Semester Two: an Initiation and a Rite of Passage

Starting a new semester is exciting and the first weeks are easy, but then, the coursework quickly ramps up. And at the end, during final exams, we go through a brutal mix of stress, project deadlines and lack of sleep. For the Architecture and Building Technology (ABT) students the course load at BCIT is an unforgiving challenge, but we accept the sleepless nights and embrace the hardship.

What makes us look forward to the challenge with such eagerness?

It is known among academic circles that architecture students work more hours than most majors. Architecture programs demand a form of total immersion in academic study, a tradition started during the initial years of the Bauhaus School of design in Germany founded in 1919.


Course structure of Bauhaus school: the initiate starts with crafts and specializes in different subjects to become an architect after 6 years of education.


The ABT diploma takes a lot from the successful architectural model of education but leans towards the technical aspects of construction. We memorize many construction terms, learn how buildings come together, identify the role of trades and, most importantly, go through a challenging period of learning to express new knowledge visually through technical hand drafting.

A BCIT student takes approximately eight classes each semester with their corresponding labs and projects to achieve a competent technical level in the architectural industry. The three months of our first semester went by in a blaze for all of us and we finished a lot of new, valuable lessons. As students, the most rewarding feeling is when the grades are posted; the report card might as well read “congratulations, you are a survivor”.

On top of the feelings of accomplishment, there is something else that is attractive about expending great effort. It is a very important part of the creative process that “creatives” (AKA design nerds) unknowingly achieve: some people call it “feeling inspired” which is, in fact, a mental capacity to elevate our thinking to a higher level of productivity.

This creative inspiration is formally called a “state of flow”. Author Daniel Kahneman, a notable scholar awarded a Nobel Memorial Prize for his work in behavioural economics, describes this process as a mental state in which the brain enters a harmonious and highly efficient mode of function. State of flow partly explains the high-level functioning of musicians, top level athletes and, you guessed it, designers.

Some might argue that immersing students in creative work is a direct way to achieve states of flow. Being in this state allows creativity and memorized knowledge to merge with no mental strain. During periods of hardship the trained mind enters this state of flow with astounding results. Researchers have found that pupils dilate, heart rate increase, and the brain is able to compute beyond its logical capacity.

Developing a high output of creative productivity is likely the best aspect of the ABT experience. Part of this high productivity is having the ability to dissect and solve a construction related problem. The other part is the ability to access that turbo-mode described in Kahneman’s research.

Coming back to school this semester was very exciting. Many of us look forward to taking the next step in our career while others come back intending to get better grades. Although these goals are important, the real takeaway of the first semester was to watch our work unfold before our eyes during days and weeks of determined effort.

Maybe these times of hardship will become a fond memory. For now, we know that school can be a challenge at times but there is value in it.



Bernardo Castanon is a first-year student of Architecture and Building Technology interested in construction technique, technology and critical enquiry of urbanism.

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