Architecture students don’t sleep

Alyssa DeGeorge

(This is the first story in a three-part series)

When most of Kent State is closed and most students are asleep, the lights from architecture studios around campus glow through the night.

Many architecture students work late on projects, leaving little time to sleep.

Alesha Stiffler, sophomore architecture major, said she usually sleeps every other night for six to eight hours.

“One time I stayed up from a Monday to a Friday,” she said. “When you watch that many sunsets and sunrises, you’ll go crazy. You don’t even notice when you’ve been wearing the same clothes for 48 hours because you haven’t gone to bed yet.”

The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep every night, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s website.

Most architecture students sleep significantly less than this recommendation, said Andrew Hotz, sophomore architecture major.

“You can do it without having to pull any all-nighters, but that’s the exception, not the norm,” he said.

Jonathan Fleming, interim associate dean and architecture program coordinator, said it’s possible to succeed in architecture without being sleep deprived if the student practices good time-management.

“The reality is that we do a lot of work and it doesn’t really change when you leave school because the profession operates that way,” he said.

Professor Maurizio Sabini said hard work and little sleep are part of the international culture of architecture because architects are required to meet a wide range of expectations.

“The larger public expects architects to produce works of art, but also, at the same time, to deliver a business product because a building must function,” he said. “An artist typically doesn’t have a deadline, doesn’t have restraints or a businessperson isn’t expected to create a work of art. Because architecture is this hybrid field between art and science, then you always strive for more.”

David Jurca, urban designer at the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, said students should learn to be efficient with their time.

“Learning how to work smarter instead of just more is important,” he said.

Jurca said he occasionally works late to meet a deadline, but that the occurrence of these late nights varies by the firm. He said sleep is an important part of the creative process.

“Dreaming helps you make connections you weren’t able to make during the day,” he said. “When people say, ‘Sleep on it,’ there’s really a reality to that.”

A lack of sleep inhibits productivity and increases the risk of diabetes, heart problems, depression, substance abuse and obesity, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s website.

Andre Gomez, junior architecture major, said the effects of sleep deprivation are obvious in the studios.

“People can’t carry on conversations; they can’t focus; they can’t make models; you can’t draw sometimes,” he said.

Professor Sara Shonk said sleep deprivation affects students’ work.

“The less sleep you have, the less productive and the less cohesive your thoughts are,” she said.

Jonathan Tomko, sophomore architecture major, said he doesn’t work as well when he’s sleep deprived.

“My work is so much better when I’m rested, but sometimes you don’t have a choice,” Tomko said.

Most students accept that they have to give up sleep, Gomez said.

“You have to give up something,” he said. “The normal college experience really doesn’t work in architecture. The program is so rigorous and it immerses you so much that it just becomes your life.”

Caffeinated drinks are often used to stay awake.

“I never had a cup of coffee until this semester,” Stiffler said. “Now I drink a couple cups a day.”

Hotz said the stress of the project is enough to keep him awake.

“It doesn’t really affect my body anymore,” he said. “I can go days without needing sleep.”

Hotz said studio instructors expect a lot.

“Their view on studio is that it should trump all other classes and it should be the No. 1 priority,” he said. “They straight up tell us, ‘You should probably not sleep much this weekend because you have this much work to do.’”

Fleming said he encourages students to get enough sleep.

“If I see students who are overly tired, usually I tell them to go get some sleep because they’re being ineffective when they’re working that way,” he said.

Gomez said he works long hours because there’s never a definitive end to a project.

“With a subject like architecture, it’s not like 2×2=4,” Gomez said. “So much of it is art based, so when are you done? How far can you go?”

Sabini said students should reach a point where they are proud of what they’ve created.

“They should be happy with a certain level of work,” he said. “If you emphasize and focus on quality, you will be happy. If you don’t know what you’re doing, then you keep doing and quantity takes over quality. If you know what you’re doing, then you will be happy and you develop also a culture of saying ‘Okay, that’s enough. That’s good enough. Let’s step back,’” he said.

Despite the lack of sleep and stress of the projects, Gomez said he couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

“You do it because you love it,” he said. “You want to make the world a better design.”

You can contact Alyssa DeGeorge at [email protected].