Architecture Study- How life teaches you to become a better designer

by Nafisah Ezam • Year 3, BSc (Hons) Arch, Universiti Teknologi MARA Malaysia


Arki Galeri

3/4/20217 min read

          Sometimes, by the grace of God, fate really takes you to the unexpected place. When I first heard about the architecture course at UITM, it’s not an exaggeration to say I have absolutely no idea what I will be doing. Funnily, I thought the studio that I would be studying in was the same as a studio where people produce music, a small cubicle room that can fit only 5 to 7 people at a time. Nevertheless, this unexpected opportunity has opened the door for me to enter an interesting world and meet new people with completely different values. I wanted to take this opportunity to share my personal life lesson that has changed me greatly as a person. This is with hopes that it can shed a ray of light for those who are interested in pursuing this course and especially for those who are midways into finishing their degrees but are starting to lose motivation and confidence in themselves.

         I found that this is a very common question coming from SPM leavers. When they meet any architecture student, the famous question would be “susah ke architecture ni?” Well, the simplest answer would be -Architecture study is not easy but definitely not impossible- 

      I believe that the difficulty comes from many factors, maybe the current skill-set that we have is not enough to fulfil the requirement. Maybe the depth of understanding to be able to design for other people has not fully matured yet. It can be due to the large amount of workload that will take up most of our daily activity. Or yet, one of the common issues is that we simply do not allocate enough time to work on our project or the time that it requires. 

             For inspiration, the photos attached capture different architectural values that recall my experience travelling to Turkey in 2019. To define what makes good architecture is too subjective to be put in words. Thus, the best way to present it to you is through visual alternatives like photography and videos. For me, the main essence for a good design is to be able to emotionally and physically impact the users in a positive direction. In many ways, it has the power to turn restlessness into ease, reflect the rise and downfall of a civilization or simply give hope for us humans to find refuge and shelter. For such a large city with a long historical legacy, from the airport to the capital, from the sea to the air, every stride is like walking on a movie set. You can read the different eras that the locals have lived through and all of that is reflected through their built environment and design. It makes me wonder what story the architecture in Malaysia will tell to the future generation in decades ahead. If you have the opportunity, travelling is one of the best ways to sharpen your observation and critical thinking skills while still having a good time to relax and unwind.

“Architecture is not just a study of the built environment but is also a study of life.” 

             On the contrary, I believe that it’s not about who is born for architecture but about how much effort that you put to have a place in it. 90% of the knowledge and skill that I have now accumulated was non-existence 3 years ago. Yet, I’m able to maintain an average of 3.9 CGPA overalls. I promised that it would not be easy, but it was never impossible. Every weakness and shortcoming can definitely be improved. Mental strength can be improved. Drawing skill can be sharpened. Time management and productivity time can be learned. There are many resources and lecturers who are willing to guide you, but please do have faith in yourself. People are not born with greatness, greatness comes from those who work for it. 

Be honest to yourself, what do you really want and what is your priority in life? 

               Over the years I have learned to prioritize works that really bring value to my life. Sometimes, I have to drop a few offers proposed by others and a few more events in order to have more time to finish my work. Although it brings a few bad raps as we should socialize more for the benefits of the future in the work-force, I learned that solitude is where my best work is produced. It is true that studying architecture will open the door to many opportunities. As this is our first university life, it is normal to feel tempted to join everything, explore the city with friends and studio mates. Entertaiments like movies, drama, social media in this fast-paced world can easily trap someone to spend their days mindlessly. I would say that if you can find a future and talent that you would like to develop through that, go for it. The yearly program such as Archifest, custom tradition of Angklung, Sekatriat Mahasiswa Fakulti (SMF) for those who like corporate works and a lot more. My point is, I have taught not to be swayed by what is popular but to focus on what is essential and most impactful. Sure, I might not have all of the memories with my friends but the amount of knowledge, achievement and skills that I have acquired is invaluable for me, I would never trade it for something else.

Mental health and stability are as important as design and time management skill.

          One last thing that I must address is to emphasize the value of a healthy mental state. I believe this issue is not discussed enough in high school to prepare us for early adulthood. No matter how buff or healthy your body is, it can easily break down upon intense stress and pressure. I have learned the hardest way after placing rest and eating aside for weeks and would never wish for someone to go through the same experience. Believe it or not, during the final stretch of the submission week it is not the body but the mind that is actually keeping you up to finish your work. One of my best achievements this semester is to be able to prove to myself that it is possible to be able to get enough sleep (6-7 hours) which seems too impossible a few semesters ago. I was able to maintain a stable positive energy all throughout the semester even when the workload is the highest compared to the previous semester. 

         When pursuing this study, be prepared to take failure as your friend. Rather than facing it like an enemy and hold it in a dungeon, have an honest conversation with it and analyse what you can improve in the future. I used to be too hard on myself, seeing one small setback as a failure rather than an opportunity. In fact, not every tutorial will go as planned. Sometimes it went really bad and sometimes it went well. Either if you are in your first or final year, there’s always a mistake to be made and things to be improved. By having this mind-set, it can lift up the burden and give the impression that to be a top student, you have to be perfect at everything. In the meantime, it will encourage you to explore various things as failure was no longer an enemy.

“Forgive yourself for making mistakes, but hold yourself accountable not to repeat it ever again. Every bitter shortcomings that I have tasted so far have never failed to bounce me back to become better”

            As a closure, if you have the opportunity to pursue this study, just do it and give it your best .  Passion and motivation can comes and go, but one thing that has kept me to try my best is the ray of hope that I still have the opportunity to improve my work over and over again. Maybe not all of us will end up to be an Architect, but nevertheless you will be equipped with invaluable skill set that can be assimilated into many different industries. I hope everyone can find their sense of purpose & belonging in this study. God bless & good luck!

 Architecture study is not easy but also not impossible.

          Reflecting back, I believe that other than finishing the task that the lecturer assigned every semester, it has also become a pursuit of trying to debunk that statement of Is Architecture really “THAT” difficult to be ranked top 5 of the toughest course in the world. To the point that even on my first week in Puncak Alam, those statement has been thrown around like a batch of honour, showing how tough architecture really is and flaunting that it is not for everyone. Secretly, I believe this search for answers comes to answer my own self-doubt of; 

“Do I have a chance to excel in this, or am I one of the unlucky who were ‘not meant’ to study architecture?”

Parents as my biggest support

Covaeris studio before PKP begins

Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey

Hand carved homes by Jews refugees

Rococo Architecture assimilated into mosque design

Air ballooning while appreciating nature's sunset in Cappadocia, Turkey 

Spatial quality of a simple bakery house