Things You Learn When You Date an Architecture Student


I had this list, which I originally wrote back in 2009, posted here for awhile last year. Then I took it down because I wasn’t doing anything with it. Now, I’m posting it again because my husband is (fingers crossed) just a few short months away from completing his Intern Development Program (IDP) and getting his architecture license.

A little background first: Husband and I started dating toward the end of his 3rd year at Cal Poly. Cal Poly’s (very highly-regarded) architecture program is a five-year program heavily geared towards the actual practice of architecture (unlike, say, UC Berkeley’s very theoretical four-year program). The pro of Cal Poly’s program is that when you graduate, you are more than qualified to work in almost any architecture firm. Students from Berkeley* (or most other four-year programs) pretty much have to get a two-year Master’s degree before they’re really prepared to work in the field.

The con of Cal Poly’s program is that, as an architecture student, you make some very serious sacrifices, mainly of your social life and sanity, in order to complete the program. Put it this way, of the architecture students I got to know through my husband, I can only remember one having a successful relationship with someone outside of the major. So I started jokingly referring to “dating an architecture student” an “extreme sport.”

*I’m not picking on Berkeley; that’s just the school my dad — also a Cal Poly architecture grad — always compares Cal Poly’s program to.

Things You Learn When You Date An Architect (Or Technically, An Architecture Student)

  1. The difference between concrete and cement. Turns out cement is an *ingredient* of concrete, and if you mix them up, you will get laughed at. Especially if you are another architecture student giving a presentation about your design and say you want to have a nice “cement facade” on the building.

  2. Architecture professors are all a little nuts. Or space cadets. Or have crazy accents and are obsessed with “beautiful trellises.” (bootiful twellis…) Or begin EVERY. SINGLE. PHRASE. with “mmm-yeah.”

  3. The holding strengths of various types of glue. It was a very sad day when I learned that my beloved krazy glue was, to put it bluntly, crap.

  4. It is entirely possible to survive for five days on approximately 12 hours sleep, 12 gallons of coffee, frozen burritos, Wheat-Thins, and stale Albertson’s chocolate chip cookies. I wish I was joking.

  5. Architecture students understand more than most the importance setting back-up alarms and enlisting a friend to call them before their final presentations are supposed to start. It’s best if that friend is not another architecture student, because in that case, he will either also be sleeping through his alarm or drunk because he’s already given his final presentation. Unfortunately, odds are they don’t have many friends outside of architecture, at least none who understand the VITAL IMPORTANCE of making sure they don’t miss your presentation and can be trusted with such a task. Seriously, it is an amazingly common occurrence for people to rush into the studio, tucking in their shirt and tying their shoes and praying their teeth aren’t coffee stained and there aren’t any wayward bits of their model in their hair, about 10 minutes *after* their presentation was scheduled to start.

  6. Architects don’t operate on regular 24-hour cycles like you and I. They see time more as a countdown, as in “How much time is left before this project is due?” They schedule their sleep on a weekly basis. If it weren’t for 7-11’s and late night or 24-hour fast food joints, many of them wouldn’t eat. If you want to try being friends with one — or if you’re really extreme like me and want to date one — be prepared to shift your schedule accordingly.

  7. If you ever need pretty much any kind of software for your computer, an architecture student can get you a pirated version, no problem. Unless you have a Mac, and then you’re screwed and will probably be laughed at (to my laptop: it’s okay, buddy, I still love you). Apparently all the really cool modeling and rendering programs available only run on PCs.

  8. Frank Gehry = architectural masturbation. I don’t fully understand this, I’ve just heard it repeated in one form or another too many times to count.

  9. Starchitecture = architecture for architecture’s sake. I.e., those buildings that look really cool but don’t serve an actual purpose, or at least not well. See Frank Gehry, above.

  10. That random office building/bank/parking structure you pass every day without thinking twice about? That’s probably the lifetime achievement of some really famous architect and represents a major milestone in design, and you’re just not cultured or sophisticated enough to know it.

  11. Jørn Utzon designed the Sydney Opera House and he is Danish. (Actually, I learned this when I studied in Denmark. The Danes are very proud of this fact.)

  12. Thankfully, getting drunk at thesis shows and exhibits is very much encouraged.

  13. In general, architects “know a lot about nothing and nothing about a lot. We are smart, but a lot of it is bullshit.” Direct quote from my husband.

  14. Architecture incest is bad. This is when an architecture student hooks up with another architecture student. It’s especially bad when they’re in the same studio (or firm, I guess, after they graduate).

  15. When an architecture student cuts herself with an X-acto knife, instead of stopping the bleeding, applying first aid, and finding the missing chunk of her finger, like a normal person, her NUMBER ONE priority is making sure no blood gets on her model.

  16. The history of pencils and straight lines is so fascinating it actually warrants an entire college-level course.

  17. Earthquake? No biggie. Fire? Pssh. Tornado, tsunami, alien invasion? Whatevs. The coffee maker in studio’s broken? Oh my God, EMERGENCY, people! Sound the alarms! THIS IS NOT A DRILL!