This semester I read a very interesting article I must give credit to called "Self-identity, rationalization and cognitive dissonance in undergraduate architectural design learning," by Christine Bachman and Leonard Bachman. Part of the article included a post my a graduate student on the author's course web site:
"[...And the thing is, we do it for ourselves. I know some professors said to not take longer on the design charrette than we just had. And I for one took longer than that. Just because I knew that the professors required a certain standard of work. Yet they were not concerned that we just had a project due two days before. It would be nice to have a life outside of architecture. Don't get me wrong. I know that the life of an architecture student has been like this and I know it will change by the time we graduate so why even worry about it. Although it has been a lot of work and sleepless nights, I would not trade it in for anything."
I couldn't agree with this comment more. Architecture students spend most of their time working on their studio projects. After gone through almost 5 years of architecture school, I can relate to this in many ways. "Our findings consistently indicated that architecture students spend more than 40 hours a week on studio design projects in addition to their coursework, and also that they average less than five and a half hours of sleep per night." Compare this statistic to this:
The typical U.S. college student spends less than 30 hours a week on academics.
U.S. college students spend 24% of their time sleeping, 51% of their time socializing and 7% of their time studying.
But architecture students aren't typical.
So what's the problem?
The problem is that too much time is spent practicing non-educational, biased, and opinionated material. "Studio demands can be gruelling, loosely managed, sudden shifting, and subjectively evaluated on loosely applied professional opinion." Oftentimes, however, the opinion isn't even professional. As most of my undergraduate studio professions were in fact, not professors, but graduate assistants. Their opinion may have been better than mine but it was surely not professional.
"Students quickly learn that sleepless nights become a great symbolic currency of devotion as will high levels of stress and anxiety." For some reason we think that by staying up all night we have achieved a level of status beyond our peers. That idea is slowly lost around fourth year. However, I often find myself staying up all night simply because I have to in order to finish the work on time. "They find comfort in believing that their sacrifice is worthwhile because it enhances their ideal self-image, the hero designer. Similar to medical students, they find reward in sleep deprivation because the learning experience ennobles it."
Perhaps studio would be more efficient in terms of learning if we spent more time, well, actually learning material rather than spending countless hours producing physical models, hatching in lines and areas, drawing in trees and making pretty graphics. Granted, all of these things help enhance your artistic skills, but not your mind. More focus needs to spent on mental skills rather than physical skills such as training your body to withstand the sleepless nights.
Speaking of sleepless nights...
Sleep deprivation induces significant reductions in performance and alertness. Reducing your nighttime sleep by as little as 1.5 hours for just one night could result in a reduction of daytime alertness by as much as 32 percent.
Brandon E. Young