Architecture studios are culturally entrenched in the design world, their function and presentation reaffirm architecture as a physical practice. Most studios like to feel they are unique but visit enough of them and they slowly meld in to one: apple computers, moleskine diaries, a bowl full of black fine liners, the core elements tende
If we take university as the root mold of a studio practice environment, we find rooms overflowing with desk space and tools.
What are the bare essentials that you need to create solid work?
-a computer of some sort $1000-$1500
-a notepad of another sort $100
-a drawing implement $50
-a recording device $500
The above list is everything that I need to create work. It is the bare list of things I take with me when I go hiking for a week and still want to work. Anything more is excess so let's break it down
A COMPUTER OF SOME SORT
Computers are funny things. They demand our attention at our desks and it seems our entire lives are dedicated to inputting and extracting information from them. Depending on your style of workflow, architecture can be quite computationally exacting. Software requirements vary from person to person but I've found the following to work best for my practice:
-Sketchup- the fastest 3D modelling software available and there are free versions out there. Connect it with the mobile app and you've got a view anywhere display tool too. Sketchup requires little processing power compared to other 3D software.
-Revit- For scale drawings and quick workflow, revit (our archicad if you're a mac person) ticks those boxes and requires little processing power. Skip autocad, illustrator or other 2D software, stick to BIM and reduce your work load.
-Photoshop- Devote time to developing photoshop skills, you can save terrible renders with some clever textures.
-Google Suite- Anything that google makes seems to work great. Instead of using Word etc, google docs and sheets are remotely accessible on any device and you don't have to worry about processing power or storage sizes.
So that is pretty much it for day to day work, create some work, refine some work, invoice some people, email some people.
The computer needs for the above are surprisingly minimal and we don't need the latest and greatest intel i9 processor and a grunty graphics card so lets talk how much this should cost you.
An intel i5 from 2017 or later should last you many years, I do a lot of my work at home on an old intel i3 NUC from 2014 which runs all my software just fine. Don't get suckered into the faster computers, they are just more expensive and use more battery.
Shop around for a second hand laptop, a lot of other people like to replace their machines every 12 months so take advantage of that. Make sure the battery is in good condition. Second hand windows laptops don't hold their value as much as the macbooks do.
A 15 inch screen is ideal, settle for a 13 inch screen if you have to.
A NOTEPAD OF ANOTHER SORT
I've written down $100 as that is roughly how many $15 notebooks I go through in 12 months. I make my own notebooks but I've adjusted that for medium sized moleskines. Anything with decent enough paper for sketching ideas will work.
A DRAWING IMPLEMENT
The same applies here as I teach my students: no erasers allowed. I mean it is just good drawing practice but that will also save you enough money to buy a coffee or two.
I use a $25 Lamy fountain pen with an ultra fine nib. I fill it up with $20 ink that is still going 2 years after buying it. I used to buy fine liners (starting with Steadtler at $8 a pen, UniPin at $6.50 a pen and Molotow at $6 a pen. The Molotows were the best overall regardless of price.) but the cost is too high for a year of drawing. Also, that plastic waste is insane.
This is the bare bones for sketching and note taking, and everyone should have a host of drawing apartatus from University or stolen from their previous work. This is all I'd need to buy if my studio burnt down.
A RECORDING DEVICE
You'll need something to take photos of sites, record audio in interviews and maybe take videos of things for your website. If only there was a device that could do all of this for you... Instead of the $2000+ camera, we now have access to powerful phones that tick all these boxes. This cost might be a moot point as everyone has a smartphone but here I'd argue buying a bigger phone specifically for work and selling your old one is a good idea.
I recently moved from a small Iphone SE to the hunky Samsung Note 8. I did this because the camera is fantastic so I leave my camera in the office more, it has a stylus for drawing quick sketches and taking notes, and it has good voice recording. It also has a much larger display so I can use it as a more effective display tool in meetings and don't need to spend more money on an iPad or other tablet. I bought mine second hand for $500.
So that is pretty much it. In future posts you'll see that I surround myself with a lot more stuff and my studio is heavily physical so the shear amount of furniture and apparatus is higher than necessary.
In our digital world, there are so few boundaries to going out on your own, we don't need to buy expensive computers, drafting tables and other equipment to function.