How To: Stay Motivated as an Architecture Student (or any student for that matter!)

Recently I've been thinking that yes, I enjoy sharing my style and personal work with you all, but I also feel that I have a lot to offer as far as my experiences as an architecture student and that's something valuable to be shared! IMG_2847

Today I wanted to give a few of my own tips for how to stay motivated in architecture school specifically, but these may work for other majors as well! But first, I'd like to explain how I came around to forming these tips:

Up until this quarter of school (I'm a third year in my third quarter) I never had a problem with motivation. I didn't think twice about spending my days in studio, only to return that night after dinner to work again. However, a few weeks ago I admittedly hit a blockade. It was the first time that I had ever questioned my major and I felt very bored and uninspired with what I was doing.

At first I didn't know how to handle this. I was in a rut I had never been in before, and it was negatively affecting my studio work. My work was underdeveloped and missing the usual love my projects get. I knew I had to shake off this funk a.s.a.p. and for me the solution was to turn to my sketchbook and create some motivational tips for myself. I can happily say that I've come around and am back to being excited about my project and architecture. I realize I'm still not at 100% of my usual architectural high, but considering I'll be going abroad in the fall for a year, I don't really have worries about getting re-inspired.

Anyways, lets get to the tips! Of course these were tailored to my own workflow and mindset, and I think every architecture student would care to give you their own advice, but I would like to share mine in case it helps just one person out!


1 // Work in a place where others are working

This tip is number one because it's the best advice I can give. If you are surrounded by people that are working, you're far more likely to do the same. This is why "studio culture" is so infamous. Studio is a place where you're guaranteed to find people in the same boat as you, working towards solving the same problems. You're also more likely to not miss out on a due date or learn from your peers if you are in studio. I do know a few people who work better at home, but personally being at home makes me feel more singled out and alone in my work. In studio I feel like part of a team of people working towards the same goal. P.S. Coffee shops are great work environments as well! My favorite one is pictured above.

screen-shot-2013-03-12-at-9-13-05-pm personal work 2 // Don't compare yourself to anyone but you

It can be very easy to get unmotivated if you're always admiring the work of others and comparing it to your own. Instead I would suggest observing others work as just that, an observation. Learn from it and understand why its working well, and think about how you can apply the same principals to your own work. Copying someone or devaluing your own work won't get you anywhere productive or positive. Think of yourself as your biggest competitor. Each time you begin a new project (or even a phase within the same project) set your standards to yourself and no one else, because that's all that matters!

3 // Be flexible

This tip is about being realistic. If you're feeling unmotivated because you've got a ton of work to do, you just need to realize that's just how it goes sometimes. Be flexible in your thinking. At the start of the new week, keep in mind that there could be long nights in store. Approach that week with a positive attitude, and realize that once your work is done you will be able to take a nice break. A teacher once told me that rephrasing your statements can change your outlook on a project. Rather than saying "Ugh, I have to complete 5 drawings this week," instead say "Yeah, I get to complete 5 drawings this week." Just changing your attitude can make a huge difference, and also reminds you of how good you have it. Being a student is an awesome privilege!

Pomodoro Header

4 // Check out the Pomodoro Method

I can't speak at great lengths about this technique because I've just recently learned about it, but I've heard good things and can imagine it has great results. You can learn more about it on their website but it is basically a time management skill of working hard for 25 minutes, and then taking a 5 minute break afterwards. Especially because architecture students do most work on a computer these days, we all get easily distracted by Facebook, Pinterest, our favorite blogs, etc. I can see this method being a great help to stay on task, and to enjoy those fun websites or getting outdoors during your 5 minute break.

5 // Think at different scales

This tip can be applied both physically and mentally. Let's start with the physical. Changing up your work and alternating between different scales can be a great way to strengthen your project. If you've been focusing on small details for a while, take a step back and look at how the big picture is working. After you've done that for a while, switch. I'm speaking the direct wisdom gained from my current studio professor here, but working at the macro and micro scale is a big help to your project and keeps your mind and ideas active so you don't go down a path of frustration.

As far as mentally, sometimes you need to either look at the bigger or smaller picture. Looking at the big picture is good to remind yourself of why you are doing what you are and what your goals are. It will push you to do your best to have a strong portfolio down the road to get you where you want to go. However, try not to get lost in the clouds. I've spent some good hours daydreaming about what I want to be doing in a few years when I could have been more productive. Yes it is great to have goals and reflect on them, but I have to remind myself to stay in the present and focus on the task at hand to make it successful.

6e8e413a2bfb0bd5b1bd6812a64a22bf drawing by LTL Architects

6 // Get inspired

Sometimes I think we all need to realize that setting aside some time to browse and get inspired is nothing to feel guilty about. It can kickstart you again and remind you why you're doing what you are whether that be learning architecture or any other subject! I mentioned above that Pinterest can be a distraction, but it can also be a great tool! In the past 2 quarters I have found amazing architectural drawings on there that I've learned from and been inspired by that I've saved and keep going back to whenever necessary. The knowledge I've gained from them have made the browsing time totally worth it.

That's all I've got for now! I hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful or interesting at the least. If you're on the hunt for more tips, I suggest this tumblr that has become pretty popular because its full of great tips and knowledge. They also have a post specifically about staying motivated/inspired if you want more.

photos via: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4

Thanks for reading! Please leave any questions or your own tips in the comment section, or just your general thoughts, because I'd love to hear them and get back to you! x

ARCHITECTURE_Video: The Making of a Laser Cut Model

I'm always looking for new ways to share what I'm working on with you guys. Since I usually hold off on showing my architecture work until it is finished, I thought I would create a video that shows more of the process that occurs over a quarter (10 weeks) in my studio. Although this video may seem pretty basic to someone who is familiar with making models and digital fabrication, I thought that for those who aren't it could be pretty exciting to see and informative! I hope you check out the video and enjoy!

P.S. This is a very rough study model. We will be building some intense ones with awesome craft in the next few weeks!


For more architecture related posts, check out this section of my blog. Thanks for stopping by!


It's been a while since I posted some of my architecture work. I think that's because I'm hesitant to post anything before it's done. Since my final review was yesterday, I have some of my finished work to share with you today! Screen Shot 2013-03-12 at 9.10.06 PM

The first is this diagram of my middle school located in downtown Chicago. It was important me to show the form, mass vs. glass, and green space. I also wanted to clearly show what types of programs each of the spaces were for, and how I addressed different ideas from The Third Teacher. I talked a little about this book/firm a little in this post, and this one as well!

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I also wanted to show some before and afters. Above is a render of my double height homeroom and classroom space using Toucan for Rhino. As you can tell, it wasn't the greatest base render. Rendering isn't my strongest skill, so I rely on the post-process work to really enhance it.

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Here is what my render looked like when I was finished. I cleaned it up with an overlaid hand drawing and photoshop. I prefer a more artistic and lighter quality in my perspectives. Some people prefer more reality and drama in their renders, but everyone has a different style (just like fashion) and this is mine!

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Another before image

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And the finished product. I have to say that the first one is my favorite because it has more depth and detail, but I'm still pleased with this one.

That's all for now--thanks for checking out my work! I might share some more of it in the next few days if I feel like it.

You can check out more of my past architecture posts here or my portfolios here (which desperately need to be updated! its happening over spring break i swear)