Nearly three weeks ago, the editors at ArchDaily reached out to our readers to help us investigate one of the most difficult challenges of architecture education: what do students and teachers think of the 24-hour studio culture that has come to pervade the architecture profession? As we mentioned in our original post, the idea that all-nighters are simply an unavoidable part of an education in architecture has come under fire recently, with some schools attempting to combat them by closing their studios overnight. Is this the right approach to reducing the hours that students are (over)working? If not, what should be done instead? Perhaps there are some people that still think a 24-hour culture can be beneficial to young architects?
The response we got to our question was astonishing, with 141 comments on the article itself and over 100 more on our Facebook post. From this discussion, two overriding themes emerged: firstly, many commenters seemed to believe that architecture students have too much work in the first place; secondly, there was almost complete consensus that closing the studios achieves nothing but moving the problem of all-nighters from the studio to students' homes. For the sake of brevity we've chosen not to include the many responses that mention these themes ideas in this post, but for anyone interested in seeing the evidence of these opinions, we encourage you to visit the original article.
As for the remainder of the comments, we've rounded up some of the most interesting contributions. Find out what 15 commenters had to say about the 24-hour studio culture - taking in arguments for and against it as well as discussing its wider consequences and ways to avoid it - after the break.
COMMENTS AGAINST ARCHITECTURE'S 24-HOUR STUDIO CULTURE
The perpetuation of the 24-Hour culture is the fault of students who don't realize it is possible to complete their projects within reasonable working hours:
I just graduated from a 3.5 year Master of Architecture program. While it was an immense amount of work with long and very stressful days, I got through the program without pulling a single all-nighter, and often finished a day ahead of major deadlines. I am a huge advocate for time management, a healthy sleep schedule, and work-life balance. My work and portfolio were positively affected my efficiently managing my time and work, as graduate with well above average grades and was hired at a respected firm less than 4 weeks after handing in my thesis.
Architecture students (in US universities) are forced into late nights by their responsibilities to other electives; this could be improved by connecting the curriculum across subjects:
A 24-Hour Studio culture? I don't think so. First there are lecture courses, then other electives which have absolutely nothing to do with our major, and all of their requirements (papers, assignments, presentations, etc), and after that the work on campus in case you're in the work-study program, which gives us little time during the day to even think about our design and all of its problems. Hence the all-nighters. If universities really want us to stop pulling all-nighters, they might wanna revisit the entire curriculum. They could draw bridges between the design course and other major courses such as building technology or Revit, Rhino, Autocad, enviromental systems, that way instead of juggling three or four different projects for each course per semester, we can work on one project but tackle a certain aspect of it within each course. The solution is not as lame as closing the studios at night, we can pull all-nighters at home you know. [Chris R]
Part of the student's skill set should be knowing when to make significant changes to a design:
In hindsight, most of my all-nighters were caused not by the amount of work or 'studio culture' but mainly because as a student learning about design you are not taught how to make effective design decisions and in a timely manner. So obviously if you make an important design decision the night before your crit then you will have to spend all night trying to represent it in some way. Working all night is not productive at all. We really need to teach students how to manage their decision making skills in design because in the real world you have to be able to make definitive decisions within short timelines. [Charlotte]
The idea that architecture comes from random moments of inspiration simply isn't true:
Some of the most successful and brilliant designers I know are not procrastinators, but are rather quite adept at putting out work of the highest degree and creativity without compromising their sleep or health. The mythos that every good designer puts things off til the last minute then has a stroke of brilliance at 2 AM needs to be squelched, period. Architecture is, after all, a job, and the idea that our time lacks so much value that we'll give up our sleep, health and personal life just to perform our "artistry" is not only destructive personally, but damaging to the profession as a whole. [Mike]
Spending all hours in the studio can prevent students from learning and practicing the other skills that make a good architect:
We need to start change at the root: in the studio. We need to practice reasonable time management skills and support a well rounded lifestyle. We all want to be healthy and a studio environment as it stands currently is not healthy or well rounded. And as we all know, it takes much more than a good designer to make a successful architect. It takes a person with good connections and good communication skills to be able to convince people that he/she is a good designer. You don't get these skills by staying up until 3am. You get them from interacting with others outside of the architecture speaking world. [Leanne]
The hermetic character of studio practice is the WORST message we can send young architects. You need to be in and of society, getting to know clients and users, in order to be a genuinely successful architect. We have locked our professional away in a monastery, and as a result are isolated from the world around us and all that can make us relevant. [ArchProf]
The all-nighter culture of university studios is a consequence of a connection between architecture education and humiliation:
Thats the root of the problem! Why do professors have to constantly "rip apart" projects?!! There is no field of study that offers so much humiliation as architecture. It's scary and it's entirely unproductive. Why are so many professors self-centered douchebags that act like 3-year olds? Why can't they give constructive critique in a friendly manner? It is the thought of being humiliated at a review that is the one of the biggest reasons people stay up all night. And the professors act like they don't know, or care, about the problem. [kopmis]
COMMENTS IN FAVOR OF ARCHITECTURE'S 24-HOUR STUDIO CULTURE
Combined with short breaks, the time taken to discuss things with classmates, read or watch documentaries during an all-nighter can give you the insight to produce more challenging work:
