What you learn in architecture school...(that is applicable in the real world)

Hello kind readership. Today's blog post is brought to you by the woes (and fun) of architecture school. Here at TALLstudio, we speak highly of our education (i.e. a tortuous boot camp), and we thought we would try to dig through what we learned in architecture school, and translate it into real-world lessons, especially those that we use every single day. 


This topic seems to apply to all walks of life. We ask ourselves questions daily, that we then have to go and hunt down the answers for. We find that we reach mainly for the internet in our quest for knowledge, but we also utilize our bookshelves, the public library (if you don't have a library card, get one now), our peers, each other, and our hands. Now, what do we mean by "our hands"? We make things, that's what. We build models, we experiment with materials, we draw, we paint-- all of this being research. We are full believers in the "learn something new every day" mantra, and while this didn't exactly start in architecture school, the research aspect was definitely fostered. 

Find a mentor

Key to any success would be the people that you surround yourself with. Have you ever heard that you are a combination of the five people that you are around the most? This is both a terrifying and an electrifying idea, so choose wisely Obi-Wan. More than just the people that you surround yourself with, we carefully consider those that we turn to when we are in need of advice (this happens often). We choose mentors based on their personal experiences, the connections that we have with them, and the way they push us to better ourselves and our business. In architecture school our mentors were primarily professors, and wonderfully, we have held onto a few of those as well. Everyone needs a sounding board, even your mentors. A recommended task: Go find mentors.

As the old saying goes..."you have the same number of hours in a day as Beyonce." We'll consider her a mentor! 

As the old saying goes..."you have the same number of hours in a day as Beyonce." We'll consider her a mentor! 

Take criticism/Give criticism

Ooh, this is a tough one. Have you ever sat in on an architecture critique (aka a crit)? Man, they are rough, but they are also invigorating. When you are forced to stand in front of a group of your peers and professors, defend your work, and attempt not to blush, sweat, or cry, the pressure is on. Thankfully we made it through school critiques, but that doesn't mean we aren't critiqued each and every day... by our clients. The way we were taught to deal with criticism in school has tremendously benefited us, in that we are open to someone else's ideas, even if they are harsh, we take in what our clients are saying, and we work to turn out the best product. Really no different from school. The other side of being able to take criticism, is being able to give it, an equally important and doubly hard task. We see giving criticism as being constructive, never meant to be mean, and always meant to make things a bit better. 


During school we were constantly traveling. We went on a big trip at least once per school year, and typically a few smaller trips throughout the semester. While we had traveled a decent amount before, there was something new about traveling with your classmates, as well as your professors. We were taught to look at a city via space, form, void, light, social interaction, cultural experience (meaning food, art, poetry...), and this opened our eyes to new possibilities and new experiences. Today we carry our love of travel into our everyday life, as we try to get out on the open road at least once a month, and we goal to plan at least two big trips a year (research trips, of course!). 

TALLstudio Architecture - Ocean Springs, MS - Mark Talley Madison Talley - Travel

Build things out of cardboard, or anything you have (AKA be resourceful) 

Have we mentioned that we love to build things? There is something about being hands on with a particular material that opens up the creative senses and just feels so good. One of our favorite materials to use is cardboard (or paper in general). Why? Well, for starters, it's typically free! We have built models, chairs, a dress for a fashion show, our Halloween costumes, nests for baby birds, the list goes on. We love scooping up something that might otherwise be seen as trash and transforming it into something useful and/or beautiful. It seems that this need to build with free materials started in school, not necessarily because we wanted to, but because we needed to be fairly frugal. Cardboard also allowed us to easily alter our models in school, or on occasion a professor might alter them during a crit, i.e. tear them apart. It also gave us the freedom to dream big, seeing as it was mostly free, and stuck together easily with a bit of hot glue. If you ever see us in our studio building weird things, stop by, and give us a hand! 

The power of cardboard!

The power of cardboard!

The best drawings (or things in general), aren't pristine. They have smudges, coffee stains, and sweat on them. 

During an end of the year review, I remember a professor telling a student (or perhaps it was one of us), that your drawings shouldn't be perfect. Perfect meant that you weren't truly passionate about what you were working on. The drawings should be messy, they should be full of life. This little lesson can be seen in daily life as well. We try to keep our space, our life, our relationships, and our work tidy and organized, but what ends up happening is that we learn from the mess, we embrace it, and we let it color our surroundings in the most vibrant and surprising way. Get messy, people. 

Juxtapose (verb: to place close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast)

One of the things we learned early on in school is that if you ever want to sound supremely fancy, simply use the word juxtapose, as in: "If we juxtapose the cool marble with the warm wood...", you get the idea. It sounds a bit fluffy and like you know what you are talking about (we do most of the time, we promise). What the word juxtapose taught us in actuality is that anyone can sound intelligent by throwing around a few words with more than three syllables (juxtaposition), but if you can connect with your clients emotionally and intellectually, that is far more important, and you will be rewarded 10-fold as opposed to wowing someone with your linguistic prowess (see what we did there?). 

Madison TalleyComment