So You’re About to Begin Studying Architecture?

Mentee Amelia Cloney provides her tips for current architecture students


Over the last five years studying there are a few things I’ve learnt that I wish I had known earlier. As I finish my studies and you start yours I hope this will give you a good head start!

  1. Be yourself: Architects come in all shapes and sizes and if anything being different is your greatest asset. Just because everyone is trying to become the next “Corbs” or Zaha doesn’t mean you have to be. Find out what you like and where your interest lie and push those boundaries. While being inspired by your fellow students work can be a benefit it isn’t the be-all and end-all if your work doesn’t match up in style; you’ll develop your own.
  2. Inspiration: Inspiration is such a tricky subject, my best advice on this one is to keep your eyes open because you never know when it’s going to hit! Make a habit of keeping a pen, notebook on you, as cliche as it is I have been caught more than once asking for a pen so I can scribble a thought on a napkin while grabbing a coffee. Recently I was inspired for a project while I was chatting to a friend about my food truck obsession. But unfortunately there are times when you will completely struggle to find an idea or a start point, in these cases I will pass on the advice of one of my lectures “Change it up”. Blank page *or rhino* syndrome is worse when your staring at it. Go for a jog, watch some Grand Design (a totally valid study break option), have a cup of tea, flick through Pinterest, (…& ArchDaily, Yellow Trace, Design Boom) have a cider with a friend, get an inspiring architecture book, talk to someone about your project and your total design crisis. You’ll be surprised how doing this can help open your mind again. Should your black page problem persist? Just do something, anything! It’s amazing how just getting something down and returning to it later can result in something worthwhile. And, most importantly, speak to your tutor, they will appreciate your effort and struggle as they have been there too.
  3. Jack of all Trade: Architecture has a thousand elements, forms, theories and rabbit holes to go down and it can be quite over whelming. We range from discussions on the latest sustainable material, government planning policy, OMA’s latest commission, May 1968, biomimicry, the latest rendering techniques, building methodologies – I could go on and on. But it’s important to understand that you cannot possibly know it all inside out, sure if something sparks your interest explore it but taking a broad brush approach and knowing a little about everything is at times the only way through.
  4. Resilience: A Critique is by its nature is a criticism of your work! One of the most frightening parts I found coming into Architecture was the dreaded critique. However, it has also been one of the most beneficial parts, and this is coming from someone who has been left in tears after a particularly harsh critique in her second year! Being able to get up in front of a group of mostly strangers and present your concept is an essential skill for becoming a professional architect. It provides an opportunity to learn how to answer what are at times difficult questions about your ideas and approach. It is also a chance to get some great feedback from an experienced group of architects, so you can learn where you can improve for next time. However, as mentioned above, these critiques don’t all go well, not only have I had a negative experience myself but I have also witnessed other students going downhill due to difference of opinion or a picky juror. The important thing to remember is not to take it personally, take on board the advice and build your resilience. At other times you will know full well your project is a bit of a disaster and it can be a real blow to your confidence, but its important to get back up on the horse, view it as a learning experience and keep going!
  5. Be kind to yourself: Studying architecture can be an incredibly time (life) consuming adventure that takes a big toll on your social life and on your health (physical and mental). And making sure you set aside time for healthy eating habits (mee goreng noodles 3 times a day is not great), exercise (even if it’s just a stroll in the sunshine), a good amount of sleep and even the occasional night off to hang with friends – are all key to surviving and thriving. Every semester the stress gets to me at some point, and it took me a few years to understand that getting the balance right was more important than a high distinction. Surround yourself with an understanding support team, family and friends and fellow students, but also be prepared to reach out to your tutors, student advisors and seek professional help if you need it. And learn to reward yourself! Go out for that celebration when you hand in the assignment worth a shocking 70% of your grade, take that yoga class that gives you the hour of zen you deserve, and head to the footy to scream your lungs out with your mates.
  6. Be prepared to work hard: My architecture degree has been the hardest undertaking of my life but it has also been the most rewarding. I would love to say to you that it’s all fun, and while it is at times, there is no denying there is a lot of hard work, late nights, last minute submissions and missed social occasions. Be prepared to present your concept again and again for your tutor to only have them turn around and say start again. Get ready to learn at least 5 different modelling, photo editing, and cad programs (probably at the same time). Start recalling the hundreds of influential architects, theories, movements you will need to call on for you designs. Moments of panic during your final printing as you realise you have left off north points. Hoping to the god’s of architecture that your jurors do not realise that your model is completely mirrored as you forgot to reverse it on the laser cutter. Look forward to some long nights waiting for your final render to complete, and enjoy your midnight visits to emergency because you cut your hand building a blue foam model.And get ready to have your whole world changed as the study of architecture is an incredibly eye opening experience where creative thinking is key. But it also this strange club you’ve just become apart of. This will most likely only make sense to you after your first studio submission, experiencing the wildness that process brings, the characters it creates, and the pure moment of satisfaction you get seeing your ideas completed, printed panels, drawings and models. My adventure into architecture has been one of the best things I have done in my life – embrace it and enjoy it!7. Finally… SAVE AND BACK UP YOUR WORK. Seriously. Hard drive, USB and the Cloud. You’ll thank me later.

