Architecture Student Typology

In architecture, we LOVE typology. They break down complicated things into easily-understood categories. And we love types of everything: not only buildings, but doors, windows, walls, styles and materials. I have succumbed to this mindset through working in firms, through schoolwork, and knowing fellow designers. By getting to know students from multiple places, I have broken down design students into the following categories:

Le Papillon: the social butterfly of studio, this student knows all the gossip of the group. Their ideas are the result of long collaborations with various students and they are often not seen alone. They study in groups, design in groups, and usually have a desk centrally located inside the studio. Their social strength is helpful in reviews, often remembering critics names and using them as they would a friend of old. It will also be helpful in the professional world when they work with a large number of consultants, contractors, and owner-committees.

The Savant: this student, though without any design experience, somehow always comes up with brilliant ideas, perfectly cut models, and they are always (somehow) done early. They can effortlessly present their ideas in a critique and always have an answer for each unexpected question. At times, they are despised by other students and may be subject to dirty looks, gossip, and general disdain.

The Socrates: this student has good, consistent ideas. However, their presentation material consists of rendering wizardry so advanced that it is often confusing how the building is actually occupied. There never seems to be inhabitable rooms and walkways look like something from a yet-to-be-made James Cameron sci-fi megablockbuster. When speaking, it is difficult to understand the Socrates because their presentation sounds more like something from Plato’s “Republic” or Locke’s “Essay on Human Understanding,” and often mumbled.

The Nomad: a human portrait of Peanuts’ Pigpen character, it is questionable when this student last bathed themselves. Their clothes seem ragged and hair unkempt. But out of this bedraggled appearance comes truly brilliant ideas about design even though their drawings may be crinkled and their models slightly shoddy. Call it a yin-yang thing if you will, because it seems this student’s qi has clearly been shifted away from personal hygiene to creative enterprises. This student is also sought out by others to test their own ideas by way of comparison.

The Persistent: this student has an inherent passion in what they do–so much so, that they work harder and longer than any other type. They are often seen in studio more often and usually have larger piles of crumpled-up tracepaper and/or discarded sketch models on the floor. Seldom are they recognized for all this extra work. They accomplish twice in process work what the other types do. Typically, the Persistent will be the most successful because of their intense dedication in any task which they are given or formulate for themselves.

If I have learned anything from these observations, it is two things. First the grass is always greener in other student’s work (which you haven’t been staring at for weeks at a time). And second, to always believe in yourself, regardless of who or what is going around you.

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