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What It’s Like to Study Architecture at University

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated September 21, 2017 Updated September 21, 2017

Sponsored by Curtin University

We asked Ahmed Elsayed, a fifth year student at Curtin University, about the realities and joys of his life as an architecture student.

I love space, in all senses of the word. Before setting my heart on becoming an architect, I wanted to study astrophysics. I applied to a few courses in America, but the tuition fees were too expensive for me. Thankfully, I eventually came around to the idea of studying architecture partly because both my parents are architects, and I sort of grew up in the industry. I’m now in my fifth year of studying architecture, having reached postgraduate level at Curtin University, and I’ve never looked back.

Today, I worked on my master thesis which is due in November, mostly doing some research in the library and working on designs. In architecture, you either have the option of doing pure research, writing a 17-20,000 word report or submitting a design-based thesis, which is essentially a project with a 10,000 word report about your findings. Mine is coming along slowly, but nicely. I’m designing a small scientific outpost for 40 to 60 people on Mars. Like astronauts, early settlers are likely to experience psychological shock, from being stuck alone in space with nothing to look at outside, so my main aim is to design a livable space, both emotionally and literally, including elements I’ve studied such as biophilic design. It’s really interesting. You can grow plants naturally in Martian soil. Scientists recently conducted a test in a lab with imitation soil, and they found that things like wheat, corn, and tomatoes grow normally because Mars has many minerals that match our soil as well as a similar geological structure.

My favourite thing about architecture is I get to be creative. One of my role models is an architect by the name of Mies van der Rohe. He was the first architect to standardize design using steel and modular construction methods in the twenties and thirties. At the time, it was new and exciting, and it’s fun to think that there are lots of similarly innovative ideas being developed now which will eventually also enter the mainstream.

I’m planning on doing a PhD for another six to seven years. It’s a long process. I’ve been studying architecture for six years, and I’m still not done. I love learning. I absorb information like a sponge, and if I’m interested in something, I’ll apply it in my everyday life. I’ll have to work for a couple of years and try to find a sponsor for a PhD. I’m planning on working for a small to medium-sized architecture firm because it’s the best way to get hands-on experience. Once that’s done, and I’ve had enough experience, I’ll either open my own practice or move to a bigger firm.

The most challenging thing about life as an architecture student is keeping up with the workload. It’s important to be well-organized and plan each day. Usually, I’ll work from nine-to-five with a few breaks in between when I can play games, have a nap and some food and drink.

My one piece of advice to prospective students is to research the course fully beforehand and know it’s right for you. If you’re very interested in being an architect, you’ll find you have passion for your work, which will ensure you stay focused.

This article was originally published in September 2017 .

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