Applying to Architecture School: The Portfolio

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link. I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you) if purchases are made through my site. Funds will support my mission. More resources can be found here.

Perhaps you have been dreaming about becoming an architect for as long as you can remember, or maybe the idea is relatively new. Either way, the architecture school application will be a major step to making that dream a reality. As part of your application you will likely be required to submit a portfolio of your previous work. If you are unsure of how to create your architecture school portfolio, read on.

Firstly, check the requirements of the school to which you are applying. Every school will specifically outline how many pieces should be in your portfolio, what format it should take, etc. The requirements for each school could be different, so if you’re applying to multiple schools make sure to follow the requirements closely.

Do not attempt to include technical architectural projects if you have not been trained how to properly execute them. If you do not have an architectural background of some kind, your attempts will likely miss the mark. Stick to skills in which you are confident and that showcase your absolute best work.

Prior to architecture school I attended an open house at a school of interest. During a discussion  about portfolio expectations, the Dean of Architecture suggested that it is best to avoid including photography in your portfolio. I’m sure there are exceptions to every rule, so unless you know you are an incredible photographer, focus on other creative skill sets.

Applicants that completed an undergraduate degree in architecture or fine arts may already have a wealth of projects to choose from for their portfolio. Those of you who were like me and did not have projects from my previous degree, you may have to draw upon results of artistic hobbies, or perhaps create new work just for your portfolio. If that is the case, my top piece of advice would be: include projects of a wide variety of mediums. Show your creativity and flexibility using as many different materials as possible. For example, my projects ranged from painting and drawing, to clay sculpture, tissue paper on glass, stained glass plates and jewellery, and even a 30 foot by 12 foot mural I completed with a partner.

When it comes to the organization of your portfolio, there is a method to the madness. You want to begin with one of your strongest pieces, setting the stage for a powerful first impression. From there, consider your third strongest, fourth strongest, etc., until you have reached your final project. This one should again be one of your strongest (the second strongest) to provide the viewer with a memorable conclusion.

Different schools may have different expectations for the written description to accompany each project. Some may only require a title, dimensions, and the medium used. Other schools may request a more detailed written description. As mentioned above, be sure to review and meet expectations. I would advise against providing more information than what is asked for, as this may slow down their selection process and show that you’ve overlooked their instruction.

Binding your portfolio will be the last step prior to submitting it. There are a number of creative ways you can do this, however no matter what make sure the presentation doesn’t make your portfolio difficult to handle or transport. It should be something simple, light, compact, and ultimately just easy to manage for people reviewing it.

If you’re crunched for time you could consider doing what I did and use an online service to have a book made. I recommend Blurb as a site for having your portfolio developed into a professional quality book. The nice thing about Blurb is they offer services for both experienced graphic designers and people with no graphic design experience at all. You can either choose to use their book-building templates, or design and upload your own book from scratch. Either way, the finished portfolio will be a polished and professional way to present your work.

Below are a few of the projects from my architecture school application portfolio. If you would care to share some of your own work, please e-mail me at to be featured.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s