A Journey Through Architectural Design Perceptions & Processes

November 16, 2023
Dr. Robert James
Dr. Robert James
Architectural Design
Robert is a highly accomplished architect and educator with over two decades of experience in the field of architecture. He holds a Ph.D. in Architecture, specializing in architectural design theory and pedagogy

Are you an aspiring architect, eager to embark on a journey of creativity and innovation? Architectural education is an exciting yet challenging path that will lead you to become a master of designing structures that shape our world. This blog post is your guide to understanding the different stages of architectural design, assignments, and the creative processes that will shape your career. We'll take a deep dive into the structure of an architectural course and how each component contributes to your growth as a future architect. If you need assistance with your architectural design assignment, this guide aims to provide insights and support to help you navigate through the challenges and excel in your educational journey.

Perceptions And Processes

The initial stage of architectural education, known as "Perceptions and Processes," is a critical phase in a student's journey towards becoming an architect. It serves as the foundation for understanding the core principles of architectural design and sets the stage for the creative processes that will be honed throughout the course. Let's delve deeper into the key components of this stage:

Architectural Design Insights Navigating Perceptions & Processes

Desk Crits: Constructive Criticism and Self-Reflection

Desk crits are an essential element of the architectural education process. This is where students present their work to experienced architects and professors for feedback and constructive criticism. The importance of desk crits cannot be overstated, as they form the basis for self-improvement and creative development.

During desk crits, students engage in open and honest discussions about their projects. The feedback they receive allows them to gain a fresh perspective on their designs and identify areas for improvement. This process encourages students to think critically about their work and start to develop a keen sense of self-critique. This self-awareness is a crucial skill for architects, as it enables them to continuously refine their designs and creative processes.

Desk crits are a platform for the exchange of ideas, where students can ask questions, seek guidance, and challenge their own assumptions. Through these discussions, students learn not only from their mentors but also from their peers, broadening their understanding of design principles and varied approaches to architectural challenges.

Discussion: Exploring Design Philosophies

Engaging in discussions with peers and mentors is another fundamental aspect of "Perceptions and Processes." These discussions provide an opportunity to explore and delve into various design philosophies. They allow students to broaden their horizons and expose them to a wide range of architectural concepts and principles.

By participating in discussions, students can make informed decisions about their own design approaches. They are encouraged to think critically and analyze the merits of different architectural philosophies. This exploration of diverse perspectives empowers students to choose their own unique approach to architecture, setting the stage for them to develop their own design identity.

Presentations: The Art of Effective Communication

Presenting one's work effectively is a vital skill for architects. It's not sufficient to create aesthetically pleasing designs; you must also be able to convey your ideas and design intent to others in a clear and compelling manner. Presentations are a central component of "Perceptions and Processes."

Through presentations, students learn to articulate their design concepts and visions. This involves not only conveying the visual aspects of a project but also explaining the underlying principles and thought processes that inform their designs. Effective presentation skills are essential for architects, as they need to communicate their ideas to clients, colleagues, and stakeholders in a way that inspires confidence and understanding.

Drawing Review/Issue Problem: Precision and Problem-Solving

Drawing is often referred to as the "language of architects," and during this stage, its significance is emphasized. The focus is on creating precise and detailed drawings that not only express the aesthetic aspects of a design but also address the practical and functional elements. This phase integrates the creative and analytical aspects of architectural design.

Drawing review and issue problems involve problem-solving and identifying design challenges. It's where students start to develop their ability to translate abstract ideas into concrete plans. Architectural drawings become a means of communication, not only for expressing the visual aspects of a design but also for addressing the practical aspects of construction and functionality.

Field Trip: Real-World Inspiration

Field trips play a crucial role in this early stage of architectural education. They provide students with opportunities to experience real-world architectural marvels and draw inspiration from various environments. Field trips offer a tangible connection between classroom learning and practical application.

Field Trip DIA Beacon and DIA Chelsea are examples of experiences that can be transformative. Visiting places like DIA Beacon allows students to witness the practical applications of architectural concepts and observe how designs interact with the surrounding landscape. They can see how architectural principles manifest in real-world structures, gaining insights that can shape their own design approaches.

