Architecture University UK : Was it Worth it?

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Studying over 5 years full time study is not always fun and its hard work. In this article I’m going to go through each degree I received at architecture university to tell you exactly what work was involved in each degree. I’ll do this by going through each module on the back and explain briefly what was involved and what I learnt in each module. That’s if I can remember, because if I can’t remember it, then it wasn’t worth it, was it?

So that will lead to the end where we can conclude…

Architecture Uni. Was it worth it? So let’s start with the first one.

Architecture university UK Degrees

This is BA (Hons) Architecture (International) RIBA Part 1

So I did an international course at architecture university. It’s like the only one in the UK, International. So you did projects abroad and stuff. I’ll show you in the modules. University of Huddersfield I did all my degrees. This is a UK based, so a three year degree. Okay.

History and Theory.

So these were quite enjoyable lectures about history of architecture like Rome, Italy, Egypt, things like that. I still got one of the books that was recommended on the course here somewhere. I remember our assignment was to just draw a building from another country. That was it, I think. So you learn a lot from that. That was quite enjoyable.

History of architecture Building structures at architecture university

Basic Principles of Design.

So that’s all about visual proportion, hierarchy, space, repetition, balance, rhythm, emphasis, things like that. All those fancy words and how they make a building look good and make a building work. So that’s one of the most important modules on there. You learn all that stuff, basic principles in lectures, then you apply that to your design project during the design project based on those design principles that you learnt. So that’s basically the project work you do, basically.

Introduction to Society and Environment.

We went to Paris for like five days, start at university September. Then we went to Paris in January, February for four days. So that was really good. And I remember doing Urban Design. We got given an area in Paris to study. You had to study that in groups and then we had to design a project individually in that location. So mine was a bus shelter.

Building Construction.

That’s when you start having lectures about how buildings put together, doing construction details to your first project. I think it was a folly we had to do and you had to do construction details for that. That’s difficult, but a lot of it you have to research yourself and learn.

Building Structures.

Yeah, that’s structural engineering.We have lectures on that. Our first ever assignment
was to draw timber structural connections for a project. Sometimes you have this small calculation that no one understood. There’s a lot to learn.

Building structures at architecture university

Built Environment

I’m sure that’s environmental aspects like ventilation. And I don’t know what project that was. Think it is stuff like mechanical engineering and electrical engineering which you apply to your projects.

Information Technology and CAD.

We did a small module, I’m sure it was ArchiCAD. Can we used that. It just came out of that time, 1996, so
we had to model Villa Savoye in ArchiCAD.

Introduction to Design with Tropical Climate.

Yeah, we had lectures on tropical design at at architecture university. That was really interesting. That was part of the international course. So we were preparing for the trip.I think it’s Jordan we went to, so we had to design something in a tropical climate. You learn a lot for shading and everything.

Discovering Place

Now that was urban design. We had to design something in an urban environment. A lot of people don’t realise this, but even if you’re not that great a drawing they teach you how to sketch and draw. So you have one day a week sketching in the sketch book and they had an art teacher showing you how to sketch properly, or you’d go outside of the class and you sketch around the streets or something like that.

Economics and Psychology of Space.

That’s all about the human body, the scale and proportion of everything, like counters, cupboards, heights of things, sizes of things, those kind of things. And the psychology of space was the
interior design course we think we did. So we had to do a proper interior design project. So I think it was a cafe. I did that to design that says
a proper interior design module that was.

Framework of Design Process.

That’s probably the design stages like feasibility study concept,
construction drawings, those things. I did a video on Skillshare.(Where you can grab one month free) You can watch that here if you want.

Principles of Design 2

So that’s if design projects again which is probably typical at architecture university. That’s what you get your mark based on learning those principles of design.

Building Construction 3.

So that’s more details again, construction drawing for your design module, but you design a building and then you do a construction detail for it. That’s your coursework
for that building structures. Again, another drawing or task you have to do for structures related to your design project. So you have to draw the structure or something like that.

Architecture and development overseas.

I think that’s preparation for the design project we were going to do overseas. We went to Jordan in the second year.

Housing Design.

See, now this we had to design a house. It’s the only time at at architecture university we design a house. Everyone thinks architects design houses all the time, but this is the first time
we just design in a house. Everybody wants to design bloody house don’t they? Apart from me.

Application of design principles.

Thats applying obviously what you’ve learnt, so you’ve learnt the design principles now you can apply them to project. I don’t know, I can’t remember
how that worked but you get the idea.

