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  • Writer's pictureRocio Alonso

Translating Architecture School into Practice

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

I am a graduate of the University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture’s Class of 2019. As hard as it is for me to believe, I’ve been working full time in the profession for the past three years. In this time I have cycled through the many emotions that accompany such a major transition-- denial, sadness, hopefulness, and finally excitement.

The months immediately following graduation I felt very lost, denying the idea that I would never again occupy a studio with the classmates that had become such a major part of my life for five years. The voids these classmates left behind were quickly filled by my peers and coworkers in the office. The hours may be different, but the conversations had are oddly familiar, covering topics ranging from being project specific to what we would have for dinner that evening. Architecture is a collaborative field, with these relationships and interactions being a critical part of our process, and sanity.

Architecture school is often centered around creativity, forward-thinking, and freedom in design, with each semester a new opportunity to push the limits. Studio projects have no limitations, no client, and often times little semblance of reality. As a young, excited designer with unlimited ideas, there is no better environment in which to create.

While in school, there is a stigma that surrounds the “real world”, claiming the profession is limiting, restrictive, and procedural. Students fear that the real world impacts to a project surrounding budget, local ordinances, or even client opinions will reduce the freedom in their work. In practice, I’ve learned to challenge this notion, looking to these parameters as an opportunity to exercise the critical thinking and problem solving skills I developed in school.

Something the profession is bringing me that school never could is reality, an opportunity to see my thoughts, my exercises, and ultimately, my designs come to life. School could never provide me a truly visible and tangible representation of my progress, limiting my view to only what my pen and trace paper, or computer programs could provide. This reality is a goal I strove for all through school, and is a visual representation of my knowledge, skills, and growth.

As the MEL/ARCH team grows and the banter in the office frequently circles back to the troubles of architecture school, I transport back in time. Our alma maters may be different, but are experiences of our team are all too similar. I live vicariously through the stories the interns that balance school and work in our office share. My time in architecture school may be over (for now), but the memories and skills acquired live on.

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