The "Rooftop DIA Chelsea/Issue Design Problem" field trip is a hands-on exercise in creating functional and aesthetically pleasing spaces. It encourages students to consider the relationship between architecture and urban environments, especially in the context of modern design, where rooftop gardens and urban spaces are gaining prominence.

Field trips to places like Storm King Art Center help students understand the symbiotic relationship between art and architecture. They learn how nature can be seamlessly integrated into architectural design, creating harmonious and visually stunning environments. These experiences broaden students' horizons and inspire them to think beyond the classroom.

Desk Crits/Format Research: Incorporating Knowledge into Design

After returning from field trips, students resume desk crits, but with a fresh perspective. The experiences from the field trips provide valuable insights that can be incorporated into their designs. This phase involves researching different formats and architectural styles to enhance their understanding of design principles.

Format research allows students to explore various architectural genres, historical periods, and contemporary trends. By studying different formats and styles, students can draw inspiration from a rich tapestry of architectural history and apply these lessons to their own projects. This research phase is a valuable exercise in expanding their architectural vocabulary and honing their creative processes.

In conclusion, "Perceptions and Processes" is a fundamental stage in architectural education that lays the groundwork for a student's journey toward becoming an architect. It emphasizes the importance of self-reflection, critical thinking, effective communication, precision, problem-solving, and real-world inspiration. By engaging in desk crits, discussions, presentations, drawing reviews, and field trips, students begin to develop the essential skills and knowledge that will define their careers in architecture. This stage is where the seeds of creativity, innovation, and self-discovery are sown, setting the stage for a lifelong journey of shaping the world through architectural design.

Review Re-presentation, Research from NYC and Initial Design Proposals

The phase encompassing "Review Re-presentation, Research from NYC, and Initial Design Proposals" in architectural education is a pivotal moment in a student's journey. It represents a transition from foundational concepts to the practical application of architectural principles. This phase consists of several key elements, each playing a significant role in the development of an aspiring architect.

Review Re-presentation: Bridging Theory and Practice

As students move forward in their architectural journey, they revisit their work to re-present it. This phase serves as a bridge between theoretical learning and practical application. Students take what they have learned in previous stages and apply it to real-world scenarios. This involves revisiting their earlier design concepts and reassessing them in light of new knowledge and experiences gained during the course.

The process of re-presentation demands rigorous research, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Students are challenged to apply their architectural understanding to solve complex design issues. It's a stage where their skills are put to the test, and they learn the importance of adaptability in architectural practice.

Pin Up: Refining Presentation Skills

Pin-up sessions are a vital component of architectural education. These sessions provide students with the opportunity to showcase their work to peers and professors. They serve as a platform for refining presentation skills and receiving valuable feedback from a broader audience.

During pin-up sessions, students practice articulating their design concepts and visions. Effective communication is essential in the field of architecture, and pin-ups help students develop this crucial skill. They learn to express their ideas clearly and persuasively, which is invaluable in their future careers.

Projects Due/Final Review Project 1: Demonstrating Mastery

The culmination of the initial stages of architectural design is the submission of projects and the final review. This is a critical juncture where students need to demonstrate their understanding of architectural principles and their ability to apply them creatively. It's a moment of evaluation, where their work is assessed for its conceptual depth, technical proficiency, and creative innovation.

The final review project is an opportunity for students to showcase the knowledge and skills they've acquired throughout their architectural education. It is a testament to their growth and development as emerging architects.

Documentation Session: The Architect as a Documenter

Architects are not just designers; they are also documenters of their work. The documentation session is a phase that introduces students to the importance of accurately documenting their projects. This is crucial for future reference and evaluation, as well as for the communication of design intent to clients, builders, and other stakeholders.

Accurate and detailed documentation is the backbone of architectural practice. It ensures that the vision of the architect is translated into the final built structure with precision and fidelity. In this phase, students begin to understand the significance of thorough record-keeping and documentation in their careers.

