pm

However, I had the impression that architects could branch off from buildings and design furniture, interiors, industrial design, etc. The thing is, I don't know what type of design to specialise in (definitely want to get into a design occupation) and I would just feel very limited if all I did was buildings.

Well, some do go off the do other things in the realm of design.  Heck, there's even furniture design offered as an elective at some a-schools.  Some schools would consider that blasphemy.

You've said it in bold, so industrial design sounds more like where your aptitude lies, but could you really stand designing ANYTHING industrial, like towel dispensers for an aircraft's lavatory, for example?  Just don't drop some major coin on this (think public).  For me, I pretty much wanted to be limited to buildings, so that's why ID was not for me, but a-school was (*scratching my head*).

May 14, 13 2:06 pm

Oh, yeah, the physics part ... it's a requirement, and then you will never use it.  Well, you sort of do, conceptually, in your first structures class if you picked architecture.  It's just another weed out hurdle, realistically.

May 14, 13 2:07 pm

I agree with Miles but think that if you find a good Architecture school with solid design fundamentals and a good digital fabrication/ manufacturing program, you will be ahead of most ID students. 

An architect can always go down in scale and use their general design training to inform ID projects, but an Industrial Designer is going to have a hard time going up in scale and producing a building.  Unless you go to one of the top 10 ID schools in the world, the first 5 years of your career are going to involve window cranks and widgets. I guess that is just as soul-sucking as redlining Construction Drawings, but I really enjoyed the wide scope and breadth or material covered in Architecture School.

I see design as a spectrum that goes from Landscape design to Urban Design to Architecture to Interior Design to Furniture to Product Design to Graphic Design, Fabric Design, Packaging, Presentations, etc... I feel that my architectural education was essential to me grasping design through this sort of lens. I do not feel I would have received the same type and quality of education in an ID program.

May 14, 13 5:35 pm
ID is cool. But yeah, you'll design a lot of toothbrushes. Architecture is cool. But yeah, you'll do a lot of bathroom renovations.

I'm a physics wiz and structures was easy. Haven't used it much since graduation.
May 14, 13 6:39 pm

well all i know is that no one in my year could find architecture jobs so they all basically got furniture design and millwork jobs

May 14, 13 9:25 pm

Study something unrelated to architecture which can help you learn how to rationalize processes.

And stay away from all the dumb architects/low-grade designers on this forum.

May 14, 13 11:30 pm

Thanks for all the amazing replies! 
So how does physics/engineering come into play as an architect? Do architecture firms usually work in conjunction with engineers? 

May 15, 13 4:49 am

Architects nearly always collaborate with engineers.

May 15, 13 6:33 am

Physics is going to keep you from cantilevering unrealistic loads... saves a lot in schematic design

May 15, 13 4:57 pm

Learn Physics. The more information and knowledge you have about a project, the closer the built work will look to what you designed.

The classes I took through the engineering department in school were some of the most valuable classes I ever took (Statics, Dynamics, Material Properties, Design for Engineers) and they were almost universally derided by the architecture faculty at my school.

May 15, 13 5:15 pm

Putting the math, physics, structures courses that you don't actually use aside... I would seriously suggest looking at different careers that deal more with art if that is what you like.  Animation, graphics, etc.   Architecture may come off as a artsy job but its NOT!  Sure, you ( I mean the owner / main principal ) is designing a building, but that conceptual design is the smallest part of the project.

The amount of artsy work that is involved in the professional practice, is nill compared to  the CD's etc.  especially if you are in a firm that does boring buildings like warehouses, retail stores that are basically already designed for you, etc.  even in cases where the design is "high" the principals aren't going to be readily handing over the design process to you; that's the fun part! They will put you on drafting and maybe give you a bathroom to layout to make you feel special.

Not to mention the long hours, ( doing non artsy stuff ) and low salaried pay.

May 15, 13 5:30 pm

Physics is going to keep you from cantilevering unrealistic loads... saves a lot in schematic design

Right.  But it's because of those computations made in structures classes, and your frame of mind is really set by the first one (statics & strengths) so, people, stay awake.  Then, steel and concrete build on that logic, algebraically.  Any school that does not have at least 3 structures courses is doing a disservice to its students.  And architectural faculty that derides those courses should be kicked in the ass ... and off the faculty.  That's the problem with a-school - the artsy and technical types want to very badly stay on different sides of the fence, when they should be in synch.  Such a canyon is not noticed in b-school, the quant (finance) and "soft discipline" (management theory) types may not have the same interests, but at least they respect each other.

Yes, one should make it a goal to get at least a B in intro calculus and physics to train your mind.  As for the physics, they might make you take a year of it in a baccalaureate program but, for an M.Arch., they'll usually settle for only the first part - mechanics.

May 15, 13 5:33 pm

Rambling on, JayCon, we got a VERY general rule of thumb that cantilevering should not exceed a 1:2 ratio and, if there's a cantilever involved, one can only bet that they'll be spending a lot of time in meetings and on the phone with SEs.  Any really testy building geometries won't be calc'd by the architect.

May 15, 13 5:48 pm

Honestly, I'd tell you to get out of this profession if you can because of all the b.s you have to put up with and mediocre pay for a very long time while starting out.  If money isn't an issue for you, I'd say totally go for it.  It will open your mind to a heck lot of things in life, areas you would've never ventured into.  Alll the skills you learn can always be applied in doing something not directly related to architecture if you're driven enough to try other things. 

May 15, 13 7:25 pm

There are ways to be a design professional with out trudging through shit for years, but you're right, most of the jobs like that are not in architecture. I still think Architecture School prepared me to embrace the many facets of design like few other courses of study would.

Although if you are not extremely passionate about buildings, it will be hard to complete all of your studio projects well.

May 16, 13 4:36 pm

^ i totally agree with you Nicholas.. I may not be happy where I'm headed in this profession but I wouldn't have traded my architectural education for any other study

May 17, 13 7:25 pm


Architecture, unlike 90+% of the other majors out there, has a "I have to know" or "I have to have this experience" factor, or it will almost haunt someone, it seems.

I might have done it differently.  If I had planned to do it and then "walk," I would have gone for the 4 year BS in Arch., with a minor or two.  I would have worked in an office for a couple of years.  Then, I would have done something else. 

However, I think that, planning to stay, I would have done a BS in Construction Management and then the M.Arch.  I know that would have torqued the high-design schools and compromise admission, but I think that would be a great pairing, because (1) you are freed up from knowing how things go together and can focus on design, and (2) you have something to fall back on, which is definitely related.  I know a person who did it this way, and he has had a good "blended" career thus far.

May 17, 13 9:56 pm

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: