Thursday, December 10, 2009


Browsing through the web, I found an interesting article about design student life written by Jill Fehrenbacher which was published in What really strike me are the photos which have the same name with my blog. I decided to republish it and dedicate this to my students. I wrote an e-mail to Jill asking for her kind permission. Two days later I got her permission. Below is Jill’s article. Thanks Jill, really appreciate it. Note: I'm truly sorry Jill, I added some photos from ohers.We talk a lot about sustainability and design here at Inhabitat, but something we’ve never talked about before is the sustainability of life as a design student. Design school is intense and competitive, not to mention full of noxious chemicals – and it can often be trying to lead a sustainable, balanced and healthy life while in design school.
Core77 recently put together a great “Hack2School Special” — full of tips and tricks (highly recomended by architorture cyfu) for getting through design school. Because my focus is sustainable design, I decided to contribute my thoughts on how to make the design school lifestyle more sustainable.
Here’s what I wrote…
I’m currently an architecture grad student, and despite my sincere passion for being in school, I can tell you that I’ve never seen a more unhealthy, more unsustainable environment than that of architecture school. Do any of you out there recognize this picture: students routinely spending 10-15 hours per day sitting in one place, glued to flickering computer screens, while toxic chemicals are mixed and handled all around them. I’ve often found myself in this exact position: eyes straining, back sore, trying to finish a project at 4am, under flickering fluorescent lights, while someone next to me melts acrylic with a cancer-causing chemical, the person on the other side of me hacking up toxic blue foam with a small saw, and the person behind me snoring in a sleeping bag underneath their desk. I know its completely unhealthy, yet there’s this pressure and this feeling that if one doesn’t keep up with the grueling life of the students around you, you’ll never make it through school. Its hard to walk out of studio at 10pm to go home when every other student is still dilligently working, coffee in hand, clearly planning to be at their desks until the morning…
Why do we pay tens of thousands of dollars to subject ourselves to this kind of life, when most other professional schools (including law and medicine) seem to have evolved out to a more reasonable understanding of live/work balance? Even medical schools, which used to be famous for torturing their students with grueling hours and unreasonable deadlines, have wised-up to the fact that red-eyed, sleep-deprived, pill-popping students can’t learn effectively or make smart decisions. I posted a similar article to this on –
and the answers from other students are pretty interesting…
We do it because it’s the culture of design school – this is what is expected of us, and what everyone around us seems to accept as ‘the way things are”. This type of uber-competitive, insanely unhealthy atmosphere will only change when we decide to stop putting up with it, so the change has to start with you.
Design-students, here are 5 steps I composed for taking back your life, and demanding a sustainable, healthy and productive experience as a design student: (I’m trying very hard to take my own advice these days…)

A healthy lifestyle starts with you. The biggest cause of all-nighters is procrastination; so getting a jump on your work ahead of time will enable you to balance your life more effectively. I’ve found that setting internal goals and deadlines in a calendar can really help fight the creep of procrastination. My favorite procrastination fighting tool – Google Calendar.
It seems to be expected that design students will happily live in a pile of blue foam and off-gassing plastics – but why subject yourself to that, when there are plenty of natural model making materials that are healthier and cheaper too. The next time you start to reach for blue foam, try balsa wood or corn-based foams instead. Cardboard and chipboard are plentiful cheap and healthy alternatives to plastic and foam-core. Stay away from the “Zap-a-gap” and nasty super-glues and try hot glue guns instead. (But be careful not to burn your fingers!) Finally, on those days when you just can’t find an alternative to clear acrylic, open the window or go outside.
You may think that all you need to know can be found within the confines of your studio (or even your computer monitor) – but this is simply not true. Most often the best ideas, intuitions and breakthroughs will come to you you’re your mind is relaxed and open – when are walking down the street, jogging or even sleeping. Good designers have lives. They go see movies, have lunch with friends and find inspiration in the world around them. You will never find inspiration in a computer screen. It is imperative to both creativity and your sanity to take breaks.