Problem 4 Due and Problem 5 Due: The Challenge of Problem-Based Assignments

Problem-based assignments are designed to challenge students' ability to solve complex architectural problems. They require innovative solutions, critical thinking, and the effective communication of their ideas. These assignments simulate real-world architectural challenges and demand creativity, precision, and a deep understanding of architectural principles.

Solving architectural problems requires students to think critically, analyze multiple variables, and propose solutions that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. These assignments prepare students for the complexities they will face as professional architects, where problem-solving is a daily task.

Issue Program: Understanding Purpose and Requirements

Understanding the program of a project is essential for creating a functional design. This phase teaches students how to define the purpose and requirements of a project. It involves considering factors such as the needs of the occupants, the site's constraints, and the project's goals.

By comprehending the issue program, students learn to align their designs with the intended functionality and purpose of the project. They gain a deeper understanding of how architecture serves the needs of people and communities.

Desk Crits/Concept Discussion: Shaping Ideas

Returning to desk crits, students engage in concept discussions that help them clarify their design ideas. This is a stage where their ideas begin to take shape. It's an opportunity to refine and develop their design concepts based on feedback and collaboration with mentors and peers.

Concept discussions encourage students to think critically about their design direction and make informed decisions about the direction of their projects. It's a crucial phase in the evolution of their design concepts.

Desk Crits/3 Concept Models: Visualizing Creativity

Creating concept models is a hands-on exercise in visualizing design ideas in three dimensions. This is where students' creativity shines, and they can experiment with different design possibilities. Concept models provide a tangible representation of their concepts, allowing for a deeper exploration of form, space, and structure.

Concept models serve as a bridge between initial design ideas and practical realization. They help students communicate their design concepts and test the feasibility of their ideas in a physical form.

Pin-Up/Concept Model Development: Communicating Ideas Effectively

Presenting concept models is a skill that students refine during pin-up sessions. These models help students communicate their design concepts effectively to others, particularly to a broader audience during pin-up sessions. It's about translating abstract design ideas into tangible representations that can be easily understood and assessed.

Pin-up sessions provide students with an opportunity to receive feedback from a wider audience, helping them refine their concepts and designs further.

Desk Crits/Site Sections (3): Integrating with the Environment

Understanding how a design integrates with its site is a crucial aspect of architectural practice. Site sections allow students to analyze the relationship between their design and the environment. It involves considerations of context, topography, and the impact of the site on the design.

Site sections ensure that the design is not isolated but harmoniously blends with its surroundings. This phase emphasizes the importance of site analysis and the integration of contextual factors into the architectural process.

Desk Crits/Sectional Models (2): Deepening Spatial Understanding

Sectional models further deepen students' understanding of how their design functions in three-dimensional space. By creating sectional models, students gain insights into the spatial qualities of their designs, including circulation, lighting, and spatial hierarchy.

Sectional models are a valuable exercise for refining design, as they offer a more detailed and tactile representation of the interior and exterior spaces of a project.

Desk Crits/Model + Plans: From Concept to Tangible Form

Modeling and creating plans is where students begin to translate their design concepts into tangible forms. This phase integrates their creative ideas with practical design solutions. It's a step closer to realizing their designs in physical form.

Creating detailed plans and models requires precision and attention to detail. It's a phase that bridges the gap between conceptual design and the practical aspects of architectural practice.

Desk Crits/Sections: Emphasizing Precision

Analyzing sections is essential for creating structurally sound and precise designs. This phase underscores the importance of precision in architectural practice. It ensures that all components of a design fit together cohesively, both functionally and aesthetically.

The focus on sections allows students to develop their skills in meticulous planning and execution, which are vital in creating architectural solutions that stand up to real-world challenges.

Mid-Review/Plan, Section, Model: Assessing Progress

The mid-review represents a significant milestone in a student's journey. At this stage, designs are reviewed and critiqued to assess progress. It serves as a checkpoint to evaluate the development and refinement of designs.

The mid-review helps students gauge how well they are meeting the goals and objectives of their projects. It also prepares them for the final presentation, providing insights into areas that require further attention.

