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Why Study Architecture in High School

Apr 4, 2018

I was 16 when I decided I wanted to be an architect, but beyond my high school drafting class, I had no idea what an architect actually does. Not to mention my knowledge of what architecture is. I couldn’t imagine much outside of quaint, suburban housing. I had never seen Notre Dame du Haut, or even heard of Le Corbusier.

Thankfully, when I headed off to college and embarked on my architectural degree program, I was not one of the many who decided to find a different major. I loved architecture. But some of the kids who chose to head down a different path could have been better prepared by taking a high school class in architecture.

A high school course in architecture will prepare you for college.

My high school drafting class taught me some of the conventions of architectural drawing. However, drawing, design, composition, culture: all of that came later for me. According to Keelan Kaiser, Architecture Program Director at California Baptist University, “Drawing, composition, and creativity are the most valuable skills a college freshman in architecture can have.” He recommends starting in high school with art, design, photography, or architecture classes to be prepared to study architecture in college.

Excelsior Classes offers engaging, rigorous courses taught from a Christian worldview, and provides a unique opportunity for a high school student to take architecture classes. Students are introduced to seeing, drawing, and thinking like an architect. Significant works of architecture are explored and students’ own work is discussed. These online courses will open up the world of architecture before their eyes and give them the skills they need to succeed in college, whether they choose to pursue architecture or not.


My son in a high school architecture camp

Because there’s always that possibility. For three years music was your student’s passion, and now he wants to be a doctor. Things change. I have a few high school students of my own, and I know how this goes. Studying architecture in high school is still a VERY good option because, aside from my personal opinion that everyone should have a design education, students can get an idea if architecture is really for them or not. And either way, they will not have wasted their time. Or your money.

Design skills have a wide application in different college majors.

Architecture students learn to draw and compose, to become aware of and bring beauty to their environments. They learn problem solving and critical thinking skills, as well as leadership, teamwork, and sometimes even time management. One of the most useful skills an architecture student strives to acquire is that of visual communication. How does one take an idea from his or her head and represent it on paper where it can be viewed by or discussed with others? By trial and iteration. This is, at its essence, a basic communication skill.

Visualization skills are also a valuable component of architectural education. Architects are constantly moving between two-dimensional and three-dimensional thinking and representation. Anyone who puts things together – an engineer, a carpenter, a plumber – would benefit from this kind of study. The spatial reasoning skills alone are important beyond measure. Just ask anyone who has tried to read a map or pack luggage into the trunk of a car!

Even those who leave college with an architecture degree still have incredible versatility in their career options. In addition to the wide variety of design-related careers – interior, furniture, lighting, industrial, or graphic design – many other possibilities exist. In his book Becoming an Architect, author Lee W. Waldrep, Ph.D, suggests professional paths such as Architecture Historian, Construction Management, or Historic Preservation, as well as Technical and Engineering fields. I have friends who have gone on to careers in photography, digital media, music, missionary work, and retail sales in tile and plumbing fixtures.

Most do become architects, but you will find at least one who is a homeschool mom teaching architecture classes online for high school students. You can find those classes here.

About the Author

Melisa Kaiser is an architectural designer and homeschool mom of four. She completed an undergraduate degree in architecture at the University of Nebraska, and a Master of Architecture degree at the Illinois Institute of Technology where she received the Henry Adams Medal for graduating with highest honors. She studied high rise design, with an emphasis in energy efficiency and façade technology.

The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the author and should not be taken to represent the views of Excelsior Classes, LLC or the consortium of teachers.