“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
At its very heart, architecture is undeniably about helping people. Architects create spaces that allow people to live fuller lives, work better and be happier; it can even affect how they heal. It is a challenging yet hugely rewarding career that impacts society for generations.
So, how does one become an architect? Being passionate about design and making a difference will help you get started; yet the blueprint of your future as a practising architect requires a solid education. In this blog we’ll discuss common secondary school courses that serve as prerequisites for post-secondary architecture institutions, valuable hobbies, skills you will learn, as well as some of the opportunities waiting for you after graduation.
The Education Structure
To become a practicing architect in Canada you will need to complete an undergraduate degree, as well as a master’s program. In Canada, this should be from a university program which been approved by the Canadian Architectural Certification Board (CACB). Following your institutional education you will need to complete 2 years of working experience.
The next step is to become licensed. In Canada, you are required to pass an exam. This license determines whether an architect can practise at the provincial or territorial level. Resources like RAIC | IRAC Architecture Canada are a good place to start your research.
Here is a brief outline of the process.
Before Applying to Post-Secondary School
A quick Internet search can bring up exact prerequisites necessary for the program and school of your choice. Here are the common courses:
- Calculus and Vectors
- Advanced Functions
- Some schools recommend arts-related courses at the Grade 11 or 12 level
Lastly, you will be admitted based on a curated portfolio. This includes original work that represents your creative and design skills, for example, drawings, paintings, photographs, computer graphics, constructed models, or technical drawings. This is an essential component of the application. It shows your natural skills and talent, as well as the ability to follow directions.
“Listen, touch, feel, think and integrate… Key skills for an architect to truly communicate building that bridge between the Arts and the Sciences.”
– Kimberley Kennedy, Vice President
Once you have applied and are accepted to a program, the real fun begins. Here are a few of the skills you can look forward to learning at architectural school:
- Conceptualizing and understanding spatial relationships
- The context surrounding a project, including cultural influences, environmental, social and political concerns
- The importance of combining utility with aesthetics
- Design skills, and the capability to communicate ideas visually
- Computer skills, including 3D modeling software
- Project Management and leadership skills
- Economic analysis
While we specialize in institutional designs, like schools, hospitals and research facilities, there are a few under the general term of “architecture” that you might consider pursuing.
1) Institutional: This field serves specific organizations or establishments.
2) Residential: As the name suggests, this type focuses on private dwellings.
3) Commercial or Public: This designation concentrates on structures for business and non-residential use. For example, office buildings, retail spaces and community spaces.
“I design healthcare because I passionately believe that architecture can make a positive difference in peoples’ lives. My niece had a baby boy last week who will spend the next six weeks in an NICU. As his aunt, I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to design the environment where he will receive his care. I know that the NICU is a safe environment where he will get the best of care, where his parents will feel supported and where staff work in a supportive architectural environment.”
-Lynne Wilson Orr, Principal
There are other career paths closely connected to architecture should you decide to that you would like to be involved with the design and creation of buildings in some other way:
- Interior designer
- Building/construction inspector/surveyor
- Product designer
Hobbies that Benefit your Education
While it is important to partake in your favourite pastimes, there are a few that are especially advantageous to the burgeoning architect:
Subscribe to an industry journal: Not only is it an invaluable source of inspiration, but it should also challenge you to think extensively about architecture and how it relates to society.
Travel: Exploring unfamiliar cultures and traditions can expand your understanding of how people interact with their surroundings. Exotic structures are visually inspiring, but also give you a wider breadth of experience on how things can be done.
Draw: Freehand and technical drawing requires different skills, which foster design flexibility making you a better architect. Hand-drawing gives you a basis of knowledge, which applies to computer modeling and is applicable to all future work.
Hopefully this short primer sheds a little more light on the steps towards becoming an architect in Canada. It is an industry of unique wonders and complex challenges that continue to make it an exciting area to work in.