Design projects at first year architecture university

It looks like there’s only two modules here.

Developing design skills and Technical design Skills.

So they’re probably just working on the design project for the whole year and do some technical, technical construction lectures as well. I can’t remember much of it. And then the third year for that

History and Theory of Urban Design.

So I did a bit of urban design stuff. So this was a study of Kevin Lynch, a famous urban designer. His theory of nodes, landmarks, districts, paths and edges.

Appropriate Technology.

You learn in technology at architecture university about your project or whatever task they gave you.

Degree field and study preparation here.

That’s for the trip to Jordan. You learn how the culture works for the country. Then the overseas field trip. They went for a month. So we went on excursions every single day, went on lectures in the university, Jordan every day. We learnt loads. We had to learn how to design in a middle Eastern environment, hot, dry climate. That was really good. I learnt a lot from that and we worked a hell of a lot, went to lectures every day. I went on trips every day with the at architecture university. To the city and around to visit all these buildings and on top of that we were doing a design project as well. We had to have reviews and stuff all the time.

CDP for non-European cultural regions.

I can’t even remember what CDP stands for, but that’s the final design project of your degree. And Developing Design Skills, there, two in one there. There we did a project,
I remember when we were in Jordan, design a master plan together in groups, and then there was the individual project for your building. So that was the final project of the year.

So that was the first degree.



Diploma in Architecture RIBA Part 2


Then I worked for a couple of years and then went back to  architecture university to do my diploma. It was two years full time, so look at the sizes as compared to that. It’s not as much stuff.

Advanced Principles of Design.

So that’s similar to the other ones, but more advanced. You’ve learnt a lot, you’ve been working and stuff, so you know a bit more about design. So design and a project based,
I think they gave us a cultural centre like straight away and we had to design it and they only had like two weeks to do it . That’s crazy after
you just come back to architecture university

Advanced Technology.

Same thing again. You get in lectures about technology, then you have to do technical drawings for your design.

Professional Studies.

Now this is preparation for your licence or your registration, so that’s preparing you about that. An architect in practise, practice management, how to run projects, those kind of things.

Building economics.

That was a good one. But difficult, actually. It was all about cost because we never done anything about cost and we suddenly had all these lectures about cost and we had to do, I think there was an exam about that was really stressful because we never really have exams. It’s usually coursework, so you learn a bit on that, but very difficult to understand. I didn’t really learn much from that. Should have put more of that in the first year I think.

Study of Computers.

So this is another CAD thing. So we had a module on 3D Studio Max, which was good. Everybody gets excited about these CAD things at uni.

Diploma field study preparation.

So we went to Arizona in the US on this, so that’s preparation for that. So we had to design a building before we went to Arizona. This was an architect’s office in Tucson. We’re learning how to design in a desert, those kind of things, and the culture of the US and how buildings are design, stuff like that.

Next one is

Application of Design Principles.

I think this is when you’re doing the project abroad. We have the you have to study the location same as like the first degree. Actually, we have to do site analysis in Tucson, Arizona, and then that to design a building in the area as well. This is all individual work, but you work with together as well as people in the class for Youth Hostel project that that was the project we have to do spend most of your time just doing your project work now. So I did a youth hostel in Tucson, Arizona, so you learn a lot from that and especially design of the country that’s really beneficial for me. Since now I live abroad, so this really helped me.

Waterfront’s Project

Yeah, actually we did that first when we got back to architecture university. That was the cultural centre we had to design near the water in Leeds, which is near university. I went to Huddersfield. They learn a lot from that because that’s your first design project you’ve done after you’ve been working for a couple of years, so and then the lecturers teach you stuff. You have all these tutorials and everything.

Dissertation on a Diploma of Architecture.

Oh God, we had to do a dissertation. This is horrible. This I don’t like. I didn’t like this. I think I choose, architecture and film. ‘How architecture influences film, how film influences architecture.’ I did a dissertation on that. It’s a proper book you have to write is like, I can’t remember how many words, but it’s like a I don’t know if you learn much. You’re just researching and reinterpreting
stuff that you’ve researched really. I don’t know. It was too stressful because you’ve never done any writing before to renew your degrees and then you get suddenly you have to do this writing thing. At least you learn how to present something in a professional manner.

Design Thesis

That was the final project. And this is it. This is the apartment complex I did in Cambridge. God, I hated it. I hated the site, I hated the project. I just wanted to get it done and it dragged on. You spent I think you spent most of the year just working on this and the site analysis. Designing in Arizona, come back to England. I just didn’t enjoy it as much. I think I was just never happy with it. So make sure on your final project, you pick a location and project type that you’ll enjoy because I couldn’t really get into this at all.

