100 Tips for Architecture Students by Zean Mair-MacFarlane

I have recently been chatting with Zean Mair-MacFarlane who graduated from university in 2014.He completed his Part 1 and Part 2 architecture degrees at the University of Lincoln (United Kingdom). MacFarlane was able to gain a distinction in his Part 2 along with a RIBA Student Silver Medals Nomination. With experience in teaching architecture along with working at renowned practices such as Foster+Partners, David Collins Studio and Horden Cherry Lee Architects he aims to share his knowledge.

The following article is his journey and responds to the question; “how far have I come and how did I get here?” Architecture is a long and winding road full of challenges. My journey began with studying for my Bachelors degree at the University of Lincoln. Although I was satisfied with my results I aspired for better grades. During my Masters, like many other architecture students, I pushed myself beyond physical and emotional limitations. Throughout this journey I learnt many things; I learnt that hard work can pay off. I now work at Foster + Partners and I am in the process of preparing for my final Part 3 exam.

During my education I discovered that there was a lack of information available for architecture students especially in terms of achieving the results they wanted at university. Therefore, I created an ebook, soon to be a ‘physical illustrated book’ entitled 100 Tips for architecture students.


The layout is simple, and the tips are honest and clear. Every student knows the importance of time. The book is designed so it could be read in a matter of minutes not a matter of days. It touches on the tips, lessons and routines that helped me achieve in my degree. The book is not a step by step tutorial, it reads more like a to-do list for architecture students. One of my ambitions was to design a book that could be read and re-read.  I wanted the book to rekindle their drive and passion at times in their degree when their confidence is low. Re-reading the book before an exam or presentation will be helpful for them. A student may also like to take the tips and place them throughout their home or workspace as a constant reminder. The book is designed in a manner which allows the student to utilise the book however it suits their learning style.

After completing the book, I thought to myself that if I read this at the beginning of my journey I would be at a huge advantage. Ultimately that makes this book valuable. Finding guidance and mentorship can be difficult, therefore my aim is simple, I want to help architecture students early in their education, giving them the insight, confidence and tools to achieve their goals.

Some tips from the book include:

Tip 11: Dissertations – When given the opportunity to write about any topic, pick what you are passionate about not what you think might make an interesting read. When your passionate, your research will naturally form an interesting essay.

Tip 2: Choose your tutor wisely – The importance of your tutor is normally underestimated. Make sure you’re being taught by a person who allows you to reach your full potential.

Tip 49: Housemates – Architecture demands a lot of work. Are your house mates respectful of this? Can you work in a quiet environment without being disturbed?

Tip 33: Recycle – Recycle old ideas, old sketches and old pieces of work. They can form extraordinary collages for example.

You can purchase the book on Amazon here. If you are interested in receiving free advice on your course Zean Mair-MacFarlane can be found on Facebook here. I would love to hear your thoughts and stories in the comment section below.


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