How to Survive Your Very First Critique in Architecture School

How to Survive Your Very First Critique in Architecture School

For the fresh architecture student, the “jury,” “review,” or “crit” is far from glorious—sounding more like a death knell than a customary critique session. The concept, as Kathryn Anthony explores in Design Juries on Trial: The Renaissance of the Design Studio, goes as far back as the 1980s when the Ecole Nationale et Speciale des Beaux-Arts in Paris became the first art and architecture school to experiment with a format that would soon be adopted by architectural schools across the world. While some schools have taken steps to loosen traditional hierarchies, others continuing to reinforce them, much to the terror of fledgling first-year students who aren’t used to being “tried.”

So what can one really do to ease into this rather uncomfortable aspect of architectural education? Below is a fairly simple list of dos and don’ts that could go a long way in helping you out.

1. Don’t imagine your juror to be some sort of monster, infallible genius, etc.

Courtesy of Andrea Vasquez

While you will come across different types of jurors during the course of five years, it’s best to bear in mind that the person critiquing your first-ever work is not necessarily there to point out the flaws in your design, or deem you a failure, but to help you learn. By allowing yourself to detach the jurors from the god-like status usually associated with them, you’re likely to feel less edgy, and hence, more receptive to their advice or criticism.

2. Get some shut-eye

What? While everyone else is slaving away at their models and drawings throughout the night? This might sound like useless advice, but it actually works wonders! Spending the whole night working (unless absolutely necessary) can not only be counterproductive, but also makes you groggy, less sharp, forgetful, and worse, more likely to mess up explaining your work the following morning.

3. Don’t worry about “complete,” worry about “thorough”

Courtesy of Andrea Vasquez

Quality over quantity always works—that’s a tip that can help you throughout all your years in architecture school. Don’t look at the next-door neighbor in the studio who’s churning out drawings at breakneck speed or littering their table with a dozen study models before the pin-up. Jurors are likely to see through all the vacuous “hard work” and would get to the point quickly. More often than not, even if you present a design which is incomplete but thorough in its process, you will come out stronger. Being honest with your work also gives you the option to build on it later when you get down to completing it for your portfolio.

4. Don’t hanker after grades

The earlier years of architectural education are usually the most fun when you’re allowed, encouraged and often expected to question and experiment. Why waste time being “proper” or “correct,” worrying over what your juror might think, or mulling over whether you’ll be able to get a good grade or not? Juries are never objective anyway, so it’s best to enjoy the work instead of stressing out.

5. No unnecessary architectural jargon, please

While you might be itching to flaunt those new terms you learned this semester, think twice before using wordy explanations and overly drawn-out theories. Focus on being succinct as some jurors may run out of patience or get bored quickly. Or worse, if you use a term that you’re unsure of, it could be embarrassing if you’re asked to explain what you mean by it.

6. Explain, reason, question—but don’t get defensive

Courtesy of Andrea Vasquez

Crits can be unnerving, and sometimes unfair too. But always remember that clear reasoning works, while defensive behavior only complicates and deflects from the real argument. Also, don't be afraid of asking questions; sometimes, that's the best way to start a productive discussion.

7. And lastly, if it doesn’t go well, just take it in your stride!

No use mulling over the whys and should-haves. Take a moment to reflect on what was discussed, make notes on what you could improve on next time, and congratulate yourself for having made it to the finish line. On to better things in the next project!

Images for this article were kindly provided by Andrea Vasquez.

For more on the subject, check out our previous coverage below:

13 Tips to Help You Avoid an All-Nighter

All-nighters: the bane of all architecture students. The new academic year brings in an influx of fresh, enthusiastic architecture students alongside slightly more hardened veterans of the degree, and students of all experience levels are reminded of the unfortunate tendency for work to stretch through the night.

For and Against All-Nighter Culture: ArchDaily Readers Respond

Nearly three weeks ago, the editors at ArchDaily reached out to our readers to help us investigate one of the most difficult challenges of architecture education: what do students and teachers think of the 24-hour studio culture that has come to pervade the architecture profession?

How to Improve Architectural Education: Learning (and Unlearning) From the Beaux Arts Method

Learning how to design is hard. It requires students to learn an entirely new way of thinking and seeing the world. It even requires a whole new vocabulary. So architecture school is rightly hard.

ArchDaily's Ultimate List of Advice for Incoming Architecture Students

Architecture school. You've heard the myths - the legends of all-nighters and innovation, of unmatched workaholism and love for the profession. Perhaps you know what you want - to solve the great urbanization problem, to create the next sustainable wonder-gadget, or maybe just to start your own firm and show the architectural world how it's done.

About this author
Cite: Zoya Gul Hasan. "How to Survive Your Very First Critique in Architecture School" 08 Jan 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

Courtesy of Andrea Vasquez


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