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(originally published on ‘That Architecture Student’ by Anthony Richardson here.)

IMG_7064Amelia began her studies the University of Canberra before moving to Melbourne to complete her Master of Architecture at the University of Melbourne in 2014 and currently employed as a draftsperson. She is about the begin the “terrifying” journey of design thesis and then will be moving in to the real world. She is interested in sustainability, materiality, interior design, finally having some time to head back overseas and making the perfect G&T.

You can find her here:
Instagram: @arc.design_


Open House 2015: Exploration and Curiosity

Over the weekend buildings across Melbourne threw open their doors for the annual Open House Melbourne event. This year reviewing buildings for the Red+Black Architect blog are an enthusiastic group of final year architecture students.

Cairo Flats

Review by Dena Barr

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This example of high density living in Melbourne was built many decades ago yet stands to answer some questions many Melbournians are asking of apartments today. Cairo Flats’ character remains vibrant despite its age and shows that combating housing pressures in the face of rapid population increase may be as simple as a shift in expectations. The Better Apartments discussion paper recently released and The Better Living Forum (an event held as part of Open House Melbourne) demonstrate that apartment design in Melbourne is under scrutiny. One of the major questions relates to whether minimum square meter requirements are necessary to increase amenity in new apartments. Cairo flats is a great example of how small apartments can feel like double the size through smart design. Direct access to outdoor space and ample windows make the rooms feel larger. Ceiling heights of 2.9 meters and softly rendered corners give the illusion of space. Furthermore, clever curtain design transforms the studio apartment between uses within seconds. When the curtain is drawn closed along the window, there is privacy from the common courtyard, the bed and wardrobe is exposed and the rooms feels like a bedroom. When the curtain sits in front of the wardrobe the light is allowed in and a living space is revealed. The sense of community was evident during the tour and is probably instigated through exposed central walkways and directly accessible common spaces such as the internal courtyard and the large roof terrace.


Forte Apartments

Review by Dena Barr

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You wouldn’t realise that you are looking at the world’s tallest Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) apartment building if you passed it. The only suggestion from the street that the construction methodology differs from its neighbours are the timber soffits. This theme continues inside the building, where the apartment appears like any other – floorboards and one feature wall in the living area are the only timber visible. The bathrooms are pods that were prefabricated in Queensland, whilst the structure was prepared in Europe with details such as electrical service channels designed in before shipping. A cross section of the structural system was on display as part of the tour and showed the floor to wall connection – Floor to ceiling looked to be about 450mm including ceiling plasterboard, insulation, another layer of plasterboard, CLT, rubber, screed and floor covering. The most interesting part of the tour for me was the emergency stair where the CLT remained exposed; producing the warmest feeling emergency staircase I have ever used. Whilst I suspect that this method of construction would be more viable if CLT were manufactured in Australia, we were told that Lendlease envisions using aspects of this technology in the future.


