Studying architecture in college is a very difficult talk that many people hear about but don't fully understand when they go off to college. Personally, I've been interested in pursuing architecture for almost my entire life, and that definitely gave me a different perspective on whether or not I would continue in the UVa architecture program. Because the program is a four year program offering a bachelor's of science in architecture degree, first year students aren't immersed in the studio environment at all. There is one intro to architecture class and one architectural history class each of the first two semesters, but there is almost no use of the architecture studio space. The class format changes substantially in the second year, where students immediately jump head first into the “studio” environment – second year is usually regarded as the most difficult year of studio. The studio architecture classes last through all three years of school after the first year, and are the majority of the architecture educational process. Each semester, studio is a six credit class that will probably end up being the vast majority of your work each semester. While a six credit class typically means you have six hours of class each week, studio is an exception in that there are twelve hours of dedicated class time each week. These twelve hours of dedicated of class time is also a substantial understatement in terms of how many hours are actually required to complete each week's work. No matter what school you visit, who you talk to, or how immersed into the program they are, the majority of architecture programs throughout the country have a similarly rigorous series of studio classes which will serve as your primary class(es) each semester.
The studio class in general at UVa entails twelve hours of dedicated class time per week, from 2pm-5:45pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday – this will be constant from the beginning of your second year to graduation if you continue with architecture. The studio classes are fairly small, usually between 12-15 people at the beginning and will dwindle in size as you move further along in the years, and each studio generally works on a different project within similar parameters (different uses of the same site, or a similarly sized building even though they may have different functions). These studio classes will be where you learn to draft, draw, build models, and do everything that architecture students across the country are learning how to do in almost the same way. The amount of work will obviously depend on who your studio instructor is, but in most cases you will be looking at spending at least eight to twelve hours per week in studio outside of the dedicated class time. This is the case simply because it takes time to build models and produce neat, clean, and well done drawings. The format of the studio will also depend greatly on who your instructor is, but for the most part, the studio class time consists of a group meeting to outline the day’s plans and what will be due for the next couple classes, and will be followed by “desk crits”. This term is short for desk critique which is essentially when the instructor walks around studio and will stop at each person’s desk for an individual meeting. These meetings are used for the professor to focus on your work and help you decide how to move forward and how to improve your ideas and the way that you represented them (got them down on paper). Desk crits are the most valuable part of in class studio time by far, and can be used as a time to figure out which direction you’re going with a project, and to hopefully get a few good ideas from the professor in terms of what direction you should be going in for future work on the project.
In summary, studio is a ton of work and to those who aren’t interested in architecture, seems totally outrageous and unnecessary most of the time, but for those of us who enjoy designing and the process of refining your work until you get something that you’re really proud of, you’ll do great.