Surviving the Design Studio: Finishing the design when you have have no time left. 

The myth of the lone architectural genius has never really factored in the notion of individual and psychological well-being. We always seem to assume that the super-star designer’s produce a continuous stream of design work. If we subscribe to this view it means that these guys are always spitting out the big new and dazzling ideas. All the fucking time. In reality most architects have crazy lives juggling everything for sometimes very little reward.

Everyone gets tired, even architects, not everyone has a great idea everyday and in reality  its hard work to test the really good ideas that you get anyway. Besides, not every project is great and sometimes it takes a lot of work to make a mundane project with severe constraints good. In reality design production for individual architects is something that waxes and wanes, ebbs and flows, and is subjected to personal circumstance, energy and focus. It can be hard trying to finish a design when you are out of mojo.

Even harder when you are ferrying your kids around town, juggling the cashflow, designing another tiny kitchen and turning up to confront the sly anti-architect jokes at the site meetings.

But perhaps we should also spare a thought, if not any sympathy, for the archetypal indolent architecture student. Especially the one who has done no work. Its always tough for architecture students to get to the end of the project. I was always one of those students that was good at starting, talking up the ideas, but not so good at finishing a project. It didn’t really help that I couldn’t draft my way out of a paper bag. Usually, by the end of the studio I had invested so much of myself, as well as time and effort, into the project that I was exhausted.

I have written a few other posts about the end of semester and these should be of some help to students in this situation. But it’s never over until it is over so here are a few more suggestions. All of these suggestions are meant for those of you, for whatever reason risk falling into  the end of project/semester panic vortex. Or for those of you whose energy has waned. As well as being for those designers out there who who need help because you have spent too much time having fun, ferrying your kids around, fighting off the creditors, and the client presentation is tomorrow.

1.Dont Panic 

Panic produces chaos.

Before you panic and go straight into hyper reactive mode don’t forget to schedule your time. Don’t end up in the print queue at the last minute.

Figure out when you need to submit or present to tge client and work back from that. Allow for printing, digital layout out and modelling. Allow for time to do a proof. Remember you don’t have time to be indecisive or even time to panic. Work back from the end and prioritise your tasks. What are the most important design elements you need to work on? Which design elements will carry the day despite the fact you have done no work or have run out of time?

Once you have your priorities ordered solve each problem methodically.

2. Don’t worry about the other architects.

Let them worry about you.

Forget about what other people are doing. Don’t compare yourself unfavourably to them. Its is such a waste of valuable emotional energy. Its to late to be critical negative of your own or the work of others.

However, you can ask them to look at stuff. When you own eyes start to fail its always good to ask someone, another architect or maybe even your grandmother,  if something looks ok. Use your peers, mentors and friends as a way to filter out the bad bits and details of your scheme.

Your tutors and clients will always like you for not subjecting them to ugly and ungainly graphics.

3. Under no circumstances stay awake all night.

BAD, BAD and more BAD.

There is nothing good about this. You cant make wise design decisions at 3 am in the morning. You run the risk of going backwards.

Yes, indeed: BAD, BAD and more BAD.

4. Annoy your tutors and even your clients. 

After all they got you into this mess.

Yes, the more contact you have with your tutors at this point the better. Email them and ask for advice. Show them your preliminary layouts. Ask them questions.

The more contact you have with them the more sympathetic they will be at the final crit (maybe) and your clients will think you have actually been working.

5. Give everything a second glance.

Tell your story in images as well as words.

Old Raisbeck Saying: If it looks good it is good. But look at everything twice if you can. Think carefully about your graphics. Fonts, typefaces, placement of images relative weightings of images. Don’t get carried away. Keep it simple. Avoid cutting and pasting the following items from your library into plans and sections.

Tutors and even clients can spot graphic filler from a mile away.

6. Don’t colour everything in on those renders.

More Bad.

Digital renders are not like one of those colour by numbers colouring books. Digital images are not real and its naive to think otherwise. Save yourself some time and tread lightly with the colours. Think about the best way to convey your idea through the images and this is not the same as making it real or “natural”.

It is better to build up your layers of colour in your renders bit by bit. Don’t over saturate. Once they look finished you can move to the next task.

The critics including clients will want to know that your design concept relates to final presentation.

7. Make the people, animals cars or trees in your renders appropriate and even funny.

Make it relevant.

If your project is in Kurdistan. Make sure the people in it are Kurds and not rich white guys from New York. Diversity is good and the design critics will think you have actually thought about the whole design if you have thought about the people in the images.

Your clients will love you forever if you Photoshop them into the renders.

7. Remember to think about construction.

Dear architecture students your building is not made of evenly thick concrete with a few walls and openings.

Think about your design as you are drawing it. Don’t just stand up at the end and say its made of concrete or brick. If you have no idea about the construction think of something you have seen and can us it as an example.

Think about water. Yes, thats right water. How does your project, building, project, shed water. Is there a roof? Are there parts of the building where people get wet. What happens when it rains? Have you drawn a roof plan.?Are there pavements, drains and gardens that soak the water up around the project? Also, think about sequencing what is  going to be built first? Is it the  frame or are there panels or other constructions systems or elements that order the construction sequence.

Any construction detail will help convince the clients you are a pragmatist and not some wild and crazy auteur struggling to make a living. In the eyes of the studio critics any kind of constructional nuance will help save you.

8. Diagram as you finalise the drawings.

Diagram, diagram and diagram.

If you don’t have time to draw it fully then diagram it. Diagrams also help you to think about how you will talk about it. Thinking about what you will say might then appear to be integrated with your actual diagrams and images.

What do you want to say? Which parts of the design best exemplify your concept? How do you want to promote or discuss the concept. How can you show this in diagrams.

The more diagrams you have the more the critics will love you and the more things you can explain, without laboriously drawing them completely, to the clients.

9. If you have done no work all semester do a section.

Just turning up with plans and a few hazy renders is a signal to every critic, and even client, between here and Antarctica that you have done nothing.

If you do a section the critics will love you. The clients wont neccesarily understand it but then you can explain it.

10. Go physical.

Make a physical model.

Even if its a bad bad physical model like the ones I used to do. You will always get some points for doing it.

Everyone loves a model.

Now that its the end of the teaching semester I am off to visit the ancient cities and landscapes in the interior of my continent. I will be back in a week or so and I would like to thank all of who who supported and read this blog so far in 2017.  



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