Its difficult to concentrate and work effectively when you are uncomfortable or distracted. Keep your desk clean and uncluttered, invest in a good LED desk lamp (they are energy efficient and don’t heat up), and adjust your chair and desk to ergonomically appropriate heights so you can sit (or stand!) in an upright and alert position. (I prefer to working standing up). Its also crucial to keep a refillable bottle of water on hand at all times as well as an mp3 player and a pair of headphones, so you can tune out the world around you. 5. KNOW WHEN TO EAT, EXERCISE AND SLEEP
Its hard to be mentally alert and productive when you are hungry, sleep-deprived or tired. Your body needs sleep, food and exercise to stay on its game. Get into a regular exercise routine (like jogging or karate classes), stock up healthy snacks to keep at your desk (fruit and nuts are a good bet), and know when to call it a night. Believe me, that idea you came up with at 5am after 5 cups of coffee won’t hold up in the light of day, and your project really will be that much better after you’ve had a full night’s sleep.
A healthy lifestyle starts and ends with you. Learn how to stand up for yourself and don’t succumb to the pressure of unhealthy attitudes around you. You are smart – you made it to design school, and you are smart enough to know deep down what is and what isn’t good for you. Your teachers may pressure you and your fellow students may compete to see who can go the most hours without sleep, so ignore them. Being a sheep won’t get you anywhere in real life. Look for support in your friends and in more enlightened faculty-members. It is only when enough people in design school realize that there is a better alternative that things will actually begin to change. Until then, hang in there and take responsibility for making the most out of your time in design school.

Below are the respond by one of my student at my blog (architorture-cyfu) which I would like to share it with you.
Something to brighten up your day :)

If you are architecture students you've probably experienced:
the taste of wood/uhu glue.
you get annoyed when people tell you to "go to sleep" or "do you still have a lot of work?" (!!!).
your friends and you don't have the same concept of work, ie "oh, you have homework? Well you can do it right before class..." (No way will this ever happen!).
you've slept more than 20 straight hours on weekends.
you can easily discuss with authority the effects of caffeine on different drinks.
no matter the effort you put in a project, somebody will always say “why don’t you add this? or “why don’t you change this here? or “i think that…but…yeah, its ok?" (and that 'somebody' is my design tutor...grrr).
whenever you get invited somewhere, it is followed by “or do you have a lot of homework?".
your worst nightmare consists of not finishing a project-someone once called you “lazy" and you wanted them murdered (lol. oh my goodness SO TRUE!!!).
you can live without human contact, sunlight, food, but if your plotter’s ink runs out… chaos!!! (*nods*).
when somebody lends you a Bic pen you look down at it (designers are using felt-tip pen).
you’ve gained the ability to sleep in whatever surface: pencils, keyboards, backpacks, your studio mates, food, etc (lol. sigh...).
when you finally have free time to go out you keep thinking “who was the fool who designed the restaurant’s bathroom? “who designed this menu?" or “who designed this [chair, table, lighting, fork, etc. etc.]?".
you've been at many sunrises, yet you've never really experienced one.
“You’re now in architecture world? Welcome aboard!!… it was nice to meet you, but I’ll probably never see you again.”


  1. Thanks Archidayat. Pls dont call me 'sir', thanks.

  2. haha..its so true... salam,cyfu...

    +the over-time studio hour is just synonym of designer culture when we really entering architectural design world..(serious love about design)..the ambiance is superb! its like,when we back to kampung during skool holiday(back to normal life)...then we'll start to missing all that moment..all the enthusiasm to finish/deliver our design... and for me, this architorture culture is really special...yes its not so healthy but its good ...its sustainable delicate culture...

    +and taking a break,going outdoor/travel is a must! otherwise our head will explode slowly...and and 'kering idea' definitely is not healthy ... so,go travel...

  3. OMG!!! I was nodding all the way through reading this piece! hahaha
    the discreet truth being a member of architorture and loving every second of it!
    hope you are doing fine and having it great, cyfu!

  4. Hi Cyfu,

    I was browsing yr blog the day before sem starts, well it serves as a reminder on how much I should work on for this sem =)

    Thanx and I think to pass by your workshop picking up the coffee scent is one of my routine too..

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Gracias por vuestros comentarios... nxum.hasrulnizam.
    Dziękuję za wszystkie komentarze... Faye:)
    Gracias por compartir... Eliyin.

  7. Those words are bloody true, can't agree more, and the journey does drive people so crazy sometimes, so we're enjoying being torture in another way of saying? =)

  8. Many thanks ahyun for your support.