Design Thesis at architecture universityArchitecture and Design Thesis Preliminary Study.

I think that’s the site analysis we did. You do a really thick A4. it was, site analysis, everything about the site guide. It took ages like photographs, sound reading, the local architecture around
site, local culture. You have to put all this together in a presentable report and it’s massive. It’s a lot of information. There’s a lot of time spent on that. Like the site analysis was a lot of work, but you realise after later on when you work that how much is involved in the site analysis. But when you do projects nowadays you don’t really do much on the site analysis, you spend a day or two on it,. But here you spend like weeks doing this site analysis, its crazy.

So it’s mostly project work for the second degree.

Then part 3 is my master’s.

Master of Architecture RIBA Part 3

This is when you work for a bit and you go back to university. Sometimes some people get a Diploma or Post Diploma. Some people don’t get a master’s
when they finish the architecture degree. I was lucky enough to get one, but it doesn’t really matter. This was just one thing.

Professional Practice and Management in Architecture.

Just one module. So the master’s was basically the registration to be an architect. To work at least one year,
and then record your work experience. And your work experience has to be spread out at different stages of design, like concept, technical design, construction, feasibility studies, stuff like that. You have to have a bit of experience in everything basically, and then you can apply to do this course.

You have lectures on professional practice and management in architecture, stages of design, how to run an office, how to run a project, those kind of things. The construction industry, what’s going on, how an architects role fits in the construction industry. How all the other consultants work together, and the appointment of an architect.  Contracts. There’s a lot about contract, not just contract for the architect and the client, but construction contracts between construction company or the builder and the clients and all the clauses in the contract. Oh my God. All that stuff is completely irrelevant
to my job, really. More or less. I never get involved in contract.

Exams for Registration

It’s like two or tree exams. (I can’t even remember) at the  architecture university.  I think they’re about two and a half hours each or maybe longer. And then if you pass those exams, one of them is a closed book exam, so not allowed to take any books. One of them that open book exams. Are you allowed to take books with the like questions like write a letter to the client saying that you’re blah blah blah blah except the appointment. And what do you have to give them? An appointment, document, stuff like that.

Or you get questions on like something happens on site, there’s an explosion in the site office. What do you do? Oh, they’ve dug up some ruins, historical ruins on site. What do you do? Like things like that. Anything they can ask you anything. And you have to write something. You have, like bunch of questions like that. This one exam we did, it was just like I think it was like 2 hours.

It’s like 20 questions, just about anything like and some of them is just simple things, like what is professionalism? You have to make sure that you can answer
all those questions in 2 hours, like minutes of these questions or something like that. Those exams are tough and stressful, so I read so much for these exams.

Never read so much in my life about The Architect, the architect’s role, how the architect works in the construction industry, those kind of things. Just reading. Reading. Oh, anyway, I passed it.

Was it worth it?

Looking back. Architecture university. Was it worth it? If I put all the modules side by side here, see the first degree so much there involved- three years that. First degree has a hell of a lot doing so much work. They give you a lot of work in the first year, you learn all these things. Second year was a bit… I failed my second year. My first degree had to repeat it. The second year is a bit of a funny one. Compared to the second degree was nothing. It’s just project work. For two years they could have combined
that in but doesn’t look like two years. Looks like one year. First year, second year were basically very similar.

Architecture university UK Degrees

You just do project work most of the time. To do that in five years. I think it wasn’t worth it, but the information is worth it. There’s no way
you should do that for five years. That’s a bit of a waste of time. So it’s worth it yet, but not five years. I think three years
it would have been worth it. And then the third one, the part three to get licensed personally for me,
getting the license is the best thing. You’ve actually finished. You can draw a line under it. You’re an architect now,
so that was worth it.

If you do all this without doing the license, it’s not worth it. It took me ten years to do all this.
Nine years? I think. So if you’re going to do this, make sure you go all the way. Get the license and final degree. Then you can become an architect. In that case, it’s worth it. And if you don’t do that, then it’s not worth it.

In conclusion, I think architecture university should make it three years full time study. And then do your exam. And then it would be worth it.


📐Russell M. Henderson is a practicing RIBA Chartered Architect based in Tanzania, East Africa.

🎥Russell (Architect Russell) also makes videos on YouTube , TikTok  Instagram & Skillshare sharing thoughtful, honest and pragmatic knowledge while working and living abroad.


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