August 27, 2012

Computers + Architecture School

More and more students today have access to a laptop. For architecture schools, this has not only  transformed the way we work as students, it has also transformed the studio environment physically. Goodbye drafting tables with mayline rule and green mat and say hello to generic desks and uncomfortable, pedestrian office chairs!

A lot of architecture schools in North America, tend to be housed in old buildings, crappy brutalist buildings (well mine's at least) with limited space to accommodate computers and outlets for it`s students to use. I remember last year in studio how we did not have enough outlets in to plug in everyone`s  laptops - creating quite a frustrating and tripping situation with 6 laptops, 2 outlet extensions leading to the main outlet. There have been times when you would just walk into a CAD Lab and quickly walk out as every single computer was occupied. Another limiting factor for amount of computers in a school include the costs for software licenses that a school can afford. When you have these constraints, along with an ever-increasing need for students to complete their work digitally, having your own personal laptop is a good idea, if not necessary.
Personally, I would say laptop first and having a go-to PC weather it's at a school lab or at home, since laptops can be transported much more easily for a student on the go.

Although I greatly value traditional design tools like sketching and physical modelling, I cannot see how anyone can survive in school without a computer to complete your projects in this day and age. More often now, I find more scenarios where architecture students are working on two screens, or two computers: their laptop and pc (even if it’s not for academic reasons). 

When my school began to initialize a new curriculum, along with improving the computer software curriculum with the first years, finding a spot in the computer lab was a mission at times....especially when they were taught how to render a scene with multiple computers at once.

In our defence, me and a few friends actually wanted to see
and try out rendering with  multiple computers...
This was AFTER the Semester when studio was done and the school was empty!!!

One of the most important investments for an architecture student is finding the right laptop and/or personal computer that will perform well throughout your studies. To be quite honest, a lot of the main types of computers on the market sold to the general public might not be the best for a design student. We utilize some pretty intense software, and render model scenes and that places stress on your computer. Not only that, don't be surprised if you have AutoCAD, Rhino, Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop all running at once while you're working towards a project deadline. Some friends and professors in Architecture and Interior Design that I have met, actually build their own computers to meet their needs.

If looking for or  feel like you need to buy a computer or laptop for Architecture School  Here are just some issues you might consider:
  • Affordability  and if you cannot afford are you willing to settle with working longer in the computer labs at school? Are the labs and studios in your school accessible 24/7 or are there closing hours.
  • Transportability, you'll be carrying this to and from classes, in and out and around campus, commuting, bringing it to studio, e.t.c.
  • What's your preferable working environment? In the CAD Lab, in the Library, Studio?
  • What's your preferable work habits and work ethic? Do you like working at home more than at school? (Although, I believe you get the most learning by sticking it with your peers in studio. You learn so much and can easily bounce ideas back and forth - the stronger projects were the ones resolved in studio than the ones done at home)
  • Am I able to secure and lock down my PC or Laptop in the architecture building or studio or locker and comfortably walk away?

So for this week, The Underdog Architecture Student's Blog will be looking at the things you should consider when looking for the right laptop or personal computer for school. 


  1. Please follow up with this post, I've been looking into laptops, and most design students have apple products. What kind of specs should I be looking for in a laptop in terms of resolutions, processors, memory, speed, etc.

    I'm looking forward to hearing more on this topic.

    1. Hi Fiorella!

      Me and a good friend are working on the follow up post. Hopefully soon. However, my Alma Mater actually provides laptop specs for students going to school this year. Our posts are gonna give students more of an overarching view on what's what in a computer.