Catholic University Declassified School Survival Guide: Architecture


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By: Kat Kaderabek 

The Catholic University of America’s architecture program has stood proudly as a producer of thoughtful, incredibly talented, career-seeking architects since 1911. Its mission statement boasts a dedication to “the integration of artistic creativity, intellectual curiosity, technical acuity, cultural diversity, and spiritual maturity.” 

With a school size of roughly 300 students, there is plenty of advice to go around. The upperclassmen are thrilled to share some of their own unique tips on surviving life as an architecture student at Catholic University. 

Junior Gabby Adorno’s first piece of advice to underclassmen is to learn the software programs as early as possible. The most beneficial pieces will be ones that depict concise, easily understood information. Learning how to create beautiful renderings early on will make any project stand out, regardless of its merits in form, style, and concept. The architecture profession is centered on visual graphics; even the poorest of designs have the potential to look beautiful when rendered properly and photoshopped correctly.

Many students only fully begin to understand the software programs by the end of their sophomore year and the start of their junior year. While focusing on more basic architecture design skills in earlier studios is most important, modeling programs such as AutoCAD, Revit, and Rhino are crucial tools to make any building come to life. The earlier a student gains proficiency in these, the better. The School of Architecture currently offers several one-credit programming courses each semester and several upperclassmen recommend taking these courses as soon as possible. 

Learning these complex programs will take time and effort that many students do not plan for. Kate Janik, a junior in the program, believes that time management is essential to being an architect. She also quotes her current studio professor Douglas Palladino’s common phrase “fail faster” when discussing how a student will learn. Making mistakes is an integral part of any profession, but especially in the architecture world. 

“Definitely learn to take and use criticism. Don’t take things too personally,” said Sean Devlin. The studio setting is designed around critiquing a project in an effort to make it better.

Seamus Koehr, an IPAL student, offers similar advice when it comes to the positive side of criticism. 

“Ask people what they think of your work, especially non-architecture people,” Koehr said. “They have the potential to give a whole new perspective on why a design is practical or not.” 

Criticism, especially in the architecture world, is natural and even expected. It is best to embrace it, as the upperclassmen have done. 

Koehr is currently a member of the school’s Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) program. An intense and extremely rewarding program, the IPAL program is designed to expedite the licensure process by integrating school semesters with internship opportunities in order to meet the requirements for licensure while simultaneously earning a degree in architecture. The program takes approximately five and a half to six years for completion; however, the time is spent in school as well as gaining experiential hours in at least three internships that prepare students to become licensed architects. 

Chidera Edozie is a sophomore in the IPAL program and is currently taking a junior-level studio course. When asked about the decision-making process, Edozie urges prospective students to take time deliberating.

“If you’re thinking about doing the IPAL program, think three times and then think again,” said Edozie. “Although I enjoy being in it, it is such a big commitment that cannot be made on a whim.” 

There is no question that students and teachers in the School of Architecture have the passion and drive to be great, productive architects. Graduate student Liz Meyers instructs underclassmen to “work hard, play hard.” Similarly, junior dual-degree student Vincente Johnson advises even freshmen students to “be ready to work; it’s not for the weary.”

  “Do your work early so that you have time to ask your professors and TAs questions,” said Angus Chase, a sophomore in the architecture department. “Also, make friends across classes and years because then you will have people who can help you with your work and give you critiques or advice.” 

Junior Claire Beins agrees with this advice, instructing her peers to “make sure you listen to the people around you. Don’t focus on what you want your project to look like, because then you won’t be open to the opinions of others.” 

The studio culture within the architecture school is meant to foster good relationships between students with an intent to be productive and proactive workers ready for the profession. 

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” said junior Michaelson Capuano. He also adds that new students should “sketch often and don’t erase.” 

A unique feature of the introductory studios are that they are designed to teach students the physical tools of hand-drafting and modeling in order to convey the useful capabilities of such tools. 

“Don’t limit yourself to designing via software,” said IPAL student Anna Paviglianiti. She also sees the merits of hand-to-paper techniques. “Sometimes the software is limiting because you may not know how to model something. A pencil and paper has the potential to enlighten others to your concept.” 

The length of this article is a testament to how ready and willing the students and teachers of the architecture program are to give advice and assist underclassmen. The School of Architecture is certainly full of motivated, hard-working, and caring students that strive for individual success as much as they do teamwork. As weathered students who have struggled through the challenges the profession faces, it is clear that many are filled with compassion and understanding towards underclassmen who are ready to begin their time as architecture students. Just as the profession instructs on how to manipulate and design the built environment, it is evident that The Catholic University of America School of Architecture fosters the building of community within one another. 

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