Architecture Student

A lot of people have asked me about architecture. In hindsight, it's funny how little I actually talk about my journey through this program, when it's something that I do every day :) Since it's that time of the year where a lot of high school graduates are looking for courses, I thought I'd share a bit of my experience and knowledge here :D

El (Vice Chancellor Awards student also one of my partners in crime during degree) in UiTM's Architectural Gallery reading a book. 

First and foremost (and the funniest part) I never wanted to be an architect. Ever since I was 12, I've wanted to be a writer. I wanted to compose and communicate, talk to people, and keep abreast with the world. But the thing is - I liked drawing, and creating, and travelling too. After much discussions with my parents, I decided to give architecture a go instead of mass communications. 

Because, as my mum put it "a writer can write anywhere and anything. But it takes specific skill and technical knowledge to design. You'll have a credible and professional qualification, you can travel and appreciate the buildings, AND you can be a writer." 

In Malaysia the architecture system follows the UK qualification. 
A degree is equivalent to a RIBA Part I and it takes 4 years.
A masters is RIBA Part II and it's 2 years.
An Ar., for a full architect (like Dr or Ir), is RIBA Part III and need at least 2 years of working experience, then you can sit for an exam to have the title. 
RIBA is short for Royal Institute of British Architects.

This system is available in UK, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand, to name a few. So if you do a degree in any of these countries, you can continue and even work in another country that uses the same system. It was part of my goal to spend time living abroad in my future, so this deal seemed ON. 

Boy, I didn't realise the sacrifices I had to make for this course. I'm going to tell you the first thing that people never tell you about architecture: You are going to lose a lot of sleep! Hehehe. (the first week of degree, we already had to stay up til 4am ahahaha *cries*). There. I've said it. Now we can continue. 

I was just adjusting the angle of my head for a better view of the lecture slides. I'm so not sleeping. Obviously..

In UiTM there's a studio for each semester, there's two semesters per year so overall you go through 8 semesters. The main course is Design, where you start off designing small furniture early on, then progress to bigger structures through the course. You'll also learn all the extra subjects like construction, history and professional practice (where they teach you all the laws about how to build a building). Depending on the program schedule, you'll be required to spend a couple of months interning at an office. 

At the end of the year, you have a Review where you present your work to the tutors and then an exhibition for the public.Reviews are generally fun because you'll get to see what everyone's been up to the past year. And it's also the time where you can finally feel like a human being again and you know, eat, and go out in the daylight hehe.

The more serious stuff

What a daily view looks like..

And these are just the subjects! I can't even begin to tell you the extracurriculars. Architecture students are a creative lot, and we need to let that out in some way or another. So throughout the semester, there would be many events and lecture series. In UiTM there's Archifest, where you have competitions to make movies, design sculptures, paint banners, play musical instruments (we specialised in Angklungs) and generally a big festival to gather and let loose. 

On a national level, there's the Architectural Jamboree, where universities would compete every year for a long weekend on a series of events (like EPL, but with theater, and arts and sculpture) and you get to meet students from all over the country :D

COLAB - the archifest my studio organized in 2013.

But my favourite parts are the site visits - this is where you can travel while you study. Sometimes your project takes place in another part of the world, or you have a specific theory to investigate - and it'll be a classtrip. There's been trips as close as Janda Baik, or even as far as Korea! It's especially fun because you go to place and you study their designs, materials, construction and how it's all affected by local culture and climate. For exams you study forms of architecture from all over the globe, and slowly they become incentives to travel because you want to see what you've studied. It's been a personal motivation for me as well. 

My degree studio during our trip to Sabak Bernam for an Archikite event (we had to design, make and fly kites - spent the weekend getting tanned riding bicycles and running along paddy fields) in 2011.

My studiomates Kat and Irene (from Greece and Cyprus respectively) in Porto in 2015. My facial expressions in these two photos are the same!

I make all this sound extremely inviting but there's also the parts that require sacrifice. A lot of money is needed to buy modelling materials, equipment, and printing paper. You'll also need a good PC/laptop to do your work. And because architecture is a course based system, you'll have deadlines all throughout the term, while also cramming last minute during exams. This means you'll be busy the whole year through. 

