As a freshly minted graduate of the Knowlton School of Architecture, I have distinct memories of the intense work environment otherwise known as studio culture. To the uninitiated, studio culture is the very specific habitat and behaviors carved out by architecture students as they navigate their way through their academic careers. But how does this differentiate itself from other academic majors? Is architecture studio culture just an elaborate explanation for a study group or is it something unique?
Studio culture actually rarely gets mentioned in college guide books or class descriptions. Studio is a space where creative individuals meet together to collaborate and work on projects. Among other things, studio culture is characterized by long hours and harsh critiques. Is this any different than other majors? Being admittedly biased, I asked Sameer Sharif, a former pre-med student and current architecture student at University of Michigan, if studio culture differs from other academic disciplines.
Sameer states, “Pre-med study is different than studio culture. Pre-med is more competitive and less collaborative. In studio there is this group of creative people who collaboratively learn from each other. Different perspectives and approaches mix together and produce moments of creative insight that you just cannot find without studio.”
Although my professors may disagree, the design field has no clear cut right or wrong. Unlike other disciplines, where study and memorization should result in good test scores, architecture is a continuing conversation about an idea and the only way to give that idea more clarity is to refine it in studio.
Studio culture is characterized by stressful nights and marathon bouts of sleeplessness but it is so much more than that. Ultimately, studio culture is the vehicle that brings creative people together to work, invent, and come up with novel ideas. It can produce rivalries, social cliques, and moments of inspiration.
How does my experience in architecture school compare with your own experience of studio culture?