Do You Need Science for Architecture?
Thinking of studying architecture to become an architect? You might be wondering whether you need to be good at science (physics or chemistry).
You might struggle with science, or perhaps you love science and want it to be something you’re doing every day in your career.
I want to clarify whether you need to be good at physics or chemistry to be an architect or study architecture.
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Do You Need Physics or Chemistry to Study Architecture?
Most the time people ask me this if they either really like science, be it physics or chemistry, or if they absolutely hate it and need to know if it’s required to learn.
Let me clear this up for you.
I’ll be honest, 3 years studying architecture there hasn’t been a whole lot of science perse.
In high school I studied physics and chemistry, physics in year 11 and chemistry in year 11 and 12. I chose chemistry in my final year of high school to go all in on it and ended up doing really well. But have I ever needed to know the elements of the periodic table for architecture, or have I had to know the mass of ethyl propanoate produced in an esterification experiment in architecture? No.
Was it worth studying physics and chemistry? Yes.
Although I don’t use 99% of the practical knowledge I learnt from chemistry, it was more about learning how to learn.
It was a challenging subject. It required deep thinking, problem solving and along my journey required me to create processes to learn. These are processes I’ve carried with me into architecture school.
If I had decided to choose an easier subject, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to practice learning the way I did studying chemistry.
In terms of learning the actual information of chemistry, it’s almost completely irrelevant for architecture. Sure, there are times where chemistry terms have popped up in architecture school. For example, when looking at passive design strategies, doing calculations for window glazing or finding the ‘r value’ of building materials and the effectiveness of insulation. But this stuff was all taught in those classes.
As for physics, I think that’s a lot more practical to learn and I do recommend studying it if you get the chance. The information I learnt in physics was applicable knowledge. Learning how motion works and how things stand up – although not necessary for an architect to learn – is going to make you much more aware of how structure works and what limitations you have when designing. Doing physics also improves your rational thinking in my opinion, which is important if you’re also studying something more abstract such as design or art. To have that balance is important.
Now back to the question, do you need to be good at these things to study architecture? No. In Australia there are no pre-requisites to study architecture. You don’t need any previous courses or knowledge. It’s expected you know nothing.
In that case, you can expect to learn everything you need in your architecture degree.
But, that’s not to say having previous knowledge isn’t going to help. Of course, it is. I do recommend putting in your best effort to learn as much as you can before architecture school. But, that’s additional learning, not required learning.
Learning physics and chemistry will teach you how to learn and help you challenge yourself in order to create processes to learn.
The thing is, you’ll have specialists in the profession who are good at these things. You have engineers who are required to specialise in physics and maths, who will analyse your building’s structures and determine these things with you. You’ll have building analysers who need to be good at chemistry. To understand how the metal cladding reacts to rain which causes corrosion. To understand how acidic rain in an environment can cause marble or stones to chip and break down and the effect this has on your design intentions. Having an idea about these things are great, but not necessary.
If you struggle with sciences, I challenge you to give it a go. For my first 10 years of school I never received a grade above a B for science (it was more often a C or D grade). But I decided to challenge myself in my final 2 years and am glad I did. Although it was hard, you learn the most in uncomfortable and unfamiliar situations.
Whether you choose to study science or not, I encourage you to study subjects that will be challenging to you. Highschool is an opportunity to learn how to learn – more so than learning actual content.
- 15 Must Have Tools for Architecture Students: https://youtu.be/9fdUM7Ar-ZA
- The 7 DEADLIEST Mistakes Architecture Students Make: https://youtu.be/OrS7NCtrlTc
- Why Do Architecture Students Drop Out?: https://youtu.be/EGwYvcRBJCQ
- 7 Tips for Studying Architecture – The Secret Habits of Successful Architecture Students: https://youtu.be/BaIpQStsZK8
- Get access to your FREE online architecture course! 70 Hacks for Archi Students
- Check out other episodes of the Successful Archi Student’s podcast!
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