Only the coolest major ever! Fundamentally it could be seen as the study and design of buildings, but more than that it is an examination of the structure, manipulation, and impact of space. How do we interact within spaces, and with the spaces themselves? What defines a space, and how can spaces be ordered and arranged? All of these questions are asked in architecture. It engages both the cerebral and philosophical questions, the why and to what end kind of questions, as well as the nuts and bolts questions, the how, when and where questions. It combines the abstract with the concrete better than any other major. It's a major that will push you to work long hours with little sleep at times, and will be more rewarding because at the end of it all, you have produced a body of work more substantive than just another term paper or essay. It's certainly not for the faint of heart, but architecture rocks.
You can learn just about anything. Architecture incorporates art, science, history, culture, philosophy, aesthetics, sociology, and so on and so forth. It is an all encompassing major. You get a more critical eye on things, not just buildings and such, but you learn to be more discerning. It really helps you hone your artistic and creative side, and teaches you how to turn abstract thoughts into more concrete projects. You get to study a huge variety of things since all of the arts are very inter-related. It also teaches you discipline and persistence—how to keep finding the willpower to work on your project, even though it's 3 am, so that you'll be proud of your work when you pin it up in class the next day. And you'll learn how to use a ton of cool software programs that are very useful for other things in life, including AutoCAD, Rhino, Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. All in all, it's a fantastic major.
What is it like being an architecture major?
It is no lie that architecture is a challenging and time consuming major. The department faculty and students could not be better, though, since the department is fairly small, and lots of individual guidance is available on your work. You get to be on a first name basis with many of your professors, which is something you won't find in larger majors. Instead of doing a written JP, the department has everyone take a junior independent work studio course both semesters of your junior year. The bulk of your efforts are on the studio work which can be rather time consuming. The thesis is written, though, and builds on (pun intended) what you learn from a semester of studio in the fall of your senior year. The great part about studio is the intense camaraderie that develops from spending hours working together in the Architecture building. Another great part about the studio is that you work in close proximity to graduate and PhD students, who can guide you in the wee hours of the morning. You get more access to grad students as your friends and colleagues, not just as preceptors.
You basically get to do arts and crafts for your major! This is certainly more enjoyable than writing boring papers, struggling through problem sets, or cramming for nasty exams. You get to draw things, both by hand and on the computer, and you get to build a lot of sick models. Your friends will all be jealous of the cool projects you get to do, and they'll like to swing by the Arch building to admire your latest craftsmanship. One of the best things about being an arch major is that you get great experience presenting your work, and you get to see what all of your peers are working on as well. For each project, you basically pin all of your drawings up on a wall, and then you get up and talk about your project in front of your fellow students, professors, and guest critics. It can be a bit nerve-wracking at first, but this is GREAT practice for the real world! It's also really cool to see what the other kids in your class are working on—you all get the same prompt to begin with, but everybody is creative and therefore each person will steer their project in a unique direction, so it's really cool to see the diversity of all the projects. You become a lot more familiar with other people's ideas and work and learn from them—something you wouldn't necessarily do in many other departments. You definitely won't sleep much, but you'll become really close with all the other arch majors, and you'll have tons of fun in the process! Oh, and you get LOADS of free food—pizza lunch every Friday, and appetizers after lectures at least once or twice a week...yum!
What are common misconceptions about architecture majors?
Most people think that architecture majors are crazy and that our major is so horrible that we are never allowed to sleep. This is not entirely true haha..... While it's true that you probably won't sleep that much, architecture is the exact opposite of horrible! We have a ridiculous amount of fun together. This is the only major I know of where you will actually get to know all of the other students in your major—this is what happens when you stay up late together every night, munching on snacks and working in the computer lab! All of my friends in other majors are all jealous that I have such good friends within my major. Another misconception: architecture majors are so busy that they never get to have fun. This is NOT true! Architecture kids love to party—we definitely know how to celebrate together when we make it through a big pinup! Even though it's a time-consuming major, it's definitely possible to work hard and play hard if you manage your time well! Another possible misconception is that architecture requires a lot of math and/or engineering classes—this is definitely not true for undergrad students (though grad school for architecture would probably be different). Architecture at Princeton is very abstract and conceptual—we don't learn how to actually *build* structures for the most part; it's more about developing our conceptual ideas and learning how to think creatively and outside of the box. So don't be scared if you're not that into math—you won't need it for undergrad architecture! Oh and also, people who walk by the Arch building frequently may see a bunch of really skinny, oddly dressed people chain-smoking outside the building, but this is not us—that's the grad students! So have no fear, you definitely don't need to chain smoke or wear crazy scarves to fit in with us!
What kind of internships and international experiences have majors had?
During the summers, a lot of us work for architecture, engineering, or graphic design firms in our hometowns. Others study abroad—Barcelona has a great International Internship Program in architecture, so a few people have done that. Other common places for architecture study abroad during the school year are Copenhagen, Denmark and Florence, Italy. If you're fairly sure as a freshman that you want to major in architecture, try to get the pre-requisites and some of the departmentals out of the way by the end of sophomore year, because that makes a decision to study abroad a lot easier. While it's easy to dismiss a semester abroad because of the assumption that the quality of academics won't measure up to Princeton's, it’s well worth it. Most include a huge traveling component—you actually get to see the buildings you've been learning about! And because you're going through an established program a lot of buildings are a lot more accessible than they would be if you were trying to do it on your own. It complements the Princeton education nicely in that while Princeton's education tends to be mostly in the classroom and studio, international programs take you out into the field.
How will architecture majors save the world?
Architecture controls, fundamentally, the way we live our lives. Nearly every important building you might encounter—from public libraries, to hospitals, to government buildings— was designed by an architect, and therefore the programs that go on inside of them are subject to the physical influence of his/her design. You might not realize it yet, but buildings shape the way you live: through their organization of space, they affect the tempo, quality, and nature of your daily life. Herein lies the Princeton Architecture major's power to change and save the world!! We will go on to make great buildings that subtly impose our brilliant thoughts and ideas on masses of the unsuspecting public! If not, we'll just design some wicked cool buildings that people will enjoy looking at and living in.
Why would anyone want to date an architecture major?
Well, we're very good at staying up all night and not sleeping...and when we do get to sleep, we'll do it anywhere. We spend an awful lot of time cooped up in the architecture building, so when we finally get out we love to cut loose and have fun! We're very creative and fashionable for the most part; this makes us especially good at dressing up for theme parties. Other than that, we're just pretty awesome so duh, everyone loves us. Oh, and free food!