Desk Crits/Diagrams of Systems: Incorporating Functionality

Incorporating systems and functionalities into a design is crucial for real-world applications. This phase focuses on creating diagrams to visualize the operational aspects of a design. It ensures that the design accommodates the necessary systems, such as HVAC, plumbing, and electrical, in an efficient and organized manner.

Diagrams of systems help students understand how their designs will function in practice, taking into account the practical requirements of the building.

Desk Crits/Revised Plan + Sections: The Iterative Process

Receiving feedback and making revisions is a fundamental part of architectural design. This phase is about refining designs to perfection. It emphasizes the iterative nature of the architectural process, where designs are continually improved based on critiques and feedback.

Revising plans and sections ensures that all aspects of the design align with the project's objectives and constraints, resulting in a more polished and functional outcome.

Desk Crits/Model at 1/8" Scale: Precision and Craftsmanship

Working at a smaller scale allows students to focus on intricate details of their design. It's a test of precision and craftsmanship. Creating models at a smaller scale demands careful attention to detail and an understanding of how architectural elements interact.

This phase further emphasizes the importance of precision in architectural work, as even the smallest errors can have a significant impact on the final design.

Desk Crits/New Model at 1/8" Scale, Plan + Sections: Striving for Perfection

Creating a new model at a smaller scale with updated plans and sections is a step towards perfection in design. It's about fine-tuning every aspect of the project to achieve the desired level of detail and accuracy.

This phase represents the commitment to excellence that architects must maintain throughout their careers. It reinforces the notion that architectural design is a process of continuous refinement.

Desk Crits/Experience Images, Perspectives/Collages: Presenting a Vision

Experience images and collages offer a creative way to showcase a design from various perspectives. It's about presenting a vision of how people will interact with the creation. These images help convey the experience of being in and around the designed space.

Perspectives and collages offer a more immersive understanding of the design, allowing viewers to visualize the atmosphere, scale, and user experience.

3/4 Review/Model 1/8" Scale, Plan, Sections, Experience Image: The Final Check

The 3/4 review represents the final check before the presentation. At this stage, the design should be polished, precise, and well-documented. It serves as a final opportunity to review the project from various angles, ensuring that every detail is in place and the design is ready for presentation.

The 3/4 review is a crucial checkpoint that ensures the project is fully realized and meets the highest standards of quality.

Desk Crits (Final): Making Last Adjustments

The journey comes full circle with one last round of desk crits before the final presentation. This is the moment to make any final adjustments based on feedback received during the preceding stages. It's an opportunity to ensure that the design is as close to perfection as possible.

Desk crits at this stage offer a sense of closure and readiness for the culmination of the architectural project. The phase encompassing "Review Re-presentation, Research from NYC, and Initial Design Proposals" is a transformative period in architectural education. It challenges students to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world architectural challenges. From refining presentation skills to submitting final projects, this stage prepares students for the complexities and demands of the architectural profession. It underscores the iterative and detailed nature of architectural design and emphasizes the importance of precision, innovation, and the ability to communicate ideas effectively. As students progress through these phases, they develop a deep understanding of the role of the architect as a problem solver, communicator, and documenter, setting the stage for a successful career in architecture.


Architectural education is a challenging yet rewarding journey filled with creativity, innovation, and self-discovery. Each stage, from desk crits to presentations, field trips to problem-solving, contributes to your growth as a future architect. It's a path that hones your design skills, challenges your creativity, and prepares you for a career in shaping the world through architecture.

As you navigate through these stages, remember that your journey as an architect is a continuous process of learning and evolving. Embrace each assignment and design process as an opportunity to grow, refine your skills, and leave your mark on the world of architecture. Your dedication, passion, and creative spirit will drive you toward success in this exciting field.

So, go ahead, take those field trips, present your designs, and engage in desk crits with enthusiasm. Your journey as an architect has just begun, and the possibilities are limitless.

We hope this blog post has provided you with a valuable insight into the stages of architectural education. Whether you're a student embarking on this journey or a professional architect reflecting on your educational experience, remember that each phase plays a crucial role in shaping the architect you will become. Embrace the challenges, embrace the creativity, and always aim to create designs that inspire and transform the world.

No comments yet be the first one to post a comment!
Post a comment