Most students would describe DESIGN STUDIO as the heart of the experience of architecture school. It's an environment rich in people, effort, exhaustion, play, frustration, and heavy-duty experiential learning — lots and lots of hours of new designers trying to figure out what to do next.
Basically, design studio is a type of course taken many times throughout a degree program; each semester or term, different faculty present students with a range of design problems. Students spend between 9 and 12 hours in class each week and commonly, depending on deadlines, many more hours outside of class on weekends and often late into the evening (or next morning!). Studio groups are typically 10 to 16 students per faculty member, but several groups may work together on the same problem. Studio space is different from a typical classroom in that student desks or workstations often are assigned for the whole semester.
In studio, students do projects independently or together. In beginning studios, students first tend to work on shorter projects; as they become more advanced, they work more independently on longer or more complex projects. Students meet with their teacher one on one in "desk crits" and periodically have larger REVIEWS where they present their work to a set of outside critics. Final reviews signal the end of the semester and, generally, enormous sighs of relief...
But beyond the time devoted to projects, students experience the culture of working together as designers. Like any situation where people collaborate under duress, studio engenders drama, from 4 am football games to pranks, napping under desks, romance, gossip, and bonds created for life. Studio environments are also filled with competition and camaraderie, as students see how they measure up to those around them. Healthy studio environments tend to be messy and lived in. After encouraging me to put in the hard work before a review, a studio professor then added, as he pointed to a take-out menu, "don't forget, they deliver."