1. Why Do I Still Feel Like an Idiot in an Architectural Office, Even Though I Just Got My Architectural Degree from a Top Architectural School?
You just spent 5 years of your life in college and two hundred thousand dollars on your tuition, and finally you graduated from a top architectural school. You just got a new job at a good architectural firm, and all a sudden, you realize that what you learned at school does NOT seem to help you at work AT ALL, and people at work talk in a language that you barely understand: Entitlement, RFI, Shop Drawings, CCD, Change Order, Punch List, etc. You feel like an idiot in your office and do not seem to know anything. This is a total cultural shock to you.
2. What Went Wrong?
Well, there is a huge gap between architectural education and architectural practice.
a. When you are in architectural school, design courses mainly teach you conceptual design. In the real world of architectural practice, conceptual design is only a very small portion of the design process. All the real projects will go through many phases, including Entitlement, Conceptual Design/Schematic Design, Design Development, Construction Document, Bidding and Negotiation, Construction Administration, and sometimes even Operation and Maintenance.
b. In the real world, employees in an architectural firm are put in one of three categories: supporting staff (including administrative, marketing, and IT or CADD), designers, and management and production staff. If you are hired as a designer, you will have an easier transition from college to your job because a designer mainly deals with Entitlement, Conceptual Design/Schematic Design, and sometimes, Design Development work. If you are hired as a production employee, you will have a much harder transition, because almost everything you do in the office is what you have almost NEVER dealt with in school before. You will have to learn on-the-job.
c. In college, the knowledge you learned is piecemeal in nature: you learn structure as one course, and architectural history as another, and design studio is yet another, and so on. In the real world of architectural practice, you can be dealing with all these elements in one single project, and you need to be able to integrate the knowledge you learned from different courses and create a synergy. Synergy is defined as the working together of two things to produce an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects.
To help you make a smooth and easy transition from architectural school to architectural practice, I summarize my professional experience and tips in this book, which should be useful to readers.
There are many, many things that you need to learn to work well in the real world of architectural practice, but there are only a certain number of tips that you need to know to be able to function and survive in the daily operation of an architectural firm or in the construction industry. In this book, we shall cover all the basic and pragmatic knowledge to help you handle the daily workload in an architectural office, and we shall tell you where you can find further information.
Quoted from page 1 of "Building Construction" (or "Architectural Practice Simplified," 2nd edition) Copyright 2010 Gang Chen, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Author of "LEED GA Exam Guide," LEED GA Mock Exams," "Planting Design Illustrated," and other books on various LEED exams, architecture, and landscape architecture