Back to School

This was the first time I had ever sat in as a jury member for student reviews – amazing that it took me over 20 years to do this!  The students presented their end-of-semester projects to several sets of jurors and I was honored to be on a jury that included Trip Wyeth (Wyeth Architects and Co-Chair of the AIA/CT Design Commission) and Elizabeth Wieber (Trillium Architects and Adjunct Professor at the University).  I was actually quite nervous in the beginning of the reviews not knowing if what I was going to say would make any sense, but after the first review, I felt quite comfortable providing critique … surprisingly like the jurors did back when I was in architecture school.  And as one review occurred after another, and I felt more comfortable, it seemed as if the experience I had accumulated over 22 years, regardless of HOW it was collected, actually was retained in some inner sanctum of my mind.

Some of the work was quite good and you could tell that certain students would excel in the field.  Some student work, however, well … was not as good and looked like it was thrown together overnight.  I learned, and maybe it was just me, that it was much more difficult to critique the ‘not-so-good’ work.  I certainly remember the jurors back “in my day” that would not be afraid to hold back and tell you “you’ll never become an architect with that design!”  Not today.  Even the poor, cartoony, crayon-looking renderings received a comment like “it is really hard to tell what your idea is here, but it is there somewhere”.  I’m not saying that a juror needs to be mean-spirited and cruel (like some of those that I recall), but the prevailing comment we as parents say about our kids growing up in a ‘softer’ society seems to fit … even in architecture school.

Even though I had never sat in on a student design review before as a juror, I would do it again in a second!  And if you are an architect reading this post, and ever get an opportunity to be a juror … do it!  It was very rewarding to provide critique to the students’ work and contribute to their architectural education.  I have to admit, I forgot what fun it is to provide design input.

It doesn’t hurt that my jury colleagues (who are quite talented designers) agreed with at least some of what I said.  Phew!

By Michael Ayles,
Principal of Business Development

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