Students Quiz Architecture Professors


Berkeley Connect in Architecture students recently got a chance to pose some of their burning questions about the field to Architecture professors Luisa Caldas and Darell Fields. Professor Caldas’s specialty lies in sustainable design; before coming to Berkeley, she studied at MIT as well as at universities in London and Lisbon. Professor Fields is interested in the theoretical relationship between architecture and blackness; he studied at Harvard University.

A student kicked off the discussion by asking what it takes to become a good architect. Professor Caldas suggested travelling as much as possible, observing people, and practicing drawing. “You need to know a lot about the world to be a good architect. It’s a lifetime pursuit,” she explained. “The distinction between construction and architecture is a multi-layered, complex way of approaching the world.”

Another student proposed a question about the definition of architecture: “Is architecture more science-based than design?” Caldas insisted that it was both. Engineering plays an important part, but the artistic freedom of an architect is essential to the work. However, “The architect who works in the world is much more mediated than the artist,” continued Caldas. Architecture must be regulated for function, safety, and people’s needs, while art has fewer guidelines.

This discussion led to some more questions about the actual work of an architect. One student was curious about the purpose of building things in the studio that can never be built in real life. “Some of the most beautiful things in architecture can never be built,” said Fields. “Architecture is not only a professional field – it’s an intellectual one as well.” He explained the opportunity for learning about architecture that Berkeley provides. “If all you do with your degree is practice, you’re undercutting yourself,” he continued.

In this field, as in all fields, there lie some challenges. Caldas spoke about how the time lag of architecture drives her crazy. “Something you think of today won’t be built for at least a few years,” she lamented.

One student was interested in the particular challenges of transitioning from being a student to working. Fields himself had a tough time with this transition, as he realized that “after grad school, suddenly no one wanted to hear about what I had learned.” For this challenging adjustment, Caldas advised, “Be flexible and show people the value of what you know. Think outside the box, be brave, and be patient.” She discussed how when she started practicing, she found herself very humbled by the skills of the other people with whom she was working. She advised respecting these people, and trying to learn from them as well.

Berkeley Connect students walked away from the professor Q&A full of fresh information about their area of interest. Whether they go on to become great architects remains to be seen, but if they do, perhaps some words of wisdom they imbibed from Professors Caldas and Fields will have had something to do with their success.

Posted by Madeline Wells, Berkeley Connect Communications Assistant