Having gone through a five year architecture Program, I have noticed the students who have always EXCELLED (not just good grades but above... with recognition and awards) every semester are the ones who spent countless nights up working. pulling all-nighters doesn't always mean working on just designing all night, it also involves reading more about a subject matter, or watching a documentary, or giving and getting feedback to/from your classmates. These things will easily take hours of your day in a blink of an eye... And i see it to be healthier to space out your work thus taking few breaks while working can keep one's sanity yet lead to an all nighter... during studio time, little work is done, for it involves the student's engagement with his professor... those of my peers who have always left in timely manners, not only tend to just aim to complete their work (instead of really challenging it ), but they also end up not having a strong relationship with their studio mates... thus leading to a poor architecture culture. [Adventus Di Cielo]
The bonds formed in late-night studio sessions can form the start of your career or even of your own architectural practice:
All-nighters are the life of architecture students...you get to share ideas, create long lasting bonds and have fun while at it...I run an architectural firm with my 3 best friends in Nigeria...it all started with an all-nighter...yes, its a strain on the health and well-being of the students but helps in preparing us for pressure of the workplace. [Amanda Cole]
Keeping university studios open at all hours helps to accommodate the wide variety of working styles of students:
I am currently a student of architecture. Yes, all-nighters do add stress and maybe in the long run, it's not a good idea. But here's the thing about work patterns, lots of people work in lots of different ways. Some people prefer a systematic approach. Some work better last minute. Some people work during the day and some at night. So studios should be open at all time so that students can use them. It's why studios are there. A place to work in solitude or one night before crit when everyone's cramming. Shutting down the studio is not going to put an end to 'all-nighter' culture. If not the studio, then students would somewhere else. Architecture is never going to be stress free. All-nighters, coffee and glue on clothes are part of the package. Might as well enjoy it. [Aishwarya Murari]
For my personal experience I think closing the studio at night is inconvenient for students who have to work to pay for their tuition. I am an international student and as you might know international students have to pay double the tuition than citizens. I'm studying architecture and I'm working at the same time. The only way to get my work done on time is to stay over at school to do my project. I think people have to be responsible for their own sake. On the other hand, closing the studio will give the opportunity to students to manage their time more efficiently. But again, what about the students who work? [Foteini]
If students are going to work late nights anyway, closing the studios creates inequality between those who have the space and equipment to work at home and those who don't:
It doesn't make a difference when institutions decide to close their studios. Students who want to do all-nighters will.
Studio is a totally unique resource, not everyone can make a 1:100 full-scheme model at home and drive in with it, not everyone has a workstation at home, not everyone has a large drawing board at home - by adding time restrictions to these things in studio you create a divide between students who do and those who don't, and personally I think that's unbelievably unfair. Let the dedicated be dedicated. [Andrew Hopper]
CONSEQUENCES OF THE 24-HOUR CULTURE
By encouraging students to stay up late, universities are teaching architects not to value their time:
I think the culture needs to be changed for the health of the profession. Holding up all-nighters on a pedestal as if that's the only way to produce work teaches us as architecture students not to value our time. It's probably why we're underpaid as a profession - from having no sense of how valuable those hours were that we were giving up... [sarah]
Considering the self-image of architects, all-nighters are a hypocritical way to live our lives:
I think it's ironic that architects are entrusted with the role of creating a better place for people to live when they live in great stress and poverty themselves. It may sound noble, but it is not smart. [Yoon Meng]
Universities have bred a "Martyr for the Art" Culture which bleeds into professional practice (and secretly we love it):
Breeding a 'Martyr for the art' culture within architectural education has destroyed the architectural industry. It has diffused down from education into the work place, creating a working environment of excess in the name of success. Selling your soul to the God of architecture is fundamentally wrong. That said, deep down part of us all secretly love the late nights and busy schedule, and that's what makes us Architects, not Accountants. [jim smith]
TIPS TO AVOID ALL-NIGHTERS
Nothing good happens after 2 am:
Besides, all-nighters are not just bad for our health; over three years, all the crappy design decisions that I have made happened after 2:00 am. [Chris R]
Never change a design in the last 24 hours:
One particularly memorable final review, the guest critics were tearing apart a section drawing that had been produced at 4 am that day. The student finally tore it down, saying it was the most recent addition to the project, and what did they think of the presentation had it not been added? They loved it. They said the rest of the presentation was very strong and the additional drawing produced at 4 am had detracted from it so much that they were distracted from the great design. From then on, my classmates and I tried to remind each other not to do anything new in the last 24 hours. [sarah]
A final word from the editor:
As we're talking about ways to escape the all-nighter culture - both as individuals and on an institutional level - I'd like to have the final word if I may. One theme that emerged a number of times among the comments was the problem of peer pressure; the idea that many students only work long hours to keep up with what they see as the superhuman commitment of others in the studio.
But if the 150-plus comments show anything, it's that there are almost as many ways of planning your work as there are architecture students: some people work best on a strict 9 to 5 schedule, while others prefer to wait until inspiration strikes; some work best first thing in the morning, while others get the most motivation working late into the night; and some like to control their time and force themselves to make decisions, others prefer to ruminate on an idea over long working hours and many breaks, while still others work best under the pressure of a looming deadline.
So perhaps the first step away from the 24-hour culture is to recognize that, far from being a requirement, pulling all-nighters should be a personal choice. If you're happy to do them then that's great - but if you feel pressured to do them and have the sneaking feeling that there must be a better way, perhaps it's time to shake things up and find a working style that works for you instead.