Sometimes it is helpful in deciding what type of school to go to or what type of major to choose to have a list of potential classes you might take. Knowing the specific topics you will study and the methods by which you will study them could aid you in gauging your enjoyment of a particular major or concentration.
This type of class may be organized into a series of courses that build to more advanced topics and include both lecture and lab time. You might start by learning about the basic methods that an architect uses to make various design-based decisions. Your instructor may then ask you to put what you have learned into practice by working individually or in groups on small projects that allow you to explore different design elements, such as form, order, and space. In the lab you will work with sketches, models and diagrams to implement design principles and practice different creation methods. At this stage you may be asked to focus more on the decision-making process and practices than on creating a perfect finished product. In more advanced classes you will expand on what you have learned as you put to good use various concepts to create layouts, façade designs, and planning schemes, and practice different construction techniques. You may cap your academic experiences in these classes with a final, larger project that asks you to solve a specific problem or plan for a specific scenario.
Because in recent years there has been a push for “green” building in response to concerns over issues such as climate change, pollution, and the earth’s finite resources, some architectural schools now offer classes in sustainable design. In fact, some schools even offer entire degrees focused specifically on environmentally-conscious construction methods. Classes like this emphasize renewable energy, healthy design, recycling, cogeneration, zero carbon, low VOC, and LEED building options. You will focus on how these concepts relate to different planning types and design. You might also study the interior environment, the ecology of a location, transportation, infrastructure, and how to make the most of energy resources.
Contracts and Specifications
Although it isn’t always the most exciting or creative part of an architect’s job, most people in this occupation have to deal with contracts and other administrative aspects of the building process. By necessity you will learn about industry documents such as project manuals, which often include bidding papers, contract sheets, conditions, and other specifications. You will also learn how to read shop drawings, cut sheets, and other documents used in the management and administration of contracts. You might learn both by observation and passive study, as well as by practicing drafting these documents yourself in the classroom.
Alternative Building Systems
In order to be a successful architect, architect technologist, or drafter, you should know about unusual and less common building systems. Sometimes a prerequisite for this class is a course that teaches you about more traditional systems first. You will cover topics such as alternatives to traditional structures, weathering systems, design and performance industry standards and criteria, environmental quality, and alternatives to traditional structural systems.