Review, critique, presentation, call it what you may. Architecture reviews are often dreaded, but a necessary part of every architecture student’s education…
Reviews consist of you or your team presenting your studio project to one or more reviewers, whom after your presentation critique your work. Throughout your education and your professional career you are going to utilize presentation skills, so now is the time to make mistakes and learn from them. The advice below is a compilation of me and my peer’s experiences, in an effort ease your experience as much as possible.
BEFORE THE REVIEW…
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
This is the most obvious and generic advice but it must be stated. Early reviews in the semester may warrant a bit more winging it, but be sure and practice for your final reviews. It is obvious to others if you know your project. Also, if you are introverted or get extremely anxious before presenting, practicing what you will say can save you. We do not just go through reviews for the hell of it. This prepares us for interviewing with a firm and also presentations that we will give once working in a firm.
GET ENOUGH SLEEP THE NIGHT BEFORE
Another obvious one. I once got up to present and told the reviewers, “I am just warning you guys, I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep.” I then went through my presentation… Luckily none of the reviewers interjected and got on my case, but during their critique, I was told how unprofessional that comment was. This is unprofessional because cause you are already telling them to expect that you are going to do a terrible presentation! If you didn’t get enough sleep push through and do not make it an excuse for yourself.
WRITE DOWN KEY POINTS AHEAD OF TIME
Use that sketchbook! Jot down the major ideas and key points you want to touch on during your review. Having bullet points is better than typing out an entire speech, unless you are at a podium, which I assume doesn’t happen too often. With bullet points, you are able to quickly glance during your presentation without having to stop and read to find your place! Glancing does not mean reading word for word off of the cards; this clearly shows that you are not well prepared! You should face your presenters while talking.
Not sure how to decide what your key points are? Ask yourself these questions:
- What are you trying to do?
- How are you choosing to show your ideas?
- What are the graphics I have saying about the project?
- What conclusion have I made up to this point?
- What is my position/ where do I stand?
- What are my plans for progressing the project?
So many times, people’s nerves get the best of them and they forget to explain very important segments of their projects. It shows you are unprepared when a professor critiques you about an idea you should add and you respond with, “Oh yeah that’s a big part of my project, I just forgot to mention it!”
I stress that you ask beforehand. People do NOT like to be recorded without their knowledge. It may sound awkward asking, but it is a lot more awkward getting caught and having to explain yourself. Trust me; I had a personal experience with this one.
Recording a critique can help you in many ways:
- You can always look back on what a reviewer told you in detail, instead of the foggy memory, or a scribble of words you can’t read because you were trying to write too fast to capture everything being said!
- If the critique is being recorded, you can be fully in the moment and respond with full attention and clarity.
- Take it a step further and transcribe what they said into word and now you have notes you can review.
- You can also listen to how you present, and see where you stumble or how you can improve you’re speaking skills.
REMEMBER YOU ARE THE ONLY EXPERT OF YOUR PROJECT
Never jump into specific drawings on your boards when starting a presentation. Working on and developing your project makes you an expert on your architectural ideas. It is easy to assume that the people reviewing you know terms and ideas you present, but this is never the case. When you start your presentation by jumping into the specific drawings on your boards your viewers will be disoriented!
Start by orienting the viewer: A brief of what the requirements were for the project, site and geographic location, main architectural ideas, THEN go into the specific drawings on your boards. You reviewers will stay oriented on the presentation and will understand your project better, allowing them to give you better feedback.
ENTHUSIASM GOES A LONG WAY
Be enthusiastic and energetic about your project. Whenever you give off positive vibes it will be picked up by other people around you. If a reviewer sees the passion you bring out about the project, they will get excited about your project because you are excited. Even if you bomb the presentation, reviewers appreciate positive attitudes and will make an effort to give you positive feedback in return.
Expect and embrace criticism. Sadly, by the time you graduate you will have seen someone crying from a review. If a reviewer goes overboard, do not take it personally. They are merely responding to what they see. The worst thing you can do in this situation is to argue back. If you feel that a reviewer misunderstands your work, it only means that:
- You weren’t able to present the idea clearly, or
- Your graphics do not represent what you are trying to say.
Sit down. Shut up. And take notes; Clear your head from negative emotion. The best thing you can do is ask, “What would make the idea I intended clearer?”. In an informal review I would ask this question during the review, if it is a formal presentation I would suggest waiting until after the review.
YOU GET WHAT YOU GIVE
Don’t be afraid to talk too much. You will get as much out of a review as you put in. If you stand up and don’t say much about your project, the professors will have less to critique you on. More important, if you don’t explain your project well you will get critiques based on things you never said, which doesn’t help your situation.
SHOWING UNFINISHED IDEAS
Your final review should include only your best and clearest ideas. All other reviews leading to the final are great opportunities to place ideas that are in the works. You want to avoid an awkward situation where your reviewer says, “You should make a diagram about…”, and all you can say is “well I had a diagram that showed this, but I didn’t use it/ forgot it.” Reviewers will suggest ways to help your drawings align with your ideas, and this can only help you.
AFTER THE REVIEW….
So critiques are over and you have all kind of great ideas floating in your head. What do you do with all of this valuable information? If you had a lot of critiques during one session, you may want to sit down and sort it out. Decide what is useful to your concept and what isn’t. Choose to keep the critiques that boost your architectural ideas. Trying to implement 30 ideas isn’t efficient. Many ideas you receive will be similar, and your sketchbook may be filled with all sorts of notes and sketches. While it is fresh on your mind, take the time to combine alike ideas on paper and scratch out critiques that will not progress your ideas further. Additionally, if a reviewer recommends a building to study it probably has a useful similarity to what you are trying to achieve. This will save you time when you go back to work on your studio project. But before going back to your studio work…
TAKE A BREAK FROM YOUR PROJECT
Sleep. Eat. Breathe. Go do something you enjoy! You deserve it.