Young Architect Guide: 10 Essentials for Every Architecture Student’s First Semester

These items are designed to make college life just that little bit easier.

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It’s that time of year again — a baptism of fire awaits all those budding architects as they embark on the epic journey that is the first year of university. Time will render you battle hardened, but until then, peruse these handy items, each of which could serve to make college life just that little bit easier.

Image via Wellgosh

1. Messenger Bag

The messenger bag — an essential for architecture students, who have an uncanny knack for accumulating all manner of pens, papers, electronic devices and jam-packed scrapbooks. Many will desire the professional aesthetics of a high-end leather satchel, but if you’re on a budget like many students, I would recommend Herschel Supply Co. bags, which are constructed from hardy materials and robust details that should remain strong as you hurriedly take your laptop in and out several hundred times over the course of the year.

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Image via Toko Jadi

2. Erasable Sketching Pens

Ever dreamt of creating intricate sketches in the vein of Lebbeus Woods, but worried about errant lines caused by unsteady hands? FriXion pens take that pressure away, allowing you to erase any stray markings and sketch at top speed without cause for concern. They also have replaceable cartridges and come in an array of different colors — keep some handy for on-the-go scribbling.

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Image via Pens’n’Paper

3. Sharpies

When the fine lines of FriXion are just not enough, turn to your trusty Sharpies for sweeping gestures in the manner of Zaha, Gehry or Libeskind (don’t worry, though, your designs need not resemble those of any famous architect!). These pens have been a staple of architects and students alike for years, but my particular favorites lie in one of their special packs: the “Couleurs Café” set. Yes, they are named after items found in your local coffee shop, and yes, they do look strangely delicious because of that. Don’t eat them, though, just sketch.

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Image via Hobby Lobby

4. X-ACTO Basic Knife Set

The perils of the X-ACTO knife are all too familiar to me, having sliced more than my fair share of Balsa wood and cardboard with shockingly shaky hands at 3 a.m. If you want to get a clean edge to every wall in your scale model — and minimize the risk to your fingers in the process — get a set of specialized blades for wood, board, card, plastic and even cloth. Go forth and model!

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Image via Kamera & Bild

5. Keyboard Shortcut Skins

You will likely use Photoshop so much in the next few months that these shortcuts will be virtually engrained on the inside of your skull by the end of the year. Until then, though, these interchangeable skins by Adobe provide a handy way to remind you of even the most obscure of shortcuts, increasing your efficiency in image manipulation and helping you to create killer presentation boards for your first review. If you dig around the internet, you may be able to find versions for certain CAD packages, too.

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Image via Hello Small World (on Etsy)

6. A Mug You Love

Coffee, tea, Red Bull, whisky … whatever gets you through the day (and night), it’s essential that you have a mug that looks good and feels just right in your hands. There are a million “I <3 Architecture” coffee cups out there, but we advocate something a little more left field — the Hello Small World mug sports a quirky sketch of New York City street elevation, combining vernacular architecture with comfortable ergonomics that should keep your hands warm and your brain alert as the cold studio nights roll in.

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Image via Arhitectura

7. Moleskine

Equip yourself with a sketchpad by the most iconic of notebook brands. It’s a cliché, yes, but with good reason — the Moleskine has been the architect’s best friend for many a year due to its tactile feel and quality paper, and the only tricky decision these days is deciding which type to go for. The special editions above contain insight into the design process and inspiring sketches by some of the world’s most-well-known architects, including the late, great Zaha Hadid.

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Image via Made in Design

8. Desk Accessories

When you have finally finished playing with LEGO and actually begin to get some design work done, it’s handy to have some good quality desk accessories to help you along the way. This collection from Lexon will appeal to architecturally inclined souls more than most — its sharp-edged, sculptural forms include a calculator, hole punch, stapler, calculator and USB hub. Watch out, though — your colorful collection could easily be pilfered by fellow students across the studio.

Image via BluePrint Development and Design

9. Smart Pencil

Wait, yet another drawing implement? Well yes, but this one is a little different. The Pencil by FiftyThree featured in Architizer’s Christmas list for students previously, but it is well worth flagging up again as a great accompaniment to the iPad (other tablet computers are available). It is a beautifully tactile piece of kit, and its accurate pressure sensitivity means almost any style of sketch, texture or shade is possible (don’t give up on those Sharpies, though!).

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Image via The Green Head

10. Ostrich Pillow

I am a strong advocate for no all-nighters on the run-up to those dastardly deadlines — try to plan your design time and schedule a full night’s sleep in the comfort of your own bed each night. However, sometimes it doesn’t pan out quite that smoothly — in which case, The Ostrich Pillow by Studio Banana Things could be the ideal accessory for grabbing 40 winks at your drawing board. Just beware — a serious case of bedhead hair awaits …

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