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Studying Architecture

Architects design, plan and erect buildings.
An article by Meike Fries in collaboration with Oliver Burgard

Studying Architecture
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That is what it’s about

Be it single-family homes, residential buildings, office towers or theatres: in the Architecture degree course, students learn to plan buildings – from the design through to the actual construction. "The academic studies have technical and artistic sides; the weighting depends on the type of institution and the degree course," says Martin Wickel, professor at the HafenCity University Hamburg and president of the conference of deans for Architecture, Town and Country Planning and Landscape Architecture. The young architects practise developing their ideas as sketches, models or three-dimensional computer renderings. From the very outset, they learn how to use CAD (computer-aided design) software, but they also draw a lot by hand and build models made of materials such as cardboard, plastic, wood and metal. They regularly present their designs for discussion – just as they will later on in their professional lives. Technical knowledge is mainly taught in structural theory which deals with structural engineering and stability. Building physics, construction chemicals and building studies are also on the agenda. Students analyse city districts or construction projects on excursions. Current topics are also incorporated into building law, town planning and construction management courses. "For example, we discuss how new housing for refugees can be quickly constructed," says Martin Wickel. Anyone who wants to use the title of Architect must be registered in the state Chamber of Architects and demonstrate at least four years of study and two years of professional experience. Students can either study three years at Bachelor's level plus two years at Master's level or they can pursue an eight-semester Bachelor's degree. Architects who want to work internationally must furnish proof of five years of study. In an architect's everyday work, the creative part is usually smaller than during the academic studies. A work placement prior to the start of the studies helps provide a realistic picture.

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suitability, obstacles, misconceptions

Students need the ability to visualise space, technical understanding, creativity and stamina. The workload is heavy; all-nighters are not uncommon at the end of a semester. Students should have good organisational and communication skills. Later on in their jobs, they will need to coordinate large teams made up of everyone from the building engineer to the manual labourer. Architecture students must be able to cope with criticism. "Criticism helps improve a design step by step," says Herbert Bühler, professor at the FH Münster and chair of the faculty conference for Architecture. In addition to time and effort, students also invest money in their academic studies: for example for drawing programs, sketch books and material for models. Students should also own powerful computers to be able work at home with the software, some of which is very complex. Many degree courses have no admission restrictions. If there are course entrance restrictions, they are often in the two grade range. There are aptitude tests in some cases.

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