Hello House

Review by Amelia Cloney

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At the Hello House Tour I was glad I chose to park down the street so I had the opportunity to be greeted by the big brickwork HELLO which forms the western street facing facade. The tour began in the original shopfront victorian terrace which is currently being used as a art studio space by the owner and artist Rose Nolan. We were given an wonderful talk by Nolan and the architect Fooi-Ling Khoo, OOF! Architecture about the inspirations for the rear addition. The collaboration between client and architect was long but resulted in a well thought through design that reflected the context of the heritage rich site, that put on show the craftsmanship of not only the architect but the trades involved (in particular the brick layer!), as well as Nolan’s graphic and font based artworks. While the home uses materials more traditionally thought of as industrial, the structural plywood, concrete and brickwork provided a surprisingly warm finish, although the beautiful curtains and underfloor hydronic heating probably aided this as well. It was a real privilege to get such a personal look at the Hello House, who knows maybe one day I’ll be able to guide a tour through a design of my own.


Northcote Hemp Houses

Review by Megha Joshi

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Walking the street, it is not hard to find this house as it does speak out for itself from rest of the houses in the neighborhood.  This residence is a fine example of sustainable building using Hempcrete walls and Rammed Earth walls in the design.

Our tour guide Dione explained the design ideas conceived by Steffen Welsch Architects,  while taking us through the house. On entering the house, you see this beautifully textured honey coloured Hemp wall which helps regulate humidity and acoustics with a small courtyard facing the wall, with a timber staircase going along it. This staircase to me acted no less than a design element of the house. The stairwell acts as wind tower in the house regulating the airflow in the building.

Walking further down, you enter into the open kitchen overlooking another courtyard and also acts as the focal point of the house as it has views to all the spaces. Another major feature of the house is the rammed earth walls, which help in increasing the thermal mass of the building and also help in regulating acoustics.

Another feature that caught my eye were the skillfully designed bay windows on the upper level rooms which provide privacy and views and also bring in ample daylight into the rooms. Interestingly, the window operating systems were quite amazing. That feature is something all the houses should have!

The architects have also included rainwater harvesting system that stores up to 10,000 litres of rainwater. This residence is a great approach to sustainable design and the architects have successfully achieved it and it also gives that warm, cozy feeling in the house.



Old Treasury Building

Review by Megha Joshi

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One of the finest architectural buildings of nineteenth century in Australia, standing tall with grandeur in the city of Melbourne, Old Treasury Building portrays the development of this city. This well-proportioned rectangular building signifies its existence by where it sits, looking towards Collins Street.

The proportions of this building, both with respect to itself  and at an urban scale, were very well thought out by architect J J Clarke, by providing a flight of stairs taking you to the majestic entrance of the building. This gesture has taken the building to a height and given it a setback to enjoy the view from it. What a view from the building to the city! I was awestruck!

Walking into the building, it is such a well-planned and ordered building spaces that take you through the history of Victoria and its development. The finesse of the every little thing in the building is so perfect, doors and windows framed by polished wood with impeccable design simplicity, sufficing its purpose.

The ground floor had the display of Victoria’s history, social and political development and the basement had a display of the Victorian gold rush. The white textured walls in the basement give a very different feeling compared to the upper levels of the building. All the hallways and corridors had a window opening at the end to make the whole space light and breathable. Old Treasury Building is indeed a treasure for Melbourne’s architecture.


Bio 21

Review by Amelia Cloney

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Bio 21 (by architects Design Inc) at the University of Melbourne was an amazing experience. Coming to Open House as an architecture student my mind was focused on design – design – design and while standing in the impressive atrium in Bio 21 my mind was still focused on the architecture. The large central lift core which forms a cell like shape, the external shading of the building, and the large “pods” that rise up the northern end of the atrium (which as it turns out was the bathrooms – rumour has it, the architects forgot to include them!) But it wasn’t until we started the tour of the level 4 laboratories that I remembered that I was visiting a building where perhaps the most impressive thing was the research that was being produced. One of the labs was researching Malaria, another Parkison’s disease, the next along was creating flexible plastic solar panels and this was all on one floor! Seriously impressive work! I also spent some time in the basement have a look at the NMR spectrometers. What really topped of the tour was our very impressive tour guide Frances Separovic, Head of Chemistry, who made sure he explained how the building functioned and the purpose of the high-tech machines.


