Architecture Students Learn Valuable Skills through Creative Projects

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Architecture students now more than ever are setting themselves above the competition by engaging in highly creative design projects that incorporate collaboration with other disciplines and a stress on conceiving environmentally sustainable designs, skills that distinguished architectural firms find particularly attractive.

According to the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of architects is expected to rise by 18% between 2006 and 2016, and competition at the most prestigious firms will be high as they look for the most innovative candidates to distinguish their firms in this growing market. This growth in the field was recently demonstrated by figures just released in early June by Architectural Record that show a surge in the total revenue of the magazine’s top 150 architecture firms, largely due to a demand for overseas work.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook projects that those familiar with “green design,” which emphasizes environmental sustainability and energy efficiency, will be most successful in the coming years. Additionally, “opportunities will be best for those architects that are able to distinguish themselves from others with their creativity,” and many innovative student projects have cropped up recently that exhibit this trend.

In March architecture students at the University of Sheffield in the UK won the national Architects’ Journal Small Projects Award for the Space of Waste project, in which they designed and constructed a building out of nothing but trash.

According to the college’s website, one of the project’s student designers, Sarah Hunt, said, “The construction industry is one of the UK’s most wasteful. By taking an unconventional approach to the design process, we were forced to rethink the way in which materials can be used. Architects and designers have the potential to divert a lot of waste from landfills and create buildings and objects that are both beautiful and original.”

Such innovative combinations of environmental sustainability and creative design are just what prestigious architecture firms are looking for in their searches for prospective job candidates.

Last year, architecture students at Ball State University in Indiana built an eco-lab with a $10,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The lab was constructed using such creative materials as fly ash (mineral residue from coal combustion), straw, and recycled wood. One of the main objectives of the project was to demonstrate sustainability in the climate of the Midwest.

Cornell University students and faculty recently spent a year designing the first eco-friendly community in Hawaii, featuring an electricity-saving microgrid, plug-in hybrid cars, and houses with passive cooling. Architecture students worked together with lighting designers, structural engineers, and others to plan the 725-acre community, which is in its first phase of development on the Big Island.

An ad on for an architect needed for a Portland, Oregon, firm stressed that one of the most important qualities sought in a candidate was being “open to change and receptive to ideas and concepts.” The ad also emphasized the importance of “working well as a team member or individually on assigned projects and interacting with other professional disciplines.” The Cornell interdisciplinary project displays the visionary and collaborative skills that appear most desirable to firms, as evidenced by this ad.

Process of Designing, a recent exhibit from the MIT Undergraduate Architectural Design Program, featured not only environmentally friendly designs but also constructions that focused on social issues and international work. Models included a homeless shelter built from a used billboard, a shelter for earthquake victims in Pakistan, and a children’s AIDS center for Zambia. Students had to research the area, its problems, and the practicality of constructing their building in that location before the designing process could begin. Such a project gave students invaluable skills not only in artistic and creative design but also in communication, social awareness, and knowledge about international situations, abilities that are highly desirable to hiring firms.

Architectural skills can be used in such fields as project management, urban planning, teaching, construction law, environmental design, architectural history, and interior design. Work experience is the foremost way to get ahead in such fields, and being able to pad one’s resume with creative and innovative student projects looks incredibly attractive to hiring companies.
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 materials  UK  environmental sustainability  disciplines  methods  Occupational Outlook Handbook  architecture  structural engineers  collaborations  architects

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