Trust me, there will be days where you have a tough tutorial or a critique session, and your work can be so easily dismissed by a lecturer even though you've spent 120 hours on it. You'll feel like crap and feel worthless, and wonder why you're here in the first place.

(I would insert a picture to commemorate the bad parts here but my crying face is not a pretty sight and I don't want to traumatize you guys)

But still, here's one thing for sure - you'll come out of architecture a tough nut who's 
1) creative (like hm.. what is the best way to make a miniature tree? Maybe I'll use a cotton ball. No. A wire. No a foam etc etc at 4am) 
2) able to speak in public (because there's soo many presentations) 
3) able to take criticism (one day a lecturer will ask you why your window is square and blame you for it and you'll be so hyped from the caffeine your inbuilt bullshit responser will answer "because the angle of the sun maximises the space through the shape of the window"),
4) able to handle long nights (What?! 1am?! This is so early yay - then you go home at 9am when everyone's just coming to class. This has happened to me more than once), and
5) be familiar with a whole range of design software. 

This whole slew of skills is good because at the end of the day, you can branch out to a lot of different fields besides architecture - like graphic design, movie production, interior, construction, public speaking, events management, fashion, photography, and (my favourite) - even writing journalism.  

At the end of it all - I got to do what I loved doing, even throughout studies. I took so many part time jobs in a lot of other fields just to explore more skills. I wrote for magazines, I organized events, I did illustrations for library corporations, I photographed cafes, I designed posters, even became a news anchor for RTM online - all these paying jobs, from my knowledge in my course :) And that's just me! Some of my studiomates are now off doing all sorts of things: from modelling, to being a travel agent, to opening their own furniture boutique, to becoming a graffiti artist to yes - becoming an architect. 

A reality check to know: an architectural graduate is not the most lucrative job. People are rarely in this to be rich. It's quite tough to get rich early on - the best bet is to gather as much working experience, get your Ar., so that you will be able to sign off projects and receive million dollar projects. 

It's a lot of hard work studying architecture - it needs plenty  of drive and determination, and a heavy dose of passion. You'll loose a lot of sleep, a lot of money, perhaps even a lot of friends  - but you'll gain a bunch of skills in return :) Whether these skills are useful for your future, is up to you to decide.

If you need a way more detailed elaboration for archi in FSPU UiTM, check this link 

What a tutorial scene may look like. A table full of drawings, and nervous students presenting their work. 

My study wall, right now, in my bedroom. This will never make it to a cutesy pinterest tab. The real world is a mess I tell ya.

Me (in yellow) with the UiTM team painting banners for the Architectural Jamboree at UKM back in 2010. The theme was 'music' that year and we went as heavy metalheads. 

Heavy metalheads performing a theater of 'Lorong Haji Talib' on stage. 

My degree studio where we had discussions about our exhibitions at 10pm. This timing is normal. Some of us even end up sleeping under the tables. Can you see the number of models cluttering up the space? It's artistic chaos *blows on brushes. 

Mock up models. Photo from Azri Azahar.

Making sculptures from scratch - an extra skill you learn like sawing, sanding and stealing wood hahaha. Photo also courtesy of Azri Azahar.

During my internship at AQidea architects in 2013. The internship is fantastic because you get a feel of what an actual working life is like as a graduate. It's quite different from uni. You'll meet clients, you'll go to constructions sites, you go to see RM1000+ models of buildings (the models around me in this photo probably cost higher). If you can manage, take part time jobs in architecture firms during your studies - be it drafting, or helping a render, or crafting a 3d model - it helps in the long run.

This is the kind of paperwork needed to make a building. You have to submit this to relevant authorities for approval.

Visiting a construction site during my internship. It's so cool to see a building in process. Especially to see something you draw being built in real life.

Me pretending to be a successful architect.

Me in real life. 

Hope this has been enlightening for you!



  1. All the best Sha (;

  2. yah, all the best Sha

  3. assalamualaikum.

    the transition 'me pretending to be architect' to 'me in real life', i laugh like crazy hahaha... excellent posting and love reading it all!

  4. Great Post ! I really appreciate your effort of writting... Thanks for sharing such a superb Post .... Keep Sharing such a great info ... !!!
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