Library at the Dock

Review by Farheen Dossa

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I now have a reason to visit the docklands. A refreshing departure from its surrounding built environment, the Library at the Dock, designed by Clare Design and Hayball is a three storey building constructed almost entirely of cross laminated timber (CLT). Its humane scale, clever connection with the waterfront’s boardwalk, earthy materials and colour palette make this recycled-timber box an elegant piece of architecture easy to be drawn towards. The interiors are brightly lit with the reading spaces having dramatic views of the harbour.  Adjustable wooden louvres lend the much needed shade as well as theatre of light and shadow to the space.

The library is packed with a variety of other surprising functions; a children’s indoor and outdoor play area, cafe, performance space, art gallery, maker’s space, music practice rooms, sound recording studio, multimedia hub and a green terrace complete with a table-tennis setup. All intelligently orchestrated and tied together by a central linear staircase.

Wait, there is more. It boasts of a passive natural ventilation system, central skylights-thermal chimneys and solar panels amidst other low energy features to have made it secure Australia’s first 6 Star Green Star Public Building Design rating.

A soulful building, this community library is exactly what the docklands needed.


About the Authors

Dena Barr

Dena is a a recent graduate architect from University of Melbourne and a NatHERs Thermal Performance Assessor. Her interests relate to sustainable design and building technologies.


Amelia Cloney

Amelia began her studies in  Interior Architecture before transferring to study Architecture at the Melbourne School of Design. Amelia’s projects have been exhibited at the Gallery of Australian Design and at the Dulux Gallery, Melbourne School of Design. Outside of architecture Amelia interest include art, furniture, fashion, travel, and exploring Melbourne.


Megha Joshi

Megha is a recent graduate architect from Deakin University. She is a keen observer, dreamer and very interested in architecture, arts and design.


Farheen Dossa

Farheen is a recent graduate architect from Melbourne School of Design. Her interests within architecture include material experimentation and digital fabrication. She is also an avid traveler who loves to explore new environments.




Beneath the tip of an Iceberg: Open House Melbourne 2015

This weekend is one of Melbourne’s biggest for all those fascinated by our built environment .  Guest writer Mariel Reyno  discusses the importance of Melbourne Open House.

Open House Melbourne creates a big window for design savvy people.  It is a yearly event that started in 2008 through a collaborative effort.

Have you ever  wanted to explore certain premises that are normally locked away? Thanks to the Open House Melbourne, the public are given a chance to experience a deeper side of architecture and have the opportunity to go through the skin of the structures.   Through this initiative, people are given an insight into how designers approach different concerns and considerations in order  to produce smart buildings.

Underneath the surface of it all, it showcases the transition of architecture in Melbourne by uplifting its past, present and future through its wide range of building typology- from restoration of old buildings to the advancements of technology in architecture visible in modern buildings. Having this kind of event,  stimulates and entices the mind to be creative and innovative. It also allows everyone to be critics, facilitating substantial discussion  and  different opinions on the world of architecture. Open House Melbourne also gives  architects and the building industry a chance to be in the limelight and helps encourage and inspire the next generation of designers to contribute in changing the world, making it a better place for everyone to live in.  Likewise, it gives inspiration to other art makers and agitates to create new art forms.

Open House Melbourne also gives blooming architecture students the opportunity to experience architecture first hand.  They are leaning to think critically and evaluate design from the small details through to  the totality of the building as a whole and within the context it resides.

The experience of Melbourne Open House also gives you  the chance to see how each designer is able to convey their design and how the design enables the building to function.  Each and every building has its own uniqueness to offer, exhibiting parts of the designer, the occupants and the use of the building.

This annual program  is engaging  people bounded by curiosity and a common interest  in innovative design that would builds upon our city’s reputation  of creativity.

Architecture greatly affects our way of living and the way we interact with one another.  Undertakings like these are  opportunities for people to appreciate and witness art together, and let everyone get a glimpse of how art (in this case, Architecture) plays a big role in shaping a better community.


Melbourne Open House is on this weekend, July 25 – 26

For more information and to plan your weekend go to :


About the Author:

Mariel Reyno

Mariel is an Architecture Student at the University of Melbourne. She has a vision of creating a better society through design and arts.